The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for March 27th, 2013

illusion brought

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Cloudy days and colorless nights are all that one such as myself can look forward to, and it is only within the wasted devastations of the Newtown Creek where memories of succor and happiness might be found.

In such a spot, and for several months in fact, these trailers of automotive tires have been sitting. Seemingly abandoned, one knows not the purpose of their corporeal presence at the Vernon Street End here in Long Island City, but given the long history of dumping in the area- one presumes their status as circumspect. It should be mentioned that the trailers have license plates and identifying marks, which is unusual for such scenarios.

from wikipedia

Tire stockpiles create a great health and safety risk. Tire fires can occur easily, burning for months, creating substantial pollution in the air and ground. Recycling helps to reduce the number of tires in storage. An additional health risk, tire piles provide harborage for vermin and a breeding ground for mosquitoes that may carry diseases. Illegal dumping of scrap tires pollutes ravines, woods, deserts, and empty lots; which has led many states to pass scrap tire regulations requiring proper management. Tire amnesty day events, in which community members can deposit a limited number of waste tires free of charge, can be funded by state scrap tire programs, helping decrease illegal dumping and improper storage of scrap tires.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Four of these trailers have been here since at least late January. You can see them in the background of this shot from the 22nd day of 2013.

At various intervals, the doors of more than one of these trailers have hung open before me, and they are all full of tires. Mayhaps there is some legitimate and wholesome purpose for their presence, which is beyond my reckoning.

It’s not as if 4 seemingly abandoned trailers, parked in proximity to the Buckeye Pipeline and directly over the G train tunnel (and within throwing distance of a rail yard and the Midtown Tunnel) would be noticed or investigated by the same security and law enforcement personnel who will regularly inquire “what are you taking pictures of” of me from their squad cars. This is Queens.

What could happen?

from wikipedia

Security theater is the practice of investing in countermeasures intended to provide the feeling of improved security while doing little or nothing to actually achieve it. The term was coined by computer security specialist and writer Bruce Schneier for his book Beyond Fear, but has gained currency in security circles, particularly for describing airport security measures.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For those of you used to the Brooklyn point of view, these are the slabs of cement that the boat people are tied off to on the Queens side of the Newtown Creek, around a block from the LIRR yard. Nothing to worry about, go back about your business.

I’m told that the group of boats nesting along the shore here has taken to calling itself the “Hunters Point Boat Sanctuary.”

This was once the home of the Newtown Creek Towing Company, incidentally, right alongside the Vernon Avenue Bridge.

1908 image from “Illustrated History of the Borough of Queens, New York City By Georg von Skal, Flushing Journal, Flushing, N.Y” – courtesy google books. That’s Brooklyn on the right, Queens to the left.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The situation here continues to scare the hell out of me, but no one seems particularly concerned about it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

To my admittedly age ravaged eyes, this doesn’t look so safe. The heavy concrete blocks which support the ad hoc moorings of these boats is clearly and inexorably being pulled toward the Creek. Never mind the fact that they are docking in the direct outfall of a combined sewer pipe.


Sometimes, during heavy rain and snow storms, combined sewers receive higher than normal flows. Treatment plants are unable to handle flows that are more than twice design capacity and when this occurs, a mix of excess stormwater and untreated wastewater discharges directly into the City’s waterways at certain outfalls. This is called a combined sewer overflow (CSO). We are concerned about CSOs because of their effect on water quality and recreational uses.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Anyway, that’s the scene at the ragged border of Queens known as Newtown Creek and the Vernon Avenue Street End in the early spring of 2013.

It has been decided to do an occasional series of posts which are strictly “here’s what is there” in nature, simply to document the place as it begins a season of tremendous change. Hunters Point South has begun, and the Kosciuszko reconstruction will be starting up this fall, Greenpoint Landing is not far away either.

This is the penultimate year for the Newtown Creek’s 20th century incarnation, which will be utterly altered, upgraded, and updated in the next decade.


Newtown Creek is a 3.8-mile long tidal water body located in the City of New York, having five main tributaries (Dutch Creek, Whale Creek, Maspeth Creek, East Branch and English Kills) and is itself a tributary of the East River. The creek is a part of the New York – New Jersey Harbor Estuary that forms the north-south border between the New York City boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens.

The Newtown Creek area has a history of widespread industrial development dating back to the 1800s. In the mid-1800s, the area adjacent to Newtown Creek was one of the busiest hubs of industrial activity in New York City. More than 50 refineries were located along its banks, including oil refineries, petrochemical plants, fertilizer and glue factories, sawmills, and lumber and coal yards. Newtown Creek was brimming with commercial vessels. During World War II, the creek was one of the busiest ports in the nation. This historic development has resulted in changes in the nature of the Creek from a natural drainage condition to one that is largely governed by engineered and institutional systems.

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