The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Brooklyn Bridge’ Category

self styled

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It’s National Pickle Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A variety of obligations and impediments have caused one to come up short on content this week. As is my custom, accordingly, whilst a humble narrator is out perambulating about the great city seeking to ameliorate his shortcomings – single shots which I like for one reason or another will be presented at this – your Newtown Pentacle.

Pictured above – a shot of the Brooklyn Bridge as seen from the East River.

Upcoming Tours and events

Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour, with Atlas Obscura – Sunday, December 10th, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Explore NYC history, hidden inside sculptural monuments and mafioso grave sites, as you take in iconic city views on this walking tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 14, 2017 at 11:00 am

primal farmyard

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Today is the day, in 1909, that Geronimo died. His real name was Goyaałé.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Owing to other obligations and piss poor weather conditions for the last couple of weeks, one hasn’t got anything new to show you for this week. Accordingly, it has been decided to instead present a few archive shots of the various branches of NYC government which make life liveable for us here in “Home Sweet Hell.”

Today, the focus is on the NYC DOT – the bewildering New York City Department of Transportation, whom, as you might discern from some of their assets pictured above, are showoffs.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

NYC DOT handles and oversees NYC’s streets, highways, 788 roadway and pedestrian bridges (both major and minor, and with 25 of them moveable), and sidewalks. DOT also does street signs, traffic signals, street lights, street resurfacing, pothole repair, parking meters, and manages municipal parking. They’re also in charge of bike lanes, regulate private bus services, and spend about $700 million bucks a year doing all this – last time I checked.

They also run that big orange boat you see in the shot above. Money well spent, no?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Of course, there’s a lot of purely mundane stuff they do. With the help of a couple of large contractors, notably Weisbach, DOT oversees the care and maintenance of those fancy new parking meter kiosks, street lights, and road paving. They also work with and augment the DSNY during snow events with plows and road salt.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 17, 2017 at 1:00 pm

tapering arms

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Back in lower Manhattan.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Dover Street in Lower Manhattan is the stuff of historical legend. It starts its western path abruptly at South Street, and to the north is the tangled steel of the FDR Drive ramps and the always victorious Brooklyn Bridge. There are buildings on Dover which date back to the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The interesting thing is that they’re not churches, or government buildings, instead they’re shops with homes above.

As a note, when the British controlled Manhattan before and during the Revolutionary War, everything in the shot above was pretty much the East River. It’s all landfill, from the modern shoreline west to Front Street, which is coincidentally the corner this shot was captured on, meaning I was standing on the historic shoreline of the island. This is the northern extent of the South Street Seaport Historic District, and Peck Slip is about a block away. Governor Al Smith grew up in this neighborhood in the late 19th century, back when it was still a port, and Tammany ruled it all.

Al Smith is buried is buried in LIC’s Calvary Cemetery along the Newtown Creek.

Small world.

from wikipedia

The South Street Seaport is a historic area in the New York City borough of Manhattan, centered where Fulton Street meets the East River, and adjacent to the Financial District. The Seaport is a designated historic district, and is distinct from the neighboring Financial District. It is part of Manhattan Community Board 1 in Lower Manhattan, and is bounded by the Financial District to the west, southwest, and north; the East River to the southeast; and Two Bridges to the northeast.

It features some of the oldest architecture in downtown Manhattan, and includes the largest concentration of restored early 19th-century commercial buildings in the city. This includes renovated original mercantile buildings, renovated sailing ships, the former Fulton Fish Market, and modern tourist malls featuring food, shopping, and nightlife, with a view of the Brooklyn Bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Water Street at Dover is where you’ll find a solid claimant to the title of oldest bar in NYC. It’s the Bridge Cafe, which I’m told is still recovering from Hurricane Sandy damages. The original shell and frame of the building went up in 1794, and was altered steadily until the 1880’s when it assumed its present form. Bridge Cafe has a nice history of the building at their site. Doesn’t mention the great fire of 1835, but there you go.

Just down the block, Kit Burn’s “Sportsman Hall” at 273 Water Street was a saloon where you could watch bare knuckled humans boxing, or bet on the canine and rodentine combatants that were fighting in the 250 seat (400 standing) octagonal rat pit Kit maintained in the basement. The Sportsman Hall was housed in what’s considered to be the third oldest building in Manhattan (1773), which is now called the Joseph Rose House and Shop. Kit Burns and his competitors in the rat pit game are a big part of the reason that the ASPCA was formed back in 1866. Kit died in 1870, and is buried in LIC’s Calvary Cemetery along the Newtown Creek.

Small world.

from wikipedia

Born Christopher Keyburn in New York City on February 23, 1831, Burns joined the Dead Rabbits as a young man and, by the late 1840s, co-led the organization with Tommy Hadden. Both men started their own businesses in the Bowery with Burns opening his Sportsmen’s Hall on Water Street. His establishment was widely known for holding illegal bare-knuckle boxing prize fights as well as featuring such entertainment as the infamous “rat pit” where blood sports such as rat and dogfighting took place. In these events, large gray wharf rats were captured and set against dogs. These dogs, mostly terriers, were sometimes starved for several days beforehand and set against each other as well.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Not too far away, over on Canal and Lafayette, is what was once known as the Bruce Building – 254-260 Canal Street. George Bruce was a rather successful printer when he started to build his NYC headquarters back in 1856. The Bruce Building was converted over to office space back in the late 1980’s, but what makes it really special are the iron works which dress the walls. They’re the (1850) patented work of James Bogardus, according to prevailing opinions. Bogardus was the guy who pioneered the cast iron facades commonly seen on Victorian era buildings in NYC and elsewhere.

James Bogardus is buried in Greenwood Cemetery, but he was a descendent of Dominie Everardus Bogardus, who died in a ship wreck in 1647. Dominie Bogardus was granted a piece of property by the Dutch colonial government across the river from Manhattan, a point of rocky land surrounded by swamps and salt marshes, which came to be called “Dominie’s Hoek.” It adjoined a fertile waterbody still called the Mispat, but which we know today as the Newtown Creek. The LIC saloon “Dominie’s Hook” is named after him. In 1825, the Hunter Family acquired the Hook, and its been called Hunters Point ever since.

Small world.

from wikipedia

The Reverend Everardus Bogardus (1607-1647) was the dominie of the New Netherlands, and was the second minister of the Dutch Reformed Church, the oldest established church in present-day New York, which was then located on Pearl Street (Manhattan) at its first location built in 1633, the year of his arrival. Bogardus was, in fact, the second clergyman in all of the New Netherlands. (The slightly obscure early history of the Dutch colony meant that he was often considered the first clergyman.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 15, 2016 at 11:00 am

creaking or thumping

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The old part of town, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recent endeavor, specifically the Open House NY weekend event, resulted in one getting invited to a “site hosts” reception over in lower Manhattan last week. I’ll show you where that took place tomorrow, but as always, half the fun of going anywhere is the trip itself. The event invitation was for six in the evening, but since I didn’t have much else to do that afternoon it was decided to “make a day of it” and go wandering with the camera. After laying out food and water for the dog, I left Astoria and began my meandering path, one which ultimately found me in LIC boarding an East River Ferry bound for Pier 11/Wall Street that deposited me in the financial district. That’s the “House of Moses” flying around the Brooklyn Bidge, right at the corner of Dover and South Street, in the shot above.

My destination was on the east side of Chinatown, a section of Manhattan which offers a series of particularly interesting artifacts dating back to the early 19th century that somehow survived the “urban renewal” and “slum clearance” era of the middle 20th century. You can spot all three historic types of tenements in this neighborhood “pre,” “old,” and “new” law structures. It’s also a bustling section – crowded, messy, and full of different cultures bumping up against each other.

from wikipedia

Originally named East River Drive, FDR Drive was later renamed after Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The roadway was designed by Robert Moses. He faced the difficulties of building a parkway/boulevard combination along the East River while minimizing disruptions to residents. The section from 125th Street to 92nd Street is the original 1934 construction, while sections from 92nd Street down to Battery Park (with the exception of a section from 42nd to 49th streets) were built as a boulevard, an arterial highway running at street level. Future reconstruction designs from 1948 to 1966 converted FDR Drive into the full parkway that is in use today.

The section of highway from 23rd Street to 34th Street was built on wartime rubble dumped by cargo ships returning from Bristol, England, during World War II. The German Luftwaffe bombed Bristol heavily. After delivering war supplies to the British, the ships’ crews loaded rubble onto the ships for ballast, then sailed back to New York, where construction crews made use of it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

You can take the boy away from his beloved Newtown Creek, but that doesn’t mean he’s not still fascinated by sewers. This non standard drain was spotted just to the southeast of the footings of the Manhattan Bridge. It was maybe 16 inches across, and clearly an artifact of the early city. My moles inside the modern day DEP tell me that the sewers in Chinatown are amongst the worst ones for them to maintain. Partially this is due to the density of the local population and their particular propensity for dumping greasy materials into the street drains, but it’s mainly due to the age of the local system and the limitations of 19th century engineering. I seem to recall that this was shot along Monroe Street, possibly at the corner of Market, but I didn’t jot down where I found it at the time.

Supposedly, there’s a few sewers down in these parts that are lined with lumber rather than concrete. Famously, the DEP was doing repairs on a water main at Beekman Street (and on Chambers) a few years back and they happened on colonial era water pipes that were constructed of hollowed out wooden logs.

from nyc.gov

Log water pipe discoveries are not without precedent. Archaeologists expect to find historical infrastructure such as water and sewer pipes, wells, cisterns and foundations in locations where early New Yorkers lived and worked. In fact, reports of wood water pipe discoveries south of Chambers Street date back at least 100 years. The unique thing about the Beekman Street discovery is that the wood pipes were discovered nearly intact – one pipe is missing its tapered end. What’s even more remarkable is that the pipes were still connected when they were found and form a contiguous section of New York City’s first water distribution infrastructure.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

86 Madison Street caught my eye while I was wandering about. Luckily, it also drew the scholarly attention of a person from the University of Delaware named Zachary J. Violette back in 2012, who produced an interesting dissertation comparing the tenements of NYC and Boston – check it out here.

from sites.udel.edu

Alexander Stake tenement, 86 Madison Street, New York, 1889. Alexander Finkle, architect. A heavily-ornamented New York tenement, this immigrant-built and designed building shows the use of belt courses, pilasters and window support elaboration. The ornate stamped-metal cornice bears the name “Lincoln”, a reference to the president and a typical invocation of power through the use of ornament.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Given the facade work, the date of its manufacture, and a hundred other little details obvious to those of us who have learned how to “read” the City, the Lincoln building and its neighbors are “Old Law” tenements. As to the demographics of these parts, this neighborhood was predominantly Catholic (German and Irish, mainly) and a little bit Jewish (according to Jakob Riis – “Jewtown,” or the “Ghetto,” or as my grandmother called it – “The Shtetl”) was mainly on the east side of Delancey Street back in 1889 when these tenement buildings went up. The Chinese began to arrive in NYC in great numbers during the 1870’s, but their original “zone” of occupation was closer to Doyers Street, near Chatham Square, on the west side of the Bowery. When the Germans and Irish began to evacuate this area east of Bowery, the Chinese moved in.

from wikipedia

Old Law Tenements are tenements built in New York City after the Tenement House Act of 1879 and before the New York State Tenement House Act (“New Law”) of 1901. The 1879 law required that every inhabitable room have a window opening to plain air, a requirement that was met by including air shafts between adjacent buildings. Old Law Tenements are commonly called “dumbbell tenements” after the shape of the building footprint: the air shaft gives each tenement the narrow-waisted shape of a dumbbell, wide facing the street and backyard, narrowed in between to create the air corridor. They were built in great numbers to accommodate waves of immigrating Europeans. The early 21st century side streets of Manhattan’s Lower East Side are still lined with numerous dumbbell structures.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My intended destination still awaited me, but I was having a pretty nice time wandering around Chinatown. Hungry, there was a particular meal, available in these parts, which I sought out.

Now, this is one of those stories… When my Dad used to force me to work with him on one of his Saturday jobs – he was a house painter who would pick up extra cash on the weekends – it would often be in Manhattan. We’d stop off at a Chinese bakery on the west side of Chinatown at the corner of Walker and Mulberry to get a box of “pork buns” and a couple of those ultra strong and ultra hot cups of black coffee commonly offered by such establishments. Whenever I eat this particular meal, I always think of the old man.

The “pork buns” are called “Bao” and whereas Chinese bakeries do indeed produce sweet cakes like the more familiar western ones do, they also manufacture incredibly flavorful and savory fare as well. There’s all sorts of variants on these, some are steamed, some filled with custard or dried pork, but a personal preference for the baked ones with the savory roast pork inside is offered. I procured a couple of the baked Roast Pork “Bao” and a cup of that super hot coffee, and then proceeded to sit down on a tenement stoop for a quick dinner before heading off to my eventual destination – which will be described in tomorrow’s post at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 3, 2016 at 11:00 am

reptilian devils

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I want to believe…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The world would be so much more interesting if all the nutty and paranoid stuff was true. How I do wish that the Queen of England was actually a human alien hybrid, that Kennedy was killed by the CIA and a cabal of militarists, that Area 51 was anything except for a place where exotic fighter jets and stealth aircraft are tested. “Chem trails,” “banksters,” and the rest of the fantasy scenarios are all built around an elaborate mythology that paints the government of the United States as some great machine which operates with impunity and precision.

Have you actually interacted with the government? Try it out, and that should sunder all notions of the “hidden hand.” These people can barely tie their shoes, cannot keep a secret, and are more concerned with getting approval for overtime than they would be in conspiring with alien overlords (unless they were hiring). If anything, officialdom would start applying for grant monies to form committees to study the alien overlords.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For the last week or so, I’ve been telling people I meet that “Holy Crap, just the other night, Obama himself kicked in my door looking for guns to take.” The general reaction has been either “well, at least he did something” or “it took him long enough.” I don’t have any guns – I’m more of a blunt force trauma guy – but the point I’m trying to make is that the whole notion of this sort of conspiracy is sophomoric.

Try arranging a lunch date for five people to meet up at the same time and place, purposely excluding someone inside your social circle. The excluded person WILL find out about it, and loudly proclaim their resentment. Magnify that out to any topic associated with conspiratorial secrecy and do the math.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve always believed that the reason people cling to conspiratorial fantasy is the utter banality of real life. Perhaps it’s the nihilist philosophy that I cling to, which renders everything I experience as shades of cold gray. If you were a member of some cabal, there would have to be some sort of bank account associated with it to cover costs and handle payroll. There would be paperwork which someone would have to administer, and an excel spreadsheet generated to track the project.

Even Mafiosos and ISIS keep paper records. Nixon did, and that’s what did him in. Ollie North did. Bill de Blasio does. There’s no such thing as a secret if somebody other than you knows about it.

Upcoming Events and Tours

Saturday, June 25, 10:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek,
with Brooklyn Brainery. Click here for more details.

Sunday, June 26, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 23, 2016 at 12:00 pm

nervous motion

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Brooklyn, Manhattan, Williamsburg.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned yesterday, one is taking a short break – hence the singular image which greets you above. Back soon with new stuff.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours and events –

October 7th, 2015
Our Polluted History:
A Non-Toxic & Fascinating Forum on Greenpoint’s Environmental Past panel discussion

with GWAPP, click here for details

October 10th, 2015
Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour
with Atlas Obscura, click here for details and tickets

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 7, 2015 at 11:00 am

four winds

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New York Harbor, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sunday last was the Waterfront Alliance’s “City of Water Day” and your humble narrator conducted a free Newtown Creek boat tour for the festival. My tour was one of several that emanated from Governors Island, but “City of Water Day” is a citywide event and there were all kinds of interesting diversions happening in every Borough. Governors Island is a bit of a pain to get to, but luckily, after concluding my duties – an East River Ferry was just about to exit the island and then follow it’s normally scheduled itinerary, which includes a stop in LIC at Hunters Point. Deciding to “get out of dodge” and head home, and possessed of a serious desire to not get on the Subway, the ferry seemed like an ideal option.

One purchased a ticket and hopped onboard, brandished the camera, and waved it about as the boat headed North along the East River.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Along the way, a United States Coast Guard Cutter was spotted. It’s decidedly irregular to see a white hulled Coast Guard vessel in this part of NY Harbor (white hulls are generally assigned to ocean going vessels in the Coast Guard). You’ll regularly see black hulls during winter months (ice breakers) and orange hulls do harbor security work all year long so they’re commonly observed.

One suspects that the Cutter was in the inner harbor because the President happened to be in NYC on “City of Water Day,” and they were performing some sort of security job but that’s a guess.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the CGC Ridley (WPB 87328), an 87-foot Coastal Patrol Boat Marine Protector Class vessel. She’s based in Long Island Sound, and everything you could possibly want to know about her can be found at this page at uscg.mil.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The East River Ferry continued along its normal route, offering the usual fantastic views which have gained it a dedicated clientele amongst the hordes of tourists which populate it on weekends. Offered above is a shot of the Freedom Tower rising behind Moisef’s Manhattan Bridge, as observed from onboard.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

July 26th, 2015
Modern Corridor – LIC, Queens Walking Tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, click here for details and tickets.

As detailed in this recent post, my camera was destroyed in an accident.

For those of you who have offered donations to pay for its replacement, the “Donate” button below will take you to paypal. Any contributions to the camera fund will be greatly appreciated, and rewarded when money isn’t quite as tight as it is at the moment.

Donate Button with Credit Cards

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