The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for the ‘Blissville’ Category

dark and shapely

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Kosciuszko, Kosciuszko, men have named you…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over Thankgiving weekend, a visit was paid to the hazy borderlands of West Maspeth and Blissville. My goal was to check in on and shoot some photos on the progress the NYS DOT is making on Phase One of the Kosciuszko Bridge replacement project. Phase One involves the creation of half of the new span, the rerouting of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, and the demolition of the 1939 era Kosciuszko Bridge, which overflies the lugubrious Newtown Creek.

Documenting this project has been a long standing project of mine – this 2012 post tells you everything you could want to know about Robert Moses, Fiorella LaGuardia, and the origins of the 1939 model Kosciuszko Bridge. Just before construction started, I swept through both the Brooklyn and Queens sides of Newtown Creek in the area I call “DUKBO” – Down Under the Kosciuszko Bridge Onramp. Here’s a 2014 post, and another, showing what things used to look like on the Brooklyn side, and one dating back to 2010, and from 2012 discussing the Queens side – this. Construction started, and this 2014 post offers a look at things. There’s shots from the water of Newtown Creek, in this June 2015 post, and in this September 2015 post, which shows the bridge support towers rising. Additionally, this post from March of 2016 detailed the action on the Queens side. Most recently, here’s one from May of 2016, and one from June of the same year. Finally, here’s one from August of 2016.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The roadway now extends out over the water and is firmly shadowing the concrete devastations of Queens, nearly crossing the LIRR Lower Montauk tracks. The BQE Onramp also seems to be coming along, and I suspect that the DOT’s contractors will be joining the bridge span to the Queens side approaches pretty soon.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of the BQE Onramp, there it is. In the foreground is one of the structural steel sections which will be joined to the span and support the road surface. Not pictured are the “panels” of the road surface, which arrived a couple of days later and which were noticed during a subsequent and unrelated visit to the area.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In the shot above, you can see how the sections are attached. This is a cable stay bridge, of course. The roadway above will carry four lanes of two way traffic, but it’s just half of the new bridge. When the western half of the project is complete, there will be four lanes in each direction, and there’s also going to be a bicycle and pedestrian path.

That’s awesome. Cannot wait to shoot from up there.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The new bridge, as I’ve been mentioning for several years at this point, is going to be quite a bit lower than the 1939 model. That’s going to bring noise issues to Maspeth and Blissville, I fear, but let’s see what DOT has planned.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The NYS DOT is currently wondering what to do with the areas on both sides of the Creek which these columns rise from. There’s talk of public space and treating the two spots in the manner of a park or playground.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Further back in Queens, to the north actually, the approaches to the new bridge seem to be ready for business. I haven’t managed to get up there yet, but cross your fingers, maybe I can talk the DOT folks into a walk through soon.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Given the fantastic sort of luck for which I’m distinguished, just as I started back for home (cutting through Calvary Cemetery) the misty murk occluding the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself began to break up, allowing the sky to turn blue and light to suffuse. I turned around and grabbed one last shot, while cursing.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 1, 2016 at 11:00 am

tangible miasma

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The native art form of Queens, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Long has one postulated that the native art form of Queens is illegal dumping. It is accomplished with a compositional flair and attention to detail that Brooklyn and the Bronx can only dream of. When you spend as much time as I do around the Newtown Creek and the concrete devastations surrounding it, this becomes obvious.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I was heading over to Greenpoint recently, to accomplish some sort of folderol, when the tableau above was observed in LIC’s Blissville section. This was on Greenpoint Avenue, incidentally.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The dumped mattresses exhibited the tell tale signs of a bedbug infestation, so I was using my telephoto zoom lens to capture shots of it – not wanting to get closer to the things than I needed to.

Bedbugs… brrr…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m not sure if bedbugs can leap, or jump, or propel themselves through the atmospheric void in some unknown manner which would indicate that they can fly like Superman, but I wasn’t taking any chances.

Bedbugs, or “vantzen” as my grandmother would have called them, are grotesque human predators. Vampire insects. The stains on the mattress covers are actually produced by their fecal matter and are literally digested human blood.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Grossed out, I propelled myself across the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge which spans the lugubrious Newtown Creek. Whatever ails you, parasite wise, will likely be cured by the therapeutic poisons of the Newtown Creek. If Newtown Creek doesn’t kill you, it will make you stronger… that’s what I tell myself all the time.

Newtown Creek, is there anything you can’t do?

Upcoming tours and events:


“The Untold History of the Newtown Creek (aka Insalubrious Valley)” walking tour
with New York Adventure Club, Saturday, October 1st from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Click here for tickets.


“First Calvary Cemetery” walking tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, Saturday, October 8th from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Click here for tickets.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

leaping shadows

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Lets talk about the Kosciuszcko Bridge, huh?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Since the big bridge over Newtown Creek’s 77th birthday is coming up – August 23rd for the vulgarly curious – one decided to walk over and through Calvary Cemetery into West Maspeth the other day and check out the latest progress which the NYS DOT and their contractors are making on replacing it. The Kosciuszcko Bridge replacement project is humming along.

As a note, this post represents no special access or anything, just some specialized knowledge about Newtown Creek and the points of view thereupon which I am privy to. If there’s an angle of view on the Creek I don’t know about by this point, I will buy you a drink for showing it to me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As is my habit, one has been keeping a running tally of posts about the project.

To start – this 2012 post tells you everything you could want to know about Robert Moses, Fiorella LaGuardia, and the origins of the 1939 model Kosciuszko Bridge. Just before construction started, I swept through both the Brooklyn and Queens sides of Newtown Creek in the area I call “DUKBO” – Down Under the Kosciuszko Bridge Onramp. Here’s a 2014 post, and another, showing what things used to look like on the Brooklyn side, and one dating back to 2010, and from 2012 discussing the Queens side – this. Construction started, and this 2014 post offers a look at things. There’s shots from the water of Newtown Creek, in this June 2015 post, and in this September 2015 post, which shows the bridge support towers rising. Additionally, this post from March of 2016 detailed the action on the Queens side. Most recently, here’s one from May of 2016, and one from June of the same year.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The roadway which will be the easterly BQE section leading out of Queens is now largely in place. There’s still a bunch of work going on up there, presumptively it involves the sort of rebar work observed in the May 2016 post linked to above.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shape of the cable stay section of the new bridge is beginning to form up as well.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The steel sections are prefabricated and shipped to the job site via flat bed truck, where they’re then hoisted up and attached to the towers and cables.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking down 56th road from Blissville into Maspeth. The area in the left hand side of the shot used to be an NYPD tow yard, which was a great example of NYC’s macabre sense of humor. NYPD tow pounds are typically in places which you can’t reach without a car, and since they’ve just taken your car…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking north towards Sunnyside from 56th road. You can really discern the difference in height between the 1939 and modern bridges in the shot above. Apparently, part of the traffic engineering underlying the new bridge project is to eliminate the steep incline from the approaches.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking south towards Brooklyn, while still on 56th road. The property fence line I’m shooting over is the former home of the Phelps Dodge refinery, which is said to be a particularly toxic hot spot.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A bit closer to the water, on another part of the former Phelps Dodge properties which isn’t quite so “hot,” pollution wise. This is the parking lot of a wholesaler catering to the restaurant trade.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The cable stay span of the new bridge is growing steadily towards Brooklyn in the shot above. To me, it looks like it’s going to be connected to the Brooklyn side ramp fairly soon.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A close up on the ramp, and you can see the itty bitty construction guys at work right on the edge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Same perspective, but wide angle. That’s the Newtown Creek flowing below, and we are looking west towards Manhattan. Again, notice the height differential between the two spans.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking south again, this time from Maspeth’s 43rd street. The contractors have a lot of their equipment and prefabricated materials staged out here.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Back on 43rd street, but this time from the very edge of the project site, looking south along the spine of the BQE.

There you are.

Upcoming Events and Tours

Sunday, August 14th, 11:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura. Click here for more details.

Sunday, August 21, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
Poison Cauldron Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura. Click here for more details.

Wednesday, August 24, 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. –
Port Newark Boat Tour,
with Working Harbor Committee. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

angled planes

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Not rodents, the groundling burrowers are instead mammalian and obligate nasal breathers.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The groundling burrowers have a nearly 360 degree field of vision, with their only blind spot directly in front of them at the tip of their nose. They are crepuscular (meaning they’re most active around dawn and again at dusk), and are digigrades (meaning that they walk around on their toes – five on the front feet and four on their stern). The sound of their screams are blood chilling, they have two sets of those chisel like front teeth, and just about every predator you can think of is after them. When one of their number spots danger, the groundlings are known to thump their powerful hind legs on the ground to alert the others.

The burrowers watch the skies. Death circles above.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The groundlings burrow into the loam. Their tunnel entrances are well hidden, from above. The tunnels themselves are called burrows. If and when a complex of these subterranean tunnels – or burrows – is found, it’s referred to as a “warren.” More than half of the population of their entire race is found in North America. The males are called “bucks” and the females “does.” Should you find a place where a warren exists, you have likely found what’s known as either a nest, or a “herd,” but what is referred to most commonly as a “colony.”

The burrowers watch the horizons, for death can come at them from all sides.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

They don’t burrow deeply, the groundlings. If at all possible, they’ll move into deep burrows dug by other animals, true rodents such as groundhogs or rats. In an ideal world, perfection would be a series of already excavated voids in the earth, which these lagomorphs could theoretically connect via individual burrows and create a multi acre warren. This would form a hidden groundling metropolis of prodigious size.

Safety is found below, where death means solace.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

First Calvary Cemetery in LIC’s Blissville section, in NYC’s borough of Queens. Founded by Archbishop Dagger John Hughes in 1848 as the primary burial ground for the Roman Catholic Church of NYC. The final mailing address for millions of humans, it is observably infested with obligate nasal breathers – these groundling burrowers. Were it only possible to witness a cross section of the mound Calvary is built into, called Laurel Hill, and the warren it contains…

Who can guess, all there is, that might be buried down there?

Upcoming Events and Tours

Sunday, August 14th, 11:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura. Click here for more details.

Sunday, August 21, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
Poison Cauldron Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura. Click here for more details.

Wednesday, August 24, 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. –
Port Newark Boat Tour,
with Working Harbor Committee. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

prodigious grasp

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From high atop Greenpoint.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The eight anaerobic digester eggs of the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment plant in Greenpoint gather a lot of attention. At the very top of these stainless steel vessels are catwalks which connect them together into two groups of four. You’re something like 140 feet up, and the entire assembly is wrapped in blue green glass.

The shot above looks southwest, across Brooklyn.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On top of each of the individual eggs, you’ll find all sorts of plumbing and control mechanisms. There’s also a view port through which you can observe the bubbling sludge as its “cooked” by the biological processes within.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just for perspective, here’s a look at the things from outside the plant. The shots in today’s post were captured from the catwalk closest to the camera.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s actually fairly challenging to shoot from the catwalks, as that green glass screws around with the camera’s light meter and sensors. There’s also reflections to deal with, which you’ll see a few of in these shots, and needless to say – the glass ain’t exactly super clean.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking down at Kingsland Avenue and Allocco Recyling, over the methane jets which burn off the mephitic gas produced by the digester eggs.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking towards the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge, towards Blissville in Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking west, over the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant’s grounds, towards Manhattan.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another perspective on the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge, this time with Blissville’s former Van Iderstine property, Calvary Cemetery, and the Kosciuszcko Bridge at the Maspeth border in frame.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Kosciuszcko Bridge replacement project is in the background, with a “green asphalt” plant and a Waste Management transfer station in the fore. That’s Newtown Creek flowing on the right side of the shot.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A wider view of the scene, this time you’ve got the ExxonMobil 400 Kingsland Avenue property in view as well.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Tomorrow – Creek Week continues, but from an entirely different perspective.

Upcoming Events and Tours

Wednesday, August 3rd, 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. –
Glittering Realms Walking Tour,
with NYC H2O. Click here for more details.

Saturday, August 6th, 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. –
Insalubrious Valley Walking Tour,
with NY Adventure Club. Click here for more details.

Sunday, August 14th, 11:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura. Click here for more details.

Sunday, August 21, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
Poison Cauldron Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

nail biting

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A bit of Newtown Creek “now and then,” in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has been at work on several subjects regarding that fabulously decadent cataract of Municpal neglect known to all as the Newtown Creek. It’s kind of big picture stuff, which requires a “long tail” of research on and about certain industries. You can’t understand something modern unless you understand its past, I always say.

For example – If I want to describe the Brooklyn Union Gas Manufactured Gas plant on Newtown Creek in Greenpoint (which is now the National Grid LNG plant on Varick), I need to possess an at least topical amount of knowledge regarding the history and technology of the 19th century Manufactured Gas Industry in New York City.

Actually, that’s not an example, it’s precisely the thing I’ve been working on – to develop an understanding of. Manufactured Gas Plants – or MGP’s as they’re known in the environmental community.

Harper_s_Weekly_hp001a_S_

– from Harper’s Weekly, August 6th, 1881 (courtesy google books)

This sort of research always turns up a few surprises, and for an area like Newtown Creek – which is of truly national importance in the story of the second industrial revolution, but for which scant historical visual documentation exists – it’s sometimes pretty interesting. Harper’s Weekly was on quite a tear about my beloved Creek back in the summer of 1881, and presented a few illustrations of “the horror” interspersed with texts describing the oil drenched mud and stinking waters of Newtown Creek.

Here’s my speculation as to what I think we are seeing in these drawings. Educated guesses, btw., that’s all.

Nowadays, the outline of Newtown Creek barely resembles what it looked like back in 1881 – there used to be a couple of islands in the Maspeth Creek/Turning Basin area for instance – but there are few historical constancies with which you can reckon location around the creek when old photos or even illustrations are presented. The LIRR tracks are one of them, and another is the Maspeth Avenue Plank Road.

In the shot above, that pile of piles on the shoreline in the center of the shot? The smokestacks on the far shore? The gas holder tanks on the horizon?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I think that the illustrator was sitting right about where I was last winter, at the shoreline intersection of industrial Maspeth’s 58th road with Newtown Creek, looking south west towards Greenpoint’s National Grid LNG site with the ruins of the Maspeth Avenue Plank Road directly in front of me.

Harper_s_Weekly_hp001b_S_

– from Harper’s Weekly, August 6th, 1881 (courtesy google books)

The view above has railroad tracks in it, ones which follow a certain curve, one that has remained fundamentally the same since the LIRR laid them down in the late 1860’s. The tall smokestacks at the left of the shot are likely those of Phelps Dodge. The ones off in the distance are probably the Haberman rendering plant. Calvary cemetery would be to your left, and I have a sneaking suspicion that the illustrator set up his tripod at Penny Bridge – which is the modern day spot that Review Avenue transmogrifies into Laurel Hill Blvd.

That would put the illustrators point of view somewhere on the eastern side of Blissville, looking eastward towards Maspeth.

photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m of the belief that this is the same shoreline seen in the left side of the shot above, although my photo was captured from out in the middle of the channel while onboard a boat. The masonry on the lower right – or Brooklyn side – of the shot is what’s left of old Penny Bridge, and the 1939 model Penny Bridge (Kosciuszcko) is right where that divot on the shoreline is in the 1881 illustration from Harper’s Weekly. Phelps Dodge would have been found on the east side of the Kosciuszcko Bridge, and their property included the gray building with the blue stripe (the modern day Restaurant Depot).

Upcoming Events and Tours

Saturday, July 16, 11:15 a.m. – 12:45 p.m. –
FREE Newtown Creek Boat Tour,
with Waterfront Alliance (note- WA usually releases tix in batches).
Click here for more details.

Saturday, July 23, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
Calvary Cemetery Walking tour,
with Brooklyn Brainery. Click here for more details.

Tuesday, July 26, 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. –
Glittering Realms Walking tour,
with NYC H2O. Click here for more details.

Wednesday, July 27, 1st trip – 4:50 p.m. 2nd trip – 6:50 p.m. –
2 Newtown Creek Boat Tours,
with Open House NY. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

afar off

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The sky is stolen, so repent… or just rent…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The cabal of entrepreneurs and bankers whom one has long referred to as the “real estate industrial complex” has been quite busy in the eastern side of Long Island City for the last few years. The sky has almost been entirely blotted out, and thousands of new apartment units constructed, usually atop brown fields and former industrial sites. This shot is from the Thompson Avenue Viaduct adjoining Court Square, and as you can see – this section of Queens has been recast in Manhattan’s image.

Unlike Manhattan, of course, there are no new hospital beds or any of the other things which you’d normally expect to find in an area being built up for a large residential population. Lately, the word “Brasilia” comes to mind when I’m walking around the modern corridor of LIC.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned last week, rumors abound in LIC that the Real Estate Industrial complex is pushing for a rezoning of the industrial corridor that runs from the Pulaski Bridge to Greenpoint Avenue, between Newtown Creek and the Sunnyside Yards/Long Island Expressway. Spotted recently on the intersection of Greenpoint Avenue and the Long Island Expressway was the sign above. This signage indicates many things to me about the sort of people who are actually driving this train, who they are, and where the money behind it all is likely coming from.

Formerly, signage observed nailed to this utility pole has included the ubiquitous “Cash for Cars” and “Stop Bedbugs” illegal postings which plague western Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Back in Astoria, we still haven’t been lucky enough to receive much attention from these folks, which is good news. We can still see the sky, and when a rainbow appears over Jackson Heights to the east – it’s still a source of wonder for all the neighbors to marvel over.

Incidentally, conversation over the weekend with one of my cousins indicated that you can still find housing that is quite affordable in the Mill Basin/Canarsie area, and that the sky and sun haven’t been co-opted by co-ops.

Upcoming Events and Tours

Tuesday, July 12, 7:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. –
LICHenge, with Atlas Obscura and the
Hunters Point Park Conservancy. Click here for more details.

Saturday, July 16, 11:15 a.m. – 12:45 p.m. –
FREE Newtown Creek Boat Tour,
with Waterfront Alliance (note- WA usually releases tix in batches).
Click here for more details.

Saturday, July 23, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
Calvary Cemetery Walking tour,
with Brooklyn Brainery. Click here for more details.

Tuesday, July 26, 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. –
DUPBO Walking tour,
with NYC H2O. Click here for more details.

Wednesday, July 27, 1st trip – 4:50 p.m. 2nd trip – 6:50 p.m. –
2 Newtown Creek Boat Tours,
with Open House NY. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 7, 2016 at 11:00 am

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