The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for June 11th, 2012

laced apertures

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

An interval of soliloquy recently offered itself to your humble narrator, during a vast and shambling perambulation. Undertaken was a relaxed and lonely tour of the titan masonry which distinguishes the quite industrialized northern bank of the Newtown Creek, specifically in the hessian cursed hinterlands of Maspeth and Blissville.

Accessing obscure yet quite public locations, known to but a few, a thought occurred. Perhaps conventional wisdom is wrong, and the muddy sediments of the fabled industrial revolution- rich in all sorts of exotic materials- are actually what the great minds of earlier epochs were trying to achieve.

Could the Black Mayonnaise be some sort of vast environmental Peloid?

from wikipedia

Peloid is mud, or clay used therapeutically, as part of balneotherapy, or therapeutic bathing. Peloids consist of humus and minerals formed over many years by geological and biological, chemical and physical processes.

Numerous peloids are available today, of which the most popular are peat pulps, various medicinal clays, mined in various locations around the world, and a variety of plant substances. Also, health spas often use locally available lake and sea muds and clays. Peloid procedures are also various; the most common of them are peloid wraps, peloid baths, and peloid packs applied locally to the part of the body, which is being treated.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The grinding heel of finances, omnipresent and dire, drives one toward desperate fancies and fantastical schemes. Idiot plans, plots- even gambling- are possible when one’s outlook is grimly narrowed by looming disaster.

Moments so described will weigh heavily upon even those possessed of wholesome aspect and character, let alone a misshapen void in space in the approximate shape of a man that is a humble but quite disgusting narrator.

An unthinkable ideation… unknowable and indescribable… utterly and inconceivably hatched.

from wikipedia

Haitians consume a large variety of different non-traditional foods in an attempt to quelch hunger pains. Mud cakes are traditionally fashioned and consumed, but items such as clay and chalk can also be eaten. Due to recent increases in food prices and growing starvation in Haiti, this habit has been extended and received much media attention.

Outside of hunger, mud and dirt can be consumed accidentally during sports and other outdoor activities. This has led to dysphemisms for poor-tasting food such as “tastes like dirt”, based on the experience of getting mud, dirt, etc. in one’s teeth.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Clove like the belly of a rotten fish, or Zeus’s brow when Athena was explosively born, this extranormal notion flowered approximately three and one half inches behind my eyes.

Gaining the product would be laughably easy, one would suspect that officials and administrators would be overjoyed just to be rid of the stuff. Historical precedent exists. During the halcyon days of the Newtown Creek’s early chemical industry, when a byproduct of the large scale manufacture of sulphuric acid at the works of M. Kalbfleisch or William Henry Nichols – called sludge acid– was dumped directly into the water, kids would collect the stuff where it pooled up downstream (in glass lined buckets) and bring it to some small operators in the chemical business for use as raw material for distillation and refinement.

That’d be making lemonade, if handed lemons.


The routing of potential Newtown Creek Flushing Tunnels along with the locations and sizes of the pumping stations were developed in a previous study (URS, 1994), which are shown on Figure 7-7. Two tunnels would be constructed, each with a water intake located along the East River. One tunnel would go to Dutch Kills and have a 70 cfs pumping station near the terminus at the head end of Dutch Kills. The other tunnel is proposed to go to English Kills and then on to East Branch with 150 cfs pumping stations near the head ends of each tributary. Both tunnels were routed as much as possible under existing rights-of-way to minimize the potential costs associated with easement acquisition. However, due to the number of dead end tributaries to Newtown Creek and their distance from the East River the flushing water option would require around three miles of tunnels, two water intakes, and three pumping stations. In addition, the background conditions in the East River are not substantially better than the target water quality and thus flushing requires larger flushing volumes.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Gaining financial freedom by mining the muds of Newtown Creek and offering it to the nations apothecaries as a miracle cure, growing rich off… a moment of lucid fantasy, then detonated and disintegrated with the force of an exploding bladder. These sediments were left here for a reason, laid down by the great and gregarious- men like Charles Pratt and Peter Cooper and John D. Rockefeller. These men were public benefactors, underwriters of great charities as well as medical and scholastic institutions, and hailed as exemplars by their contemporaries.

Surely there must something beneath the water, hidden away in subterrene pockets and masonry clad voids, something horribly and anomalously uncanny which spurred these titans of an earlier age to action and seal it in.

Who can guess, all there is, that might be buried down there?

from wikipedia

A molehill (or mole-hill, mole mound) is a conical mound of loose soil raised by small burrowing mammals, including moles, but also similar animals such as mole-rats, marsupial moles and voles. They are often the only sign to indicate the presence of the animal.



June 16th, 2012- Newtown Creek Alliance Dutch Kills walk (this Saturday)

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Newtown Creek Alliance has asked that, in my official capacity as group historian, a tour be conducted on the 16th of June- a Saturday. This walk will follow the Dutch Kills tributary, and will include a couple of guest speakers from the Alliance itself, which will provide welcome relief for tour goers from listening to me rattle on about Michael Degnon, Patrick “Battle Ax” Gleason, and a bunch of bridges that no one has ever heard of.

for June 16th tickets, click here for the Newtown Creek Alliance ticketing page

June 23rd, 2012- Atlas Obscura Thirteen Steps around Dutch Kills walk

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Additionally- the “Obscura Day” Thirteen Steps around Dutch Kills tour proved that the efficacy and charms of the Newtown Creek’s least known tributary, with its myriad points of interest, could cause a large group to overlook my various inadequacies and failings. The folks at Atlas Obscura, which is a fantastic website worthy of your attentions (btw), have asked me to repeat the tour on the 23rd of June- also a Saturday.

for June 23rd tickets, click here for the Atlas Obscura ticketing page

June 30th, 2012- Working Harbor Committee Kill Van Kull walk

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My various interests out on the sixth borough, NY Harbor, have brought me into association with the Working Harbor Committee. A member of the group’s Steering Committee- I also serve as the “official” group photographer, am chairman and principal narrator of their annual Newtown Creek Boat Tour, and occasionally speak on the microphone during other tours (mainly the Brooklyn one). This year, the group has branched out into terrestrial explorations to compliment the intense and extant schedule of boat tours, and I’m going to be leading a Kill Van Kull walking tour that should be a lot of fun.

The Kill Van Kull, or tugboat alley as its known to we harbor rats, is a tidal strait that defines the border of Staten Island and New Jersey. A busy and highly industrialized waterfront, Working Harbor’s popular “Hidden Harbor – Newark Bay” boat tours provide water access to the Kill, but what is it like on the landward side?

Starting at the St. George Staten Island Ferry terminal, join WHC Steering Committee member Mitch Waxman for a walk up the Kill Van Kull via Staten Islands Richmond Terrace. You’ll encounter unrivaled views of the maritime traffic on the Kill itself, as well as the hidden past of the maritime communities which line it’s shores. Surprising and historic neighborhoods, an abandoned railway, and tales of prohibition era bootleggers await.

The tour will start at 11, sharp, and you must be on (at least) the 10:30 AM Staten Island Ferry to meet the group at St. George. Again, plan for transportation changes and unexpected weirdness to be revealed to you at

for June 30th tickets, click here for the Working Harbor Committee ticketing page

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