The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for November 29th, 2021

think slowly

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator found himself wandering across the loquacious Newtown Creek, as is often the case, on the Pulaski Bridge. Count Casimir Pulaski, whom the bridge is named for, was a Polish noble and accomplished military man who – after meeting Ben Franklin and Lafayette while exiled in France – joined the Continental Army as a Cavalry General during the American Revolution. Part of Washington’s executive staff, Pulaski died of wounds he received at the Battle of Savannah in 1779.

The 1954 vintage bridge over Newtown Creek, connecting what’s now called McGuinness Blvd. in Brooklyn with LIC’s 11th street, was a product of Robert Moses’ long tenure as the high lord of transportation spending and construction in NYC. Actual construction of the double bascule draw bridge was accomplished by the Horn Construction Company, with the assistance of Bethlehem Steel and the American Bridge Company. An earlier bridge, connecting Brooklyn’s Manhattan Avenue with LIC’s Vernon Avenue (as it was known back then), was also removed as part of the project.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Surprisingly well used stair cases rise up on either side of the bridge, allowing pedestrian egress. The pedestrian lanes do indeed flow from on ramp to off ramp, but the stairs are located a lot closer to the center beam of the span. The LIC side stairs are found just south of the Midtown Tunnel and Long Island Rail Road Hunter’s Point yard.

One hasn’t used the Pulaski all that much during Covid times. One of the guiding principals for me during this interval has been the avoidance of other people. Given the increased population density of Hunters Point and Brooklyn’s Greenpoint section that has come with the real estate build out of the last twenty years…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pictured above is the Greenpoint side, where McGuinness Blvd. slouches roughly downwards towards the waterfront. When the bridge was built, McGuinness Blvd. was created as a double wide “arterial” street designed to carry Brooklyn Queens Expressway bound traffic to Meeker Avenue, where the high speed road has travelled on an overpass since 1939. That overpass leads to another Robert Moses project – the Koscisuzcko Bridge – which leads to his 1940 vintage Long Island Expressway and his 1936 Grand Central Parkway.

It is no accident that the Pulaski and Kosciuszko bridges are named for Polish generals. Instead, it’s good politics, given the enormous community of Polish folks who live or lived in Greenpoint, Maspeth, and LIC’s Blissville.

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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 for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 29, 2021 at 11:30 am

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