The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

ancient mariners

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It’s National Chocolate Chip Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Eleven and a third (.35 actually) score years ago today, Alexander Hamilton and the Congress created what would become the United States Coast Guard. A humble narrator has never been one to omit offering a “happy birthday” salutation, and I don’t plan on starting now. I’ve probably had more contact with this branch of the military than any other over the years, and I can tell you – based on the sailors and officers I’ve met – the Coast Guard is staffed by some of the most dedicated and patriotic people I’ve ever met. Happy 227th Birthday!

from wikipedia

Created by Congress on 4 August 1790 at the request of Alexander Hamilton as the Revenue Marine, it is the oldest continuous seagoing service of the United States. As Secretary of the Treasury, Hamilton headed the Revenue Marine, whose original purpose was collecting customs duties in the nation’s seaports. By the 1860s, the service was known as the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service and the term Revenue Marine gradually fell into disuse.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In New York Harbor, the USCG vessels you’re most likely to see are the “SAFE” Boats which provide security to ferry and pleasure craft, as well as patrolling some of the more extant industrial and cargo port areas. They also work closely with NYPD’s harbor patrol in assisting boaters in distress. Maritime security in the age of terror is no laughing matter.

The hull colors of Coast Guard vessels indicate their missions. On the “ship” side; Black hull- aids to navigation, White hull- maritime law enforcement and other safety-at-sea missions, Red hull- icebreaking. All vessels under 65 feet in length are classified as “boats” and operate near shore and inland waterways, and are usually painted “Coast Guard Orange.”


The Coast Guard is the principal Federal agency responsible for maritime safety, security, and environmental stewardship in U.S. ports and waterways. In this capacity, the Coast Guard protects and defends more than 100,000 miles of U.S. coastline and inland waterways, and safeguards an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) encompassing 4.5 million square miles stretching from North of the Arctic Circle to South of the equator, from Puerto Rico to Guam, encompassing nine time zones – the largest EEZ in the world. As one of the five Armed Services of the United States, the Coast Guard is the only military branch within the Department of Homeland Security. In addition to its role as an Armed Service, the Coast Guard is a first responder and humanitarian service that provides aid to people in distress or impacted by natural and man-made disasters whether at sea or ashore. The Coast Guard is a member of the Intelligence Community, and is a law enforcement and regulatory agency with broad legal authorities associated with maritime transportation, hazardous materials shipping, bridge administration, oil spill response, pilotage, and vessel construction and operation.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the national conversations which we should be having, incidentally, involves the age and condition of USCG’s fleet. Most of the defense budget ends up flowing towards the “head of the spear” services like Air Force and Navy, Army and Marines. There are serious structural issues in several of the USCG’s older vessels due to age and weathering, and we need to begin the funding fleet replacement for them so as to continue their mission.

The Seneca, pictured above, is a relatively new ship for the Coast Guard – even though it was launched in 1984.

Upcoming Tours and events

We’re cancelling Saturday the 5th’s Insalubrious Valley tour due to a forecast of scattered thunderstorms with lightning expected.

The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance – Saturday August 5th, 11 a.m. – 1;30 p.m.

Century old movable bridges, the remains of a 19th century highway between Brooklyn and Queens, and explore two of the lesser known tributaries of the troubled Newtown Creek watershed. For the vulgarly curious, Conrad Wissell’s Dead Animal and Night Soil wharf will be seen and described, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

Brooklyn Waterfront Boat Tour, with Working Harbor Committee – Saturday August 12th, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.

Explore the coastline of Brooklyn from Newtown Creek to Sunset Park, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman, Andrew Gustafson of Turnstile Tours, and Gordon Cooper of Working Harbor Committee on the narrating about Brooklyn’s industrial past and rapidly changing present. details here.

The Poison Cauldron of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance – Sunday August 13th, 11 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Explore the hellish waste transfer and petroleum districts of North Brooklyn on this daring walk towards the doomed Kosciuszko Bridge, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

Two Newtown Creek Boat Tours, with Newtown Creek Alliance and Open House NY – Wednesday August 16th, 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.

The neighborhoods surrounding Newtown Creek are home to the densest collection of these garbage facilities anywhere in the city and collectively, the waste transfer stations around and along Newtown Creek handle almost 40% of the waste that moves through New York. Join Newtown Creek Alliance’s Mitch Waxman and Willis Elkins  to learn about the ongoing efforts to address the environmental burden that this “clustering” has caused. details here.

DUPBO Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with NYCH20 – Thursday August 24th, 7 p.m. – 9 p.m.

Explore Greenpoint and Hunters Point, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

One Response

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  1. Great photos and content about the USCG-an “underreported” service.

    Barbara Pryor

    August 6, 2017 at 10:53 am

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