The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for February 27th, 2018

quietly slipped

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After dark peregrinations about the Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the Hunters Point Avenue Bridge pictured above, a centuried single bascule drawbridge. Your humble narrator was actually a Parade Marshal for the centennial celebration, back in 2010. The first Hunters Point Avenue Bridge, which sat on roughly the same spot, was erected in 1874 and was made of wood. It opened and closed thanks to a mule walking on a turntable. The modern bridge is the property of the NYC Department of Transportation, and the agency has been working on the span since last summer, repairing and upgrading electronics which were damaged by Hurricane Sandy back in 2012.

The water it overflies is the Dutch Kills Tributary of the Newtown Creek, which branches off of the main waterway about 3/4 of a mile from the East River. Dutch Kills itself, in its modern incarnation, is about 3/4 of a mile long. It once ran all the way through the modern day Sunnyside Yards and fed into a marsh/swamp which would have been centered at 29th street and Jackson Avenue in LIC. That’s just before the elevated Subway breaks off to the North along 31st street and Jackson widens to become Northern Blvd.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over the years, one has spent a considerable amount of time along the canalized shorelines of Dutch Kills. There’s a mega structure crossing it, the truss carrying the Long Island Expressway some one hundred and six feet over the water. 

November 15th of 1940 is when this section of the LIE opened, and the “high speed road” carries vehicle traffic first to the Queens Midtown Tunnel and then into Manhattan. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking to the north/west, the turning basin of Dutch Kills and the remains of the Degnon Terminal. 

A turning basin is an engineered section of a waterway shaped to allow an articulated tugboat and barge egress to rotate and turn around. The Degnon Terminal offered ship to rail connections back in the early 20th century, and cargo could be loaded or unloaded onto a terminal railway or onto freight cars of the Long Island Railroad for delivery to extant points.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the east side of Dutch Kills, the FedEx people have a large shipping depot that squats squamously. A LEED certified facility, the FedEx property nevertheless logarithmically magnifies the number of trucks worming through traffic to LIC every day from Kennedy Airport. 

Semi trucks carry FedEx cargo here from the airport, delivery vans carry it out to their end customers.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When these shots were captured, the air was terribly still. Without any sort of atmospheric perturbence, the tepid currents of Dutch Kills’ fluids barely register as a ripple on the surface. 

Last time I checked, the LIE carried about 90,000 vehicle trips a day in this section (called the Queens Midtown Expressway), which translates out to around 32 million vehicles annually. The drains on the LIE are not connected to the City’s sewer system and instead drain directly into Dutch Kills. At least there’s some current, I guess.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My path next carried the camera south to Borden Avenue. 

The street dates back to 1868, when it was built as a plank road through the swamps surrounding Dutch Kills. It got its name in a traditional fashion for the 19th century, named for where it was going. It used to be the pathway to the Borden Dairy farm up the hill in Maspeth, and was constructed to allow easy egress for fresh milk to travel to market in Manhattan and beyond. 

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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 27, 2018 at 11:00 am

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