The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for the ‘Queens County Oil Works’ Category

hereditary predilection

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Queens is mad as hell, and we’re not going to take it anymore.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

No more. The Mayor’s plan to warehouse New York City’s most vulnerable citizens in a neighborhood of warehouses, two blocks from the Newtown Creek Federal Superfund Site and one block from the Long Island Expressway – thereby creating a two to one ratio of actual residents to homeless shelter residents in the Blissville section of Long Island City – seems to have become the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back. No more. The needs of the elites of Manhattan do not outweigh the needs of Queens. No more.

On Tuesday last, Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer grilled DHS Commisioner Stephen Banks about this plan at City Hall, and community members gathered on the steps of City Hall in protest over the Mayor’s plan. Assemblymember Cathy Nolan sent her representative David Agioloro to show her support for the cause. No more.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Monday last, at Gracie Mansion, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney joined with the Blissville Civic Association to protest the Mayor’s plan at the gates of the Manhattan mansion he lives in. Western Queens’s elected officials stand in solidarity with Blissville, as does Brent O’Leary of the Hunters Point Civic Association, Senator Michael Gianaris, and your humble narrator. No more.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Next week, as a note, the NYS DEC will be presenting their findings regarding the Blissville Seep – where oil has been migrating into the waters of Newtown Creek from the Queens side bulkheads less than a mile from the Mayor’s three homeless shelter. Their informal presentation on the former Queens County Oil Works of Charles Pratt will take place on Thursday, May 24th at the NYS DEC offices on 21st street in LIC.

No more.


Upcoming Tours and Events

June 9th – Exploring Long Island City – with NY Adventure Club.

Long Island City is a tale of two cities; one filled with glittering water-front skyscrapers and manicured parks, and the other, a highly active ground transportation & distribution zone vital to the New York economy — which will prevail?

Tickets and more details
here.

May 17th – Port Newark Boat Tour – with Working Harbor Committee.

For an exciting adventure, go behind the scenes of the bustling Port of NY & NJ on our Hidden Harbor Tour® of Port Newark! Get an insider’s view of the 3rd largest port in the nation, where container ships dock and unload their goods from around the world. See how the working harbor really works and learn about what all those ships and tugs do. See giant container terminals, oil docks, dry dock repair, and more! Tickets and more details here.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

May 17, 2018 at 11:30 am

spittle flecked

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It’s National Banana Split Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just a single shot today, depicting the Penny Bridge area of my beloved Newtown Creek and looking westwards across Greenpoint towards Manhattan. I’ll be conducting a walking tour of Dutch Kills in LIC tomorrow, link and details below, if you’d like to come along. Looks like it’s going to be a beautiful day to take a short walk along a long creek.


Upcoming Tours and events

America’s Workshop Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with Atlas Obscura – Saturday August 26th, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Explore the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek in Long Island City, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 25, 2017 at 1:46 pm

ordinary courtship

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It’s National Chocolate Covered Cashews Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Gaze in awe upon the magnificent spectacle of the incredible Newtown Creek, that lugubrious cataract of urban neglect which doth form the currently undefended border of Brooklyn and Queens. Not saying how I got this shot, but perhaps in a great and atypical feat of athleticism a humble narrator leaped from one borough to the next. It’s possible.


Upcoming Tours and events

7 Line Centennial Ride, April 21st – TODAY.

With Access Queens and NYC Transit Museum, Free event, except for subway fare – details here.

First Calvary Cemetery walking tour, May 6th.

With Atlas Obscura’s Obscura Day 2017, Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour – details and tix here.

MAS Janeswalk free walking tour, May 7th.

Visit the new Newtown Creek Alliance/Broadway Stages green roof, and the NCA North Henry Street Project – details and tix here.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

April 21, 2017 at 11:00 am

demon beckoned

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1854, lords and ladies, 1854.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Kerosene was “invented” by a Canadian named Abraham Gesner. He received the patents for the stuff, and coined the name (like a lot of 19th century industrial product names, we use the trademarked nomen as the descriptor for the entire category. It’s the same shorthand we use for facial tissue as being “Kleenex” or photocopying as “Xerox”) for a distillation of coal oil. Gesner was looking for a way to get an angle on the lamp oil trade. In 1854, lamp oil was produced from animals, in particular from fish and especially whales. When the time came to set up shop and build a factory to produce his coal oil, it was along the Newtown Creek that Abraham Gesner built the first large scale Kerosene works in North America – in what we call Queens.

from wikipedia

Gesner’s research in minerals resulted in his 1846 development of a process to refine a liquid fuel from coal, bitumen and oil shale. His new discovery, which he named kerosene, burned more cleanly and was less expensive than competing products, such as whale oil. In 1850, Gesner created the Kerosene Gaslight Company and began installing lighting in the streets in Halifax and other cities. By 1854, he had expanded to the United States where he created the North American Kerosene Gas Light Company at Long Island, New York. Demand grew to where his company’s capacity to produce became a problem, but the discovery of petroleum, from which kerosene could be more easily produced, solved the supply problem.

Abraham Gesner continued his research on fuels and wrote a number of scientific studies concerning the industry including an 1861 publication titled, “A Practical Treatise on Coal, Petroleum and Other Distilled Oils,” which became a standard reference in the field. Eventually, Gesner’s company was absorbed into the petroleum monopoly, Standard Oil and he returned to Halifax, where he was appointed a Professor of Natural History at Dalhousie University.

via Wikipedia

This was Gesner, who kind of looked a bit like General Zod in my opinion.

 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The North American Kerosene Gas Light Company, later the New York Kerosene Company, would eventually be acquired by Charles Pratt and folded into his growing Astral Oil empire (Pratt’s own Kerosene refinery was centered at Bushwick Inlet at the border of Greenpoint and Williamsburg) and would became a part of Standard Oil when Pratt joined forces with John D Rockefeller. The Gesner works are often mentioned by environmental officials, but no one ever gets specific about where they were. You’d think the first large scale petroleum refinery in the United States would have left behind a plaque or something, but welcome to Queens.

from 1909’s “The Journal of Industrial and Engineering Chemistry, Volume 1”, courtesy google books

During the year 1859 the North American Kerosene Gaslight Company imported upwards of 20,000 tons of Boghead coal for the supply of their works at Newtown Creek Long Island at an average cost of $18.00 per ton It was found that a ton of this mineral run in common retorts yielded 120 gallons of crude oil per ton which gave 65 gallons of lamp oil 7 gallons of paraffin oil and 12 pounds of paraffin wax The cost of the oil was estimated at 63 cents per gallon 5

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

A bit of work has gone into screwing down the exact location of the facility around Newtown Pentacle HQ in recent days, and I can tell you that the footprint of the North American Kerosene Gaslight Company was incorporated into what we now refer to as Pratt’s Queens County Oil Works – which is in Blissville and across the street from Calvary Cemetery. Equidistant from the Greenpoint Avenue and long demolished Penny Bridges, this is the site of the Blissville Seep, which I’ve been rattling on about for a few years now.

from a December 2011 posting at this, your newtown pentacle

Sadly, oil is seeping out of a bulkhead on the Queens side of the Newtown Creek.

Famously, the Greenpoint Oil Spill (click here for a link to newtowncreekalliance.org for more) occurred just across the water from this spot, but every indication points to this as being a separate event. The former site of Charles Pratt’s Queens County Oil Works, which was an approximately 18 acre parcel which would later be called the “Standard Oil Blissville works”, the sites occupation in modernity has little or nothing to do with petroleum.

also, from 1921′s Welding engineer, Volume 6, courtesy google books

 

There are two public Newtown Creek walking tours coming up,
one in LIC, Queens and one in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

Glittering Realms: Brooklyn’s Greenpoint with Atlas Obscura, on Saturday May 17th.
Click here for more info and ticketing.

Modern Corridor: Queen’s LIC with Brooklyn Brainery, on Sunday May 18th.
Click here for more info and ticketing.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

hellish ooze

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Paranoids and conspiracists rejoice at the Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Those who have had the scales cast off from before their eyes, when they’re not telling you that the Queen of England is a star born reptile or that the moon landings were faked, will inform petitioners about the Rockefellers. The family is reported to be illuminati, in cahoots with the Bilderbergers, agents of Lucifer itself, and or working with space aliens to reduce 99% of humanity down to the status of a herd animal. Your humble narrator is a paranoid, but ain’t that far gone yet. I do give them credit for a lot of what’s wrong on my beloved Newtown Creek, however.

from 1882’s “Annual Report, Volume 2 by New York (State) Dept. of Health,” courtesy google books

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just mentioning the name of the sire, John D Rockefeller, in connection with his Standard Oil company (which by 1892 had a stranglehold on oil refining around the Creek and owned 95% of the petroleum industry by 1911), has caused several well meaning folks to pull me to the side and ask that I not mention his name for fear of repurcussions. It seems that the grand kids and great grandchildren of the old man are funders of and heavily involved in water based non profits, and they worry about me rocking the boat, donations wise. Greater good, I’m told.

Still, its John D’s legacy that’s oozing out of the bulkheads on Newtown Creek to this very day.

from 1870’s “The Insurance Times, Volume 3,” courtesy google books

KEROSENE EXPLOSIONS Is there to be no end to the destructive ravages of kerosene. Already it kills more than railway and steamboat accidents put together, aud yet the fatal explosiveness is mainly a consequence of adulteration. Commercial traud is becoming an agency more deadly than the most dreaded epidemic it poisons the community through its drinks and destroys lifu and property by means of ti c domestic lamp The poor creatures who were left houseless and destitute the other night by the tire in Thirty fourth street may have no appeal against the injustice that diluted the household oil with elements of destruction but the State ought to take cognisance of an abuse so shameful and so inhuman Sun KEROSENE FIRE AT GKEKNPOIKT LONG ISLAND A MAN FATALLY BURNED The Kingsiand Oil Works on Newtown Creek Ureenpoiut owned by Messrs Fleming & Wells were set on lire last night by the explosion of a tank of benzine Michael Casey the night watchman was severely burned about the face and hands He is not expected to live The loss by the fire is estimated at $5,000

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Thing is, unlike most involved in the “environmental” scene, I’m decidedly not anti-business and I am certainly not some vegan muffin eating virgin who thinks that oil companies are necessarily evil. The fact is, you can’t blame a drug dealer for selling their wares to an addicted clientele, and you also can’t point your accusing finger at an oil company if you’re thrusting an arm out of an automobile window to do so.

I will concede, however, that since the Rockefellers and Pratts originally marketed their kerosene businesses as selling “illuminating oil,” that they might accurately be described as illuminati. The jury is out on the Queen of England and her House of Saxe Coburg being lizards, although it would explain a lot of things.

from 1910’s “Seventh International Congress of Applied Chemistry, London, May 27th to June 2nd, 1909 Section 3a, Metallurgy and Mining,” courtesy google books

Oil Shales of Canada By CHARLES BASKEBVILLE Ph D The use of shale as a source of oil by destructive distillation is well known in Scotland France Germany and Australia and requires no explanation to this Congress In America however this fact is not so well recognised although Gesner claimed to have been the first to produce illuminating oil from bituminous materials on that continent At public lectures delivered in Prince Edward's Island in August 1846 he burned in lamps the oil obtained by distilling coal Patents granted to Gesner nine years latert passed into the hands of the North American Kerosene Gaslight Company who manufactured the oil at their works at Newtown Creek Long Island and sold it under the name of Kerosene Oil The agents of this company encountered considerable difiiculty in selling their product

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There are two public Newtown Creek walking tours coming up,
one in LIC, Queens and one in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

Glittering Realms, with Atlas Obscura, on Saturday May 17th.
Click here for more info and ticketing.

Modern Corridor, with Brooklyn Brainery, on Sunday May 18th.
Click here for more info and ticketing.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

amidst marshes

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Now & Then on Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shot above depicts the scene on Newtown Creek, as witnessed from the site of the Brooklyn side landing of the long dismantled Meeker Avenue or Penny Bridge, as it appeared in March of 2014. This is the very edge of the borough, where Meeker ends its long northward trek across the infinity of Brooklyn at Newtown Creek. Its kind of a forgotten spot, with Blissville in Queens occupying most of the image.

nypl_1939_pennybr_sm

– photo by Percy Loomis Sperr

This shot, found in the collections of the New York Public Library, depicts the same scene back in 1939 from nearly the same spot. The well ensconced oil industry is quite active, as evinced by the abundance of chimneys. Notice that you can’t see Manhattan’s skyline in this one. Could be weather, or the choices made by the photographer, Percy Loomis Sperr. It’s probably because of the pall of smoke, smog, and industrial emissions in which Newtown Creek was famously cloaked during its heyday.

There are two public Newtown Creek walking tours coming up, one in Queens and one that walks the currently undefended border of the two boroughs.

DUPBO, with Newtown Creek Alliance and MAS Janeswalk, on May 3rd.
Click here for more info and ticketing.

Modern Corridor, with Brooklyn Brainery, on May 18th.
Click here for more info and ticketing.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 2, 2014 at 10:54 am

Hidden Harbor Tours: Newtown Creek tour with Mitch Waxman

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“follow” me on Twitter at @newtownpentacle

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On Sunday -the 26th of May- the Working Harbor Committee is producing and offering a boat tour of the Newtown Creek for any interested parties to attend. A special emphasis on the waterway’s storied history and maritime legacy will be made.

I’m going to be doing the history part, speaking in my capacity as the Newtown Creek Alliance Historian, and am tasked with highlighting the various points of interest encountered along the route. Anticipated to be some three hours in length, this boat tour will be delving some three miles inland, proceeding to the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge crossing English Kills in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Maritime History of Newtown Creek is one largely forgotten in these decadent times, but even now an odd tugboat and barge might be spied making their way down the waterway on any given day. Property owners were considered to have been blessed by some of the finest industrial bulkheads in the world a mere century ago, yet many of the businesses based along the Creek today ignore this invaluable resource, allowing their waterfront property to decay and decline.

Nevertheless, a staggering amount of maritime traffic is still observed here, and towing companies such as Reinauer, K-Sea, DonJon, and Poling and Cutler are regular visitors.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Vast operations will be witnessed by those onboard, many of which are involved in the scrap metal and recyclables trade. Responsible for an enormous amount of cross harbor shipping, companies such as SimsMetal are heavily reliant on the maritime trades for their economic success.

Not all that long ago, Newtown Creek carried a greater tonnage of cargo than the entire Mississippi River.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An active and thriving industrial zone in the center of New York City, from the water one can truly grasp the sheer scale of Newtown Creek’s busy waterfront. Normally hidden by high fences and obscured by street facing structures, the intensity of the Newtown Creek is laid bare before the admiring gaze of first time visitor and veteran urban explorer alike.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A tributary of the estuarine East River, Newtown Creek extends some 3.8 miles from its junction with the more familiar waterway, and provides demarcation for the currently undefended border of much of Brooklyn and Queens. Named to the Federal Superfund list, the Creek suffers from a history of environmental degradation and municipal neglect.

An era of great change is upon the Newtown Creek, and this trip will be one of your last chances to see it in its current form.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

We will see four moveable bridges, and this year will be your last chance to see the static Kosciuszko Bridge as the NYS DOT has indicated that construction on its replacement will begin as early as the Fall of 2013.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Along it’s banks, great fortunes have risen.

Amongst others- Peter Cooper (BO Railroad, Canton Iron, and Cooper Union), Charles Pratt (Astral Oil, and Pratt University), and ultimately John D. Rockefeller (Standard Oil)– all grew richer than the dreams of avarice in this place. Alongside them, the darkest mills of the industrial revolution- rendering plants, yeast distilleries, bone blackers, and acid factories provided tens of thousands of jobs to the immigrant populations of Brooklyn and Queens. Today- National Grid, BP, Amoco, ExxonMobil, and a host of other multinational companies still maintain an enormous investment in this valuable industrial canal.

Upcoming tour: Hidden Harbor Tours: Newtown Creek tour with Mitch Waxman.

On May 26th, Mitch shares his unique point of view and deep understanding of the past, present and future conditions of the Newtown Creek as the narrator and expedition leader for this years’ Hidden Harbor Tours: Newtown Creek tour with Mitch Waxman.

Our NY Water Taxi leaves from South Street Seaport at 10 a.m. (sharp) for a three hour tour of the Newtown Creek. From the East River we’ll move into the Newtown Creek where we’ll explore explore vast amounts of maritime infrastructure, see many movable bridges and discover the very heart of the Hidden Harbor.

Limited seating available, get your tickets today.

Tickets $59, trip leaves Pier 17 at South Street Seaport at 10a.m. sharp.

We will be traveling in a comfortable NY Water Taxi vessel with indoor and outdoor seating. There will be refreshments and snacks available for purchase at the bar.

Other upcoming tours:

Parks and Petroleum- Sunday, May 12, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Newtown Creek Alliance, tickets now on sale.

The Insalubrious Valley– Saturday, May 25, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets now on sale.

for a full listing and schedule of tours and events, click here

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