The Newtown Pentacle

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Big doings on my beloved Newtown Creek, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Word reached me that a barge had sunk on Newtown Creek last week, at the Allocco Recycling plant in Greenpoint, and despite suffering from a debilitating shoulder injury (Don’t worry, I seem to be on the mend) a humble narrator painfully packed up his kit and headed over to the tripartite intersection of North Henry Street and Kingsland Avenue at Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Allocco Recycling are in the metals and aggregates (or Fill Materials) industries. Metals are the usual thing – copper, aluminum, iron recycling and collection. Aggregates involves the seining and separation of rock, stone, sand, and gravel from construction and excavation materials. Allocco are good guys, in my book, as they ship their processed materials out of Greenpoint using barges rather than trucks. A single barge is the equivalent of 38 heavy trucks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Allocco has a large property that borders on one of Newtown Creek’s minor tributaries – the so called “Unnamed Canal.” Across the street is the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant’s employee entrance, and down the block is a biofuel company called Metro Fuel. I’m prejudiced towards both entities, it should be pointed out. The DEP lies to me on a regular basis, so I don’t like them. Metro – whom I do like – on the other hand, was founded by my pal Paul Pullo. Paul is a friend and supporter of Newtown Creek Alliance whom I work with on a number of the NC committees like NCMC and the Newtown Creek CAG. NCA is also working with Allocco on our Living Dock project which is playing out on Unnamed Canal, as well as the “North Henry Street Project” which will be discussed in some detail at an NCA meeting next week.

All of my conflicts of interest are laid out in the paragraph above, except for one, which I’ll mention later.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Showrunner Mike Allocco, it’s a family owned business after all, told me what happened (and allowed me on the property). It seemed that they were filling a barge with stone on a Friday night and closed shop. The half filled barge was about one third of the way submerged when they returned to work the next morning. His crew did everything they could to hoist and pump out the barge, but it continued to sink and by Saturday afternoon the barge was in the state you see in the shot above.

Allocco then contacted DonJon towing to salvage the thing, and DonJon brought in its heavy equipment. The large maritime crane – which is actually the second largest unit of its type in NY Harbor – is the Chesapeake 1000, and the smaller unit with the crawler crane attached is the Delaware Bay. There were a couple of tugs keeping them in position, but I was unable to identify which boats they were.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The plan, which has already played out and been accomplished, closed Newtown Creek to maritime traffic for an interval. The DonJon crews fed a pair of cables under the sunken barge, lifted it out of the water, pumped out the water, and then moved it into a shallower section of the Allocco bulkhead for repairs. When these shots were gathered, the presumption was that the barge had a damaged hull.

That other conflict of interest mentioned above? As I was shooting these photos, I got a call from a reporter friend who was working for DNAinfo that wanted to buy a shot from me. That shot, and my buddy’s reportage, can be observed in this post at DNAinfo. As the article discusses, the barge had settled down over the Buckeye Pipeline, and luckily for all of us – the fuel delivery infrastructure wasn’t damaged. This was due to the barge settling down onto the so called “Black Mayonnaise” sediments which sit 15-20 thick on Newtown Creek. The quote from DEC’s Randy Austin presented in the DNA piece is ““That’s probably the first time in the history of the Newtown Creek when that sludge bank served as an environmental benefit.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For a maritime industrial geek like your humble narrator, seeing the Chesapeake 1000 was a real treat. DonJon Towing hosts a page listing all of the technical specifications that this 1972 vintage 2,484 Gross Tonnage crane entails. The “1000” part of its name comes from its lifting capacity, but it used to be known as the Sun 800 before DonJon got it. The Sun 800 was damaged in a storm, and during the repair process it was upgraded and outfitted with the 1,000 ton boom it currently sports. The hard hat guys I chatted with on the shoreline at Allocco related the cranes history to me as we watched the operation.

Now, this is where the interesting bit comes in.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It seems that the Sun 800/Chesapeake 1000 was originally built by the Howard Hughes corporation to facilitate the Glomar Explorer project. Glomar Explorer was a giant ship built in the early 70’s which the Hughes people told the world was going to be used for the harvesting of ocean floor minerals and specifically manganese nodules.

That was a cover story, however, for the true mission of the thing, which was to recover a Soviet submarine which had sunk some three miles down on the floor of the Pacific Ocean for the CIA. The project was called “Project Azorian.” The Chesapeake 1000 is officially an artifact of the height of the Cold War, like the Saturn V rocket.

It continually amazes me, the sort of things that Newtown Creek leads to.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The other DonJon rig on the job was Delaware Bay, which is a clam shell dredge vessel. It’s got 1,250 square feet of deck space and was built in 2006. It’s 225 feet long and 54 feet wide, and 1,205 gross tonnage.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The barge itself is unremarkable, other than the fact that it’s submerged. It’s a dry bulk type, and is essentially a giant floating bucket.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned above, the crews from DonJon were executing a plan in which a couple of heavy cables would be run under the sunken barge, at which point the Chesapeake 1000 would lift the thing up and out of the Creek and then pump out the water. To this end, there was a dive team operating.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One cannot imagine the horrors of diving into the turbid waters of Newtown Creek, nor the safety precautions that a professional diver would need to undertake in pursuance of the act. I’ve had the pleasure of chatting with members of this profession who operate in NY Harbor, and they tell me that it’s actually a blind business.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Visibility in the waters of NYC is a couple of feet under best case circumstance, but in the East River and its tributaries, you often can’t see your hand six inches from your face mask. They do a lot of their job by feeling around, and relying on their training.

One fellow kept on bobbing up around the cables which were being fed under the sunken barge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So, that’s the story about the time in February of 2016 that a barge sunk at a recycling company called Allocco in Greenpoint, along the lugubrious Newtown Creek.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

6 Responses

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  1. […] get all the nitty-gritty details, I highly recommend you head over to The Newtown Pentacle, where Mitch Waxman aka Mister Newtown Creek has covered this event with his trusty camera and […]

  2. Is the Coast Guard checking if this is a Terrorist act

    Michael Lagana

    February 13, 2016 at 5:17 pm

    • definitely no the case, an industrial accident and a surprisingly common one

      Mitch Waxman

      February 13, 2016 at 5:18 pm

  3. Is the Coast Guard checking if this is a terrorist act,being the barge was above vital pipelines ?

    Michael Lagana

    February 13, 2016 at 5:21 pm

  4. I can’t help but wonder how much it must cost to have a sunken barge hoisted out of Newtown Creek, using divers and multiple cranes…


    February 15, 2016 at 10:48 pm

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