The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for March 3rd, 2017

mouldering bulk

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It’s National Canadian Bacon Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

“Blowing it to bits” is a bit of an exaggeration, as offered by NYC’s tabloid headline writers (and the Governor of New York State), referring to a recently offered plan by the NYS DOT regarding the controlled demolition of the Kosciuszko bridge. Really… this isn’t going to be like the end of the movie Diehard, if anything it’s going to be a bit more like the end of Fight Club.

Documenting this project has been a long standing project of mine – 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. 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 2016 one.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The NYS DOT held two meetings this week, one of which I attended, in which they described their plans. First – the central truss removal plan no longer involves the usage of maritime cranes. What their engineers described instead was the construction of four temporary towers which would support machinery which they described as “strand jacks,” which would lower the central truss down to couple of waiting flat top barges. Welding torches would be used to sever the truss’s links to the bridge superstructure, after the strand jacks are attached to support its weight. The truss will be lowered and secured to the barges, whereupon tugboats would guide it westward out of Newtown Creek, and across the harbor to New Jersey where its steel will be recycled.

They indicated this process would play out sometime around the end of April or the beginning of May. The DOT folks were quite vague about specific dates, saying that these were probable time frames but that they couldn’t commit to specifics at this point in time. This is problematic for me, personally, as I’m in the process of negotiating for boats to do Newtown Creek tours this summer, and the procedure described above includes the closure of the creek to all traffic for a couple of days. Worry, worry.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There are two steel towers on either side of the Newtown Creek, which the engineering people indicated would be removed using conventional means (torches and cranes). Beyond the two steel towers, there are 21 spans supported by concrete piers – 10 in Brooklyn and 11 in Queens – which support roadway sections that range between large 230 foot long and 800 ton units and smaller ones that are 120 feet long which weigh in at 2-300 tons. These sections are the ones that DOT and the contractor partnership working for them are proposing to use the explosives on.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The explosives used, and it should be mentioned that the very conservative FDNY Explosives Unit was present and participating in the discussion, would be shaped charges. What that means is that these things are essentially copper bars with high explosive material attached. The charges are placed at critical structural points on the bridge sections, and when their detonation is triggered, the copper chops right through the steel like a knife through butter. The sections which the explosives will be attached to will be “wrapped in filter fabric and conveyor belting equipment,” as they told us. It’s all very complicated.

The detonation will introduce structural deficits into the bridge sections, which will cause them to collapse in a controlled manner, effectively dropping straight down with little or no flyaway debris. There will be dust on impact with the ground, of course, which is a bit of a concern but the engineers say they have techniques to control that too.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Vibration from the dropping sections – which again, weigh anywhere between 200 and 800 tons – is a concern, and the engineering folks described a series of dampening and avoidance technologies and techniques to handle that. These involved building engineered soil berms with internal steel structures, digging trenches, and so on. To be honest, I’m a bit concerned about what will amount to a seismic event, given the proximity of Calvary Cemetery and the somewhat ancient building industrial stock of West Maspeth and Eastern Greenpoint, but the FDNY guys seemed cool with it all.

As I said during the meeting – “If an FDNY Deputy Chief told me to go jump off the bridge, I’d probably listen to him or her,” but I have a more than normal level of respect for the FDNY’s opinions. One of the guys speaking at the meeting was a deputy chief, as a note.

As you may notice from the shot above, and the reason this whole demolition story is flying around, is that the DOT and their contractors are nearly done with constructing the eastern half of the new bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The 200,000 units a day of vehicle traffic carried by the Brooklyn Queens Expressway will soon be rerouted onto the new bridge, at which point the old bridge is irrelevant and in the way. A twin of the new bridge will then be erected on its footprints. As often mentioned in the past – this western side of the new span will include a pedestrian and bicycle path.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In West Maspeth, once called Berlinville, you’ll find the sections of the roadway sitting on truck trailers and awaiting insertion into the span. Based on what I’m seeing, they should be installed shortly, and my guess would be that sometime in March the new span over Newtown Creek will be complete.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One thing which I’m looking forward to in 2017 is a promised walk with the DOT over the new bridge shortly before traffic is rerouted. They’ve been a little vague as to when this will happen, but they have said repeatedly that it will occur. As a note, those are the tracks of the Lower Montauk branch of the LIRR, and a section of them known historically as “Deadman’s Curve.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Anywho, that’s your Kosciuszko Bridge replacement project update for the first quarter of 2017, see you on Monday at this – your Newtown Pentacle – with something completely different.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

March 3, 2017 at 11:00 am

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