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Archive for August 2011

dream breeding

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Working Harbor Committee will be presenting the annual Tugboat Race this Sunday, and I hope you’ll be able to make it. The shots in this post are from last year’s race, which I had the privilege of attending.

This is a rare opportunity, from a photographic point of view, to witness this sort of thing. Dynamic, colorful, quick moving- a challenge.


19th Annual Great North River Tugboat Race and Competition Set for Sunday, September 4

Hudson River Park Pier 84 at West 44th Street, Manhattan – 9:30 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Events include a tugboat parade, a mile-long tug race, nose-to-nose pushing contests, line-throwing, spinach-eating and tattoo competitions.

Best viewing is from a Circle Line spectator boat that will follow the on-the-water action.

Good viewing from shore along the West Side riverfront, at Pier 84 and at the Intrepid Museum pier.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

To attend the race, one must simply show up at the pier and enjoy, however the best views (and photos) will be available form the Circle Line observer boat which will labor to keep up with the fleet of contestants. Details on ticketing for the Circle Line boat appear at the bottom of this posting.

Note: As a disclaimer, I’m a member of Working Harbor Committee, but strictly as a volunteer (It’s a non profit organization and I receive zero proceeds for promoting the event).

also from

Schedule of Events – Sunday, September 4, 2011

  • 9:30 a.m. – Spectator Boat departs Pier 83 (boarding begins at 9 a.m.)
  • 10 a.m. – Tugboat parade heads north from Pier 84
  • 10:30 a.m. – Race begins off Pier i at 70th Street and the Hudson River
  • 10:45 a.m. (and earlier) Tugs cross the finish line at Pier 84
  • 11 a.m. to noon – Nose-to-nose pushing contests and line-toss competition off Pier 84
  • 11:30 a.m. Spectator boat returns to Pier 83
  • Noon to 1 p.m. -Tugboats and crews gather for lunch at Pier 84; public is invited to participate in spinach-eating contest and amateur line-toss and knot-tying events
  • 1 p.m. – Crew tattoo contest and awards ceremony
  • Public Transportation: Any subway to 42nd Street, westbound 42nd Street crosstown bus to the last stop.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Working Harbor comes up a lot here at Newtown Pentacle, whether it be in the context of the Newtown Creek boat tours or the many “Hidden Harbor” trips which they produce. What doesn’t get mentioned that much are the groups many efforts at promoting and revealing the harbor as a career choice for kids from the inner city, it’s annual Senior Tours (produced in conjunction with the offices of the Borough President of Manhattan) which offer a free day on the water to senior citizens, and a host of smaller events which go largely unsung.

They’re a good bunch of joes.

also from

New York, New York, August 30, 2011: The Great North River Tugboat Race and Competition-one of New York City’s most popular Labor Day weekend events-returns for the 19th year on Sunday, September 4.

More than a dozen tugboats, the maritime 18-wheelers that normally dock ships and push barges, will thunder down the Hudson River Sunday morning as they vie to be named the fastest boat in their class.

The race, on a one-nautical-mile Hudson River course that extends from about West 70th to West 44th Streets, typically draws thousands of spectators, some watching from shore; others getting right in the middle of the action aboard a Circle Line spectator boat that travels alongside the tugs.

This year, tugs will range from 100-foot, state-of-the art 5,000-horsepower workhorses to a 25-foot, 200 horsepower workboat, named The Bronx, to a century-old harbor tug, now a museum ship, named Pegasus. Working boats from many of New York Harbor’s major towing companies will also complete, including tugs from McAllister Towing and Transportation, Miller’s Launch and Donjon Marine. A handicap system will give smaller and less powerful boats a chance to win trophies.

The race typically draws thousands to the riverfront, which is one of the reasons the tug companies enjoy participating. “New Yorkers sometimes forget they are surrounded by water, and that there is a whole maritime industry working here. This tug competition is the one time a year people can really see what we do,” explained Craig Rising of McAllister Towing and Transportation, one of the largest and oldest tug companies in the country. It is also a field day for the tug crews, many of whom bring their families aboard.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is a great party on the Hudson, and a tremendous boost for the crews of the maritime tugs which seldom get a chance to show off their skills and incredible hardware to the public. In addition the race itself, there are “best maritime tattoo” and “spinach eating contests (Popeye brand spinach, natch)“.

Line throwing contests are scheduled, as well as nautical knot tying classes for kids. Family friendly, the event will be at Pier 84 (just south of the intrepid and just north of 42nd street), and the spectator boat will be boarding at the Circle Line pier at 42nd street and the Hudson River.

Hope to see you there.

also from

The tug race spectator boat will be a Circle Line Sightseeing Boat. It will depart at 9:30 from Circle Line’s Pier 83 at 43rd Street and 12th Avenue (boarding will begin at 9 a.m.), and it will return at 11:30 a.m., so that passengers can walk just one block north to the events on Pier 84. Tickets are $30 adults; $25 for children under 14. Free for ages 4 and under. Tickets can be purchased in advance online at or at the Working Harbor Committee tent on the north side of Pier 83 on the day of the event. Admission to the Pier 84 events is free.

The race is organized by the Working Harbor Committee, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to spreading the word about the rich history, current vitality and future potential of the New York/New Jersey Harbor. The organization also provides Hidden Harbor Tours® and runs an extensive youth educational program.

Full information is available at

Friends of Hudson River Park and Circle Line 42 are co-sponsors.

revel and chaff

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

As soon as the rain died down, I descended from Newtown Pentacle HQ here in the rolling hillocks of Astoria to the so called “Zone A” to see what Irene might have wrought here in western Queens. The shot above is from Second Street near Borden Avenue, at the largish worksite which Skanska has been employing hundreds for the last few months. Cleverly, the construction giant had dug a diversion ditch to allow storm water drainage.


– photo by Mitch Waxman

“There will be plenty of cameras walking around in Tower Town, so it would be silly of me to spend much time there” were the actual words spoken to my walking companion, who we’ll call the Charismatic Croat (CC). CC was also told that we’d be taking a short walk, and would be back in a half hour. He’s used to my lies and wasn’t surprised when we had inexorably headed for another part of “Zone A”.

All through the storm, I was wishing that I had the camera out at Newtown Creek, or at least Dutch Kills.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Curiosity about the actions of the much feared storm surge upon the fragile bulkheads of Dutch Kills was killing this cat, and I dragged CC back and forth over these streets. There was some flooding, but in the usual places that flood anyway. Back on 2nd street, a few nice shots of the surge were captured by Jesse Winter and others, and an actual wave of East River had risen up and flooded 2nd. The Crab House was bailing water from their basement and more than one giant puddle still remained.

Down at Dutch Kills, 29th street and the large truck yard which houses this cement company were under a foot or more of water- but they are regularly immersed by small amounts of rain anyway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

What made the day noteworthy, from a Newtown Creek point of view, was this little river of urban chocolate flowing out of one of the many CSO’s (Combined Sewer Outfall) which are found abundantly along the waterfront of the Creek and it’s tributaries. It smelled just the way it looks like it might. One often sees discharges coming from these CSO’s, but this was just a spectacular flow.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I will point out that this could be soil washed into the pipes during the tremendous amount of rain which Irene brought to Queens. It could be sand or actually be a chocolate spill at some industrial confectionary which got washed into the sewers or something. That’s what I said to CC at the time.

Doesn’t smell like chocolate, the Charismatic Croat opined.

…hits the fan

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Council Member Van Bramer sent this out to his mailing list today, regarding Hurricane Irene

As everyone knows by now, Hurricane Irene is expected to hit our area sometime Saturday into Sunday. We should all take precautions to be prepared for a storm of this magnitude. Some areas in our district are in evacuation zones and at high risk for flooding. Those areas of Hunters Point/Long Island City should familiarize themselves with the map below and know that should an evacuation be ordered, Newcomers High School (28-01 41st Ave.), Aviation High School (45-30 36th St.) and W.C. Bryant High School (48-10 31st Ave.) are your nearest evacuation centers. The City will make a decision about whether to order a mandatory evacuation of Zone A for the general public by 8:00 AM on Saturday. The evacuation centers will be open as of 5:00 PM today and the City is strongly recommending that people within these areas immediately make plans to go to alternative locations outside of Zone A starting tomorrow for the duration of the storm. The orange areas are Zone A. The yellow areas are Zone B. The green areas are Zone C.

We are also concerned about significant portions of the district including parts of Sunnyside, Woodside, Astoria and Maspeth that have experienced flooding during several recent storms. Our office has been and will continue to be in contact with the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and other city agencies throughout this weekend. Anyone experiencing difficulties as a result of Hurricane Irene should contact me and my office as soon as they occur. We will report problems in real time. For those outside of Zone A areas that have experienced flooding or are concerned that you may, please click on the link below on how to protect your valuables. In addition to calling our office, DEP is asking for reports of flooding to be called in to 311.

I have also been in touch today with NYCHA and the Mayor’s Office to make certain that Queensbridge, Ravenswood, and the Woodside Houses are included in any and all emergency plans including evacuation, should that be necessary. We will continue to be in regular contact with NYCHA throughout the storm.

While we continue to hope for the best, we must prepare for the worst. The city has published some useful information in securing your home during the storm. Please click on the link below for recommendations on how best to prepare for the hurricane.

Given the high volume of traffic to OEM’s (Office of Emergency Management) website there have been delays and interruptions in gaining access to some of these links. For that reason, we also include the Red Cross’ Hurricane Safety Checklist below. We have also included information from OEM’s Hurricane Guide at the end of this email should that link not respond when you try it.

In advance of the hurricane I wanted to remind you that clogged catch basin grates can aggravate flooding.  Although DEP staff – with the help of their colleagues at other agencies – are busy cleaning catch basins now, DEP has asked us to remind homeowners and residents that they welcome assistance in removing leaves, litter or other debris that may prevent water from flowing off the streets and into the catch basins.  For any of you that aren’t familiar with catch basins the attached link to a page on DEP’s website has some text and visuals that will help explain why flooding occurs and how citizens can help DEP minimize flooding by removing debris where they see it blocking catch basin grates.

I will be keeping my district office open on Saturday to field questions and concerns from constituents. Needless to say, we will close the office when the storm approaches and will reopen as soon as it is safe to do so. My district office number is (718) 383-9566. I will be in the district throughout the storm and encourage anyone with problems to email me concerns at as well as using social media including Facebook ( and Twitter ( to reach me. You may also call 311. Please only call 911 if you have a very serious or life threatening emergency.

I hope this update and the attached information proves useful to you. Again, my staff and I will be working throughout the weekend and please do not hesitate to contact me should you need assistance.


Jimmy Van Bramer

Council Member

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Additionally, the Council Member included the following information from the Office of Emergency Management

OEM’s Hurricane Guide

To secure your home if a tropical storm or hurricane watch is issued:

Bring inside loose, lightweight objects, such as lawn furniture, garbage cans, and toys.

Anchor objects that will be unsafe to bring inside, like gas grills or propane tanks. Turn off propane tanks.

Shutter windows securely and brace outside doors.

Place valuables in waterproof containers or plastic bags.

Help Others Prepare

  • Check on friends, relatives, and neighbors, especially those with disabilities or special needs, and assist them with their preparation and evacuation.
  • If you live outside an evacuation zone, offer to shelter family and friends who may need to evacuate.

If Asked to Evacuate, Do So Immediately

The City will communicate specific instructions about which areas of the city should evacuate through local media. If the City Issues an Evacuation Order for Your Area: Evacuate immediately. Use public transportation if possible.

If you are going to an evacuation center, pack lightly, and bring:

  • Your Go Bag
  • Sleeping bag or bedding
  • Required medical supplies or equipment
  • Let friends or relatives know where you are going.

What about my pets?

  • Make sure your disaster plan addresses what you will do with your pet if a hurricane requires you to leave your home.
  • Plan to shelter your pet at a kennel or with friends or relatives outside the evacuation area.
  • Be sure you have supplies ready for your pet in the event of an evacuation, including food, a leash, a muzzle, proof of shots, and a cage or carrier.

Account for your special needs

  • Consider your capabilities and make sure your preparedness plan addresses how your special needs affect your ability to evacuate and shelter.
  • Determine if you will need assistance and arrange help from friends, family, or neighbors.
  • Consider additional supplies and equipment that you may need to bring with you, such as medicine, icepacks, medical devices, and backup equipment. Bring food for your dietary needs.
  • Include additional time and evaluate your transportation options.


Prepare A Disaster Plan

Develop a plan with your household members that outlines what to do, how to find each other, and how to communicate if a hurricane strikes New York. If you rent your home, renter’s insurance will insure the items inside your apartment. If you are a homeowner, make sure your home is properly insured — flood and wind damage are not covered in a basic homeowner’s policy.

Know Where You Will Go

The City strongly recommends evacuees stay with friends or family who live outside evacuation zone boundaries. For those who have no other shelter, the City will open hurricane shelters throughout the five boroughs.

To ensure efficient use of resources, the City will ask all evacuees to report to an evacuation center. Once at the evacuation center, evacuees will either be assigned to a hurricane shelter in the same facility or transported to an associated hurricane shelter by bus.

Every household member should have a small Go Bag — a collection of items you may need during an evacuation packed in an easy-to-carry container such as a backpack. A Go Bag should be easily accessible if you have to leave your home in a hurry.

Assemble an Emergency Supply Kit

You may be instructed to shelter in place (stay at home) during a hurricane. Keep enough supplies in your home to survive for at least three days.

If you do not live in an evacuation zone

All areas of the city could face hurricane-related hazards such as high winds, flooding, tornadoes, and loss of utilities. You may be instructed to shelter in place (stay at home) for several days until the hurricane passes.

If you live in a high-rise apartment building

Residents of high-rise apartment buildings may face special risks from hurricanes even if they live outside evacuation zone boundaries. If you live in a high-rise building outside an evacuation zone, be prepared to take shelter on or below the 10th floor. If you live in a high-rise building located in an evacuation zone, heed evacuation orders.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This looks like it will be a profound event. Personally, I’m preparing for an uncomfortable few days, but that’s because I live inland and uphill in Astoria. Long Island City and Greenpoint on the other hand…

Our friends at have prepared an excellent posting on the Zone A situation, which can accessed here:

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Newtown Creek Alliance, an organization of which I’m a member, issued this statement earlier today…

Flood Warning for Creek Neighborhoods

Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced on August 25th, 2011 that certain emergency measures will be instituted in low lying coastal districts referred to as “Zone A” (at high risk of coastal flooding) due to the expected arrival of Hurricane Irene in the New York City area late Saturday night. Much of the land surrounding Newtown Creek is designated as “Zone A” on the coastal flooding map prepared by City officials, including large tracts of Greenpoint and Long Island City. For a map of the affected areas, please click here.

Newtown Creek Alliance cautions residents of the affected areas to monitor the situation and be prepared to evacuate should authorities warrant it necessary. If an evacuation is recommended or ordered, information about evacuation centers and hurricane shelters may be found by calling 311 or at by visiting this website. Additionally, be mindful that during such an event, the flood waters could carry a significant load of pollutants and should not be ingested. Care should be taken upon any contact with skin.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sources within the City have discussed this storm with me in the most dire tones. If you live in an area designated for evacuation, please comply. I’ll be marching out into the brave new aftermath early Monday morning, if there’s something which you think I should point my camera at, please contact me here. Good luck, and assuming the availability of both electrical power and internet connectivity, I’ll post as the situation develops.

As this post was being prepared, Council Member Van Bramer passed along another message, ordering the mandatory evacuation of Zone A by 5 pm Saturday.

quite submerged

with one comment

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Today, I’m going to be uncharacteristically quiet, it’s all about the pictures. I was dreaming about flying again, in the manner of a super hero, and pulled these shots (some of which you’ve seen in other posts) together.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Whenever I can attain some altitude, an attempt is made to record it, especially in the low lying areas of western Queens and North Brooklyn. In this shot, it was the Roosevelt Island Tram which elevated my point of view.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Attempts and entreaties have been made- but so far- nobody in Long Island City has offered me roof or high floor access to shoot from one of the tower buildings. Haven’t asked anyone on Roosevelt Island yet, but the views of Queensboro and the East River must be glorious at night from there.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I have been to the Ravell Hotel roof, which is in the lower right hand corner of the shot, which offers amazing views of the bridge and whose vantage lines up with the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself for “Manhattanhenge“.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In Long Island City, the industrial zones are typically low lying in character, with few buildings exceeding 4 stories. Extreme reticence has been exhibited by property owners, when approached with requests of photographic access to their roofs or grounds. Insurance liability is the usual reply.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The ultimate viewing platform, of course, would be from the Citibank Megalith. Like Odin on his hildskalf, one might observe the entire world from up there, seeing the in the perspective of that thing in its summit which cannot possibly exist and does not think or breathe, yet hungers.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

From up there, the entire soup bowl of New York Harbor is available for viewing. The megalith is visible from many faraway points in the harbor, and if you can see it- it can see you. On a clear day, the thing in its summit (were it to exist) can see the Narrows and Long Island Sound and Jamaica Bay and the Hudson.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Terrestrial and aquatic vantages have been my only succor in recent months, but an urge to look down from above is upon me, and scry the ancient patterns of life which invisibly govern the present City.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Probably why I’m dreaming of flying…

gleaming vividly

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

An unusually personal posting today-

A continuing fascination with the complexities of maritime photography has taken up quite a bit of my summer in 2011. Tugboats, in particular, demand attention whenever I’m on or near the water. It probably has to do with having recently sold a couple of tug shots to the NY Times, illustrating an article in the weekender section profiling the Working Harbor Committee.

When you get paid for something you enjoy doing, life attains symmetry and seems to have a purpose, especially when the people writing the check are “the paper of record”.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As has been my habit since childhood, late summer is when I assess “how it’s going”, figure out what isn’t working in my life and try to formulate a plan to get “back on track”. It’s been a great few months: working with Forgotten-NY and Greater Astoria Historical Society on their ambitious “2nd Saturday” series of tours, assisting the Working Harbor Committee with their multitudinous tours and events, helping design and produce an event for the New York City Centennial Bridge Commission, and conducting my own boat tours of Newtown Creek for Working Harbor and Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance’s City of Water Day. I’ve also presented the Magic Lantern show three times this summer- at Greater Astoria Historical Society, City of Water Day, and at a DEP event.

Additionally, Newtown Creek Alliance’s various events, presentations and public meetings have kept me quite busy. However, in the midst of working with all these wonderful people, my own operation and schedule has been damaged by inattention.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One thing which is foremost in my mind, and which will be rectified in the coming weeks and months as we slouch toward fall and winter, has been the irregular schedule of postings here. Apologies are offered, contradicting my normal credo of “never complain, never explain”, but this blog is essentially a one man operation (although special kudos go out to Our Lady of the Pentacle and Far Eastern Correspondent Armstrong for unbelievable effort and support). Massive effort is underway to resume a normal and regular schedule of postings.

There will be one more HUGE announcement coming about a Newtown Creek event I’ll be offering in October, but I’m contractually obligated to not be more specific about it than that.

In short… Back in session.

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