The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Blissville’ Category

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DUGABO – Down Under the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge Onramp.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last night, one ventured forth with two goals; first: get a decent night shot showing as much of the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge as I could get into frame, second: try and get some equally nocturnal shots of the trains moving around on the Queens side in Blissville. While I was shooting the former, the GPA Bridge suddenly opened to allow a tug and barge through, which is how I got those light streaks in the shot above – they’re the running lights of the tug. Yay.

By the time I got to the Queens side, the railroad guys seemed to have done all the moving stuff around they needed to do for a while, but I hung around for about 45 minutes and waved the camera and tripod around at a few things.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Before you ask, this spot in DUGABO is likely not where Amazon is going to base itself. A humble narrator received several phone calls about the subject yesterday, but I’m as clueless as to that tale as everyone who is not Gubernatorial staff is. The ways of the Dark Prince of Albany are subtle, and manifest in secret. Do not try to peer too deeply at the abyss that the Dark Prince dwells within, for he may notice and fix his gaze upon you. When the Dark Prince reveals his intentions, the children will rejoice, but prior to that only lament will be theirs and ours.

Seriously, not a clue. I’m reading the papers too, that’s all I’ve got. I also have no opinion on “good or bad” yet, since I have no information at all to work with. I’ve asked around as well, and have received a universal “dunno.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On my way home, this odd little monument to workplace safety was encountered in Blissville in front of the world’s largest Fortune Cookie Bakery, a distinction which Long Island City has long enjoyed being the home of.


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Hello, sweetie, it’s me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A recent afternoon’s excursion to South Brooklyn and the Bush Terminal area in Sunset Park saw a humble narrator sitting in the passenger seat of my pal Val’s car as we inched through heavy traffic on the Brooklyn Queens Expressway. Val is a photographer as well, and as we were riding along she revealed that her car had a sunroof. Out came the camera as we approached the ongoing construction site of the Kosciuszcko Bridge replacement.

We were driving, of course, on the completed first phase of the project.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has a weird perspective on this particular spot, where not two years ago I was standing around with Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams waiting for an inspection tour of the project to start. We were all done up in hard hats and orange vests. A little over a year ago, this is pretty much the spot I was shooting from when Governor Cuomo cut the ribbon for the thing. My memory bank includes several bizarre experiences, it should be mentioned.

Walking on the BQE with a Congresswoman, Borough President, or the Governor is one. Another is walking through a subway tunnel with MTA brass, and others include walking on the roadways of the Queensboro and Manhattan bridges for extended stretches. Really, the last decade has been odd.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Traffic was moving, albeit slowly, and while moving along I continued with the “spray and technique” system of image capture. That’s when you set your exposure and point the camera in the general direction of something and start depressing the shutter release button over and over in a somewhat blind fashion. I’m kind of sorta looking through the diopter, but the camera isn’t pressed against my face in the normal fashion.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Now, one of my little quirks involves saying hello to Newtown Creek whenever I’m passing over it in a car, something close friends and our Lady of the Pentacle are quite used to. Val chuckled a bit while operating the vehicle as I intoned “hello, sweetie, it’s me. I’ll see you later, as I’m going to visit your sister Gowanus today.”

Hey, if you got as little love as Newtown Creek does, you’d appreciate it if somebody took notice of you.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There she is!

I cannot describe how much I’m looking forward to the photo opportunities that the completed K-Bridge project will offer, as the pedestrian and bike lanes will be pretty much be offering this paricticular view.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

We crossed over the Creek and into infinite Brooklyn, where we hit a continuing traffic jam that lasted all the way to Sunset Park. More on what me and my pal Val saw in South Brooklyn next week, as this, your Newtown Pentacle.


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A bit more Creekery, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Middle part of last week, I had to get together with some of my colleagues at Newtown Creek Alliance to discuss and strategize about a project we’re involved with over in Long Island City, and we decided to do the meeting in the early evening at the NCA offices at 520 Kingsland Avenue over in Greenpoint.

It was a misty day, with crazy dark clouds blowing through the sky, which made for nice atmospherics and a couple of times during the meeting I excused myself and headed out onto the green roof to shoot some shots.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Our topic of focus was the Montauk Cutoff project, which is a whole other story.

Me? I was fascinated by the contrast being offered by the illuminations of the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself setting to west and the restless clouds rolling through the sky.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

To the east, and looking towards the Metro Fuel facility, you could see some sort of fiery industrial process at work.

I had an urge to find a really long stick and try to toast a marshmallow.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Walking home afterwards via the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge, on the Blissville side of the Newtown Creek, I noticed that the NY & Atlantic outfit were getting busy with the whole garbage train business. Shot this through a convenient hole in the fence on the bridge, and noticed that the train set was sitting there in a static position so I quickened my pace and got down to the dangerous intersection of Review Avenue and Van Dam street as quickly as possible.

Didn’t have the time to slip on my reflective safety vest, which is kind of stupid but I’ve always been fairly lucky as far as not getting killed by trains and trucks – so far.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For some reason, whenever I seem to get into position for this sort of shot, I instantly need to pee. I’m talking dancing around, shifting weight from foot to foot like a five year old need. Didn’t have an inkling of it on the bridge, and took care of business prior to leaving the offices not fifteen minutes prior.

Biology… it affects us all. Me moreso than others.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Luckily, the NY&A folks didn’t keep me waiting too long before the signal arms came down and they advanced along the tracks of the Lower Montauk branch, exiting the Blissville Yard and heading eastwards a short distance to the Waste Management company’s transfer station found a short distance away.

WM handles the curbside black bag, or putrescent, waste collected by the Sanitation Department.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For short distance hauling, the NY&A folks use this “critter” which is a slow moving but powerful engine unit. It’s job is to move empty cars into loading position at the waste transfer station and then move the full ones back to the Blissville Yard where they’ll be coupled to other full boxes. At some indeterminate time in the late night, a “proper” locomotive engine will arrive and haul the train set away.

Our garbage goes on quite a scenic journey, through the Fresh Pond Yard and over the Hell Gate Bridge via the NY Connecting Railroad. It heads up the Hudson after visiting the Bronx, and eventually crosses over onto the continent.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

By this point, it felt as if my bladder was about to explode, but I had to get in a couple more shots.

Exigent prioritization of such matters are the razors edge of a humble narrator’s existential experience.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Luckily, the operator of the train set moved out of eyeshot shortly, and a misdemeanor or two occurred.

At least there’s now a semi clean spot on the Blissville side of the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge, albeit one that smells slightly of urine.


Upcoming Tours and Events

Monday, October 1st, 6:30 p.m. – Infrastructure Creek – with Atlas Obscura.

Join Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman as he leads an exploration of the city’s largest sewer plant, tunnels, draw and truss bridges, rail yards, and a highway that carries 32 million vehicle-trips a year over flowing water.

Tix and more details here.


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It’s a small world, after all.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sometimes it seems like all of Western Queens is a visual parable, some Hollywood set piece or theme park designed by an otherwise unmentioned truly evil brother of Walt and Roy Disney – Dick Disney. The good news is that DickDisneyland doesn’t require an admission ticket, but enter at your own risk since it was designed by a real Dick. Of course, one of my postulates states that entire City of Greater New York is composed of five theme parks. I refer to Queens as “Adventureland,” the Bronx as “Frontierland,” Brooklyn as “Tomorrowland.” The big attraction for the punters is Manhattan the “Shining City,” and there’s always “Staten Epcot” but not many people visit that one. The world of tomorrow ain’t what it used to be, I fear.

Straddling the currently undefended border between Adventureland and Tomorrowland is the Newtown Creek attraction, and I’ll trust that you’ll find it a non obsequious and intrinsically interesting section of DickDisneyland during your next family friendly vacation to New York City.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

DickDisneyland has a litter problem, unfortunately, but try to view it as the stuff that future archaeologists will make their careers on, making their academic bones while studying our historic trash middens. It’s not just about entertainment here in the Creeklands (found just next door to Tomorrowland’s Sewer Mountain ride), it’s also educational. Over in Maspeth, nearby the Haberman rail siding, there’s going to be an animatronic showpiece and theater installed soon which will depict Dick Betts and the original Maspeth colonials scalping and killing the Lenape, followed by a live action raid of the theater by actors playing Maspeatche Warriors. At the end of it, the audience will be transported to Elmhurst to find out how that whole story ending up working out.

At the Haberman theater gift shop you’ll be able to buy jarred samples of Black Mayonnaise, small quantities of Peter Cooper’s Glue, and replica oil drums with commemorative certificates indicating the time and date of your visit to the Creeklands attraction here in DickDisneyland.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Management at DickDisneyland, it should be mentioned, enforces rules upon its employees and visitors which do not apply to themselves. Were a concession manager to maintain gigantic pools of standing water on their individual lots, enormous financial repurcussions would ensue as our management teams are terrified of mosquito infestation. You can’t have visitors and resident employees of DickDisneyland getting sick, after all. That would reflect poorly on the managers, and deny them promotion to higher positions within the organization.

On the properties directly administered by the management, however… well… who watches the watchers in DickDisneyland?


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Drama, drama, drama.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Why one ever tries to engage socially with others remains a question that has no answer. Generally speaking, it never ends well, and one finds himself in a “situation” at the moment which has – in fact – confirmed his worst suspicions and general presumptions about the humans. Fickle, feckless, and basically fearful are they. Not worth the effort.

Best that I retreat to my wastelands.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Accordingly, like some slime dwelling bivalve I am going to snap my protective covering shut and avoid interaction entirely. There is no point, no future, no nothing. All is worthless, and the world spins to inevitable doom.

I have had it. Done.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This dark cloud I’m under will inevitably pass, of course. I’m too personally weak to ever fully engage in hermitage. Saying all that, I want nothing to do with anyone for a bit. Just leave a message, I probably won’t be answering the phone.

Avoid me.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

July 17, 2018 at 1:00 pm

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Rabbit Holes!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One was scuttling along Jackson Avenue in Hunters Point recently, and this MTA (unit 559) Street Sweeper caught my eye. Built onto a GMC 5500 HD frame, this vehicle is technically a Stewart Amos Equipment Company Mechanical Broom Street Sweeper. The invention of the first mechanical street sweeper, recorded as such, dates back to the 1840’s in Manchester, England by a notable fellow named James Whitworth. It was a horse drawn affair, with rotating brushes actuated by road wheels. A similar device was patented in the United States, in 1849, by a fellow named C.S. Bishop. Variations of theme and function saw hundreds of patents filed for this sort of technology but things settled down when the Elgin Sweeper Company and James Murphy were granted a patent in 1917. The basic form and function of street sweepers has evolved since, but the underlying technological and engineering systems of  what you see above comes from inventor and developer James Murphy. According to environmental officialdom, the best thing that you can do as far as the health of nearby waterways is to have a robust street sweeping schedule. Also, it’s MTA Bridge and Tunnels unit operated, as you can tell from its service dress and branding. The “A” in MTA is for “adventure,” I would remind.

Rabbit hole number one, accomplished.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of MTA Bridge and Tunnels, their pals at the New York State Department of Transportation are in charge of the Long Island Expressway, which feeds some thirty million vehicle trips a year into the Queens Midtown Tunnel where that street sweeper in the first shot is no doubt employed. Greenpoint Avenue is carried over the L.I.E. by a pedestrian and vehicle bridge, and that’s where the latest trophy of the Queens Cobbler (probable) serial killer was recently discovered.

This time around, it was a size 10 Nike brand high top sneaker. Nike was founded in Oregon in 1964 by two guys, originally called Blue Ribbon Sports. They rebranded with the current name and swoosh logo in 1971, and these days Nike has 74,000 global employees and the company is valued at nearly $35 billion buckaroos. Rabbit hole two, folks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There is no greater joy than finding yourself alongside that fabulous cataract of maritime industrial splendor which the happy children of Brooklyn and Queens call the “Newtown Creek” when it’s just started raining. Is it the smell of camphor and burning electrical insulation, the way that the raindrops impact the powderized glass sand on the asphalt, or the rust colored water that flows from the waste transfer stations? I love it all.

What you’re looking at up there is the theoretical street end of North Henry Street at the Unnamed Canal tributary basin of the Newtown Creek, looking north towards Queens. North Henry used to connect to the street grid of Greenpoint prior to the modernization of the sewer plant, but what I’ve always wondered about is the significance of it being called “North Henry Street.” Regular Henry Street runs from “Downtown Brooklyn” in the DUMBO zone all the way down to the Henry Street Basin in Gowanus Bay. North Henry goes from Newtown Creek, through the sewer plant (they’ve still got street signs in there), and east(ish) to Richardson Street on the Bushwick side of Greenpoint near St. Cecilia’s on the south side of Meeker Avenue. What’s the occulted connection between the North and Regular Henry Streets?

Rabbit hole, third.


Upcoming Tours and Events

June 30th – The Skillman Avenue Corridor
– with Access Queens.

Starting at the 7 train on Roosevelt Avenue, we will explore this thriving residential and busy commercial thoroughfare, discussing the issues affecting its present and future. Access Queens, 7 Train Blues, Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce, and Newtown Creek Alliance members will be your guides for this roughly two mile walk.
Skillman Avenue begins at the border of residential Sunnyside and Woodside, and ends in Long Island City at 49th avenue, following the southern border of the Sunnyside Yards for much of its path. Once known as Meadow Street, this colonial era thoroughfare transitions from the community of Sunnyside to the post industrial devastations of LIC and the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek.

Tickets and more details
here.


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Deadman’s curve and the Pratt Oil Works, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Normally, one would not be seen marching along the LIRR tracks in Blissville, but I had my reasons. It was a Sunday afternoon, anyway, meaning that the chances of there being any rail traffic at all on the Lower Montauk would be slim to none so I decided that it would be a good time to throw the dice and hope that I wouldn’t get squished by a passing locomotive. There’s plenty of places to dive out of the way, if I were able to discern an approaching train, but that’s kind of the issue – trains move pretty quickly and the physics of how sound moves around the air dam created by the engine as it’s moving seriously reduce the “early warning” time. Saying all that, I didn’t get squished, but do not recommend you chance it yourself. It is illegal trespass, after all.

Me, I was scoping out the latest wrinkle in the environmental story around the fabled Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I went to a meeting a couple of weeks ago at the NYS DEC offices in Long Island City, which discussed the “Pratt Oil Works Site” or as I’ve been referring to it for several years – “The Queens County Oil Works of Charles Pratt” or alternatively “The Blissville Seep.” ExxonMobil has taken responsibility for the site, which ultimately used to belong to its corporate parent Standard Oil, and has (under DEC guidance) begun the process of siphoning “product” out of the ground. Said product, the ExxonMobil folks said, is distinct from the liquid product which has been oozing from the Creek side bulkheads into the water. The modern day owner of the site is largely the Waste Management company, which operates a waste transfer station along Railroad Avenue that handles DSNY collections and loads up the Garbage Train. Said garbage train provides framing in the shot above. The Queens County Oil Works was in operation from 1842-1949, whereupon the property was subdivided and sold off. ExxonMobil representatives described the materials their contractor Roux will siphoning out of the ground as “Lube Oil and wax” and the petroleum product oozing into the Creek as “LNAPL” or Light Non-Aqueous Phase Liquid. LNAPL is lighter than water and floats on top of ground water.

ExxonMobil’s contractors, Roux Associates, who handle the Greenpoint Oil Spill for them directly across the Newtown Creek in Greenpoint, has been activated to handle the Blissville situation. Roux has installed 62 wells on the property, 42 of which are recovery wells and the other 20 are monitoring wells. Waste Management, separately, has several issues they’re dealing with on the site, including a high level of acidity in the soil and the presence of toxic chemicals – specifically Toluene and Chlorinated Volatile Organic Compounds. Waste Management will be aerosolizing these chemicals, meaning that they will be using a process called “SPARGing” which will release them into the open air.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

ExxonMobil representatives were cagey about the quantity of “product” in the ground, even after I confronted them about specifics. Saying that, I’m certain they know exactly what’s down there, as engineers who have installed 62 wells don’t just do so randomly and hope for the best. Waste Management claimed that their timeline for remediation of both the soil ph conditions and the presence of “chemicals of concern” would be four to eight years, whereas the ExxonMobil folks said it’s an open process and wouldn’t commit to a timeline.

Oddly enough, a review of the combined project’s boundaries corresponds neatly to the property lines of the former Queens County Oil works. Luckily for Blissville, here in Queens, subterranean oil deposits respect above ground political and property lines. If you are technically minded, or just curious enough to “get it straight from the horse’s mouth,” follow this link for the NYS DEC fact sheet.


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