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dominant concern

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Green v. Gray, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Me and my mates at Newtown Creek Alliance, and in the larger environmentalist community, are always rattling on about Green versus Gray infrastructure. So – what does that mean? Basically, it comes down to taxes and “bang for the buck.” That magnificent new Wastewater Treatment plant in Greenpoint, pictured above, cost billions and billions of dollars. It also took literally decades to build. Technological marvel notwithstanding, the cost of that thing was borne by raising water tax and rates on property owners, who passed it on to their tenants in the form of higher rents. The plant is, after all, owned and operated by a City agency, the Department of Environmental Protection or DEP. DEP also handles delivery of drinking water, the upstate reservoirs which supply it, and a few other things (noise complaints, for instance). The agency was created in a 1983 City charter revision which combined multiple offices, including the various sewer systems of the Boroughs, into the current monolithic organization. They inherited a chaotic situation, with sewerage pipes in the ground that combine the flow of sanitary and storm water which were laid out by the independent cities of Brooklyn, Richmond, or LIC/Newtown as early as the 1860’s. During rain events, the storm water pipes introduce vast overages of water into this combined system, and outfalls – there are 400 of them in NY Harbor – act as release valves for the increased flow. That means that untreated sanitary sewerage is released into area waterways along with the storm water. It’s why you can’t go swimming at the beach in NYC after it rains, and is part of the reason why inland waterways like the Gowanus Canal and Newtown Creek are Federal Superfund sites. The Superfund situation is costing DEP money as well, which means that taxes and fees on water will continue rising, and so will the rent.

Gray infrastructure – as epitomized by the 7+ billion dollar sewer plant pictured above – is expensive to build and maintain. That plant can handle an astounding 800 million gallons of wastewater a day, but in the concretized landscape of NYC, a quarter inch of rain falling citywide translates to a billion gallons of storm water entering the system. Newtown Creek alone receives (estimates vary) between 1.4 and 1.8 billion gallons of untreated “combined sewer outfall” annually.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Green infrastructure, on the other hand, is fairly cheap to install and maintain. Green roofs, rain gardens, and open land with plantings either drink up rain or allow it to flow down into the ground and feed into the water table. Additionally, Green Infrastructure ameliorates another consequence of having paved over everything with impermeable material – the so called “Maspeth Heat Island” effect.

Heat islands occur in urban spaces devoid of trees and greenery. Masonry and concrete tend to “hold” heat and radiate it back out. Even at night, the industrial neighborhoods surrounding Newtown Creek are demonstrably 5-15 degrees warmer than the residential ones which are generally well planted. This causes area businesses to spend more on climate control for their spaces, increasing their energy usage footprints and the cost of doing business in NYC. Green roofs, like the one pictured above in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint section, change the equation. They divert storm water and keep the structure below the roof a few degrees cooler.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It can be heinously expensive to retrofit existing building stock’s rooftops to handle the loading weight of a green roof, and since there’s little to no tax incentive to do so offered by City or State, most building owners like the idea but pass on it. Given that we’re in the middle of a building boom here in NYC, and particularly so in LIC and North Brooklyn, you’d think that all of these “Green New Deal” types would be demanding that new construction incorporate “Green Infrastructure” technology into their projects. Sadly, this isn’t the case, as everything is false and a deception in the worlds of Politics and Big Real Estate.

Me? I’m realistic about life in the big City, the bottom line, and personally won’t do anything which I don’t want to do unless I know there’s a hefty fine I can avoid by doing it. The City currently meters the water going up the pipe into apartment buildings, but doesn’t meter what’s coming back out. Maybe if we did the latter, it would encourage the developers of 40, 60, or even 80 story apartment towers to embrace the Green Infrastructure concept and lessen the impact of their projects on the combined sewer system. It’s probably possible to engineer a net positive on the outflows, which might mean rebates from DEP for providing capacity. Who knows?

Or, we can just keep on building giant multi billion dollar sewer plants which cause your landlord’s water bill, and your rent, to continually rise.


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Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 12, 2019 at 11:00 am

uncovered pit

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Getting high over Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Saturday last, a humble narrator scuttled southwards towards that lugubrious ribbon of urban neglect which the children of Brooklyn and Queens call the Newtown Creek. My destination was the Kosciuszcko Bridge, with its new pedestrian and bicycle lane offering spectacular and formerly impossible to capture views of the waterway and the industrial zone surrounding it, framed up by the heroic skyline of the Shining City of Manhattan. One will be spending quite a bit of time up there in the coming months, and at different times of day. In the case of the shots in today’s post, they’re from the last two hours or so prior to sunset, with the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself transiting to the southwest – late summer and early fall skies.

It was an unimpressive sunset on Saturday, and I plan on handling that set of shots when the weather and sky is right. My next outing will be early in the morning, for sunrise with the light coming from the east behind me, and the bridge casting shadows on the water.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Other people go to the beach on Labor Day weekend, or BBQ. Me? I walk back and forth over bridges for a few hours with a tripod and a camera. Literally, there were hundreds of photos on the camera’s memory card when I came home from this exploratory outing. Exploratory? Why, yes.

One thing I’ve learned over the years is that you have to chase after photos, and that preparation and expectation are critical. You have to be “prepared” in terms of your gear being ready for duty, and “expectation” is all about having some sort of pre scouted plan in place as far as time of day, point of view, and conditions you need to work around. The new K Bridge does have a bit of vibration transmission from the BQE traffic, for instance, so… steps are taken.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The vantage point of these shots is roughly two miles from the Newtown Creek’s intersection with the East River. The original Penny Bridge landings at the end of Greenpoint’s Meeker Avenue and Blissville’s intersection of Laurel Hill Blvd. and Review Avenue are more or less at the center of the shot. The white tanks on the left hand, or Brooklyn side, are at Apollo Street. The green space on the right side of the shot is First Calvary Cemetery in LIC’s Blissville section. Manhattan is on the horizon, with the Empire State building prominently at center top.

Whew, this is probably the happiest I’ve been in a year or two. Thanks NYS DOT.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

numerous odds

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Which side are you on, boy, which side are you on?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Happy Labor Day, although if you’re historically minded, you know that Labor Day isn’t really about celebration it’s about remembering blood spilt. Say “Sit down strike” or mention Frick, Carnegie, Rockefeller, the Pinkertons, or J.P. Morgan to a modern union worker and see if they spit at the ground and curse. They probably won’t.


Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 2, 2019 at 12:00 pm

mysterious archways

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Kosciuszcko Bridge opening ceremony, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

All the fancy people showed up along my beloved Newtown Creek on Wednesday. Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office had sent out the invitations, and I was lucky enough to receive one. Our Governor really knows how to put on a show, it should be mentioned, and what a show it was. The invitation discussed him “cutting the ribbon” on the deck of the brand new Kosciuszcko Bridge, and along with a few hundred onlookers and a gaggle of media people, that’s just what he did.

For a whole lot of Brooklyn and Queens people, this event signaled the end of a long process, including myself. I’ve been taking pictures of this operation for nearly a decade.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

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 Kosciuszcko 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 Kosciuszcko 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. Here’s one from August of 2016the December 2016 one, one from March of 2017 which discusses the demolition of the 1939 bridge.

Here’s a post showing what I saw during a pre opening walk through in early April of 2017, and the fanfare surrounding the opening of half of the new bridge in April of 2017, a walk through of the Brooklyn side job site in June of 2017. Here’ssome night shots from early July of 2017. A series of posts focused in on the removal of the central truss of the 1939 bridge from the summer of 2017 – a timelapse, some stills, and the barging out of the truss.

More recently, in late September of 2017, a final series of shots of the old bridge were captured in this post. Acquisition of a souvenir chunk of steel from the 1939 bridge was described in this post, and a video of the “energetic felling” of the approaches on October 1st was offered in this one. Still shots and views of the aftermath from the waters of Newtown Creek from later in the day on Oct. 1 are found in this posting, and the aftermath of the demolition as seen from Calvary Cemetery in LIC’s Blissville section in this post from October 5th. This post from December of 2017 closed out an event filled year in DUKBO, and a visit to the site at night is described in this March of 2018 post. Another progress report was offered in June of 2018. A nocturnal visit occurred in December of 2018, a short post from January of 2019, and also one from February of 2019. Most recently, in August of 2019, I made another night time visit.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There were speeches from familiar faces – NYS Assemblymembers Cathy Nolan and Joe Lentol spoke. The audience included a series of political “powers that be,” including political bosses like Frank Seddio and Congressman Greg Meeks. Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney was there, as were Council Members Steve Levin and Bob Holden. There were a bunch of politicians there whom I’ve never associated with Newtown Creek in the past, but there you are.

Andrew Cuomo draws a crowd, and he brought his Mom along as well.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Rain threatened, but the skies held out during the speech making section of the event. Experience has taught me not to sit down during these sort of things, as you get stuck in the chair and all of your photos will end up being from the same point of view. My constant milling about earned some “hairy eyeball” action from the dozens of NYS Troopers and Gubernatorial Security people, but they must’ve figured that a humble narrator was harmless.

Truth be told, I kept on thinking about how I was just standing there on the Brooklyn Queens Expressway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If you include planning and funding this project – decades in the making – the various elected officials finally gathered to cut the ceremonial ribbon on the final stage of the K Bridge project. The ceremony ended, although there would be a celebratory cocktail hour later that night, and the crowd began to disperse.

I didn’t take a single picture at the afterparty, btw., having decided that I just wanted to enjoy the moment for once. There was a light show highlighting the new bridge, and Billy Joel was simulcast from a live concert at Madison Square Garden. Mr. Joel mentioned the bridge, his affection for the Governor, and then played his anthemic “New York State of Mind” while the light show was presented.

Luckily, a friend gave me a ride home from Maspeth afterwards, and I didn’t have to walk or spend money on a cab.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The pedestrian and bicycle section of the Kosciuszcko Bridge is everything which I’ve been hoping it would be, visually speaking. One will be spending a LOT of time up there in the coming weeks as I’ve been hungering for unhurried access to this vantage point for literally years.

One made his way back to Laurel Hill Blvd. and eventually Astoria by walking northwards along it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Unfortunately, I did have to hurry, as shortly after the ceremony ended, the clouds did indeed burst and rain began falling.

In actuality, it was more of precipitating mist when the photos above and below were captured. That’s when the clouds are scraping along the roof and tree tops and there aren’t raindrops – per se – but the air is full of droplets.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Yessiree, I’m going to be inhabiting this walkway for most of September. Can’t wait to do a walk through at night as well.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Frankly, it’s been a lucky stroke for me that this project has occurred practically in my back yard. Even more so that it crosses my beloved Newtown Creek.

Now… what’s next?


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 30, 2019 at 11:05 am

grim purpose

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Plumb Beach, Brooklyn.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Yesterday, I got to hang out with my photographer buddy Val, and we headed over to southeast Brooklyn to wave the cameras about. Plumb Beach is just east of the Emmons Avenue exit on the south side of the Belt Parkway, nearby Sheepshead Bay. It’s part of the Gateway National Recreation Area operation, and can be pretty well populated. We saw windsurfers, and paragliders, and old russian guys wearing speedos who were working on their tans. Brrrr.

Me? I set up the tripod and played around with an ND filter, as I love the “mist” effect caused by the tide. When I was developing this, I really wished that I had done another shot or two at quicker shutter speeds and wider apertures to marry in some spray and water detail with the mist via compositing. Next time, huh? You learn something new every time you click the shutter, I always say.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Yesterday’s storm was rumbling in the distance, and the sky was starting to darken. Despite this, a humble narrator scuttled onto and over a dune to get the POV offered above, looking towards the Gil Hodges Marine Parkway Bridge and over a salt marsh.

I was still rigged up with the ND filter, which is why there’s a dreamy quality to the shot, which had a shutter speed of thirty seconds. The wind was kicking up as the storm approached, and the first few droplets of rain were noticed.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shot above is the one I like best of the three, and it’s where the particular setup that my camera had really paid off. Luckily, I was using a zoom lens.

As far as I know, there’s still a few tickets left for tonight’s “Infrastructure Creek” walking tour, or if you decide to come at the last moment, walk ups are always welcome and we can transact in cash if need be. Be at the corner of Kingsland and Greenpoint Avenues by 6:30-45 p.m. in Brooklyn, right at the footing of the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge by the Miller Building. Come with?


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Upcoming Tours and Events


TONIGHT – Thursday, August 8, 7 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. 

“Infrastructure Creek” Walking Tour w NYC H2O

If you want infrastructure, then meet NCA historian Mitch Waxman at the corner of Greenpoint Avenue and Kingsland Avenue in Brooklyn, and in just one a half miles he’ll show you the largest and newest of NYC’s 14 sewer plants, six bridges, a Superfund site, three rail yards with trains moving at street grade (which we will probably encounter at a crossing), a highway that carries 32 million vehicle trips a year 106 feet over water. The highway feeds into the Queens Midtown Tunnel, and we’ll end it all at the LIC ferry landing where folks are welcome to grab a drink and enjoy watching the sunset at the East River, as it lowers behind the midtown Manhattan skyline.

Click here for ticketing and more information.

Saturday, August 10, 10 a.m. 12.00 p.m.

Exploring the East River, From General Slocum Disaster to Abandoned Islands – with NY Adventure Club.

June 15th is one of those days in NYC history. In 1904, more than a thousand people boarded a boat in lower Manhattan, heading for a church picnic on Long Island — only 321 of them would return. This is the story of the General Slocum disaster, and how New York Harbor, the ferry industry, and a community were forever altered.

Join New York Adventure Club for a two-part aquatic adventure as we explore the General Slocum disaster, and historic sights and stories along the East River, all by NYC Ferry.

Tickets and more details
 here.


Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 8, 2019 at 3:39 pm

dissecting room

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This little piggie went to the urgent care?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Somehow, a humble narrator broke a toe last night while conducting a tour of Newtown Creek. No crack or pop was sensed, but upon returning to HQ, the sort of purplish red bruise one associates with a broken bone was present, and this morning the spreading hematoma flower on my left foot confirms it. Of course, that means that tonight’s walking tour will be very interesting indeed. Not too much you can do for a busted toe, I’d mention, you just use tape and splint it up to the one next to it.

Luckily, it’s a minor toe, and is basically the Delaware or Luxembourg of the foot. Sigh… I’m just falling apart these days, a delicate flower lost in the concrete devastations of Western Queens and North Brooklyn.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Luckily, one has always had the ability to psychologically isolate pain and “put it in my pocket” when it’s inconvenient, with the notable exception of dental issues. Can’t escape from tooth and mouth problems, they’re wired too closely to the brain. A life of disappointment, resentfulness, and emotional tumult coupled with an all too human physique which often lets me down has also caused one to actively cultivate “anhedonia” – a bodily and emotional numbness – as a defense mechanism.

Anhedonia keeps you even in an ever changing and often hazard rich world, I tell ya.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The good news is that the toe doesn’t hurt much at all. It just feels like I’ve got something stuck to it, due to the swelling. The bruise looks awful, but is pretty cool actually, as far as internal bleeding goes. Let’s see what happens to old Mitch today…

Maybe one of my ears will just fall right off, or a pinky finger will spontaneously combust. Take a guess. There’s still some spaces open for tonight’s Greenpoint Walking Limping Tour available, so for those of you who enjoy watching me suffer – a value add on the ticket price.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Upcoming Tours and Events


Thursday, July 25, 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

Greenpoint Walking Tour w NYCH20

Explore Greenpoint’s post industrial landscape and waterfront with Newtown Creek Alliance historian Mitch Waxman.

Click here for ticketing and more information.


Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 25, 2019 at 1:00 pm

vast trepidation

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I’ve been colder, I tell ya.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A quick post today, with a few shots from the East River. Apparently, we’ve got a few tix still available for tonight’s “Infrastructure Creek” walking tour, so if you fancy a shvitz – come with. Links available below.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My dog Zuzu doesn’t want to leave the air conditioning, so I might have to just hold her over the toilet and squeeze her midsection in order to get her to blow off ballast. She’s a cold weather dog, and whereas I like it warm, today is just ridiculous.

Looking forward to seeing the electrical transformers start exploding this weekend?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the USACE Hayward pictured above, passing under the Manhattan Bridge. It’s job is to keep the harbor clear of flotsam and jetsam. What’s the difference? Flotsam is stuff that naturally falls into the water, like trees and such. Jetsam is something that anthropogenic in origin, as in some bloke tossing crap into the water.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Upcoming Tours and Events


RESCHEDULED FROM LAST WEEK DUE TO WEATHER

Wednesday, July 17, 7 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

“Infrastructure Creek” Walking Tour w Newtown Creek Alliance

If you want infrastructure, then meet NCA historian Mitch Waxman at the corner of Greenpoint Avenue and Kingsland Avenue in Brooklyn, and in just one a half miles he’ll show you the largest and newest of NYC’s 14 sewer plants, six bridges, a Superfund site, three rail yards with trains moving at street grade (which we will probably encounter at a crossing), a highway that carries 32 million vehicle trips a year 106 feet over water. The highway feeds into the Queens Midtown Tunnel, and we’ll end it all at the LIC ferry landing where folks are welcome to grab a drink and enjoy watching the sunset at the East River, as it lowers behind the midtown Manhattan skyline.

Click here for ticketing and more information.


Thursday, July 25, 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

Greenpoint Walking Tour w NYCH20

Explore Greenpoint’s post industrial landscape and waterfront with Newtown Creek Alliance historian Mitch Waxman.

Click here for ticketing and more information.


Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 17, 2019 at 2:00 pm

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