The Newtown Pentacle

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May showers bring June flowers?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Bother. Last week, the closest I got to photographing any part of Newtown Creek – due to the daily thunderstorms – was the sort of view you see above, which is to say that I was looking at it through the closed window of a car. I had a relatively light schedule last week, but as opined – god hates me – so any chance I had to find time to go out shooting was abrogated by meteorological instability. I’m not sure of the exact numbers, but an unimaginable amount of liquid cascaded down over the City of Greater New York.

NYC possesses what’s known as a “combined sewer system” wherein sanitary sewers (toilet water and other lovely effluents) and storm sewers (street runoff and so on) feed into the same pipe. During dry weather this isn’t an issue, as the NYC DEP’s 14 sewer plants can usually handle the flow. During rain events, a quarter inch of rain, city wide, can add a billion gallons of water into the mix. The DEP is then obliged to release the untreated sewage overflow into area waterways, a practice they’re working hard on avoiding, via “CSO’s” or Combined Sewer Outfalls.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s four hundred of these “CSO’s” operated by DEP in NY Harbor, and there’s even more of them on the New Jersey side of the Hudson. As you move into other counties in Upstate New York and on Long Island, even more release points are found. Last time I checked, there were twenty two CSO points found along the bulkheads of Newtown Creek. Pictured above is Dutch Kills, a tributary of Newtown Creek in Long Island City, from last Sunday afternoon shortly before yet another thunderstorm rolled through. The water was a chocolate/coffee brown color this time around, and there were literal tons of floatables – a term used for the garbage and street litter which has been hydraulically swept into the sewer system – moving around on the surface of Dutch Kills in the wind.

To the west, another thunderstorm was building, and the wind was picking up.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

“Give a hoot, don’t pollute” is what Woodsy the Owl used to advise every school kid in the 1970’s, alongside Smokey the Bear reminding us not to start forest fires. Societal priorities shifted towards smoking cessation, avoiding teenager pregnancies, and HIV prevention more recently. We stopped “promoting shame” regarding littering in the 1990’s, as I recall. The City of New York’s streets are dirtier with clutter and unswept garbage than at other point in my lifetime except for the late 1970’s and early 1980’s budget crisis era when cuts to municipal spending reduced the ranks of DSNY personnel. Don’t read that wrong, incidentally, the DSNY is doing its job quite well. The problem is “us.” There’s several generations of native born and immigrant Americans alike who don’t see any particular reason not to just toss their garbage in the street.

I’m pricing out one of those “Game of Thrones” style shame bells. I plan to walk around Queens ringing the thing and proclaiming “SHAME” whenever I see someone toss a plastic bottle at the curb. I know where it’s going to end up, after all. Check out that plastic bag life raft for other plastics floating in the water of Dutch Kills above. Yuck, ya buncha slobs.


Upcoming Tours and Events

June 15th – Exploring the East River,

From General Slocum Disaster to Abandoned Islands – with NY Adventure Club.

June 15th is one of those days in NYC history. In 1904, more than a thousand people boarded a boat in lower Manhattan, heading for a church picnic on Long Island — only 321 of them would return. This is the story of the General Slocum disaster, and how New York Harbor, the ferry industry, and a community were forever altered.

Join New York Adventure Club for a two-part aquatic adventure as we explore the General Slocum disaster, and historic sights and stories along the East River, all by NYC Ferry.

Tickets and more details
here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 5, 2019 at 2:00 pm

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