The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for August 16th, 2022

palsied denials

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Tuesday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

July 16th was City of Water Day, which is a regional harbor festival curated by the Waterfront Alliance. I, and Newtown Creek Alliance, have been participating in City of Water Day for about a decade now. This year, NCA partnered up with North Brooklyn Boat Club and the Montauk Cutoff Coalition to do a shoreline cleanup, and offer boat rides to the public on the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek. It was a nice day.

Until the thunderstorm arrived, it was a nice day, that is.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If you don’t recall, this was the day that about an inch of rain fell in about a half hour and generated a lot of flooding and damage in Queens. We were out in the open, but luckily the public side of things had ended. Everybody found a bit of shelter, under the Long Island Expressway or in some of the shipping containers found along the shoreline.

It felt like a real Götterdämmerung, I tell you.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Blasting waves of rain pounded down, and heavy wind caused the rain to go absolutely horizontal. Dutch Kills was boiling with sky juices.

When the front moved on, we found ourselves standing in its wake. All of the NCA people grabbed their cameras and phones, since we knew what would be coming next – sewer outflows!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

NYC has a combined sewer system, meaning that sanitary and storm water move through the same pipes. Dry weather, which typified roughly an entire month prior to the 16th, sees this flow go to sewer plants. A quarter inch of rain – citywide – translates to a billion gallons suddenly entering the system, and the City’s protocol is to release the excess flow into area waterways as a prophylactic against street flooding.

You can count it out – 5, 4, 3, 2, 1… blast off.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Submerged sewer pipes began to excrete into the waters of Dutch Kills. The surface was boiling, and the tumult carried human waste as well as whatever happened to end up in the sewers – trash, motor oil, goo – into Dutch Kills.

Everywhere you looked, filthy water was shooting out of otherwise hidden pipes all over Dutch Kills. In a couple of spots, notably nearby the Hunters Point Avenue Bridge, there were actual geysers of sewerage shooting around.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pictured above is a storm sewer, one which drains the Long Island Expressway high above. Thousands of gallons erupted from it.

Exciting, no?


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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

August 16, 2022 at 11:00 am

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