The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

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Kosciuszko Bridge project, Brooklyn side, Q2 2016, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The invitation went out to all the concerned parties – inclusively referred to as the Stakeholders Advisory Group – from the NYS DOT that an opportunity to observe the progress of the Kosciuszko Bridge replacement project was once again at hand.

Accordingly, a humble narrator collected together the camera and lenses, and set off for Greenpoint’s DUKBO – Down Under the Kosciuszko Bridge Onramp.

Several progress reports have been offered on the NYS DOT’s Kosciuszko Bridge replacement project. I seem to be the only person In New York paying any attention to the project, and there’s been a series of prior posts on the bridge presented at this – your Newtown Pentacle – chronicling the project.

To start – this 2012 post tells you everything you could want to know about Robert Moses, Fiorella LaGuardia, and the origins of the 1939 model Kosciuszko Bridge. Just before construction started, I swept through both the Brooklyn and Queens sides of Newtown Creek in the area I call “DUKBO” – Down Under the Kosciuszko Bridge Onramp. Here’s a 2014 post, and another, showing what things used to look like on the Brooklyn side, and one dating back to 2010, and from 2012 discussing the Queens side – this. Construction started, and this 2014 post offers a look at things. There’s shots from the water of Newtown Creek, in this June 2015 post, and in this September 2015 post, which shows the bridge support towers rising. Additionally, this post from March of 2016 detailed the action on the Queens side.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Leading the tour was NYS DOT’s project leader, engineer Robert Adams, who is the fellow pictured above in the stylish (and highly visible) yellow jacket.

Mr. Adams allows me to call him Bob, for which I’m grateful. One such as myself dislikes the usage of extraneous syllables in the spoken form. For the purposes of today’s post, however, I’ll refer to him as Mr. Adams – as the job his team is overseeing has done such an impressive job of staying on or ahead of schedule, he deserves the honorific.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Part of the job, as it were, includes the rerouting of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway section which travels north/south along Meeker Avenue. The new roadway is supported by masonry and steel, and its outer facing is covered in sculptural tiles (which I think are concrete). I asked Mr. Adams if the sculptural motif on the tiles had a particular purpose – diffusing sound, or guiding rain runoff, for instance – but he said that it was purely esthetic, and part of the architectural design.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The old overpass abutments on Meeker Avenue are in the process of being dismantled. It’s a fairly chaotic scene down around here – this is the intersection of Vandervoort and Meeker if you’re curious.

Mr. Adams told us that one of the ways in which his team alleviated the impact of construction on traffic flow to the highway above was to build the new abutments “behind” the old ones. When the project is done, this will allow the DOT to add wider pedestrian sidewalks, and to also create an increased amount of space for the required turning radius of trucks as they move under the overpass.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the actual job site, in a spot which I refer to as “used to be Cherry Street,” is pictured above. Old school Cherry street is found beneath the masonry structure occupying the left side of the shot above, I would mention, and the unpaved access road at bottom right represents the right of way for “New Cherry Street.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Getting down to the action, and there’s a lot of it going on down here in DUKBO. This spot is one of the areas where some of that worksite safety training I’ve mentioned before comes into play. The contractors on the job – Skanska, Kiewit, and ECO3 – all subscribe to “safety culture” which is designed to keep laborers from suffering needless injuries. We – as in the civilian visitors Mr. Adams was escorting around the site – were all dressed up in orange vests, safety glasses, hard hats, and work gloves.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The roadway leading to the new bridge is on the right, with the 1939 vintage Kosciuszko Bridge on the left. We were told that the area down here will actually be available for use as a public space in the post construction era. At a luncheon meeting after the tour, Mr. Adams was petitioning the group for ideas as to what the community might want to happen down here. There will be space available on the Queens side as well.

Speaking of Queens, we were also told that in the early summer, a similar walk-through of the Queens side will be happening. Can’t wait for that one, mainly so I don’t have to walk all the way to Greenpoint from Astoria.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Having crossed Gardiner Avenue, heading south towards the languid waters of Newtown Creek, it was pretty exciting to notice that steel has begun to be affixed to the concrete tower columns of the new bridge – a major milestone. The new Kosciuszko Bridge is going to be of the cable stay variety, and the first of its type in NYC.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of steel, there were gigantic chunks of the stuff ready for deployment. These pieces are actually the outward facing sides of the highway. Mr. Adams made it a point of informing us that this was an entirely American produced bridge, with steel coming in from Pennsylvania and concrete sourced from a Queens company that’s called Tek Crete.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A bit closer to the columns, and rapidly emerging roadway, which will become the easterly half of the new bridge.

The plan from the beginning has been to produce the new span in three distinct stages. First – build the lanes of the eastern side. Second – demolish the 1939 bridge. Third – build the westerly side which will sit in the footprint of the 1939 model. Chatter on the tour indicated that the demolition part of the project will begin in 2017, and that the engineers are still debating as to how best remove the concrete piers which support the steel truss.

The truss itself is actually the easiest part of the job to figure, and the center section is going to be removed in one piece. It will be lowered, by cranes, onto barges which will be towed by tugboats out of Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As you can see in the shot above, the first set of cable stays has already been affixed to the new road section. For a sense of scale on how absolutely colossal this project is, take notice the itty bitty construction workers who are on the lift between the two towers.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A bit of a better angle showing the cable stays and their anchors on the roadway section. This will be be built out both south – towards Greenpoint and Meeker Avenue – and north, over the water and into Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Mr. Adams and his team indicated that we were going to be heading back towards Greenpoint, and climbing a temporary stairway up to the still under construction roadway which will be the north bound lanes of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway. Couldn’t resist one last shot from ground level showing the two structures.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

From the temporary stairway, which was around 4-5 stories worth of climbing, and looking north towards Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The roadway itself is still under construction. The views from up here were fairly epic, but I’ll share those in a future post. Suffice to say that were I to attempt the same shots post construction, I’d be thoroughly squished by traffic moving at highway speeds.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Not sure which Union these fellows were members of, but they were too busy for me to ask. The Union guys were tying off the structural rebar, in preperation of pouring the concrete which would become the underpinning of the BQE’s roadway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The rebar that these Union guys are installing is actually stainless steel rather than galvanized iron. The extra expense for the stainless is justified in the name of avoiding corrosion, due to the massive amount of salt which is typically applied to the BQE during the winter months.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One last shot looking north along the 1939 version of the Kosciuszko Bridge. What’s truly interesting to me about this project which Robert Adams is supervising is the fact that at no point can traffic along this Robert Moses built highway be impeded or stopped. It’s analogized best as doing a full rebuild of your car’s transmission, while driving at 90 mph in heavy traffic.

Progress on the Kosciuszko Bridge replacement will continue to be documented, at this, your Newtown Pentacle.

Upcoming Events and Tours

Sunday, May 8th at 11 a.m. – North Henry Street Project,
with Municipal Arts Society Janeswalk and Newtown Creek Alliance,
in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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6 Responses

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  1. Thanks, Mitch. Nice explanation with the photos of what’s happening. Hopefully, that stainless steel roadway rebar will prevent the BQE roadway from constantly getting eroded as it does now. Always a bumpy ride crossing the present Kamikazee Bridge.

    georgetheatheist . . . hang on tight

    May 3, 2016 at 11:28 am

  2. Ditto! Great coverage, Mitch! At least somebody’s keeping an eye (and cameras) on the project.

    Kenneth Furie

    May 3, 2016 at 9:31 pm

  3. […] Longtime readers of this – your Newtown Pentacle – will report that I’ve been keeping track of things at the Kosciuszko Bridge, with this recent post being the latest report from the Brooklyn side. […]

  4. […] Additionally, this post from March of 2016 detailed the action on the Queens side. Most recently, here’s one from May of 2016, and one from June of the same […]

  5. […] Additionally, this post from March of 2016 detailed the action on the Queens side. Most recently, here’s one from May of 2016, and one from June of the same year. Finally, here’s one from August of […]

  6. […] Additionally, this post from March of 2016 detailed the action on the Queens side. Most recently, here’s one from May of 2016, and one from June of the same year. Here’s one from August of 2016, and finally the December […]


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