The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for April 2012

constantly consulting

with 3 comments

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Gilman, Gilman, Gilman.

Idiotic, your humble narrator cannot break loose of the compulsion which drives me toward destruction, which will be the result of locating a certain grave amongst Calvary Cemetery’s emerald devastations. Weak of will and enslaved by fevered thoughts, once more do my feet fall upon a carpet of grass fed by a morbid nutrition, stumbling across and into the city of the dead. On the subject at hand, which is the attempt to locate a tiny needle in a gigantic hay stack- a needle not even certain to still exist in this age- let’s recap:

As mentioned in the post “Searching for Gilman“:

“Somewhere in the viridian depths of Calvary Cemetery lies an unremarked merchant from Massachusetts, who died in an accident along the delirious Newtown Creek in 1931. No obituary I can find discusses him, and Gilman slid unnoticed into the hallowed loam of Calvary’s charitable sections. His anonymity came to an end when, according to neighborhood sources and contemporary diarists, a relict 3 masted schooner arrived at the Penny Bridge docks and ordered an eccentric monument be erected on Gilman’s resting place. The captain of that black ship, a leathery bastard named Marsh, collected Gilman’s belongings and sailed via Newtown Creek to the East River, turning North toward Hell Gate- ultimately disappearing into the mists of Long Island Sound heading for New England.”


The first survey of Newtown Creek was completed by Dutch explorers in 1613-1614, and the Dutch acquired the area from the local Mespatches tribe shortly thereafter. Initially, the Newtown Creek area was used primarily for agriculture, but following the Revolutionary War, it became industrialized with glue and tin factories, rope works, tanneries, and the Sampson Oil Cloth Factory operating along Newtown Creek and its tributaries. There was a shift to shipbuilding in the Pre-Civil War Period. Following the Civil War, textile manufacturing and oil refining replaced shipbuilding along Newtown Creek and its tributaries.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It has been established, circumstantially, that the accident which claimed Gilman was definitively in Blissville, and happened westward of Penny Bridge but east of the Greenpoint Avenue crossing. Additionally, disturbing intonations that the packs of feral dogs which were contemporaneously described as endemic to the area avoided the cadaver, but that the local rodent population did not find itself constrained from feasting.

from the posting “A World Yet Inchoate“:

“Enigma, my search for the elusive final resting place of the Massachusetts based dealer in far eastern art has taken me to distant and forgotten sections of the City of Greater New York. I have consulted with asiatic mystics in Manhattan’s Chinatown, visited a heretical Kabbalist in Brooklyn, and have drawn the ire of certain extant allies of the dead man whose influence and reach extend into the federal government and modernity itself who wish me to remain silent on the subject.”

from 1892’s History of the Catholic Church in the United States, By John Gilmary Shea – courtesy google books

The burial place for the Catholic dead of the great city now required, apparently, a vast extent of ground. The little plot around St. Peter’s Church had been the first, but a nook in Trinity Church yard held, and still holds, some Catholic dead. Then the ground around St. Patrick’s Cathedral was used, and in time a cemetery was purchased on Eleventh Street. These had all proved insufficient. Bishop Hughes looked beyond the limits of the city for a spot not likely to be reached for many years by the rapid growth of population, yet comparatively easy of access. Thirty acres of the Alsop farm, on Newtown Creek, Long Island, were purchased, and the ground was solemnly blessed by Rt. Rev. Bishop Hughes, as Calvary Cemetery, July 27, 1848, and in a few days the first interment took place. The cemetery has been enlarged by subsequent purchases, till it now contains more than a hundred acres.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Problematic in locating even a general area to search within, for the obsequious and gauche monument which the eponymous Capt. Marsh installed within the cemetery in remembrance of the fallen Gilman would have been in one of the so called “poor sections” of the polyandrion. Imagine, the sheer volume of dead bodies shipped out from Manhattan in that era, reported at the time as nearly one hundred on an average day (and far higher in times of fever, plague, and riot). These poor, or charity, sections saw hundreds of interments per week. Could it be possible that the monument to Gilman actually adorned his own grave, or that it might somehow still exist within the walls of Calvary?

from the posting “marble glories

“Of course, this is a Roman Catholic cemetery, which suggests that the multitudes who lie here were sealed off- magickly- by the sacrament of “Extreme Unction” from suffering such macabre experiences as walking about the earth seeking living victims in some post mortem half life. The heritage of the Catholics extends back through time to the Dagon devotees of Syria and the tomb worshipping Etruscans, and the Romans spent enough time in Egypt and North Africa to have picked up and incorporated many of the Magicks they found into the syncretic system of beliefs and rites known as and inherited by modernity as Catholicism. The mysteries of the church are many, and varied, and more has been forgotten or lost over the centuries than any single lifetime can recover.”

from 1890’s HOW THE OTHER HALF LIVES, By JACOB A. RIIS –courtesy google books

Life in the tenements in July and August spells death to an army of little ones whom the doctor’s skill is powerless to save. When the white badge of mourning flutters from every second door, sleepless mothers walk the streets in the gray of the early dawn, trying to stir a cooling breeze to fan the brow of the sick baby. There is no sadder sight than this patient devotion striving against fearfully hopeless odds. Fifty “summer doctors,” especially trained to this work, are then sent into the tenements by the Board of Health, with free advice and medicine for the poor. Devoted women follow in their track with care and nursing for the sick. Fresh-air excursions run daily out of New York on land and water; but despite all efforts the grave-diggers in Calvary work over-time, and little coffins are stacked mountain – high on the deck of the Charity Commissioners’ boat when it makes its semi-weekly trips to the city cemetery.

weedy walls

leave a comment »

Note- This is a reblog of a Newtown Pentacle posting from June 5, 2010 titled: from Hells Gate, loosed upon the world

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Friday of memorial day weekend, your humble narrator stumbled into the wilds of Astoria, headed for Astoria Park. Astoria Park is at the western end of Queens, and adjoins the East River, hosting parts of both the mighty Triboro Bridge and the sublime exemplar of bridge engineering called Hellgate. Named for the section of the East River it crosses, Hellgate was my intended destination and subject, and I was hoping for some visually interesting rail traffic to be crossing the great bridge. Frustrated by a gray and humid day, the Acela and other Amtrak traffic was observed, as well as a curious CSX double engine. Then…


Astoria Park, on the west shore of Queens, extends from south of the Triborough Bridge to north of the Hell Gate Bridge. With a panoramic view of the skyscrapers of midtown Manhattan in the south to the Hell Gate channel in the north, the scenery presents the diverse landscape of New York City. The Hell Gate channel, formed by faults deep underground, contains some of the deepest water in New York Harbor. Its treacherous reefs bear picturesque names such as “Hen and Chickens,” “Pot Rock,” “Bread & Cheese,” and “Bald Headed Billy.”

Throughout the centuries the stunning natural beauty of this location has attracted visitors and settlers. Before the arrival of European colonists, a trail passed by the site, and an Indian village flourished at Pot Cove. Local inhabitants grew maize on the shores, fished in Hell Gate, and drew water from Linden Brook, a small stream that still flows under Astoria Park South. In the mid-1600s the Dutch parceled out this land to various owners, including William Hallet whose grant embraced hundreds of acres. During the American Revolution, several British and Hessian regiments were stationed in the area. On November 25, 1780 the frigate Hussar and its five-million-dollar cargo sank to the bottom of Hell Gate, where despite some removal of cannons, the treasure still remains.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve become pretty familiar with NY Harbor in the last year, and can identify some of the common types of ships that cross its waters. Every now and then, however, a mysterious craft- an unidentified floating object or UFO if you will- crosses in front of me. Proceeding south, this catamaran (actually a trimaran) was nearly devoid of markings- which is remarkable in itself- and moving at a tremendous clip. Its “colorway” and hull shape instantly said “military” to me, but I could not recognize its specie.

from wikipedia

The first trimarans were built by indigenous Polynesians almost 4,000 years ago, and much of the current terminology is inherited from them. Multihull sailboats (catamarans and trimarans) gained favor during the 1960s and 1970s. Modern recreational trimarans are rooted in the same homebuilt tradition as other multihulls but there are also a number of production models on the market. A number of trimarans in the 19–36-foot lengths (5.8–11 m) have been designed over the last 30 years to be accommodated on a road trailer. These include the original Farrier – Corsair folding trimarans – and original John Westell swing-wing folding trimaran (using the same folding system later adopted also on Quorning Dragonfly) and like trimarans. Many sailboat designers have also designed demountable trimarans that are able to be trailered (like the SeaCart 30 by Oceanlake Marine).

The trimaran design is also becoming more widespread as a passenger ferry. In 2005 the 127-metre trimaran (417 ft) Benchijigua Express was delivered by Austal to Spanish ferry operator Fred. Olsen, S.A. for service in the Canary Islands. Capable of carrying 1,280 passengers and 340 cars, or equivalents, at speeds up to 40 knots, this boat was the longest aluminum ship in the world at the time of delivery. The trimaran concept has also been considered for modern warships. The RV Triton was commissioned by British defence contractor QinetiQ in 2000. In October 2005, the United States Navy commissioned for evaluation the construction of a General Dynamics Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) trimaran designed and built by Austal.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Evocative, as on one hand it resembled a radar dodging stealth aircraft for the odd angles and aerodynamic shape, on the other it suggested a modern combat tank with its armor designed to deflect rather than defeat ballistic weapons.

The ship, nevertheless, was kicking up a huge wake and was shooting water behind it- some 10-20 feet high- as it rocketed down the East River.

from wikipedia

The littoral zone refers to that part of a sea, lake or river that is close to the shore. In coastal environments the littoral zone extends from the high water mark, which is rarely inundated, to shoreline areas that are permanently submerged. It always includes this intertidal zone and is often used to mean the same as the intertidal zone. However, the meaning of “littoral zone” can extend well beyond the intertidal zone.

There is no single definition. What is regarded as the full extent of the littoral zone, and the way the littoral zone is divided into subregions, varies in different contexts (lakes and rivers have their own definitions). The use of the term also varies from one part of the world to another, and between different disciplines. For example, military commanders speak of the littoral in ways that are quite different from marine biologists.

The adjacency of water gives a number of distinctive characteristics to littoral regions. The erosive power of water results in particular types of landforms, such as sand dunes, and estuaries. The natural movement of the littoral along the coast is called the littoral drift. Biologically, the ready availability of water enables a greater variety of plant and animal life, and the additional local humidity due to evaporation usually creates a microclimate supporting unique types of organisms.

The word “littoral” is used both as a noun and an adjective. It derives from the Latin noun litus, litoris, meaning “shore”. (The doubled ‘t’ is a late medieval innovation and the word is sometimes seen in the more classical-looking spelling ‘litoral’.)

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The “colorway” and camouflage of the craft suggested that the futurists of Britain still have modern adherents, long after the last of the “dazzle ships” were launched.

For those of you not in the know, the Dazzle Ships were an experiment in “breaking up the shape” of large combat vessels against the horizon, an attempt to reduce the visual profile of capital ships and reduce the ability of submariners to target vital areas of said ships. Dazzle works best at distance, which is what modern naval combat is all about.

from wikipedia

At first glance Dazzle seems unlikely camouflage, drawing attention to the ship rather than hiding it, but this technique was developed after the Allied Navies were unable to develop effective means to disguise ships in all weather.

Dazzle did not conceal the ship but made it difficult for the enemy to estimate its type, size, speed and heading. The idea was to disrupt the visual rangefinders used for naval artillery. Its purpose was confusion rather than concealment. An observer would find it difficult to know exactly whether the stern or the bow is in view; and it would be equally difficult to estimate whether the observed vessel is moving towards or away from the observer’s position.

Rangefinders were based on the co-incidence principle with an optical mechanism, operated by a human to compute the range. The operator adjusted the mechanism until two half-images of the target lined up in a complete picture. Dazzle was intended to make that hard because clashing patterns looked abnormal even when the two halves were aligned. This became more important when submarine periscopes included similar rangefinders. As an additional feature, the dazzle pattern usually included a false bow wave to make estimation of the ship’s speed difficult.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned, my computer was down for the holiday weekend, but Our Lady of the Pentacle allowed me to use her laptop and I managed to get a few of these images out to that clandestine and anonymous network of maritime enthusiasts and quasi governmental experts who advise, comment, or offer corrections to your Newtown Pentacle. Credit for identifying this craft goes out to them, and I wish that they would allow me to sing praise publicly, but certain conflicts of interest or oaths of secrecy demand that they must always be referred to as “anonymous sources”. In this case, the ultimate sources will be referred to as Daidalos and Icaros (hey, it is Astoria Park).

from wikipedia

It is in images, not in texts that Daedalus is seen with wings; many Greek myths appear to have been invented to make sense of known but inexplicable images. The most familiar literary telling explaining Daedalus’ wings is a late one, that of Ovid: in his Metamorphoses (VIII:183-235) Daedalus was shut up in a tower to prevent his knowledge of his Labyrinth from spreading to the public. He could not leave Crete by sea, as the king kept strict watch on all vessels, permitting none to sail without being carefully searched. Since Minos controlled the land and sea routes, Daedalus set to work to fabricate wings for himself and his young son Icarus. He tied feathers together, from smallest to largest so as to form an increasing surface. The larger ones he secured with thread and the smaller with wax, and gave the whole a gentle curvature like the wings of a bird. When the work was done, the artist, waving his wings, found himself buoyed upward and hung suspended, poising himself on the beaten air. He next equipped his son in the same manner, and taught him how to fly. When both were prepared for flight, Daedalus warned Icarus not to fly too high, because the heat of the sun would melt the wax, nor too low, because the sea foam would soak the feathers.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Daidalos was actually stumped when the photos arrived, and neither of us could make any sense of the only marking- a string of tiny numbers on the hull- of this unidentified floating object. High flying, Icaros received the shots from the latter, and contacted high ranking members of a certain governmental entity. This entity-let’s just say that they have lots of boats and planes, and boats that are airports, and boats that carry nuclear missiles and stay underwater for months at a time, and a lot of the people who work for it wear white dress uniforms– claimed the ship as theirs!

from wikipedia

From the time of its inception, the military played a decisive role in the history of the United States. A sense of national unity and identity was forged out of the victorious Barbary Wars, as well as the War of 1812. Even so, the Founders were suspicious of a permanent military force and not until the outbreak of World War II did a large standing army become officially established.

The National Security Act of 1947, adopted following World War II and during the onset of the Cold War, created the modern U.S. military framework; the Act merged previously Cabinet-level Department of War and the Department of the Navy into the National Military Establishment (renamed the Department of Defense in 1949), headed by the Secretary of Defense; and created the Department of the Air Force and National Security Council.

The U.S. military is one of the largest militaries in terms of number of personnel. It draws its manpower from a large pool of volunteers; although conscription has been used in the past in various times of both war and peace, it has not been used since 1972. As of 2010, the United States spends about $692 billion annually to fund its military forces, constituting approximately 43 percent of world military expenditures. The U.S. armed forces as a whole possess large quantities of advanced and powerful equipment, which gives them significant capabilities in both defense and power projection.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

What you have just seen, lords and ladies, shooting down the East River at high speed was described as a (JHSV) Joint High Speed Vessel.

A JHSV can comfortably carry 300 fully armed MARINES, or up to 600 in a pinch. Alternatively, it can move multiple main battle tanks- the astounding M1 Abrams. Just so you understand, 600 is near the low end of Battalion strength, and 600 U.S. Marines could probably claim a beachhead in Hell itself if they were asked to. It also has a landing pad for a helicoptor.

This ship is huge… but a helicoptor pad?



The JHSV program is procuring high-speed transport vessels for the Army and the Navy. These vessels will be used for fast intra-theater transportation of troops, military vehicles and equipment. The JHSV program merges the previous Army Theater Support Vessel (TSV) and the Navy High Speed Connector (HSC), taking advantage of the inherent commonality between the two programs.

JHSV will be capable of transporting 600 short tons 1,200 nautical miles at an average speed of 35 knots. The ships will be capable of operating in shallow-draft ports and waterways, interfacing with roll-on/roll-off discharge facilities, and on/off-loading a combat-loaded Abrams Main Battle Tank (M1A2). Other joint requirements include an aviation flight deck to support day and night air vehicle launch and recovery operations.

JHSV is a commercial-design, non-combatant transport vessel, and does not require the development of any new technology. JHSV is being built to American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) High Speed Naval Craft Guide. Systems onboard will be based on commercial ABS steel vessel rules. As such, it does not require the survivability and ability to sustain damage like the LCS. It has no combat system capability and no ability to support or use LCS mission modules. It will leverage non-developmental or commercial technology that is modified to suit military applications. Select military features include Aviation; Command, Control, Communications, Computers, and (Military) Intelligence; and Firefighting for the Mission Bay. NVR does not apply to any part of JHSV.

As a non-combatant sealift ship, the Navy variant of JHSV will be crewed by civilian mariners, either employed by or under contract to the Navy’s Military Sealift Command. U.S. Army vessels will be crewed by Army craft masters. Both versions will require a crew of approximately 22-40 people, but will have airline style seating for more than 300 embarked forces and fixed berthing for approximately 100 more.

  • Primary Function: The JHSV Program will provide high speed, shallow draft transportation capability to support the intra-theater maneuver of personnel, supplies and equipment for the U. S. Navy, Marine Corps, and Army.
  • Builder: Austal USA
  • Propulsion: Water Jet
  • Length: 103 Meters (338 feet)
  • Beam: 28.5 meters (93.5 feet)
  • Displacement: 600 short tons
  • Draft: < 15 feet (4.57 meters)
  • Speed: 35-40 knots
  • Range: 1,200 nautical miles
  • Crew: 22-40 civilian mariners/U.S. Army craft masters
  • Homeport: No homeport – construction has yet to begin.

However… This is not a JHSV!!!

This here is the M80 Stiletto.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Check out this video at youtube which explains the Stiletto’s potential in great detail, and supplies 3D animation for operational scenarios.


With the formal roll-out of the 88-foot Stiletto stealth ship and its cutting-edge “M-Hull” wave-damping design, that legacy takes another step forward. The Stiletto is part of Project WolfPac, which aims to test new concepts of shallow-water and riverine warfare organized around swarms of smaller, affordable ships linked by communications. The Stiletto can slip into shallow waters, launching inflatable boats and even UAVs while serving as a communications hub via its “electronic keel.” Best of all, the M-Hull significantly reduces the pounding its occupants take from waves – poundings that often result in back injuries that cut careers short, or leave sailors with lingering disabilities in later life.

and from wikipedia

The 88-foot (27 m) long vessel has a notable hull design, an M-shaped hull that provides a stable yet fast platform for mounting electronic surveillance equipment or weapons, or for conducting special operations. The hull design does not require foils or lifting devices to achieve a smooth ride at high speeds in rough conditions. Its shallow draft means the M80 Stiletto can operate in littoral and riverine environments and potentially allows for beach landings.

The M80 Stiletto is equipped with four Caterpillar, Inc. C32 1232 kW (1652 HP) engines yielding a top speed in excess of 50 knots (90 km/h) and a range of 500 nautical miles (900 km) when fully loaded. It can be outfitted with jet drives for shallow water operations and beaching.

It has a topside flight deck for launching and retrieving UAVs and a rear ramp that can launch and recover an 11-meter rigid-hull inflatable boat (RIB) or Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV).

It weighs 45 tons unloaded, light enough that it can be hoisted onto a cargo ship, while still able to carry up to 20 tons of cargo in the 1,996 square feet (200 m2) of usable interior space. The ship is 88.6 feet (27.0 m) in length, with a width of 40 feet (12 m) and a height of 18.5 feet (5.6 m), yet has a draft of only 2.5 feet (0.8 m).

The M80 Stiletto is the largest U.S. naval vessel built using carbon-fiber composite and epoxy building techniques, which yields a very light but strong hull. The prototype M80 Stiletto is expected to be in use in less than one year. Ships are expected to cost between $6 and $10 million

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 29, 2012 at 1:48 am

Project Firebox 42

leave a comment »

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The never ending cacophony that is known to gentry and commoner alike as Astoria Queens often manifests physically. Boundless, the furious tumult and enthusiast spectacle of urban youth often results in the wholescale destruction of street furniture, automobiles, and sometimes- lives. Pity this servant of the public good on 36th avenue, a victim of whim and inattention.

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 28, 2012 at 12:21 am

inaccessible locality

leave a comment »

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It would be nice to own a piece of Newtown Creek real estate, don’t you think? I know this sounds like an odd dream of mine, but I’d really love to buy some waterfront parcel were I financially capable. The whole lot would be fairly feral after a short time, of course, except for the teams of archaeologists I’d invite to dig there for treasure. Captain Kidd is supposed to have buried a chest of pirate booty somewhere on the Brooklyn side, don’t you know?


The creek is the receptacle for all the refuse from the sewers, factories, and slaughter-houses of the east of Brooklyn; constant deposits are therefore forming in it, especially at the upper end, from these causes and from the caving in of the unprotected banks, which consist of marsh mud. To remedy this difficulty, annual dredging will be needed until the banks are protected by bulkheads throughout their whole length. The commerce of the creek is so large that this improvement should be pushed at least 3 mile.s up from the mouth as soon as possible, so that vessels drawing 20 to 23 feet may pass in and out of the creek with full cargoes at or near low water.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Wouldn’t live there, of course, but there would be a public dock. Assuming that a multi million dollar property like this was within my reach, I’d probably have enough left over for one of those flat bottom boats with the big propellor on the back that they use in the swamps of Florida and Louisiana to hunt gators. Of course, I can’t afford the nice zoom lens that I covet, and that’s just a couple thousand, so I can just forget about owning a valuable industrial bulkhead. The last people who let this land go cheap were the aboriginal Lenape, and they were largely wiped out by Smallpox by the 1680’s.

from “Queens Borough, New York City, 1910-1920; the borough of homes and industry, a descriptive and illustrated book setting forth its wonderful growth and development in commerce, industry and homes during the past ten years … a prediction of even greater growth during the next ten years … and a statement of its many advantages, attractions and possibilities as a section wherein to live, to work and to succeed” at

Some further idea of the immense commerce of this waterway can be obtained from the figures compiled by the Department of Plant and Structures of New York City, which show that during the year 1918, 59,389 boats passed through the Vernon Avenue Bridge, 56,735 passed through the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge, 27,000 through the Meeker Street Bridge and 5,007 through the Grand Street Bridge.

Steamers schooners and unrigged vessels are the principal freight carriers. Their drafts range from 5^ to 20 feet; 2 to 19 feet; 2 to 18 feet respectively. Some steamers of still larger draft lighter in their cargoes.

Among the larger plants on the Queens shore of Newtown Creek are the National Sugar Refining Company, Nichols Copper Company, National Enameling and Stamping Company, General Chemical Company, Standard Oil Refineries. American Agricultural Chemical Company, and the Wrigley Chewing Gum Company.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s a stupid aspiration, and even dumber to think that I’d just let scholars “have at the place”. What could possibly be learned by turning over a few shovels of dirt in this place, where the only tale to tell is about a certain oil spill or endemic pollution? What else has ever happened here?


On September 15, 1776, General Lord Howe decided to attack Manhattan Island. He ordered three Ships of War to sail up the North River and get the American’s attention while he launched his entire First Division in flatboats against Kips Bay. The flatboats were embarked from the head of Newtown Creek as General Lord Howe and General Warren watched from the Sackett-Clinton House (later Gov. DeWitt Clinton’s mansion) in Maspeth. The Americans on Manhattan Island under General George Washington made their retreat to Harlem and escaped the British attack.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Can you imagine how cool it would be to restore just a single section of the Newtown Creek to its natural state? To see the salt marsh grasses rippling in the wind, and stout trees sprouting, beneath the golden rays of the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself? What could possibly go wrong with that?

from 1901’s “Forest and stream” Volume 57- By William A. Bruette, courtesy google books

Mosquitoes Galore

Lieutenant Schwatka’s experience with mosquitoes reminds me. Years ago I crossed the Newtown salt meadows on a horse car. It was from a point where Williamsburg left off and Newtown then called Maspeth began. Both are now included in Greater New York. The sun had set and in the twilight from the surface of the meadows could be seen innumerable coils of smoke each one as clearly defined and separate as if emanating from the dying embers of a redman’s camp fire.

First would the dark mass of smoke leave the ground in a slender spiral thread to broaden out as it ascended keeping up the spiral twining of the cloud.

This phenomenon could be seen upon the entire stretch of meadow ahead of us. It was a curious and interesting sight to watch those thousands of small camp fires giving forth their spiral canopies of smoke.

The air had been still and quiet and the smoke ascended slowly and gracefully from the grass. Suddenly a gust of wind passed over the meadows blowing toward us and instantly the spiral harmony of the situation was changed into a grayish atmosphere and as it reached the open car in which I sat a realization that we were looking at spiral clouds of mosquitoes arising from the grass instead of smoke was forcibly thrust upon myself and the well filled car of passengers.

The woodwork of the car the inside of the roof the backs of the seats the hats and clothing of the passengers instantly assumed a dark gray color. The horses were covered from head to foot and became almost unmanageable The car became as some one once remarked all bustle and confusion.

While the passengers with handkerchiefs whipped the mosquitoes from their necks and faces the driver urged the frantic horses to their utmost speed and after a race of about ten minutes we emerged from the meadows and spent the remainder of the trip gradually getting rid of the mosquitoes that were traveling in our car.

I know nothing about Alaska mosquitoes but if they are as thick every summer’s day in Alaska as they were that particular evening twenty years agp on the Newtown Creek meadows then I wonder how grizzly bears moose or any other furred animals can live in Alaska and thrive

-Charles Cristadoro

closely questioned

with 6 comments

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The last few weeks have seen your humble narrator not so humbly leading groups of enthusiasts around the Newtown Creek on walking tours. This is a tremendous exertion for one such as myself, for to be seen by so many diminishes me. Unfortunately, a lot of the places I’d really like to show off are remotely located, with limited if any access. One of these spots is Maspeth Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Once a major tributary, and now quite minor, Maspeth Creek has been largely abandoned by industry. It’s depth is shallow, and is beset by an enormous CSO (Combined Sewer Outfall) at its terminus. A “floatables boom” cuts it off from the main body of the Newtown Creek and causes great amalgamations of trash to agglutinate in shallows and along its banks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Somehow, despite the endemic pollution in the sediments and mud and the constant flow of sewage, nature has begun to take the waterway back unto itself. My understanding is that the sediments here are teeming with invertebrates, worms and crabs and the like, which draw in exotic fauna like the Cormorants in the first shot and the Kingfisher Yellow-crowned Night Heron pictured above. One of the more disturbing aspects of a recently announced DEP/DEC plan to install aeration wands here (to raise the levels of dissolved oxygen in the water) is that the project will most likely obliterate this colony of birds.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I have personally observed fish and eels swimming in the water here, which is quite obviously what has drawn these breeding colonies of birds to the spot. Cormorants in particular are diving birds which eat fish and crabs, which indicates that there is enough oxygen in the water to support… fish and crabs. How I wish that some of the dozens of people who I’ve had the pleasure of sharing the Creek with in the last few weeks were the engineers in Albany and Manhattan who cook up these plans, but they don’t seem to be interested in coming here.


– photo by Mitch Waxman

An NCA event, which I for one am pretty stoked about:

April NCA meeting hosts Dr. Eric Sanderson

Tonight. Thursday, April 26, 2012 at 6pm

Ridgewood Democratic Club, 
6070 Putnam Avenue, 
Ridgewood, NY 11385

In addition to important updates from our members – in particular the Bioremedition Workgroup has been very busy! – we will be hosting a special presentation on the “Historical Ecology of Newtown Creek”.

Dr. Eric Sanderson, senior conservation ecologist at the Wildlife Conservation Society and author of “Mannahatta: A Natural History of New York City” (Abrams, 2009), will describe recent studies of the historical ecology of Newtown Creek, describing the original wetlands, creek channels, topography and vegetation of the area. He will show a series of 18th and 19th century maps of the watershed of the creek and discuss the process of synthesizing them into an integrated ecological picture that can be used to inform and inspire natural restoration and cultural appreciation of the Newtown Creek watershed. This work is part of the Welikia Project (, an investigation into the historical ecology of the five boroughs of New York City and surrounding waters. The Welikia Project on Newtown Creek is funded by The NYCEF Newtown Creek Fund of the Hudson River Foundation.

And this Saturday,

Obscura Day 2012, Thirteen Steps around Dutch Kills

Saturday April 28th, 10 a.m.

Your humble narrator will be narrating humbly at this year’s Obscura Day event on April 28th, leading a walking tour of Dutch Kills. There are a few tickets left, so grab them while you can.

“Found less than one mile from the East River, Dutch Kills is home to four movable (and one fixed span) bridges, including one of only two retractible bridges remaining in New York City. Dutch Kills is considered to be the central artery of industrial Long Island City and is ringed with enormous factory buildings, titan rail yards — it’s where the industrial revolution actually happened. Bring your camera, as the tour will be revealing an incredible landscape along this section of the troubled Newtown Creek Watershed.”

For tickets and full details, click here :

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 26, 2012 at 12:15 am

%d bloggers like this: