The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Brooklyn’ Category

inviolably private

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Continuing from a visit to Coney Island, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Described laboriously in prior posts, one took the Brighton (or Q) Line Subway from Astoria, Queens to the former site of the Dreamland Amusement Park in Brooklyn’s Coney Island, which has housed the NY Aquarium since 1957, and then decided to turn east in a moment of whimsy.

I was headed for Ocean Parkway and Brighton Beach Avenue when I encountered something kind of odd in the grassy border of the Coney Island Boardwalk along Surf Avenue just before it loops into Ocean Parkway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An enormous concrete sculpture of a giant squid, with its tentacles playing out over a fish.

In the shot above, Im standing on the squid.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Oddly enough since its in a NYC Parks Dept. property, and I looked around quite a bit for information on this item, I couldn’t find any sort of documentation on it. It had all the appearances of emanating from the Parks playground design people employed by Robert Moses back in the 1950’s and 60’s – concrete construction and all, but there’s “bupkis” online information about it. That’s weird.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Some enterprising Brooklynite has painted the fish caught in the squid’s tentacles to resemble the Nemo character from the Disney “Finding Nemo” movie franchise.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If anybody out there knows anything about this, and Andrea Coyle of GANYC or Sergey Kadinsky – I think Im talking to one of you, please share.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One was now on a mission in South East Brooklyn, which carried me in a generally eastern direction, and I soon found myself turning onto Brighton Beach Avenue and under the elevated tracks of the Brighton Line.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Famously, this area has become overwhelmingly Russian in the last few decades, and the storefront signs were all in Cyrillic. Brighton Beach wasn’t my destination, of course, and I was just passing through the community on my way to another one of my old haunts.

More on that in a future post, at this – your Newtown Pentacle.

Upcoming Events and Tours

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.

Saturday, July 30, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
DUPBO 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

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 20, 2016 at 11:00 am

wrenching sound

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Coney Island Aquarium, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The NY Aquarium is based in Coney Island, Brooklyn.

It is the very definition of the “House of Moses” as it was NYC’s master builder Robert Moses who actually created the modern institution. Moses had ousted the Aquarium from its former home on the Battery in Manhattan, at Castle Clinton, when he was pushing to build his Brooklyn Battery Bridge (one of his few defeats, but he got to take over the tunnel project instead) back in 1941. In early June of 1957, Moses unveiled the NY Aquarium here in South Eastern Brooklyn, right next door to the landmarked “Cyclone” roller coaster which predated it by around thirty years and which is pictured above.

As an aside, the Aquarium is the former location of the semi legendary “Dreamland” Amusement park.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Currently operated by the Wildlife Conservation Society, which manages all of NYC’s premiere animal prisons, the Aquarium was hit hard by Hurricane Sandy and is frankly a shadow of its former self. The good news is that there’s a significant amount of construction going on at the site, which should restore the place to its former glory, but there’s not all that much to see hereabouts at the moment. Regardless, due to my NYCID card granted free membership to all the WCS managed properties, I had free admission, so in I went.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The bathysphere located outside the Aquarium has to have had every Brooklyn school kid of the last sixty years climb on it.

It’s an artifact of the 1930’s, this pressure capsule, and was used by a zoologist name Beebe and an engineer named Barton (who designed, built, and maintained the thing) to “deep dive” and observe critters in the depths of the sea. It set records for depth back in 1934, as a point of interest, and the bathysphere is said to have descended some 3,028 feet down into the water.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just after entering, you encounter a dark chamber filled with tanks of various sorts of itchyan critters. It’s pretty darkly lit in there, and as the room is packed with little kids losing their minds at the sights, you need to be pretty careful where you step to avoid squishing any of the kids as they bounce off the walls.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m no ichthyologist, but I’m pretty sure that’s a ray. This critter was in the largest of the tanks. One is curious about the “behind the scenes” stuff maintaining these tanks – the filters, aeration, and circulation systems alone must represent a volume of water 2/3 larger than what you see in the tank. There were pretty big populations of fish swimming around in these displays, so there has to be some pretty interesting plumbing connected to it, IMHO.

It’s a pretty challenging environment to shoot inside the Aquarium, incidentally, as the tank walls seem to be composed of some sort of thick plastic which created a lot of visual artifacts and light refraction. It’s also, as mentioned, fairly dark in there, and the light levels are set for the comfort of the inhabitants of the tanks rather than for their observers.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My “bright lens” which is capable of large apertures such as f1.8 was deployed, and I used one hand as both a light baffle and pad for the lens as I brought it nearly up to the tank. The light baffle part was to control reflection from light sources behind the camera, the “pad” was to avoid directly touching the glass. I had autofocus on, and was “spraying and praying” the shots. Worked out fairly well, with a roughly 40% success rate, as far as image fidelity goes.

That’s some sort of weird tentacle monster above, might be related to certain star spawned deities who are both the key and the gate, and in whom all are one. Y’know, the thousand faced goat from the woods.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In another of the tanks there were what looked like schools of Cichlids, in sort of simulated lake environment. That’s what they looked like to me at least, but as mentioned, I’m no ichthyologist.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Some truly enormous river fish were observed in another tank. I’ve seen smaller specimens of this critter on sale at tropical fish stores in the past, and they’re all jaw.

One of my college jobs, incidentally, was working as an Aquarium Service technician. I’d show up in rich guy’s manhattan offices who had contracted with my boss, and I’d do all the fish tank maintenance chores for them (deep filtering, water change, chemical tests for ph and ammonia levels, assess fish health, mechanics of tank, etc.) I did a couple of Chinese restaurants in midtown as well, which were huge all day jobs on 500 gallon custom salt water tanks. Back in college, I was also a fine art mover, a clerk at a fotomat, a dishwasher – pretty much anything I could do for money I did. Once I took a job shoveling poop.

Told you that visiting this part of Brooklyn made me nostalgic.

Outside of the interior section of the Aquarium, there was a lonely looking and somewhat shy harbor seal, an otter, and a pack of penguins. The Walrus had the day off, according to the signage. Frankly they weren’t too active and nothing interesting happened when I pointed a camera at them, so…

Sharks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A temporary tank is housing the Aquarium’s collection of various shark specie.

Were Sharks capable of any thought beyond “kill” or “hunt” I might feel sorry for them, but they’re not, so I don’t. Apparently a new Shark enclosure is under construction which should make them as happy as Sharks are capable of being when they’re not killing.

Affordable housing for Sharks, this?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The only thought going through my head while struggling to get a few decent shots of these predators was the movie character “Dr. Evil” asking his henchmen to outfit his sharks with “fricking Lasers.” Like tigers, we must maintain the Shark specie in case Aliens ever invade the Earth. The Tigers will be ridden by Russian Special Forces Soldiers, of course, and will shot at the arriving fleet of starships in the warheads of missiles to greet the arriving conquerors with the unique brand of hospitality that Russians offer to invaders. I also like to think that it will be Maori Warriors from New Zealand who will ride laser and space suit equipped sharks into battle with the extraterrestrial armies. I should mention that while I was shooting the Sharks, I was listening to Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper,” so…

Personally speaking, a welcome will be offered to our new overlords, as the only mount I have to ride into battle on would be an increasingly lazy dog named Zuzu.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Remember my little explanation of how to guard against backlit reflections in photo situations like these?

This is what happens when you don’t do that, but I thought it made for a neat effect. Almost looks like a double exposure, but it’s just the reflection on the curved glass as the killers slipped by.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Having accomplished a minor goal, one’s spirits were high and an exit through the Aquarium’s Coney Island Boardwalk portal was engaged. All told, I was at the facility for about an hour.

It was fun, and a I look forward to returning when the WCS has built the new enclosures and fully recovered from Sandy.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Trying to decide what to do with myself, as I’d just spent equal amounts of time at the Aquarium and on the train ride to Coney Island from Astoria, a definite course of action was decided upon.

Before you ask, those box thingies on the stilts in the shot above house the Beach’s “comfort stations” and provide the Parks Dept. folks with offices. They run taxpayers about $2 million each, and these are two of the 35 of them being installed on city beaches. They’re built by the Deluxe Building Systems Corp., have galvanized steel frames to withstand the salty atmosphere and weather events, and are brand spanking new.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I turned eastwards, as a silly idea suddenly occurred to me, and the desire for luncheon began to rumble.

Upcoming Events and Tours

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.

Saturday, July 30, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
DUPBO 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

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 19, 2016 at 11:00 am

attic seclusion

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A travlin’ man, that’s me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pictured above is Astoria, Queens’s 31st street and the elevated subway tracks which both distinguish and curse the spot once known to a newly consolidated City of Greater New York as Second Avenue, and to the Village of Astoria section of an independent municipality called Long Island City as Debevoise Street. These particular tracks, which are known to the MTA as the IRT Astoria Line, opened for business back in February of 1917, and today carry the N and Q lines between Ditmars Blvd. and the Queensboro Bridge.

Saying that, the predecessor of what we know as the Q Line (which is part of MTA’s “B” Division’s BMT service) began coming to Astoria at the end of April of back in 1950, after the purpose built IRT platforms were modified to accept the BMT trains.

It’s actually called the Brighton Line, the Q, and that should tell you everything about where I was going last Monday morning.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

According to the MTA website, it was only going to take me 45 minutes to cross the western tip of a Long Island, from North to South by South East. This calculation proved somewhat true, and the journey took me around 50-55 minutes. On the way, I listened to an audiobook of H.P. Lovecraft’s “Call of Cthulhu” just to get into the mood.

One had finally found the time, you see.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the other side of my journey from Astoria, the first thing I noticed were the elevated tracks which lead to the Coney Island Stillwell Terminal. Normal people call that the F, but not me. What I see are the tracks of the IND Culver line, and a rapid transit connection that runs between southeast Brooklyn and Jamaica, Queens.

So… lessee… that means that even without the proposed BQX streetcar system, you can connect from two wildly separate sections of Queens to the same locus point in Brooklyn. It also suggests that since you can go further and faster using this already extant path… bah, what does logic have to do with De Blasio’s New York?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Back in the 1980’s, when a humble narrator was still a youth, this was one of the best spots in the City to spot graffiti clad subway cars, as they exited out of the terminal. This was also an area infamous for the presence of crack dealers and prostitutes. It wasn’t quite “do or die” around here, but the area in which “The Donald’s Dad” Fred Trump made his fortune was pretty rough “back in the day.”

And that’s before the Russian mobsters arrived.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My little journey was spurred on by the NYCID card which was obtained back during the winter, and more than once at this – your Newtown Pentacle – you’ve read of my desire to visit all of NYC’s premiere animal prisons. In particular, the one that’s found here in Southeast Brooklyn which I haven’t visited since grade school.

This area, less than an hour from home in Astoria (where I’ve lived for around a third of my life), is close to the part of Brooklyn which I spent the first third of my life in and is the outer edge of my old stomping grounds. Specifically speaking, my family lived about 2-3 miles east of here at the Canarsie/Flatlands border, but in the broader sense – I felt like was returning to my home town.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Lenape tribe which lived here called this barrier island “Narrioch,” which means “land without shadows.” Given that I spend most of my time in North Brooklyn and Western Queens along a waterway which the Lenape referred to as “Hohosboco” or “the bad water place” and which modernity refers to as the Newtown Creek – seeing Jamaica Bay rising on the horizon beyond Coney Island… it got me all nostalgic.

That’s when I dropped the Lovecraft audiobook and started listening to Iron Maiden.

Upcoming Events and Tours

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.

Saturday, July 30, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
DUPBO 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

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 18, 2016 at 11:00 am

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

abnormal gaps

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Cool cars, Bushwick East Williamsburg edition.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One was happily scuttling along recently, on his way to conduct a tour of the “Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek,” when a charming old rust bucket was encountered on Grand Street not too far from the centuried swing bridge named for it. Unlike other “cool cars,” described at this – your Newtown Pentacle – I’m unable to describe make, model, year, or engine type as frankly – there wasn’t enough left of the thing to do so.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I can tell you that it was a short bus, and that it still had an engine. It was missing a radiator and all the other parts which would attach around the engine, including the front end’s entire outer body.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There were four tires on the thing, so that’s something. Additionally, inside the relatively intact passenger cabin, there seemed to be quite a few bits and bobs being stored. Looks like a handyman special to me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just on the other side of the Newtown Creek in Maspeth – where Grand Street transmogrifies into Grand Avenue upon leaving Brooklyn and entering Queens – the short bus’s owner could probably find all the help he or she needs with the project at the MTA’s Grand Avenue depot.

A 600,000 square foot facility that’s four stories tall, the Grand Avenue depot can store 200 city buses at one time just on the first floor. It’s the second floor that would come in handy for the short bus’s owner, as one of the 27 maintenance bays up there would be just the thing to getting this “cool car” up and running again.

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. –
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

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 12, 2016 at 11:00 am

what would

with one comment

You wanus, I wanus, so let’s Gowanus…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week, one was onboard for the Working Harbor Committee’s tour of Gowanus Bay and part of the Gowanus Canal. My pals Joseph Alexiou and Capt. Maggie Flanagan were handling the narration, and I spent most of the trip down on the bow of the NY Waterways Ferry boat shooting. One of the many interesting tableaux encountered included the sudden appearance of DonJon Marine’s Caitlin Ann tug.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Caitlin Ann was towing a barge of recyclables, specifically metals. A 1961 vintage, 2,400 HP tug, Caitlin Ann’s story can be best explained by visiting this page at the ever reliable tugboatinformation.com.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

DonJon is a New Jersey based company, founded in 1964 by a fellow named J. Arnold Witte. In concurrence with the traditions of the towing industry, their tugs are named after family members. It isn’t limited to just the tug business either, and the company handles all sorts of hauling – including terrestrial tasks like trucking, as well as heavy maritime industrial tasks like dredging and even diving.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On our way out of Gowanus Bay, I couldn’t help but get a shot of the Abu Loujaine at the Quadrozzi Grain Terminal docks. I wrote about the Loujaine a while back, in this post from January of 2012.

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 22, 2016 at 11:00 am

ecstasy of nightmare

with 2 comments

Wandering the waterfront, that’s me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s a shot of Long Island City in the shot above, as seen from North Henry Street in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint. The tug Sea Lion is towing barges of recyclable materials from the City of New York’s Newtown Creek dock. This is my kind of waterfront, incidentally, full of maritime industrial activity with dramatic urban back drops.

The skyline behind the Long Island Expressway’s “Queens Midtown Expressway” truss bridge over Dutch Kills is brand new, the modern corridor of a brave new world.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Down on the East River coastline of Long Island City, derelict docks are found. This spot is comparatively far north and west of the mega developments happening along Jackson Avenue and at Hunters Point. This is at the end of modern day 44th drive, which I’m interpreting a century old map as having once been called Nott Avenue. Presuming I’m reading the map correctly, this is the former border between the Queensboro Freight Terminal to the north (whom these docks likely belonged to) and a Standard Oil petroleum facility to the south back in 1919.

There’s a restaurant or two found hereabouts these days, and a couple of large footprint municipal operations.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Not a waterfront shot, technically, but the LIRR operations at Hunters a Point always had the water in mind – and hey – I kind of like the shot.

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 17, 2016 at 11:00 am

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