The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for April 2014

nervous element

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Cutting up Queens Blvd. in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Bigger and quite a bit badder than the masonry saw witnessed in last week’s posting “dusk comes,” your humble narrator recently spotted a crew on Queens Blvd. creating a street trench using a 155 HP Vermeer CC155 Concrete Cutter. The gizmo uses a giant (84 inches in diameter) wheel, one that sports carbide tipped teeth, to chew into the asphalt and underlying cement of the so called “Boulevard of Death.”

from vermeer.com

Cutting streets for utility installation or pothole repair is no problem for the Vermeer CC155. With the sustained torque output of its Tier II 155 hp/115.6 kW Cummins engine and a microprocessor to manage load control, the CC155 is a smart choice for interstate and highway repair, airport lighting projects, and demolition work.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Quoting my union laborer buddy who lives upstairs, whom I casually mentioned encountering this device to – “Bro, y’know how much time ya save with a trencher? Pssshhhht. (he demonstratively lit a Marlboro Red at this point) Bro, I friggin hate jackhammers, screws up my back every time I use one bro, gotta have a trencher Bro, ya gotta.” One couldn’t help but notice that the signage adorning the traffic bollard which the crew had set about indicated that they were working on a Verizon project, which is presumptively the roll out of FIOS in Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Let’s face it, everything sucks, but nothing outside of government sucks more than Time Warner Cable. That organization represents such a high level of suck that they should be sent to Albany and turned into a branch of State government whose singular mission is “to suck,” and become the official state agency in charge of obfuscation and incompetent management – the OIM. Your humble narrator welcomes anyone who will provide competition to those clowns, even if its “Ma Bell,” and if it means attacking the boulevard of death with a giant saw then so be it.

There are two public Newtown Creek walking tours coming up, one in Queens and one that walks the currently undefended border of the two boroughs.

DUPBO, with Newtown Creek Alliance and MAS Janeswalk, on May 3rd.
Click here for more info and ticketing.

Modern Corridor, with Brooklyn Brainery, on May 18th.
Click here for more info and ticketing.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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Written by Mitch Waxman

April 30, 2014 at 11:48 am

braying donkeys

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Regrets, I’ve had a few.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

“I did what I had to do and saw it through without exemption.” There’s been an awful gnashing of teeth and a clash of cultures going on around the Newtown Creek of late, and a season of controversy has begun. My pal Bernie Ente always warned that as soon as the money began to flow from the various environmental lawsuits, you’d see the carpet baggers and opportunists assert themselves, and the one thing which everyone would forget about is the Newtown Creek itself as they fought over the scraps offered by the Politicians. I’ve been asked, dozens of times now, for my view on the current conflict and – uncharacteristically – I’ve stayed out of it and refused comment. Why? Because it really has nothing to do with me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

“Yes, there were times, I’m sure you knew, when I bit off more than I could chew.” Your humble narrator knows all the warring parties personally, some of them are even friends. I know that this means I’m trying to be like Sweden, and that the American way is to pick a side, but unlike everyone else – I can recognize a conflict of interest when it crosses my desk and won’t get involved in a war that doesn’t directly affect me. My interest is in the Newtown Creek itself, and telling its historic story, as well as recording the events of the early Superfund era for posterity. Are the factions vying for the control and future of the waterway, and their conflicts, going to matter in the long run? Only time will tell.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

“For what is a man, what has he got?” There’s a side which believes that Brooklyn is invading Queens, and attempting to inflict a Hipster invasion upon it. There’s a side which visualizes a vast conspiracy, the “Non Profit Industrial Complex” as it were, which will insure that all public monies flow through the hands of a chosen elite. There’s a side which just wants to be left alone to pursue their own goals along the Creek, whether it be splashing around in the water or planting gardens along its banks, however sophist these projects may be. What’s been forgotten, in my mind, is the economic engine that the Newtown Creek was, is, and always will be. Also, the real modern villain of the Creek – the sewer system – which dumps millions of gallons of Manhattan’s untreated filth into the water of Brooklyn and Queens every year, continues to operate in the same manner as it did a century ago, and is seldom mentioned anymore.

Of course, I’m just some guy with a camera and a filthy black raincoat, who doesn’t have advanced degrees in urban studies or whatever, so what do I know? I just see things “my way.”

There are two public Newtown Creek walking tours coming up, one in Queens and one that walks the currently undefended border of the two boroughs.

DUPBO, with Newtown Creek Alliance and MAS Janeswalk, on May 3rd.
Click here for more info and ticketing.

Modern Corridor, with Brooklyn Brainery, on May 18th.
Click here for more info and ticketing.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 29, 2014 at 12:01 pm

uncannily glowing

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Dredging on Newtown Creek in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A few weeks ago, the start of the dredging project being conducted by NYC DEP upon Newtown Creek was described. Today’s shots depict the project nearby the Creek’s intersection with the East River.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This equipment is owned and operated by the DonJon towing company. Their contract requires them to open up a maritime channel stretching from East River back to the Whale Creek tributary adjoining the sewer plant in Greenpoint.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Surprisingly, even to the employees of DEP, there have been few issues with odors released during the project. Goes to show that DonJon knows how to accomplish this sort of operation in a crowded urban setting, and a pat on the back should be offered to their engineers.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The tugs and other equipment are still present on the Creek, and I’ve been told that their mission at the moment is to lay a bed of sand and clean fill down into the channel they’ve carved out of the black mayonnaise.

There are two public Newtown Creek walking tours coming up, one in Queens and one that walks the currently undefended border of the two boroughs.

DUPBO, with Newtown Creek Alliance and MAS Janeswalk, on May 3rd.
Click here for more info and ticketing.

Modern Corridor, with Brooklyn Brainery, on May 18th.
Click here for more info and ticketing.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 28, 2014 at 10:12 am

watching eye

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Big rigs of Queens in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned earlier in the week, the Newtown Creek Alliance’s Plank Road project has drawn me over to Maspeth few times in recent weeks, which is always fun for me as your humble narrator is an infrastructure geek who loves taking photos of enormous machines. Luckily, for me, Maspeth’s cup doth runneth over in this department.

This ain’t so lucky for the folks who live in Maspeth, of course, but that’s another story.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s some sort of truck mechanic nearby the Plank Road, or 54th road if you insist on using modern terminology, and one routinely sights the sort of heavily armored and freshly washed rigs like the ones in today’s post parked about. Don’t know much about this business, but these are some of the many, many trucks plying area streets that have caused groups like C.O.M.E.T. (in Queens) and OUTRAGE (in Brooklyn) to organize and demand relief.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The folks at OUTRAGE have clocked as many as 300 trucks of this size moving down nearby Metropolitan Avenue during the morning rush, and the toll they take on area streets is well known. Additionally, the MTA’s Grand Avenue facility a block away is an eventual destination for the entire bus fleet of Brooklyn. Add in the nearby LIE and BQE highways… well you get the idea.

There’s a series of studies out there which attempt to tie this truck traffic to higher rates of asthma in the corridors they travel, but the statistical information could (and has been) just as easily interpreted to damn City operated bus lines as well.

Either way, there’s a lot of traffic moving about, and all the while – the possibilities of rail and barge transport are being ignored.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Some of my friends in Queens get after me about supporting the enhanced usage of the rail system, and they make a good point that I don’t live in Ridgewood/Maspeth/Middle Village where all these trains transit through on their way to the rail depot at Fresh Pond. I do live two blocks away from the Sunnyside Yard, which is the busiest rail interchange in New York City, but I’m told that I apparently don’t know what I’m talking about – which seems to be a recurring theme in my life.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This packer truck is over in Long Island City, and was posed so provocatively while illegally parked on the median, that I couldn’t resist adding it in to this post.

There are three public Newtown Creek walking tours coming up, one in Queens and one in Brooklyn and two that walk the currently undefended border of the two boroughs.

Poison Cauldron, with Atlas Obscura, on April 26th.
Click here for more info and ticketing.

DUPBO, with Newtown Creek Alliance and MAS Janeswalk, on May 3rd.
Click here for more info and ticketing.

Modern Corridor, with Brooklyn Brainery, on May 18th.
Click here for more info and ticketing.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

purpose firm

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Recently sighted on the Kill Van Kull.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

With all the crap weather experienced in New York City during the first quarter of 2014, your humble narrator has spent nary a minute upon the undulating harbor. Luckily, a Working Harbor Committee trip, a private one produced by the WHC Education Committee that took a bunch of school kids out to Port Elizabeth Newark on a NY Water Taxi, appeared on my schedule.

The scene depicted is found at Cadell Dry Dock, on… Staten Island.

from wikipedia

USS Slater (DE-766) is a Cannon-class destroyer escort that served in the United States Navy and later in the Hellenic (Greek) Navy. The ship was named for Frank O. Slater of Alabama, a sailor killed on the USS San Francisco (CA-38) during the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal. He was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for gallantry in action. The USS Slater is now a museum ship on the Hudson River in Albany, New York, the only one of its kind afloat in the United States. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Legend haunted, the North Shore of Staten Island borders the busy Kill Van Kull waterway, connecting Port Newark to NY Harbor. When the Slater left Albany, all of my “usual suspects” began to buzz about it. Facebook and the like were discussing its position, and where and when to get shots of it. Personally, I was busy with other stuff and the ship wasn’t even a blip on my radar.

Happily, though, serendipity brought me past its bow at a somewhat opportune moment – lighting wise.

from ussslater.org

The destroyer escorts were a vital component of the Allied strategy for victory in the Atlantic. They escorted the convoys of supply ships that carried the forces needed to win the war in Europe. Destroyer escorts also served in some of the most dangerous areas of the Pacific Theater. They escorted convoys, conducted shore bombardments, and served as radar picket ships towards the end of the war. The USS SLATER served in both the Atlantic and Pacific Theaters during and immediately after the war. Following its World War II service, the ship was deactivated until 1951, when it was transferred to the Hellenic Navy. The SLATER, renamed AETOS, remained in Greek service until 1991, when it was transferred back to the United States under the care of the Destroyer Escort Historical Foundation, which began a painstaking restoration of the ship. Today the SLATER is one of less than a dozen surviving destroyer escorts, and it is the only ship that is still in its World War II configuration.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My pals over at the Working Harbor Committee blog got into quite a lather about the Slater coming down, check out their coverage here. Mr. Will Van Dorp over at Tugster has been following the ship since it left Albany, check their coverage here. Apparently, the Slater is in dire need of repair, which is how it ended up in… Staten Island.

There are three public Newtown Creek walking tours coming up, one in Queens and one in Brooklyn and two that walk the currently undefended border of the two boroughs.

Poison Cauldron, with Atlas Obscura, on April 26th.
Click here for more info and ticketing.

DUPBO, with Newtown Creek Alliance and MAS Janeswalk, on May 3rd.
Click here for more info and ticketing.

Modern Corridor, with Brooklyn Brainery, on May 18th.
Click here for more info and ticketing.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 24, 2014 at 11:00 am

dusk comes

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The Union guys hate it when I start shooting.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Apologies offered to all the hapless workers I’ve photographed over the years, but damn it all, they do cool things. To wit, I spotted this crew over at South Street Seaport attacking the street with esoteric machinery the other day and one could just not resist the temptation. I mean… a giant saw? Yes, please.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The saw operator noticed me, but didn’t really give a crap about being photographed as he went around his business. His colleagues on the other hand, were staring me down as if I was pointing a rifle at him. I guess that they’re hassled by cameras as they move about the city. Fair enough, who likes having a stranger show up at your job and start waving a camera about?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The sound that this machinery created was tooth shatteringly loud, a screaming and high pitched tone which sounded somewhat demonic. In the war of spinning steel versus masonry, the Belgian blocks which composed the so called “cobble stone” pavement were no match for the spinning blades.

There are three public Newtown Creek walking tours coming up, one in Queens and one in Brooklyn and two that walk the currently undefended border of the two boroughs.

Poison Cauldron, with Atlas Obscura, on April 26th.
Click here for more info and ticketing.

DUPBO, with Newtown Creek Alliance and MAS Janeswalk, on May 3rd.
Click here for more info and ticketing.

Modern Corridor, with Brooklyn Brainery, on May 18th.
Click here for more info and ticketing.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 23, 2014 at 11:00 am

repellant yard

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Down by ye olde Maspeth Plank Road.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The folks at Newtown Creek Alliance have a project underway, one which will rehabilitate the street end adjoining the Maspeth Plank Road and provide the first intentional point of public access to the waterfront in Queens. My role in the project is to do a couple of walking tours and raise awareness of the effort, so I swung down on one of the work days to grab some shots. Pictured is the National Grid site in Brooklyn with the Manhattan skyline behind.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The fellows who were doing the actual work should receive some sort of medal for working in the muck and yuck found hereabouts. 58th road ends at Newtown Creek after a sharp fall off in elevation, and all the industrial debris and trash which rolls downhill ends up here. Normally, the plank road site is inaccessible due to muddy and or weed choked conditions. The NCA crew has already done a tremendous amount of cleanup and groundskeeping here, and they got the NYC DEP to come in and clear out a mud choked drainage sewer just last week.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Of course, the story with Newtown Creek always carries one back to sewage. Most of the industrial pollution in the Creek is historic in nature, and other than a few bad actors, most of the modern day businesses found along its banks at least try to follow the rules and be responsible to the environment. That is, of course, except for the City of Greater New York – which allows billions of gallons of untreated sewage to flow into it every year.

Today is Earth Day, by the way.

There are three public Newtown Creek walking tours coming up, one in Queens and one in Brooklyn and two that walk the currently undefended border of the two boroughs.

Poison Cauldron, with Atlas Obscura, on April 26th.
Click here for more info and ticketing.

DUPBO, with Newtown Creek Alliance and MAS Janeswalk, on May 3rd.
Click here for more info and ticketing.

Modern Corridor, with Brooklyn Brainery, on May 18th.
Click here for more info and ticketing.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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