The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for April 2013

tireless and continuing

with one comment

“follow” me on Twitter at @newtownpentacle

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Missives regarding the Newtown Creek reach my desk all the time, mostly describing activist causes and far reaching governmental plans, but a particular message from the United States Coast Guard seemed to be the sort of thing which will likely affect the communities (on both sides and upon the water) which are nearby the troubled waterway so I decided to share it with you.

The Greenpoint Avenue Bridge is going to receiving attention, this summer, from NYC DOT bridge painting crews.

from federalregister.gov

The Commander, First Coast Guard District, has issued a temporary deviation from the regulation governing the operation of the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge across Newtown Creek, mile 1.3, at New York City, New York. The deviation is necessary to facilitate bridge painting operations. Under this temporary deviation, the bridge may remain in the closed position for various times up to six days at a time during a four month period.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

From the sound of it, the main inconvenience will be felt by the maritime community, as the bridge repair will render the drawbridge static for as long as six days at a pop between May and September.

For drivers, and this is an incredibly busy span, one suspects that there will be traffic tie ups and lane closures but this is conjecture based solely on the behavioral and occupational patterns exhibited and displayed by DOT crews and their contractors on other projects around the City.

One suspects that the four day windows when the draw bridge is open for “business as usual” shall also witness a higher than normal number of bridge openings, which is good for me, of course as lots and lots of tugboats will be lined up along the Creek.

also from federalregister.gov

The bridge owner, New York City Department of Transportation, requested multiple six day closure periods between May 1, 2013 and September 30, 2013, to facilitate bridge painting operation at the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge. Each six day closure period will be followed with four days of normal bridge operations. The exact time and dates of each six day closure period will be announced in the Local Notice to Mariners and also with a Broadcast Notice to Mariners at least two weeks in advance of each closure period. This temporary deviation will be in effect from May 1, 2013 through September 30, 2013.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

C’est la vie, life in the big city, and what can you do about it anyway?

Such maintenance is a necessary inconvenience to keep the structure from rotting away into a corroded heap. The waters of the Newtown Creek, just like the East River, are brackish. Salt is the natural enemy of steel and no one wishes to see a traffic mess like the one created by the 1987 rebuild of the bridge occur anytime soon.

Additionally, although I imagine that the Public Art Commission will approve the continued usage of “Aluminum Green” paints for the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge, I would suggest that using “Pulaski Red” all the way back to the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge would visually unite and “Brand” the Bridges of Newtown Creek.

from nyc.gov

The first bridge on this site, a drawbridge known as the Blissville, was built in the 1850’s. It was succeeded by three other bridges before a new one was completed in March 1900 at a cost of $58,519. That bridge received extensive repairs after a fire in 1919 damaged parts of the center pier fender, the southerly abutment, and the superstructure. Until that time, the bridge had also carried tracks of the Long Island Rail Road. The current bridge was built in 1987.

Also: Upcoming Tours!

13 Steps around Dutch Kills Saturday, May 4, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets now on sale.

Parks and Petroleum- Sunday, May 12, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Newtown Creek Alliance, tickets now on sale.

The Insalubrious Valley- Saturday, May 25, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets on sale soon.

Hidden Harbor: Newtown Creek tour with Mitch Waxman – Sunday, May 26,2013
Boat tour presented by the Working Harbor Committee,
Limited seating available, order advance tickets now. Group rates available.

urban gaieties

with 2 comments

“follow” me on Twitter at @newtownpentacle

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Astoria, or at least the section which  I live in (at the border, where it bumps up against Woodside and Sunnyside) really is one of the most charming spots I’ve ever had the pleasure of dwelling in. Sure, we’ve got the late night drunks and a growing problem with rat infestation, heavy trucks using the neighborhood as a shortcut between Astoria and Northern Blvd.’s, noisy annoyances and endemic environmental pollution- but it is situated at a fortuitous angle to the sun and can be quite photogenic at the right time of day.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Area wags and deluded malcontents will deride the community as undeserving of such splendor, but what do they know? Most of them don’t even live here, and commute from Manhattan apartments. When you exist in this neighborhood, talk to the neighbors, sit out on your stoop- that’s when you “get it.”

Quite often, you’ll get too much and rush into your apartment to construct barricades and sharpen knives, but you do- in fact- get it. Warmer weather has brought the Astorians out in force, and amongst them lurks a weird but quite humble narrator.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As soon as the weather broke one headed over to the local taverna with the dog, and having acquired an out of doors table, a celebratory pint of spring libation was ordered. Hasty conversations with casual acquaintances were engaged in, and the dog seemed happy. Reports of pure neighborhood oriented comfort and joy, along with my usual tales of paranoid wanderings, are a part of life here in the Newtown Pentacle. It has been wonderful to reacquaint, rediscover, and reconnect with those whom I dwell amongst.

I’m sure I’ll be sick of human interaction before the end of May, however.

Also: Upcoming Tours!

13 Steps around Dutch Kills Saturday, May 4, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets now on sale.

Parks and Petroleum- Sunday, May 12, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Newtown Creek Alliance, tickets now on sale.

The Insalubrious Valley- Saturday, May 25, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets on sale soon.

Hidden Harbor: Newtown Creek tour with Mitch Waxman – Sunday, May 26,2013
Boat tour presented by the Working Harbor Committee,
Limited seating available, order advance tickets now. Group rates available.

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 29, 2013 at 12:15 am

cyclopean symbol

with 2 comments

“follow” me on Twitter at @newtownpentacle

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of those trips to Manhattan which I’ve been complaining about for the last few weeks actually ended in a fully catered boat ride, so it goes to show that not all things are horrible. While onboard, an NYC DEP “Honey Boat” was spotted and a humble narrator exclaimed “for maritime Sunday, once more unto the breach.”

from nywea.org

The sludge vessel operation has four crews, each with six personnel. They work 12-hr shifts. Two vessels are used on a 6-day schedule but can be used on any day of the year. The third vessel is either dockside for repairs or in a standby mode.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

“Honey” or Sludge Boats, carry the end product of the waste water treatment process from their source to a secondary location for further treatment and “dewatering.” The latter involves centrifuges and turns the dark stuff from something with the consistency of pea soup into something which is like wet corn meal or grits, which will be used as fertilizer for non food crops or just end up in some former coal mine or landfill in Pennsylvania.

from nyc.gov

Dewatering reduces the liquid volume of sludge by about 90%. New York City operates dewatering facilities at eight of its 14 treatment plants. At these facilities, digested sludge is sent through large centrifuges that operate like the spin cycle of a washing machine. The force from the very fast spinning of the centrifuges separates most of the water from the solids in the sludge, creating a substance knows as biosolids. The water drawn from the spinning process is then returned to the head of the plant for reprocessing. Adding a substance called organic polymer improves the consistency of the “cake”, resulting in a firmer, more manageable product. The biosolids cake is approximately 25 to 27percent solid material.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Luckily, as my companions on this boat trip were actually an elite upper crust from around NY Harbor and one such as myself cannot help but feel small in their company, the Honey Boat was the MV Newtown Creek.

Something about being near a hundred thousand gallons of concentrated sewage, and the name of the boat itself, made me feel as if I was back at home rather than upon the East River.

from wikipedia

Separation anxiety disorder (SAD) is a psychological condition in which an individual experiences excessive anxiety regarding separation from home or from people to whom the individual has a strong emotional attachment (e.g. a parent, grandparents, or siblings).

According to the American Psychology Association, separation anxiety disorder is the inappropriate and excessive display of fear and distress when faced with situations of separation from the home or from a specific attachment figure. The anxiety that is expressed is categorized as being atypical of the expected developmental level and age. The severity of the symptoms ranges from anticipatory uneasiness to full-blown anxiety about separation.

Also: Upcoming Tours!

13 Steps around Dutch Kills Saturday, May 4, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets now on sale.

Parks and Petroleum- Sunday, May 12, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Newtown Creek Alliance, tickets now on sale.

The Insalubrious Valley- Saturday, May 25, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets on sale soon.

Hidden Harbor: Newtown Creek tour with Mitch Waxman – Sunday, May 26,2013
Boat tour presented by the Working Harbor Committee,
Limited seating available, order advance tickets now. Group rates available.

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 28, 2013 at 12:15 am

Project Firebox 68

leave a comment »

“follow” me on Twitter at @newtownpentacle

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This king in crimson was observed on duty amongst the blessed slopes of almond eyed Astoria, where neither a hooka pipe nor a cup of strong black coffee are safe. At 38th street and 28th avenue is its perch, standing ever ready to summon teams of rescuers for the desperately endangered.

Also: Upcoming Tours!

13 Steps around Dutch Kills Saturday, May 4, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets now on sale.

Parks and Petroleum- Sunday, May 12, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Newtown Creek Alliance, tickets now on sale.

The Insalubrious Valley- Saturday, May 25, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets on sale soon.

Hidden Harbor: Newtown Creek tour with Mitch Waxman – Sunday, May 26,2013
Boat tour presented by the Working Harbor Committee,
Limited seating available, order advance tickets now. Group rates available.

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 27, 2013 at 12:15 am

marshy shore

with one comment

“follow” me on Twitter at @newtownpentacle

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My fascination with the Sunnyside Yards here in Long Island City is well known, and observation of the modifications to the place demanded by the East Side Access project have been eagerly and enthusiastically observed and recorded accordingly. On this particular afternoon, the esoteric bit of kit on display for the discerning enthusiast was a truck adapted for life and transit upon the railroad tracks. The particular occupation of this vehicle is somewhat beyond me, with a singular observation that it seemed cool and was manufactured by a company called Brandt.

from wikipedia

The Canadian company Brandt has also converted large truck tractor units for use as locomotives that can move by road to where they are needed. Still mostly used for permanent way maintenance, they can also be employed as thunderbird (rescue) locomotives or even used in normal service, where they are suitable for smaller operators.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Nothing short of byzantine, the operational engineering of this project must be a devilish conundrum. Imagine the combined challenge of rebuilding, and in some cases installing new capability, to one of the busiest rail yards on Earth without disrupting its function. The new installation part of that is adding an additional track, including truss bridges flown over local and quite residential streets, which will fundamentally change the flow of traffic along the entire northeastern United States and parts of Canada while hundreds of passenger trains whizz by as they move between Manhattan and Long Island.

from wikipedia

Extending between Sunnyside, Queens, and Grand Central, the project will route the LIRR from its Main Line through new track connections in Sunnyside Yard and through the lower level of the existing 63rd Street Tunnel under the East River. In Manhattan, a new tunnel will begin at the western end of the 63rd Street Tunnel at Second Avenue, curving south under Park Avenue and entering a new LIRR terminal beneath Grand Central.

Current plans call for 24-trains-per-hour service to Grand Central during peak morning hours, with an estimated 162,000 passenger trips to and from Grand Central on an average weekday. Connections to AirTrain JFK at Jamaica Station in Jamaica, Queens, will facilitate travel to John F. Kennedy International Airport from the East Side of Manhattan.

A new LIRR train station in Sunnyside at Queens Boulevard and Skillman Avenue along the Northeast Corridor (which the LIRR uses to get into Pennsylvania Station) will provide one-stop access for area residents to Midtown Manhattan. The station may spur economic development and growth in Long Island City.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The specific occupation of this vehicle- given the small crane rig on its bed might be defined as a rail tie loader- but I’ve been excoriated for guessing when it come to the railroad before so if one of you might know for sure, please speak up in the comments section. There are large segments of pre assembled track and sleepers nearby the device, it should be mentioned. This sort of thing is part of the reason that I carry a camera with me whenever I’m transversing the concrete devastations of Western Queens, you never know what you might see.

Also: Upcoming Tours!

A free event, “Watch Wildlife on Maspeth Creek with NCA and DEC!” – Friday, April 26
Meetup at Maspeth Creek at 1 p.m., for more information visit newtowncreekalliance.org.

13 Steps around Dutch Kills Saturday, May 4, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets now on sale.

Parks and Petroleum- Sunday, May 12, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Newtown Creek Alliance, tickets now on sale.

The Insalubrious Valley- Saturday, May 25, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets on sale soon.

Hidden Harbor: Newtown Creek tour with Mitch Waxman – Sunday, May 26,2013
Boat tour presented by the Working Harbor Committee,
Limited seating available, order advance tickets now. Group rates available.

dry ground

leave a comment »

“follow” me on Twitter at @newtownpentacle

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Declination and Altitude. These are two concepts referenced and always mentioned when I’m conducting a walking tour around Newtown Creek, where nothing is “as god made it.”

For instance: The real Borden Avenue in Long Island City, what comics fans would refer to as the “Golden Age Borden Avenue” is buried 20-30 feet below the modern street- which would equate to “Bronze Age,” if one were to collect and assign value to important industrial corridors in the same manner as you would with comic books (scarcity, condition, desirability). Borden’s value would be downgraded, of course, as the modern day Borden isn’t exactly in “mint condition.” That’s what happens, I guess, when an Internet grocery chain runs thousands of heavily laden delivery trucks across it on a daily basis, as do thousands of other business and private vehicles.

In terms of scarcity and desirability, however… well, there ain’t that many industrial corridors left in New York today (golden, silver, or bronze age)– which makes it akin to finding an Amazing Fantasy 15 at a thrift store.

from wikipedia

Amazing Adult Fantasy and its retitled final issue, Amazing Fantasy, is an American comic book anthology series published by Marvel Comics from 1961 through 1962, with the latter title revived with superhero features in 1995 and in the 2000s. The final 1960s issue, Amazing Fantasy #15 (cover-dated August 1962), is the title that introduced the popular superhero character Spider-Man.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The original street was a plank road built into and over a boggy swamp, held together by Cypress roots and salt grasses.

I’ve read accounts of the place as having been what modernity would describe as a “thriving wetlands environment,” similar in appearance to the bayous of the southern United States, but quite obviously populated by latitudinal appropriate flora and fauna. This plank road, which would have ridden around 2-3 feet above flood tide upon wooden struts planted into the mud, was a rough surface by modern standard, but which was appropriate for teams of draft horses and cargo laden wagons.

The protocol for building this sort of wooden or plank road is something that people from north of the Mason Dixon line got very, very good at during the 1860’s during the Civil War. By the early 20th century, advanced or modern forms of engineering had landfilled this part of Long Island City and raised the street level (or grade) to modern altitudes.

from wikipedia

The Bronze Age of Comic Books is an informal name for a period in the history of mainstream American comic books usually said to run from 1970 to 1985. It follows the Silver Age of Comic Books.

The Bronze Age retained many of the conventions of the Silver Age, with traditional superhero titles remaining the mainstay of the industry. However, a return of darker plot elements and more socially relevant storylines (akin to those found in the Golden Age of Comic Books) featuring real-world issues, such as drug use, alcoholism, and environmental pollution, began to flourish during the period, prefiguring the later Modern Age of Comic Books.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Of the many “nerdgasms” which I experience around the Creek, and particularly on the LIC side when I’m around this area- which I’ve vaingloriously named “The Empty Corridor- ones involving the actual declination of the land itself are particularly intense. The truss structure above is the oft mentioned 51st avenue footbridge, which allows one to see the surrounding neighborhood rise above the rail tracks leading away from Hunters Point. The tracks sit on engineered ground themselves, which was highly compacted and rises an uncertain number of feet above the water table.

The height of said water table level is easily calculable by examining the particular altitude of the nearby Newtown Creek in relationship to the declination of the tracks, as the ground water here actually is the Newtown Creek.

from wikipedia

Condition is a significant factor in the valuation of a comic book. An example is Action Comics #1, the first published appearance of Superman. In 2010, 2 copies sold on the comic book auction website comicconnect.com for record prices. One copy was CGC graded 8.0 and sold for $1 million USD. The second book at a later auction, a copy CGC graded at 8.5 sold for a record setting $1.5 million dollars, the most ever paid for a comic book. So with CGC’s ability to provide a grading service as a neutral third party from a transaction, this created a degree of impartiality that did not exist before. This has shown that there is a demand for graded books as consistently these books have set sales records.

Also: Upcoming Tours!

A free event, “Watch Wildlife on Maspeth Creek with NCA and DEC!” – Friday, April 26
Meetup at Maspeth Creek at 1 p.m., for more information visit newtowncreekalliance.org.

13 Steps around Dutch Kills Saturday, May 4, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets now on sale.

Parks and Petroleum- Sunday, May 12, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Newtown Creek Alliance, tickets now on sale.

The Insalubrious Valley- Saturday, May 25, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets on sale soon.

Hidden Harbor: Newtown Creek tour with Mitch Waxman – Sunday, May 26,2013
Boat tour presented by the Working Harbor Committee,
Limited seating available, order advance tickets now. Group rates available.

chill void

leave a comment »

follow” me on Twitter at @newtownpentacle

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Shortly after leaving the East River Ferry at 2nd street in Long Island City the other day, and having found a convenient and quite well hidden spot to urinate upon (scent marking my territory should another photo blogger happen by), a general flurry of photography was undertaken.

My practice these days is to limit myself to just two or three shots of any particular subject, randomly encountered, yet despite this rule- so many interesting things were happening all around me on the walk back to Astoria that I ended up cracking out nearly 300 shots in just a couple of miles. One in three ended up making it into the permanent collection, and around half of those ended up at my Flickr account.

It was down in DUPBO, Down Under the Pulaski Bridge Onramp, that I first noticed something out of the ordinary.

from wikipedia

Scent marking (also known as spraying or territorial marking) is behavior used by animals to identify their territory. Most commonly, this is accomplished by depositing strong-smelling substances, sometimes by urinating on prominent objects within the territory. Often the scent contains carrier proteins, such as the major urinary proteins, to stabilize the odours and maintain them for longer.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

These shots will look a bit rough, as I was armed only with short lens, rather than the sort of telescopic unit which would provide for a longer optical reach. Normally these wouldn’t pass the QC test and be presented to you lords and ladies, but on this particular day in early April- a pair of Swans were plying the waters of the Nations most polluted and highly industrial waterway.

Such an occurrence requires some comment.

from wikipedia

Many of the cultural aspects refer to the Mute Swan of Europe. Perhaps the best known story about a swan is The Ugly Duckling fairytale. The story centres on a duckling that is mistreated until it becomes evident he is a swan and is accepted into the habitat. He was mistreated because real ducklings are, according to many, more attractive than a cygnet, yet cygnets become swans, which are very attractive creatures. Swans are often a symbol of love or fidelity because of their long-lasting, apparently monogamous relationships. See the famous swan-related operas Lohengrin and Parsifal.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Extreme cropping, Swans.

The surprising diversity of life found along this waterway, which certain Government officials have referred to (in person, to me) as a “dead sea.” They’re joining the Cormorants, Great Blue Herons, Night Herons, Snowy Egrets, Ospreys, and dozens of other exotic species which have been witnessed here. Swans.

also from wikipedia

The swans are the largest members of the waterfowl family Anatidae, and are among the largest flying birds. The largest species, including the mute swan, trumpeter swan, and whooper swan, can reach length of over 1.5 m (60 inches) and weigh over 15 kg (33 pounds). Their wingspans can be almost 3 m (10 ft). Compared to the closely related geese, they are much larger in size and have proportionally larger feet and necks.[2] They also have a patch of unfeathered skin between the eyes and bill in adults. The sexes are alike in plumage, but males are generally bigger and heavier than females.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Stunned by the sighting, I wasn’t paying attention when a flash of movement from within this ancient sewer caught my attention. Can’t tell you what it was, but it was big and shaggy. A raccoon perhaps, or an enormous rat, but an eerie sense of presence seemed to permeate the aperture. I’m probably just being paranoid, but… what if?

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

from wikipedia

The worms can survive with little oxygen by waving hemoglobin-rich tail ends to exploit all available oxygen, and can exchange carbon dioxide and oxygen through their thin skins, in a manner similar to frogs. They can also survive in areas heavily polluted with organic matter that almost no other species can endure. By forming a protective cyst and lowering its metabolic rate, T. tubifex can survive drought and food shortage. Encystment may also function in the dispersal of the worm. They usually inhabit the bottom sediments of lakes, rivers, and occasionally sewer lines and outlets.

Also: Upcoming Tours!

A free event, “Watch Wildlife on Maspeth Creek with NCA and DEC!” – Friday, April 26
Meetup at Maspeth Creek at 1 p.m., for more information visit newtowncreekalliance.org.

13 Steps around Dutch Kills Saturday, May 4, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets now on sale.

Parks and Petroleum- Sunday, May 12, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Newtown Creek Alliance, tickets on sale soon.

The Insalubrious Valley- Saturday, May 25, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets on sale soon.

Hidden Harbor: Newtown Creek tour with Mitch Waxman – Sunday, May 26,2013
Boat tour presented by the Working Harbor Committee,
Limited seating available, order advance tickets now. Group rates available.

%d bloggers like this: