The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

temperamentally unfitted

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“follow” me on Twitter at @newtownpentacle

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Vast precautions were advised in this section of the Queens Terminal of Sims Metal Management by its employees, as literally tons of twisted scrap metal were arriving every few minutes. Enormous trucks vomited the stuff noisily onto the concrete deck of this industrial pier, found in the Blissville section of Queens alongside the canalized bulkheads of Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Great powers enjoy mineral wealth, but after thousands of years of continuous civilization, certain metals will become “mined out” and any remaining material in the ground becomes impracticable to access for engineering or economic reasons.

Nations of modernity who have inherited the imperial holdings of the past, such as Turkey and China, suffer from these issues with the former lacking in iron and the latter in copper and aluminum.

Both nations enjoy considerable success in the early 21st century as manufacturing and fabrication centers, and vast and highly profitable organizations like Sims serve to feed them recyclable materials to fashion into new products.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Mountains of the stuff are trucked to the Sims yard daily, where it is sorted by type and composition. An extensive list of rules, and list of materials, governing what the company is buying is available at their web site, found here. They eschew the “peddler” business here, leaving that to smaller players, many of whom are found further east on the Creek.

Peddlers are those whom I have long referred to as the “Crows,” itinerant metal collectors and mendicants who patrol area streets and snap up anything that might be shiny.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The sheer quantity of scrap was intimidating, piled in conical mounds which were perhaps 20-30 feet high. Advice from the employees shepherded me was to stay clear of the vicinity. As with most of the people I’ve met in the waste handling industry, with one or two notable exceptions, these fellows were quite proud of what they were doing for a living and amiable about answering the probably idiotic questions they were being offered.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The metallic abundances are moved from dock to barge via the usage of a device called a “Materials Handler” which is pictured above. This shot is from a different day, of course, and captured at a distance from the Brooklyn side of Newtown Creek. These crane like machines are fitted with a powerful tool, resembling nothing so much than as a metallic claw, which is possessed of prodigious strength. The materials are loaded on to barges.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

These barges, which are essentially enormous armored buckets that float, will be picked up and transported to other Sims facilities found across New York harbor via the services of Tugboats. This terminal in Queens operates as a port of entry for recyclables into a vast region wide network which operates in not just New York State, but other municipalities as well.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The thing is, though, that despite all of the wonderful machines and engineered procedures I had witnessed to this point, the big show was about to begin. My inner seven year old began to quiver with delight when a car carrier showed up, and the operator of a nearby materials handler climbed into the cabin and started his engine. The heaviest of all metal was about to play, as Sims received a load of autos.

Upcoming tours:

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

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.

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  1. […] detailed in the posts “carefully sheltered,” “stealthy attendants,” “temperamentally unfitted,” and “untold number.” Also, before you ask, yes – Tom is the grandson of […]


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