The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for June 29th, 2017

sterner things

with 16 comments

It’s National Bomb Pop Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As described in yesterday’s post, a hurried flight from “Point A” in Astoria to “Point B” in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint section was enacted last Saturday, in order to arrive on time for a walk through and discussion of the NYC DOT’s Kosciuszcko Bridge project’s commitment to create new parkland in the post facto footprint of their construction zone. Invitees were community members, folks from Open Space Alliance, NYC Parks Department, and a few local busybodies such as myself.

That’s Robert Adams, of the New York State Department of Transportation, chief engineer and showrunner for the K Bridge replacement project.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve stated many times that the community communications side of this project has been extraordinary. I’ve also reported to a number of people that Mr. Adams, in particular, has been remarkably transparent and amiable to receiving input from those who surround the perimeter of his project. Gold standard, in my experience, as far as handling the impact of a large scale public works projects in the crowded urban industrial setting of Newtown Creek in North Brooklyn and Western Queens. Kudos.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As has become familiar – when visiting the K Bridge job site – our little group donned “Personal Protective Equipment,” which included safety glasses, gloves, orange vests, and hard hats. That paved sidewalk, on the left of the shot above adjoining the retaining wall for the Brooklyn Queens Expressway’s Meeker Avenue onramp, is “used to be Cherry Street.” The street we were walking down, in a northerly direction heading towards Scott Avenue, is nouveau Cherry Street.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the new overpass at Varick Avenue, looking westwards towards the East River.

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 2016the December 2016 one, one from March of 2017 which discusses the demolition of the 1939 bridge.

Most recently – a post showing what I saw during a pre opening walk through in early April of 2017, and the fanfare surrounding the opening of half of the new bridge in April of 2017.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just shy of Gardner Avenue, currently a closed off section of the construction site, Mr. Adams began to discuss the perimeter of the new park. It will quite literally be in DUKBO, Down Under the Kosciuszcko Bridge Onramp. The site will occupy a mostly paved area largely shadowed by the two new bridges. Our group discussed the possibility of shade tolerant plants, and or harvesting “gray water” from the highways to feed into planting beds.

The problem with that, as stated by somebody from Parks Dept. was this – shade tolerant plants are seldom salt resistant and that even without harvesting runoff from the BQE’s drains, there’s going to be a considerable amount of road salting during the winter months both above and below the parcel.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The demolition of the old bridge is going to be occurring shortly, which will play out in two stages. First is the removal of the central truss section, then the “energetic demolition” of the approaches. If the schedule holds true, the second half of the new K Bridge will open in 2020 standing in the footprint of the old one.

That’s when the parks business will begin in earnest. There’s a section on the Maspeth side, on 43rd street, in Queens. Another section is this parcel in Brooklyn, and the old Sgt. Dougherty park on Meeker avenue at Chery Street is going to be redesigned and rebuilt.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the interjections a humble narrator offered, as one who knows this zone intimately enough to refer to it affectionately as the “Poison Cauldron of the Newtown Creek,” involved the intended pathways which people from the surrounding neighborhoods would use to get here. The surrounding areas to the east and south are insanely dangerous, traffic wise, with gargantuan trucks whizzing about and all sorts of blue collar people doing blue collar things. Warehouses, waste transfer stations, truck and bus mechanics… not to mention all of the autos at Meeker Avenue angrily straining to get into the approach lanes for the BQE.

In short, way finding and traffic control.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

About those waste transfer stations… one of the things that makes this particular “cauldron” so “poison” is the tonnage of putrescent – or black bag – garbage transported here daily. This section of DUKBO is covered in quite toxic dust. Harvesting a booger from your nasal cavity after a walk through this section will reveal many things to you about the quality of air and suspended particulates. There’s also the smell.

DUKBO stinks of decay, rot, and hot garbage. On humid days, you will notice swirls of diesel exhaust along with shiny specks of dust hanging in the ether, as illuminated by an odd shaft of light. In short – dust and odor control are essential.

The choice of this area is an extremely challenging one for a park, but given the paucity of parkland in North Brooklyn – beggars can’t be choosers and you have to work with what you’ve been given.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As far as the construction progress side of things, as mentioned, DOT and their contractor’s efforts are now being focused on the removal of the 1939 era Kosciuszcko Bridge. Up top, traffic has long been rerouted onto the easterly half of the new span, and torch bearing demolitionists have been cutting up small sections of the old bridge. The former walkway and the side railing has been cut up and will be sent off for recycling.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Above Newtown Creek, but below the BQE, crews are assembling the “strand jacks” which will lower the central truss down to a waiting barge. The steel of the central truss is also meant to be recycled, and will be making a final journey to New Jersey escorted by tugs sometime during the coming month.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is the view from Scott Avenue, and the new park will continue down to the bulkheads and will overlook the water, I’m told. There has been some discussion of waterfront access here, as in a place where you’d be able to put a boat in the water, but one hasn’t been a part of that conversation.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Walking back, as we crossed Gardiner Avenue, I handed off my “PPE” to Mr. Adams and bid the group adieux rather than go all the way back to Meeker and Varick Avenues where we had met up.

I headed down instead to the site of the first Meeker Avenue, or Penny Bridge. Once upon a time there was a swing bridge on Newtown Creek which connected Brooklyn’s Meeker Avenue with Queens’ Review Avenue (and the Penny Bridge LIRR stop). Penny Bridge was demolished in 1939 when the new Meeker Avenue Bridge opened (renamed as Kosciuszcko in 1940) but the masonry on both sides of Newtown Creek are still present.

It was a neat idea, I thought, visiting all three Meeker Avenue Bridges in the same day.

History nerd here, what can I tell ‘ya?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

While I was at Penny Bridge, my zoom lens was dialed to its extant focal length and I zeroed in on the Queens side’s strand jacks being erected. Hey, I may be a history nerd, but I know for a fact that several of you out there are engineering nerds.

Upcoming Tours and events

Newtown Creek, Greenpoint to Hunters Point, walking tour with NYCH2O – June 29th, 7-9 p.m..

Experience and learn the history of the western side of Newtown Creek, as well as the East River Parks Hunters Point with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

%d bloggers like this: