The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for December 11th, 2015

cyclopean endeavor

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Down Under the Kosciuszko Bridges Onramps – DUKBO – in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Around two weeks ago, Newtown Pentacle presented a pair of postings (this, and that) showing the progress of the Brooklyn side of the Kosciuszko Bridge construction project. I was invited to walk through the site by the NYS DOT, along with other members of the “Stakeholders Advisory Committee,” and the photos captured during the walk populated the posts. Today, the Queens side of DUKBO.

It should be mentioned that I didn’t enter the site for these, and just creeped around the fences on Thanksgiving weekend. It would have been a simple thing to enter the deserted site, of course, but the Newtown Pentacle way is to never trespass. I’m like a vampire, and have to be invited in before I do my work. Luckily, you don’t need an invitation to walk down the sidewalks of Queens in the direction of Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

These are the 1939 era bridge’s concrete approaches, as seen from Laurel Hill Blvd., which is the eastern border of Calvary Cemetery. The street that’s all ground up into gravel is “used to be 54th avenue.” “Used to be” is an apt adjectival phrase, as when the new bridge is finished several of the existing streets will have been relocated and the geometry of the street grid will be altered to accommodate the new structure.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As you can see, security is tight as a drum here in Blissville. Nobody over 350 pounds would be able to get through this gap. It’s at times like these that my “no trespassing” rule really grates.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking down Laurel Hill Blvd. to the south. That’s Calvary Cemetery on the right of the shot, and the redoubtable 1939 Robert Moses version of the Kosciuszko Bridge on the left. Moses convinced LaGuardia that the old Penny Bridge, which crossed Newtown Creek from the end of Meeker Avenue in Brooklyn and connected to Review Avenue in Queens, would be insufficient to handle the traffic load which the 1939 Worlds Fair in Corona would create. He proposed the “New Meeker Avenue Bridge,” which LaGuardia agreed to. Moses then argued that without the 2.1 miles of high speed approach roads, the money spent on the bridge would be wasted. LaGuardia agreed again. Moses then expanded the approaches, on one side to connect to his “Grand Central” Parkway and Mighty Triborough, and on the other to connect via Meeker Avenue to Grand Street, he also created something LaGuardia did not agree to in the bargain. What would become the “Brooklyn Queens Connecting Highway,” something we refer to in modernity as the “Brooklyn Queens Expressway.”

Clever one, that Moses.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Crossing under the Kosciuszko Bridge at 54th road – a corrugated fence which used to be part of an NYPD towing impound lot allowed for a quick view of the “House of Moses.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

By the end of 2017 (if I remember the schedule accurately), this will be an enormous demolition site. All the steel will be coming down in sections, and the cyclopean concrete piers will be chipped away. The stripping away of the central span of the Kosciuszko Bridge promises to be quite an exciting sight.

Essentially, they are going to bring in maritime cranes which will affix supports to the truss section in the center, cut it away from its supports with torches, and then lower it onto a platform composed of several barges. Multiple tugboats will guide it away, heading in a westerly direction down Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Crossing under the Kosciuszko Bridge via 54th road onto “used to be” 43rd street, the now familiar masonry of the BQE overpass appears. The roadway will be considerably lower here, in comparison to the old setup. Not really sure how much I like that, actually. It’s going to be bringing the close to 200,000 vehicles a day that cross the thing down to nearly street level. Noise, exhaust, etc. It’s higher on the Brooklyn side.

Oh well… welcome to Queens, now go fuck yourself… right?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is “used to be” 54th drive, and you can see the new concrete supports for the Kosciuszko Bridge approaches are coming along nicely. If you refer back to the two posts from the Brooklyn side linked to in the first paragraph, you can check out what this area will look like probably 6-8 months into 2016. The deck roadway will ride along on the top of this piers, rising to the cable stay supported section spanning Newtown Creek.

On the other side of the concrete structures are a bunch of office trailers which house the administrative and engineering staff for the project.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Kosciuszko Bridge project is striking its path through the former location of the Phelps Dodge company, on a patch of land which was once adjudicated as being “too toxic to park empty United States Postal Trucks on.” Phelps Dodge is a NYS Superfund site, and the company is one of the “potentially responsible parties” named in the Federal Superfund listing of Newtown Creek itself. Incidentally, Phelps Dodge and their copper refining operations were pretty much a 20th century thing, they inherited the property after a merger with a chemical conglomerate that had been here since the 1830’s.

The State Bridge people have made it a point of mentioning that they’re able to deal with the environmental stuff, but that it’s an immensely complicated situation. There’s a sign on the fence that says “Hazwoper.” I mentioned this signage to my Union laborer neighbor Mario during conversation about the project, which caused the big fellow to utter a “woof” sound, followed by “Hazwoper Zone, bro, woof.”

The entire project is an immensely complicated situation, actually.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Imagine building a bridge, next to an existing one which carries the Brooklyn Queens Expressway over a heavily polluted maritime industrial waterway found in the dead bang center of NYC. Imagine that this waterway was where the oil refining industry, and the manufactured gas industry, and the waste disposal industry, and the chemical industry, and the Long Island Railroad, all figured themselves out. Refineries, distilleries, waste transfer stations, open sewers… Ok? Got it?

Ok, so you finish the bridge, and reroute the highway onto it. Ok. Now you have to demolish the old bridge and cart it away. Now, you get to start on building the second half of the new bridge, and then reroute the highway again to take advantage of the completed bridge.

Ahh… my beloved Creek!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This shot looks north, from the “will continue to be” Restaurant Depot Parking lot. Most NY’ers are surprised at how much of the food they eat has spent some of its journey to their colons at Newtown Creek, but a humble narrator has reached the age where his innermost psychology can best be described as “a severe and apathetic form of nihilism,” so nothing really surprises me anymore. I don’t buy sausages in supermarkets, as an example of how this numbed acceptance of the world we live in informs my days and tortures my nights.

As you’ll notice, the shots depict concrete still being formed into the columns, and rebar sticking out of a few of them. The Brooklyn side is a bit further along, I’m told it was a bit more complicated on the Greenpoint side due to the rerouting of the BQE over Meeker Avenue, and the presence of dense populations surrounding the road.

In Maspeth, here on the Queens side, there were just two or three private homes and a few warehouse sized businesses. The various entities, hereabouts, were recompensed for their properties by the State and assisted with relocation to parts unknown. Or they might now be sausages in a freezer at a Costco. You’ll never know… which brings me back to the whole nihilism thing. There you go.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Our Lady of the Pentacle often reminds me that whereas everything in the shot above is familiar to me, I shouldn’t make the assumption that everyone reading this enjoys the same visual catalog as my creek chums and I do.

This shot looks towards the west, where you can see the Empire State Building over in Manhattan. Out of sight, not mind, the tracks of the LIRR Montauk line are aimed directly at midtown Manhattan and are travelling under the bridge and along the tree line. The wooded section, on the right, is Calvary Cemetery. Just beyond those concrete blocks is part of the Phelps Dodge site, and the truss section of the 1939 Kosciuszko Bridge is overflying Newtown Creek and traveling out of frame at top left – or south.

Just keeping y’all in the loop, here in DUKBO, Down Under the Kosciuszko Bridges Onramps.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 11, 2015 at 11:00 am

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