The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for May 2013

decreasing confidence

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Today’s post is about enormous things hidden in the mist.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Wandering around during a recent spate of gray skies, your humble narrator found himself staring at the familiar geometries of Whale Creek at the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant. Still, rainy days lend a surreal quality to the Newtown Creek and its tributaries. Alongside the futurist architecture and ongoing construction of the great sewer mill, it is impossible for one such as myself not to record such otherworldly scenery.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It is a strange compulsion, recording everything one might see. Some tell me that I hide behind the camera, comfortably isolated from interaction with others- which is always a painful and embarrassing experience fraught with unknown possibility and consequence. Thing is, look at the things which I see.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Deep regret exists in me that so many experiences over the years were not recorded in the manner that I employ these days. Places, people, experiences relegated to hazy memory and the dimness of time. Without a photo of some thing or event as evidence, how can you honestly say it happened?

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Want to see something cool? June 2013 Walking Tours-

The Poison Cauldron Saturday, June 15, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets now on sale.

Kill Van Kull– Saturday, June 22, 2013
Staten Island walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Working Harbor Committee, tickets now on sale.

The Insalubrious Valley Saturday, June 29, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Newtown Creek Alliance, tickets now on sale.

wriggling out

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Today’s post is about things that really suck.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As often described, one of the many odd things about your humble narrator is my ability to suddenly notice an incongruous pattern or subtle environmental alteration invisible to others.

Something that has popped up recently are a large number of vacuum trucks plying area streets. The crew hard at work in the shot above was cleaning a noisome and aromatic sewer found at the foot of the Pulaski Bridge in Hunters Point, and they seemed to be doing an admirably sucky job.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This truck sucks. It didn’t seem to be sucking in anything other than fuel at the gas station on the corner of Steinway and Northern, but it still had the potential to massively suck. It is, in fact, labeled as being a “Supersucker.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Greenpoint too, it seems, needs trucks that suck. Observed turning north onto West Street from Greenpoint Avenue with the Eberhard Faber Pencil Factory behind it, this massive machine seemed to possess a capability to suck harder than the other two, combined, could.

This odd predilection of mine, noticing hidden patterns and odd coincidences hidden around the blasted heaths of the Northern Brooklyn and Western Queens, often reveals things that just completely suck.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Want to see something cool? June 2013 Walking Tours-

The Poison Cauldron Saturday, June 15, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets now on sale.

Kill Van Kull– Saturday, June 22, 2013
Staten Island walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Working Harbor Committee, tickets now on sale.

The Insalubrious Valley Saturday, June 29, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Newtown Creek Alliance, tickets now on sale.

writhing mass

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In today’s post- a vehicle accident in DUPBO, LIC.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Happily perambulating upon Jackson Avenue in venerable Hunter Point recently, a cacophony of automotive horns heralded my arrival in DUPBO- Down Under the Pulaski Bridge Onramp- at the corner of Vernon and Jackson. I have actually used Vernon Jackson as an alias, in the past, it should be noted. To my ears, Vernon Jackson is an extremely credible sounding name, the sort of handle which a bounty hunter or hard hitting journalist might be blessed with.

At any rate, there was an awful traffic tie up, and even the legendary patience of the Queens driver was wearing thin.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Motorists in Queens, it should be pointed out, drive angry. The slightest transgression- not immediately hitting the gas at the precise second which a red light turns green, slowing down for any reason, allowing a passenger to debark the automobile- is greeted by an enthusiastic usage of the horn. There is also a societal taboo against going around an obstacle, and one is obliged to sit and honk at an obstruction until it is cleared away. In the case of this particular tie up, it seemed that an “accidental” had occurred.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Such “accidentals” are common, here in this place where highways and rail systems converge upon and feed into those narrow corridors which allow egress to the Shining City. Literally hundreds of thousands of vehicles cross western Queens on any given day, the odds that collisions wouldn’t proliferate would be astronomical. When I say “collision,” it is because I presume that both of the unfortunate conveyances found at the center of this scene were in motion.

Were one of them static, it would instead be an “allision.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The honking continued as I wove my way though tangle, on my way to Greenpoint. During my walk from Astoria, a roughly one and one half mile saunter accomplished in roughly forty minutes, I observed two vehicle accident scenes like this. One wonders if there is some database out there which describes the quantity of vehicular incidents in any given neighborhood?

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Want to see something cool? June 2013 Walking Tours-

The Poison Cauldron Saturday, June 15, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets now on sale.

Kill Van Kull– Saturday, June 22, 2013
Staten Island walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Working Harbor Committee, tickets now on sale.

The Insalubrious Valley Saturday, June 29, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Newtown Creek Alliance, tickets now on sale.

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 29, 2013 at 12:15 am

idle curiosity

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In today’s post- The New York Marble Cemetery on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If your view of second avenue in Manhattan’s East Village looks like what you see in the shot above, there’s only one place you can possibly be.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

You would be standing on the other side of these gates, found at the end of an alley, and within a walled off corridor which was established in 1831- the same year that the French Foreign Legion first deployed and Charles Darwin left England for the Galapagos onboard the Beagle.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the perks of working with Atlas Obscura is that I can sometimes insert myself into somebody else’s adventure, and in this case, it was Allison Meier’s walking tour excursion to the New York Marble Cemetery at 41 1/2 Second Avenue. She graciously allowed me to attend her sold out tour.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Check out this page, which I think Allison wrote- at the Atlas Obscura– for the full history of the place (there’s no point in me paraphrasing it). The tombs are all underground, with the grave markers arranged on the walls in the form of stone plaques. The surrounding neighborhood has literally risen around the place, with every building style from 19th century tenement to ultra modern luxury hotel represented around it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The president of the cemetery association was there to talk to the attendees, and she described the walls as being quite fragile and in bad condition. Nearly two hundred years of New York air, and vibration, have taken their toll on mortar laid down just ten years before Mary Rogers “the beautiful cigar girl” was found in a trunk floating along on the Hudson- sparking the interest of none other than Edgar Allen Poe.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pictured above is the plaque denoting the tomb of Uriah Scribner, father of the eponymous founder of the publishing house “Charles Scribner’s Sons.” Uriah died in 1853.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

1830’s New York City is literally the stuff of legend.

It’s Poe’s town, as well as the NYC that Herman Melville and Washington Irving and William Cullen Bryant knew, a city which had less than a quarter million inhabitants. What we call the lower east side was farmland back then, and the center of town was down near the Battery.

The river fronts were described as a “forest of masts” for all the merchant trading vessels found docked there.

Check out the New York Marble Cemetery here.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Want to see something cool? June 2013 Walking Tours-

The Poison Cauldron Saturday, June 15, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets now on sale.

Kill Van Kull– Saturday, June 22, 2013
Staten Island walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Working Harbor Committee, tickets now on sale.

The Insalubrious Valley Saturday, June 29, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Newtown Creek Alliance, tickets now on sale.

continuous line

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In today’s Memorial Day post- The United States Coast Guard.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s Memorial Day, once again, as the wheel of the year continues to spin. Everybody will be talking about Marines and Ocean going Sailors and Soldiers and Pilots today, but as usual- few will mention the United States Coast Guard. Accordingly, a few shots I’ve picked up of operations around New York Harbor. Pictured above is the USCG WTGB 107 Penobscot Bay.

From wikipedia

The USCG Bay-class icebreaking tug is a class of 140-foot (43 m) icebreaking tugs of the United States Coast Guard, with hull numbers WTGB 101 through to WTGB 109.

They can proceed through fresh water ice up to 20 inches (51 cm) thick, and break ice up to 3 feet (0.91 m) thick, through ramming. These vessels are equipped with a system to lubricate their progress through the ice, by bubbling air through the hull.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The USCG maintains a small fleet of vessels with differing capability to fulfill their mission to protect and patrol the Harbor of New York and New Jersey. Pictured above is a “Response Boat Small” SAFE boat crew, carrying what would seem to be a 50mm machine gun and a variety of small arms, while on Staten Island Ferry escort duty.

from uscg.mil

Developed in a direct response to the need for additional Homeland Security assets in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks, the Defender Class boats were procured under an emergency acquisition authority. With a contract for up to 700 standard response boats, the Defender Class acquisition is one of the largest boat buys of its type in the world. The 100 boat Defender A Class (RB-HS) fleet began arriving at units in MAY 2002 and continued through AUG 2003. After several configuration changes, most notably a longer cabin and shock mitigating rear seats, the Defender B Class (RB-S) boats were born. This fleet was first delivered to the field in OCT 2003, and there are currently 357 RB-S boats in operation.

The 457 Defender Class boats currently in operation are assigned to the Coast Guards Maritime Safety and Security Teams (MSST), Maritime Security Response Team (MSRT), Marine Safety Units (MSU), and Small Boat Stations throughout the Coast Guard. With an overall length of 25 feet, two 225 horsepower outboard engines, unique turning radius, and gun mounts boat forward and aft, the Defender Class boats are the ultimate waterborne assets for conducting fast and high speed maneuvering tactics in a small deployable package. This is evidenced in the fact that several Defender Class boats are already in operation by other Homeland Security Department agencies as well as foreign military services for their homeland security missions.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

USCG WTGB 106 Morro Bay is pictured above, at night on the Hudson River, picking up crew members and dropping off dignitaries at a political event sponsored by the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance. There are always Coast Guard personnel at work somewhere on the harbor, 24 hours a day, protecting our well cushioned posterior from whatever trouble might float in on the tide.

from uscg.mil

USCGC MORRO BAY (WTGB-106)

Abstract

The USCGC MORRO BAY was commissioned 28 March 1981 at the Reserve Training Center in Yorktown, VA and served here until 1998. The MORRO BAY was the sixth of her kind in the Coast Guard. While stationed at Training Center, the MORRO BAY was involved in training and operations on the Chesapeake Bay. The MORRO BAY is currently home ported in New London, CT.

Ship’s History

The 140-foot Bay-class Cutters are state of the art icebreakers used primarily for domestic ice breaking duties. They are named after American Bays and are stationed mainly in Northeast U.S. and Great Lakes. Although specifically desinged for ice breaking duties, they also perform law enforcement, environmental protection, search & rescue operations and support for aids to navigation activities.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A “response boat medium” crashing through the waves with the coast of Brooklyn behind it. The smaller USCG vessels like this medium sized SAFE boat. They too are outfitted with a high caliber machine gun mounted on a deck stand, and you can be certain that they have other toys onboard which we civilians don’t need to know about. These vessels are said to carry a compliment of sensors and communications equipment designed to monitor and intercept illicit activity.

from wikipedia

The response boat-medium (RBM) is a 45-foot (13.7m) utility boat used by the United States Coast Guard. It is intended as a replacement for the Coast Guard’s fleet of 41′ utility boats (UTB), which have been in use by the Coast Guard since the 1970s. The Coast Guard plans to acquire 180 of these RB-Ms over a 6–10 year period. The boats will be built by Kvichak Marine Industries of Kent, Washington and Marinette Marine of Manitowoc, Wisconsin.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One often observes these medium sized boats patrolling the industrial edges of New York Harbor, in the case of the shot above, its on the Kill Van Kull separating New Jersey and Staten Island. Incidentally, this is the same vessel seen in the former photo, although I didn’t realize it at the time.

from wikipedia

Founded by Alexander Hamilton as the Revenue Marine first, and later as the Revenue Cutter Service on 4 August 1790, it is the United States’ oldest continuous seagoing service. Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton headed the USRCS, and the branch was involved in every war from 1790 to World War I. As of August 2009 the Coast Guard had approximately 42,000 men and women on active duty, 7,500 reservists, 30,000 auxiliarists, and 7,700 full-time civilian employees.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

USCG WTGB 109 Sturgeon Bay‘s Captain had to know that the ship was going to be photographed when posed so provocatively in front of the Statue of Liberty. The United States Coast Guard is nearly forgotten on this holiday signifying the sacrifice and service of United States military service men and women, the glory going to its larger and farther reaching colleagues.

from wikipedia

Memorial Day is a United States federal holiday which occurs every year on the final Monday of May. Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. Formerly known as Decoration Day, it originated after the American Civil War to commemorate the Union and Confederate soldiers who died in the Civil War. By the 20th century, Memorial Day had been extended to honor all Americans who have died while in the military service. It typically marks the start of the summer vacation season, while Labor Day marks its end.

“follow” me on Twitter at @newtownpentacle

Want to see something cool? June 2013 Walking Tours

The Poison Cauldron Saturday, June 15, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets now on sale.

Kill Van Kull– Saturday, June 22, 2013
Staten Island walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Working Harbor Committee, tickets now on sale.

The Insalubrious Valley Saturday, June 29, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Newtown Creek Alliance, tickets now on sale.

lasting merely

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“follow” me on Twitter at @newtownpentacle

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The other day, while onboard the Working Harbor Committee’s inaugural “Beyond Sandy” cruise, I spotted this fishing boat. Seawolf was not a small boat, and was crossing beneath the Verrazzano Bridge on its way back from some unknown place. It is mentioned, if only to provide one with a sense of scale.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In the distance, a car carrier called Eminent Ace had just begun a journey of its own. A “Ro-Ro,” car carriers like this allow a fleet of newly manufactured vehicles to be driven on and off the ship and unloaded without the usage of Gantry Cranes, hence “Roll on, Roll off” or “Ro-Ro.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the Sea Wolf in the lower right hand corner of the shot above, which provides, as mentioned- a sense of scale. It’s often hard to calculate or understand the size of maritime structures like Eminent Ace without some sort of rubric against which to measure them. Luckily, this maritime Sunday, such a visual cue was available.

Upcoming tours:

The Poison Cauldron- Saturday, June 15, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets on sale soon.

Kill Van Kull- Saturday, June 22, 2013
Staten Island walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Working Harbor Committee, tickets now on sale.

The Insalubrious Valley Saturday, June 29, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Newtown Creek Alliance, tickets now on sale.

Project Firebox 72

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“follow” me on Twitter at @newtownpentacle

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Found nearby McCarren Park in benighted Greenpoint, this scarlet centurion has been reduced to life as a medium for neighborhood advertisements and is laden with missives. No matter the indignity, it stands its post, awaiting the moment.

Upcoming tours:

The Poison Cauldron- Saturday, June 15, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets on sale soon.

Kill Van Kull- Saturday, June 22, 2013
Staten Island walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Working Harbor Committee, tickets now on sale.

The Insalubrious Valley Saturday, June 29, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Newtown Creek Alliance, tickets now on sale.

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 25, 2013 at 12:15 am

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