The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for February 5th, 2020

drastic directions

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Happy 117th birthday, Grand Street Bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As part of the nocturnal survey of Newtown Creek one is in the midst of undertaking, a recent evening found the camera perched atop the currently undefended border of Brooklyn and Queens, and a humble narrator lost in a paroxysm of appreciation for the venerable Grand Street Bridge. Not long for this world – as the powers that be have decreed that it shall soon be expensively replaced – this beauty was erected in 1903, replacing an earlier iteration described by the United States Coast Guard as a “hazard to navigation.” The first bridge here was built in 1875, the current version is the third Grand Street Bridge.

Grand Street Bridge is the property of the City of New York, specifically the Department of Transportation. It connects Grand Avenue in Queens with Grand Street in Brooklyn. It’s found 3.1 miles back from the East River’s junction with Newtown Creek, sits at the demarcation point of two Newtown Creek tributaries – the East Branch and English Kills – and is a movable “swing bridge” which sits on a mechanical turntable that rotates the bridge ninety degrees to allow maritime egress.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The western sidewalk of the bridge doubles as a bike path, which few bicyclists actually use, seemingly preferring to just use the vehicle lanes. Heavily trafficked by MTA buses going to and from their Grand Avenue Bus Depot on the Maspeth, Queens side, the bridge is narrow and a causal factor in many of the traffic problems experienced in Maspeth, Ridgewood, East Williamsburg, Bushwick, and eastern Greenpoint. This is due to the narrowness of the thing, which modern trucks cannot cross two abreast. Instead, drivers wait for traffic to clear the span, which causes backups that stretch for multiple blocks.

Even late at night, when these shots were gathered, it was quite a bother finding a 30 second interval without a heavy vehicle crossing. The Grand Street Bridge shakes and shimmies when even a passenger car crosses it, whereas the passing of a bus or a garbage truck triggers a local bridge quake. Said vibration is ruinous for a tripod mounted camera.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Next up on my 2020 survey of the Newtown Creek will be the extreme eastern side of the waterway, followed by a series of walks down the visually miserable Brooklyn side of it. The reason it’s miserable is that are so few places where you can access or even view the water, as opposed to the Queens side where – as you’ve seen in recent weeks – there are multiple points of view worth looking at. Hopefully this is something I can find the time and opportunity to accomplish in the next couple of weeks.

Tomorrow, something different at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


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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.

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