The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for September 2017

keen wonder

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It’s National Coffee Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

All the “intel” coming my way indicates that this Sunday morning (Oct. 1), the remaining sections of the Koscisuzcko Bridge will be “energetically demolished” or – to quote Governor Cuomo – “blown up.” The self same intel indicates that 8 a.m. is the target time, but it’s possible that the schedule might shift around a bit depending on circumstance.

I’m recommending that if you want to watch the bridge go boom, you’d either want to be on the Grand Street Bridge looking west, or on the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge looking east. I’m also recommending that if you’ve got a respirator mask, you might want to bring it along, as I’m sure this will kick up a lot of dust when it comes down.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Scouting out the “exclusion area” which all but FDNY, NYPD, NYS DOT, and their contractors will be forbidden to enter, I took note of where the NYPD had dropped off piles of police barriers for road closure. The cordon is a bit larger than I was originally told, and there is a giant chunk of Newtown Creek and the surrounding neighborhood which will be off limits. I’ve got a different spot to shoot from, but that’s me.

As mentioned above, I’d say the Grand Street or Greenpoint Avenue Bridges would be good – and fairly safe – choices for viewing and or photographing the event. I’m told it’s all going to happen in 8 milliseconds, from detonation to drop.

Grand Street has its charms, looking west at the new bridge with the old one behind it. Morning sun will be lighting the scene, and the Manhattan skyline is visible from there. You’ll see the old bridge directly, from Greenpoint Avenue, but it will be shadowed with the sun behind it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m sure this will be an enjoyable traffic morning for you drivers, with definite closure for BQE in the morning and a likely closure for the LIE for some interval. There will be mutiple road closures in Greenpoint and West Maspeth as well, which will likely last for awhile as they scoop up all the blown steel and concrete.

The end of an era, lords and ladies…


Upcoming Tours and event

Exploring Long Island City, from Luxury Waterfront to Abandoned Factories Walking Tour,
with NY Adventure Club – Saturday, October 7th, 1 p.m. – 3 p.m.

Long Island City is a tale of two cities; one filled with glittering water-front skyscrapers and manicured parks, and the other, a highly active ground transportation & distribution zone vital to the New York economy — which will prevail? With Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

The Hidden Harbors Of  Staten Island Boat Tour,
with Working Harbor Committee – Sunday, October 15th, 2 p.m. – 4 p.m.

A very cool boat tour that visits two of the maritime industrial waterways of New York Harbor which adjoin Staten Island and Bayonne in New Jersey – The Kill Van Kull and the Arthur Kill. There will be lots of tugboats, cargo docks, and you’ll get to see multiple bridges from the water – including the brand new Goethals Bridge. I’ll be on the mike, narrating with WHC board member Gordon Cooper details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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Written by Mitch Waxman

September 29, 2017 at 11:00 am

disturbingly heterogenous

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It’s National Drink a Beer Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sorry for the single shot today, lords and ladies, a humble narrator is a bit behind on his schedule this week. Back tomorrow with something a bit more “in-depth” at this, your Newtown Pentacle.


Upcoming Tours and events

Exploring Long Island City, from Luxury Waterfront to Abandoned Factories Walking Tour,
with NY Adventure Club – Saturday, October 7th, 1 p.m. – 3 p.m.

Long Island City is a tale of two cities; one filled with glittering water-front skyscrapers and manicured parks, and the other, a highly active ground transportation & distribution zone vital to the New York economy — which will prevail? With Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

The Hidden Harbors Of  Staten Island Boat Tour,
with Working Harbor Committee – Sunday, October 15th, 2 p.m. – 4 p.m.

A very cool boat tour that visits two of the maritime industrial waterways of New York Harbor which adjoin Staten Island and Bayonne in New Jersey – The Kill Van Kull and the Arthur Kill. There will be lots of tugboats, cargo docks, and you’ll get to see multiple bridges from the water – including the brand new Goethals Bridge. I’ll be on the mike, narrating with WHC board member Gordon Cooper details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 28, 2017 at 11:00 am

particularly pleased

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

What you’re looking at up there, lords and ladies, is my own personal piece of the old 1939 Kosciuszcko Bridge. I can now say that the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, or part of it anyway, is in my house.

Here’s the scoop on how I got it:

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week, I described bringing an NYU class to Long Island City where we got to do a short visit at a large recycling operation, found along the Newtown Creek, called SimsMetal.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

While I was there, an inquiry was proferred to the fellows who work there whether or not a sample cut from the tons of Kosciuszcko Bridge steel they had lying about might be possible to obtain. Turns out that they had to cut pieces down to size for shredding over in New Jersey anyway, so it wouldn’t be a problem, I was told. Only hitch was that the welder guy was taking a few days off, so I’d just have to wait till he returned.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So I get the call a couple of days later telling me that the welder guy was on site, and that I should pop over and tell him what I wanted. I asked him for a couple of rivets, basically.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Popping the rivets out would be a pain, I was told, but then the welder asked if I minded if they had a bit of steel attached. “Sure,” said a humble narrator and then the sparks really started to fly.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Before I knew it, a smoking and acetylene hot chunk of the Kosciuszcko Bridge hit the concrete. It’s a little hard to make out in the shot above, but the thing was literally out gassing.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The chunks got tossed in a stainless steel thingamabob that looked like a giant soup ladle that was filled with water. The water instantly began to boil when the steel went in.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This little chunk of steel is going into the permanent “Newtown Creek Collection.” I’ve got a few LIRR railroad spikes that are very old, I think “Woodrow Wilson” old. I’ve also got the padlock that used to hang on the Kinsgland Avenue refinery gates at Mobil in Greenpoint, but I generally don’t collect artifacts. This time is one of the exceptions.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Think about the journey this hunk of metal has had. It was probably forged sometime in the early to mid 1930’s in Pittsburgh, travelled all the way to NYC and the House of Robert Moses, and was installed over the Newtown Creek when it was still the busiest maritime industrial waterway in North America. The Kosciuszcko Bridge opened seventy eight years ago in the late August of 1939, but it had been under construction for quite a while before that.

Now it’s mine. 


Upcoming Tours and events

Exploring Long Island City, from Luxury Waterfront to Abandoned Factories Walking Tour,
with NY Adventure Club – Saturday, October 7th, 1 p.m. – 3 p.m.

Long Island City is a tale of two cities; one filled with glittering water-front skyscrapers and manicured parks, and the other, a highly active ground transportation & distribution zone vital to the New York economy — which will prevail? With Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

The Hidden Harbors Of  Staten Island Boat Tour,
with Working Harbor Committee – Sunday, October 15th, 2 p.m. – 4 p.m.

A very cool boat tour that visits two of the maritime industrial waterways of New York Harbor which adjoin Staten Island and Bayonne in New Jersey – The Kill Van Kull and the Arthur Kill. There will be lots of tugboats, cargo docks, and you’ll get to see multiple bridges from the water – including the brand new Goethals Bridge. I’ll be on the mike, narrating with WHC board member Gordon Cooper details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

leaden coffin

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It’s National Pancake Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Note: Flickr seems to be having some issues today, so if the shots in today’s post don’t appear or display “broken” image link icons, it ain’t me.

Last week, I took a new friend over to “Skelson’s office” on the Staten Island side of the Kill Van Kull. My new pal, who is a photographer that I met during the lowering of the Koscisuzcko Bridge truss during the summer, had never been to Kill Van Kull and given that she’s into shooting the same sort of maritime industrial stuff that I am…

“Skelson’s office” is a section of the Staten Island shoreline that another photographer buddy of mine named John Skelson, who has left this world, used to haunt and this was officially his “spot.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

While we were at Skelson’s Office, the usual parade of tugs and barges sailed past, including the gargantua you see in today’s shots. That’s a Jersey City based Weeks Marine maritime crane, specifically the 533. Its boom is 210 feet long and it has a lifting capacity of 500 short tons. That’s 5,392 “regular people” gross tons if you’re curious. If you click over to the Weeks site via this link, you’ll see a space shuttle dangling off of it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There were two tugs guiding the crane along the Kill Van Kull, but the big one doing the actual towing was the Katherine, pictured above. My new pal had her mouth hanging open as this unit passed by, as you don’t see this sort of thing every day.

Well, I do, but there you go.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Found some garbage lying along the shoreline, and since I had to urinate, the big red letters made for a decent enough target. Great, again? America is great, now.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The show continued along the Kill Van Kull and we spent a couple of hours hanging out and photographing the tugs and barges and container ships passing by Skelson’s Office. If you want to see this sort of thing for yourself (I mean tugs and maritime industrial goodness, not me pissing on the word “Trump”) check out the link below for the recently announced Working Harbor Committee boat tour of both Kill Van Kull and Arthur Kill on October 15th.


Upcoming Tours and events

Exploring Long Island City, from Luxury Waterfront to Abandoned Factories Walking Tour,
with NY Adventure Club – Saturday, October 7th, 1 p.m. – 3 p.m.

Long Island City is a tale of two cities; one filled with glittering water-front skyscrapers and manicured parks, and the other, a highly active ground transportation & distribution zone vital to the New York economy — which will prevail? With Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

The Hidden Harbors Of  Staten Island Boat Tour,
with Working Harbor Committee – Sunday, October 15th, 2 p.m. – 4 p.m.

A very cool boat tour that visits two of the maritime industrial waterways of New York Harbor which adjoin Staten Island and Bayonne in New Jersey – The Kill Van Kull and the Arthur Kill. There will be lots of tugboats, cargo docks, and you’ll get to see multiple bridges from the water – including the brand new Goethals Bridge. I’ll be on the mike, narrating with WHC board member Gordon Cooper details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 26, 2017 at 11:00 am

prostrated citizen

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It’s National Lobster Day, in these United States. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Of late, one has been observing a growing trend wherein those who write about NYC pine for some mythological golden age they believe to have occurred hereabouts in the 1970’s and 80’s. They will wax on with great eloquence about Tompkins Square Park, the East Village “scene” which spawned bands they like, and an era in which rent was only $500 a month for a supposed palace in some pre war Manhattan building. Older generations do this as well, especially here in Astoria – “y’know, this apartment used to rent for $20,” back in the good old days.

The fact that income levels were lower back then and that $500 was as difficult a number to arrive at – proportionately speaking – as $2,000 is today… Back when Patti Smith and the Talking Heads and even the Ramones were enjoying the height of their fame and they were buying property – pizza was fifty cents a slice, folks, and the minimum wage was $3.35. Those minimum wage jobs were held by teenagers, not adults, it should be mentioned as well. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Quoting another band of an era (Fear) which younger generations seem to believe was the epitome of NYC’s culture – there were “piles of blood, scabs, and hair everywhere.” It was fairly routine to see bodies lying in the street – I can tell you about the guy with the smashed skull on the corner of 22nd and Third nearby the NYPD Police Academy, or the “bloodsicle” guy frozen into a phone booth on 99th and Broadway, or the dozens of people who found out just how organized crime was back then that were fished out of Sheepshead Bay by the cops. A big business in residential neighborhoods was the installation of wrought iron bars over first and second floor windows, and most of the autos you saw parked on the street had signs taped up in them proclaiming that there was “no radio” in the car. Beat downs and “getting jumped” were a facet of life in the 1980’s – in particular – and at the edges of my neighborhood in Brooklyn you’d see people with bandaged up “crack smiles.” For you youngins – a crack smile (aka “bustin ’em a fiddy,” slang for inflicting a fifty stitch facial wound) was gang retribution for informing to the cops about drug dealers taking over your block. 

The pop culture references you can google or watch clips of on YouTube from back then would include the movies “Taxi Driver” and “Death Wish.” The NYPD was purely reactionary in those days, and Williamsburg was just as dangerous a place to visit as the South Bronx. I know, as I used to have a job in Williamsburg during college, working at a garment factory across the street from Domino sugar and just down the block from a facility called Radiac where nuclear, radiological, and chemical waste products were transferred and stored. In communities at the lower side of the economic spectrum it was common for parents to have their kids sleep on the floor for fear of stray bullets, and property was so worthless that it was cheaper for a landlord to hire an arsonist to torch buildings for the insurance money than it was for them to continue operations.

New Yorkers of my generation don’t carry money in our wallets. We keep our cash in discretely pocketed bundles, a large amount and a smaller one. The latter is called “mugger money,” which you’d be ready to toss at an assailant(s) before turning and running away at “maximum boogie.”  

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This era which spawned hip hop, and saw punk rock become culturally relevant… what do you think we were all so angry about back then that we were driven to gather in Bowery Bum shit holes like CBGB? When you arrived here from Derrien, or whatever semi suburban City you’re from to pursue your dream of “life in NYC,” was it before or after 2001? Are you disappointed with what you found? Was it less “real,” or not as “vibrant” as Hollywood told you it would be? Did Spike Lee sell you a bill of goods about what Brooklyn would be like? Do you understand that the “Gentry” who have gentrified the City are yourselves? 

Also, when you look in the bathroom mirror in the mornings, is it just you looking back or is it “humanity”?


Upcoming Tours and events

Exploring Long Island City, from Luxury Waterfront to Abandoned Factories Walking Tour,
with NY Adventure Club – Saturday, October 7th, 1 p.m. – 3 p.m.

Long Island City is a tale of two cities; one filled with glittering water-front skyscrapers and manicured parks, and the other, a highly active ground transportation & distribution zone vital to the New York economy — which will prevail? With Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 25, 2017 at 11:30 am

Posted in newtown creek

intense interest

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It’s National Ice Cream Cone Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A few odds and ends, in today’s post at this – your Newtown Pentacle.

There’s nothing that somebody who works for the City hates more than being photographed while pursuing their occupation, and none moreso than the NYPD. Saying that, if you’re doing a traffic stop right in front of me while I’m hanging out with my pals at the neighborhood saloon… what’s a humble narrator to do? Constitutionally speaking y’all have less of a right to privacy in the public sphere than the rest of us do because you’re wearing that blue suit and sporting the badge, and the inherent lack of privacy that all of us suffer when out in public is the constitutionally justified reason y’all can get away with hanging surveillance cameras and speed trap gizmos on lamp posts.

Big brother? Little Brother? All part of one big happy, and quite paranoid, family.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Same corner in Astoria, different day, and a DSNY garbage truck was experiencing mechanical problems. You don’t see tow trucks of the type pictured above too often… well… I do, but most don’t. I didn’t stick around too long to watch them towing the truck back to 58th street and the garage found at the angle between Woodside and Maspeth.

I had somewhere to be, people to see, politicians and officials to annoy.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Down in Hunters Point one night, as I was passing by the LIRR yard, I noticed this cool bit of kit. My surmise, based on the sort of tools that the gizmo sported in its front end, was that this was a track maintenance mechanism. It had what looked like two claws that stuck out of the front which were positioned pretty close to where the steel tracks are found.


Upcoming Tours and events

The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura – Saturday, September 23rd, 11 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Join us on the wrong side of the tracks for an exploration of the hidden industrial heartlands of Brooklyn and Queens, with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

Exploring Long Island City, from Luxury Waterfront to Abandoned Factories Walking Tour,
with NY Adventure Club – Saturday, October 7th, 1 p.m. – 3 p.m.

Long Island City is a tale of two cities; one filled with glittering water-front skyscrapers and manicured parks, and the other, a highly active ground transportation & distribution zone vital to the New York economy — which will prevail? With Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 22, 2017 at 12:00 pm

shrewd questioning

with 4 comments

It’s National Pecan Cookie Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For the last few days, a humble narrator has carried you around Calvary Cemetery in the Blissville section. As mentioned, I always have at least one ulterior motive or backup plan involving anything I do. My purpose in coming here was to walk out the route which I was going to guide a group around the place via during a walking tour, refamiliarizing myself with sight lines and “rehearsing” as it were. Along the way, however, there was so much to see that the camera was clicking and whirring away as I walked through the ancient polyandrion.

My ulterior motive today was to document the current phase of the demolition of the old Koscisuzcko Bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Long time readers of this – your Newtown Pentacle – will tell you that this bridge replacement project has been explored before.

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.

Here’s 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, a walk through of the Brooklyn side job site in June of 2017. Here’s some night shots from early July of 2017. Finally – Here’s a series of posts focusing in on the removal of the central truss of the 1939 bridge from the summer of 2017 – a timelapse, some stills, and the barging out of the truss.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The “explosive” or “energetic demolition” of the remainders of the old bridge was originally meant to happen this Sunday the 24th of September, but for a variety of reasons – including the high winds and weather induced by Hurricane Jose out in the Atlantic Ocean – the NYS DOT engineers decided to reschedule the event for a later date.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In the meantime, Breeze Demolition is wrenching and prying anything off of the structure that they can.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The idea, essentially, is to lessen the amount of material which will hit the ground during the so called energetic demolition. This reduces the chances of “flyaway” debris and seismic shock, and will quicken the reopening of area streets in Greenpoint and Maspeth afterwards. From what I’ve been told by the DOT, once the charges go off, the entire mass of the old bridge will drop in its own footprint. The point of removing what they can by conventional means involves reducing the seismic “hit” of having more than a mile of steel and concrete falling all at once.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

All over the old roadway, giant mechanical “insects” are chewing and chipping away at the old bridge. As the bits are removed – and these bits can weigh multiple tons, as a note – they are sent off to be recycled.

As has always been the case with this bridge project, the NYS DOT is being strangely cryptic about the recycling operation, and unwilling to discuss it in any sort of detail. Why they act like this thing is a state secret…

Honestly… do you think ANYTHING happening along Newtown Creek can be kept a secret from ME?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pfft

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So… the following Saturday after the Calvary Walking Tour, I was doing a private tour for group of students from NYU while wearing my Newtown Creek Alliance hat. As it happens, I was able to arrange for our party to visit the Sims Metal Management LIC Dock so that they could understand the recycling process in a tangible manner.

Sims Metal Management is big on education – it’s a baked in part of the mission at their Sunset Park facility for instance – but the LIC location is a fairly dangerous industrial site with giant machines whizzing about and hundreds of tons of various recyclable materials stacked up. These guys and gals who work here toss around crushed cars in as seemingly casual a fashion as you would throw a napkin into the trash – and the only reason that can do this routinely and without killing each other is care, practice, and long experience.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The site manager met us at the gates of Sims, which is at the end of a long and quite dusty road found alongside a railyard in Blissville, and after a brief lecture about safety and the signing away of liability was completed, the site manager got on his radio and told his crew to shut everything down and take a coffee break. My NYU group and I followed him out onto the deck, and he took over the narrator duties. The kids from NYU were “gob smacked” having never suspected that anything like this place existed, let alone existent .8 of a mile from the East River in LIC.

While the site manager, named Lachman Hanoman, spoke to the group about what Sims does and how they do it – I waved the camera around a bit (even I don’t get in here very often), and guess what I spied with my little eyes?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Kosciuszcko, Kosciuszcko, men have named you…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A bridge found alongside a graveyard, which is no longer a bridge, being pulled apart in expectation of its final demolition. Pieces of that bridge, observed along the fabulous Newtown Creek, at a graveyard for steel. That’s the executive summary of today’s post. Also – I know all, I see all.

Tomorrow – something completely different at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


Upcoming Tours and events

The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura – Saturday, September 23rd, 11 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Join us on the wrong side of the tracks for an exploration of the hidden industrial heartlands of Brooklyn and Queens, with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

Exploring Long Island City, from Luxury Waterfront to Abandoned Factories Walking Tour,
with NY Adventure Club – Saturday, October 7th, 1 p.m. – 3 p.m.

Long Island City is a tale of two cities; one filled with glittering water-front skyscrapers and manicured parks, and the other, a highly active ground transportation & distribution zone vital to the New York economy — which will prevail? With Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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