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Open House NY: DUPBO

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Open House New York 2014 – Down Under the Pulaski Bridge Onramp

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Join Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman for an intense exploration of Brooklyn’s Greenpoint and Queens’s Hunters Point neighborhoods, walking along the East River and over the Newtown Creek.

A colonial center and 19th century industrial powerhouse, Greenpoint is a thriving neighborhood cursed by environmental catastrophe. Explore this ancient North Brooklyn neighborhood, and learn its incredible industrial history, while moving inexorably toward the Newtown Creek.

The tour will cross Newtown Creek via the Pulaski Bridge and head into the brave new world and Modern Corridor of Long Island City’s Hunters Point. There will be spectacular waterfront vistas to enjoy, maritime industrial and rail infrastructure to marvel at, and along the way – a few surprises will be encountered. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

By walking tour standards, this one is pretty low core. The only major physical obstacle we will encounter are the flights of stairs on the Pulaski Bridge. Unlike many of the other walks which explore the industrial zone hinterlands of the Newtown Creek, the DUPBO walk moves through well populated neighborhood streets in Greenpoint and LIC.

Bring your camera! Everywhere we go, just about, you’re going to see postcard panoramas of NYC’s spectacular East River coastline.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Be prepared for rough terrain and possible heavy truck traffic. Dress and pack appropriately for hiking and for weather. Closed-toe shoes are highly recommended. Bathroom opportunities will be found only at the start of the walk. We will be ending in LIC, nearby several mass transit hubs.

This is a free walking tour, part of the 2014 Open House NY weekend, but registration is required. Click here for tix

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

DUPBO… or Down Under The Pulaski Bridge Onramp

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IMG_9827_newtowncreek.jpg by you.

Pulaski Bridge from Newtown Creek – photo by Mitch Waxman

Context:
The Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth was a superpower in the 18th century world. From our post 20th century perspective, it is hard to conceive of Poland as being the strongman of Europe, but in land warfare they were as feared as the Tsarist Cossacks or Turk Janissaries– professional warriors- shock troops-who always got the job done.

Know that scene in the “return of the king” movie when Gandalf comes riding down leading the Rohan horsemen- Its Tolkien’s fantasy metaphor for what happened when the Poles arrived at the Siege of Vienna in 1683 under the leadership of John III Sobieski.  

Pulaski upshot by you.

Looking up at the Pulaski Bridge from Long Island City – photo by Mitch Waxman

The formal and hereditary noble class of this military juggernaut was called the “szlachta“. Kasimierz Pulaski was a “szlachta“. His father was Starost (elder) of the area of Warka, and Kasimierz was sent to Warsaw at an early age for formal schooling and military training. He began his career as Page to the Duke of Courland, Carl Christian Joseph (of Saxony). The neighboring Russian empire dominated the Commonwealth and used its muscle to force the Polish Parliament to pass anything that the Tsar demanded.  Pulaski, with others, formed a rebel group called the Bar Confederation which fought and won against the Russians- even succeeding in drawing them into a protracted war with the Ottoman Empire in 1768.

illustration from wikipedia

Pulaski Bridge surroundings- Queens side by you.

Pulaski Bridge and Newtown Creek – photo by Mitch Waxman

This strategy backfired as victory in the conflict allowed Russia to assume control over Ukraine, the Crimean Khanate, and the Caucasus from the already deteriorating power of Istanbul. The Turks allied themselves with the Bar Federation, and Russia with Great Britain. Pulsaki’s rebellion was broken by the betrayal of the King of Poland in the end, and Pulaski developed an enmity toward the English crown for its role in his country’s destruction and subjugation. 

Pulaski Bridge surroundings- Queens side by you.

Looking north at Pulaski Bridge Tower over Newtown Creek, Queens side – photo by Mitch Waxman

The term for their cause that the Bar Federation coined was the “Golden Liberty“. Exiled from Poland with a charge of attempted Regicide, no country in Europe would accept Pulaski as a citizen. Until word of his plight reached a certain printer from Philadelphia who was living in Paris.

IMG_9830_newtowncreek.jpg by you.

Looking north at Pulaski Bridge Tower from Newtown Creek, Queens side – photo by Mitch Waxman

History:
Over in North America a letter arrived from the Continent addressed to General Washington, one sent by his longtime colleague, the printer turned diplomat named Benjamin Franklin. In it Pulaski is introduced “as renowned throughout Europe for the courage and bravery he displayed in defense of his country’s freedom”. Accepting the recommendations of Franklin, the American Augustus invited Pulaski to join the cause, and offered him a chance at vengeance upon the British allies of his mortal enemies- the Russians.

Pulaski declard “I came here, where freedom is being defended, to serve it, and to live or die for it.”.

The Jaws of the Newtown Creek by you.

Jaws of Newtown Creek, Pulaski Bridge – photo by Mitch Waxman

At the Battle of Brandywine, Pulaski’s quick thinking and battlefield hardened experience saved Washington from defeat and death. Elevated to Brigadier General of the Cavalry, Pulaski used his own fortune to arm his men when Congress was slow in funding them. He is credited as being the father of the American Cavalry, and was instrumental in creating the system of practice drilling, training disciplines, and martial customs which have long been a distinction of the American Cavalry ever since. 

IMG_9831_newtowncreek.jpg by you.

Looking north at Pulaski Bridge Tower from Newtown Creek, Queens side – photo by Mitch Waxman

At the Siege of Savannah in 1779, Pulaski was hit by grapeshot and died of his wounds. There is debate over his resting place, but I favor the notion that he was buried at sea (just for the romance), but those in the know believe him to lie in Savannah, Georgia. In 2007, the US Senate got around to declaring Kasimierz Pulaski a citizen of the United States, but the bill still needs to pass the in House of Representatives and be signed by the President to become official.

IMG_0356_newtowncreek.jpg by you.

Looking north at Pulaski Bridge Tower from Newtown Creek, Queens side – photo by Mitch Waxman

So, to celebrate this swashbuckling prince of Poland, who was instrumental in the transformation of the Colonial Army from a peasant brigade to an army that could fight the British, New York City named a bridge over Newtown Creek after him.

Just The Facts:
A bascule drawbridge of paralell counterweight design, the Pulaski Bridge was overseen by New York City Commissioner of Public Works Frederick Zurmuhlen, and the general contractor was the Horn Construction Company, with steel and expertise supplied by Bethlehem Steel. It opened in September of 1954 at a cost of $9,664,446.25- a reconstruction of the bridge in 1994 cost $40 million. It carries six lanes of vehicular traffic, and is a primary link between north Brooklyn and western Queens.

Pulaski Bridge surroundings- Queens side by you.

Looking west at Pulaski Bridge Tower from Newtown Creek, Queens side – photo by Mitch Waxman

It is the first bridge one encounters when entering the Newtown Creek, and it is oriented on a north south vector over the aqueous surface. It connects fabled Greenpoint in Brooklyn to the tangle and enigma of Long Island City in Queens. McGuinness Boulevard approaches the bridge from the south and Eleventh Street from the north. It has two 10.5m roadways divided by a concrete median barrier. It also carries a 2.7m pedestrian sidewalk. The bridge provides a channel with a horizontal clearance of 45.7m and a vertical clearance of 11.9m in the closed position at MHW and 13m MLW.

In this late 1940’s map at trainsarefun.com, the old Vernon Avenue Bridge is still in place, and the Pulaski is still under construction.

also-found this for sale on ebay, no affiliation

ad for Bethlehem Steel, 1953

Pulaski Bridge Firebox by you.

Looking south at Pulaski Bridge Tower from Borden Avenue, Queens side – photo by Mitch Waxman

On the Queens side, approach from Borden Avenue. In previous posts, I might admonish that you will be crossing the very active grade level LIRR rail tracks leading to the Hunters Point station, warn you that you are walking by a group of very paranoid Port Authority cops working security at the Midtown Tunnel, or mention that it’s a busy truck route with multiple blind corners and virtually no sidewalk…

But- I wouldn’t want anyone to think that Long Island City’s industrial quarters are dangerous or anything…

Pulaski Bridge Stairway by you.

Pulaski Bridge staircase – photo by Mitch Waxman

There are only seven available colors approved for bridges to be painted with in the City of New York, which are defined by the Public Design Commission as Deep Cool Red, Federal Blue, George Washington Bridge Gray, Aluminum Green, Pulaski Red, Munsell Gray or Dark Green. 

Its sort of obvious what color Pulaski Red is.

Pulaski Bridge Stairway by you.

Pulaski Bridge staircase – photo by Mitch Waxman

An Opinion:
I make it a point of not touching the Pulaski Bridge with anything other than the soles of my shoes. There is a thriving colony of pestilential fowl living in its rafters, and they delight in painting the bridge according to their own fecund taste. I also make it a point of walking through wet grass and puddles on my way back home to the noble hills of Astoria.

Looking to Big Allis across LIC by you.

Looking north at Pulaski Bridge Tower from Newtown Creek, Queens side – photo by Mitch Waxman

Observations:

The Bridge has similar staircases at either side of the Newtown Creek, which allow access to the combined pedestrian walkway and bicycle lane. Looking due north, one sees Big Allis, The Queensboro bridge, and the toll plaza of the Midtown Tunnel. This pathway also offers commanding views of Manhattan due west.

“Stitched” Panorama of New York CIty from Pulaski Bridge over Newtown Creek, Queens side – photo by Mitch Waxman

Problematic encounters between speeding bicyclists and pedestrians have become a common experience for Newtownicans on this walkway. The visible affair is obviously in need of remedy, before a collision results in tragedy.

NYC Marathon leaving Pulaski Bridge by you.

Pulaski Bridge, NYC Marathon 2009, corner of Jackson ave. and 49th ave.  -photo by Mitch Waxman

Incidentally, the Pulaski Bridge is the 13.1 mile point in the New York Marathon, for which it is closed to vehicular traffic annually. This shot is from 2008.

from Pulaski Stairs by you.

Looking north from Pulaski Bridge, Queens side – photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking down, on the Queens side. The area under the bridge is used as a parking lot by the employees of area businesses, like FreshDIrect on Borden Avenue- whose operation is located directly eastward on the shore of the Newtown Creek. 

Pulaski Bridge surroundings- Queens side by you.

Looking southeast from Pulaski Bridge, Queens side – photo by Mitch Waxman

There are always a heterogeneous collection of vehicles here, most simply parked- but some occupied by sleepers, others with romantic pairings of.. short acquaintance… ahem…

For an undetermined period of time, a man with no legs lived out of a van parked here, grilling his meals on a portable BBQ made from a steel can. I have to say that this area always fills me with an odd disquiet, a mocking feeling of being watched. Were I only to have some evidence to confirm these intuitions of my timorous nature…

Pulaski Bridge surroundings- Queens side by you.

Looking southwest from Pulaski Bridge, Queens side – photo by Mitch Waxman

To the West, an open air warehouse directly on the Newtown Creek bulkheads. 

Pulaski Bridge surroundings- Queens side by you.

Looking west from Down Under the Pulaski Bridge Onramp, Queens side – photo by Mitch Waxman

At the water’s edge, one can gain a unique vantage point looking west toward Hunters Point.

Pulaski Bridge Gears by you.

Pulaski Bridge mooring, Queens side – photo by Mitch Waxman

The bridge’s works, from the Queens side. Notice the high tide sludge line on the moorings.

Pulaski Bridge Gears by you.

Pulaski Bridge mooring, Queens side – photo by Mitch Waxman

From this vantage, you can visualize the catwalks and ladders hidden within the superstructure of the bridge.

Pulaski Bridge surroundings- Brooklyn side by you.

McGuinness Boulevard from Pulaski Bridge – photo by Mitch Waxman

On the Brooklyn side, the bridge offers a gentle slope on the pedestrian pathway, which leads down to McGuinness Blvd. and into Greenpont proper. But if you take the stairs…
Pulaski Bridge surroundings- Brooklyn side by you.

Looking east from Down Under the Pulaski Bridge Onramp, Brooklyn side – photo by Mitch Waxman

The first thing you’ll notice is that this is where the DOT parks part of their truck fleet.
(the blown out section of the above photo is actually Paidge avenue, a left on which will carry you to the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Facility Nature Walk) 

newtwn_HDR_IMG_9744_46.jpg by you.

Looking northwest from Down Under the Pulaski Bridge Onramp, Brooklyn side – photo by Mitch Waxman

Don’t forget to look the other way though, the view is a stunner.

Lords and ladies of Newtown, this has been the Newtown Pentacle introduction to DUPBO.

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 13, 2009 at 4:29 am

split fingernails

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Friday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

November 15th also marked the last time I would be visiting DUKBO in Maspeth, an area found along the fabulous Newtown Creek’s Queens side. At the time of these photo’s captures, I thought it would be my second to last visit, but as it turns out…

I set up the tripod, and all the special camera gear and tools which I’ve mentioned to you over the years. It was nice, but there was a melancholy resonance to this, doing what was a very normal thing for me to be doing.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This post is being written on Monday the 12th of December, while sitting in my favorite Irish bar in Astoria – also for the last time. By the time you’ve received it, I’ll solidly be living in Pittsburgh.

There’s a pint of Guinness on my right hand, and the iPad is glowing in front of me. This is not an unfamiliar image to my bartender. I’ve always loved sitting down in a bar by myself and doing some writing. Also, since there is no wifi in my old apartment right now as I’ve returned the equipment to the cable people, my only connection other than a cell phone is here… in fact, the movers have just come this morning, and took all my stuff with them to Pittsburgh – so beyond the wifi the apartment is empty – there’s just an inflatable bed and a couple of knapsacks in my crib. I’m leaving in the morning, on Tuesday the 13th. An all day drive awaits.

One has been living out a suitcase for a couple of weeks now, surviving on high fat and overly caloric foods. A regular sleeping schedule is something I can only hope for, right now. It hasn’t been uncommon for me to fall dead asleep as early as 9 p.m. in the last couple of weeks, out of sheer exhaustion.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One way or the other, the part of my life that includes DUPBO, DUGABO, or DUKBO is all over by the time you’re reading this. Hopefully, I’m unpacking on the other side with Our Lady of the Pentacle and can resume some sort of normal life in a day or two before the madness resumes, around a different set of subjects.

Goodbye, DUKBO.


“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

December 16, 2022 at 11:00 am

revenant mother

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Thursday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

November 15th found Alternate Side Parking regulations working against a humble narrator’s happiness again, and the Mobile Oppression Platform – as I’ve nicknamed my car – needed to be somewhere other than where it was. Thereby, one planned out yet another trash run, heading full bore at both the paper recycling guy, and the metals and electronics guy. One deleted roughly a third of all his material possessions during the ramp up to moving.

Since I was already out and about and at Newtown Creek… why not?Every time might be the last time, after all.

First up was DUPBO. Down Under the Pulaski Bridge Onramp. That’s the Vernon Avenue street end. Not Boulevard, mind you. This street end is a one block avenue.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One navigated the ‘MOP’ or “Mobile Oppression Platform” about, shooting out the window of the vehicle with my zoom lens like some common paparazzi. Free time like the interval experienced on this particular day became increasingly rare for a humble narrator right around this part of November.

The big move to Pittsburgh loomed. Suddenly, an avalanche of “have to’s” erupted and all my attentions were drawn to the exigent circumstances thereby presented.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Every time might be the last time, as I’ve been saying, and you know what? As it turns out, this was pretty much the last time for DUPBO, and for visiting First Calvary Cemetery in Queens’ Blissville section.

I’m totally faklempt about this fact. More tomorrow.


“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

December 15, 2022 at 11:00 am

proper edge

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Monday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

October 27th found a humble narrator driving back from an assignation in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint section. As part of the big move to Pittsburgh, one decided to inventory literally every possession and scrap of paper which has accumulated into HQ over the years and decide whether or not I wanted to move it 400 miles west with me or not. This process revealed a staggering amount of electronics waste – cables, old computers which I’d been keeping for parts, gizmos and gadgets. Lots of stuff made of metal also didn’t make the cut. Thereby, several carloads of gear were transported to one of the local scrapyards for recycling or whatever. There’s also a lot of paper which went to a different recycling company found along Newtown Creek.

On my way back to Astoria from one of these junk yards one recent afternoon, one decided to try and grab a few last shots of places familiar and loved. The first two are from “DUPBO” or “Down Under the Pulaski Bridge Onramp.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Said onramp is pictured above. I get asked all the time about the off ramp to nowhere on the Pulaski, which I’m told was originally meant to connect to the Long Island Expressway. Apparently they ran out of money to complete that, in the late 1950’s when this bridge was erected.

Wish I could have lingered, but there’s been so much to do.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On my way back to Astoria, I did find a minute or two while waiting at traffic lights to stick the camera up through the car’s moon roof.

Depicted above, the Queensboro Bridge and the nearby TerraCotta House, as seen from Vernon Boulevard.

More tomorrow.


“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

November 28, 2022 at 11:00 am

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