The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

budding branches

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Returning from scouting a tour in hoary Greenpoint recently, your humble narrator was lucky enough to encounter the shot above waiting for me on Hunters Point avenue in Queens. Whereas I do seem to take quite a few shots of locomotives, I am no “railfan”. A true railfan or “foamer” obsesses over schedules and would be waiting for this train to pass. With me, it’s just pure serendipity. This is, of course, an Amtrak train heading for the Belmont tunnels which offer egress from Long Island to Manhattan via the Sunnyside Yards rail complex in Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In many ways, one can understand the apathy felt by the Manhattan elites toward Long Island City, for what do they see of the wonders hidden therein from the East River? Even the Newtown Creek appears to be just a simple bay from the water, another unremarkable inlet on the western coastline of a Long Island.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Perhaps this is why I’ve been drawn to conducting all of these tours. Famously, the Newtown Creek Alliance motto is “Reveal, Restore, Revitalize”, and in my capacity as group historian- I’m the “reveal” guy. Next Saturday, I’m going to be doing some of that “revealing”- there are still a few tickets left for “the Poison Cauldron” walk- do come along, if you dare.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Long have I been reluctant to bring people to this place.

For several months now, your humble narrator has been narrating in a not so humble fashion while leading boat and walking tours of the Newtown Creek watershed.

Literally hundreds of people have attended either the “Thirteen Steps around Dutch Kills“, “Insalubrious Valley“, or “Newtown Creek Boat Tour” events this year- and one question has been asked by all- “What about the Greenpoint Oil Spill?”.

Next week- a group of enthusiasts will be assembling, under the auspices of Atlas Obscura, to explore the lamentable “Poison Cauldron” of the Newtown Creek.

There are still tickets available, should you care to witness the place prior to its forthcoming demolition.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Down Under the Kosciuszko Bridge Onramp, or DUKBO, is the name I’ve assigned to this lunar landscape of industrial mills and waste transfer stations which lines the Brooklyn side of the Creek. This year is functionally the last time you will be able to witness this place, as the Kosciuszko Bridge replacement project will be kicking into high gear in the spring of 2013.

For the urban explorer and photographer crowd, this is a wonderland of shattered streets and rusted infrastructure which will soon be eradicated from all but living memory.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The tour will tell the story of Standard Oil at its start and cross over the Greenpoint Oil Spill’s heart, revealing that lost world of industrial aspiration and 20th century dissolution which lies less than a mile from the geographic and population centers of New York City.

In the past, I’ve described the area as “Mordor” at this, your Newtown Pentacle, and the Tolkien analogy is apt. The very air you breathe is a poisonous fume, the water is hopelessly tainted with bizarre combinations and millions of gallons of petroleum and industrial chemicals, the soil is impregnated with heavy metals, asbestos, and truly- who can guess all there is that might be buried down there?

An odd concentration of food distribution, waste transfer and garbage handling facilities, and energy industry plants make the area remarkable, and everywhere you look will be a “colour“- a bizarrely iridescent sheen which resembles no wholesome nor familiar earthly color but is instead like something from out of space- coating every bit of broken masonry and the sweat slicked skin of laborer and passerby alike.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Standard offer copy follows:

Meetup at the corner of Kingsland and Norman Avenues in Greenpoint at 11 on Saturday, August 25th.

We will be exploring the petroleum and waste transfer districts of the Newtown Creek watershed in North Brooklyn. Heavily industrialized, the area we will be walking through is the heart of the Greenpoint Oil Spill and home to scores of waste transfer stations and other heavy industries. We will be heading for the thrice damned Kosciuszko Bridge, which is scheduled for a demolition and replacement project which will be starting in 2013. Photographers, in particular, will find this an interesting walk through a little known and quite obscure section of New York City.

Be prepared: We’ll be encountering broken pavement, sometimes heavy truck traffic, and experiencing a virtual urban desert as we move through the concrete devastations of North Brooklyn. Dress and pack appropriately for hiking, closed toe shoes are highly recommended- as are a hat or parasol to shield you from the sun.

Bathroom opportunities will be found only at the start of the walk, which will be around three hours long and cover approximately three miles of ground. Drivers, it would be wise to leave your cars in the vicinity of McGolrick Park in Greenpoint.

Click here for tickets, and as always- a limited number of walk ups will be welcomed- but for safety reasons we need to limit the group to a manageable size. Contact me at this email if you desire further details.

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 20, 2012 at 12:45 pm

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