The Newtown Pentacle

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High over Greenpoint.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One enjoys the walk over the new Kosciuszcko Bridge so much that I actually walked nearly a mile out of my way to use it the other night. A meeting required my attendance at Newtown Creek Alliance HQ, which is located in close proximity to the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge, and afterwards I headed eastwards towards the pedestrian/bike path entrance for the Kosciuszcko span over Newtown Creek. I will opine that shooting from up there is a fairly complicated process at night, due to the contrast of the endemic shadow which the industrial zone in Greenpoint offers and the bright lights of Manhattan off in the distance, as well as the vibratory effects of heavy traffic hurtling along this section of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway.

You’re looking downwards into Brooklyn, at the very intersection of Meeker and Varick Avenues, in the shot above. It’s a pretty unfriendly street scape down there, and the business on the lower left hand side of the shot with the high steel fencing still had guard dogs patrolling their lot until just a few years ago. The fencing isn’t exactly flush with the ground, and while walking by several years ago one of their Rottweilers had almost worked itself under the fence in pursuance of biting a humble narrator’s bottom. I’ve sort of avoided this section of Varick since, and have largely concerned myself with documenting the NYS DOT project of replacing the 1939 Kosciuszcko Bridge above.

I refer to this area as Brooklyn’s DUKBO – for Down Under the Kosciuszcko Bridge Onramp.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s a waste transfer station you’re looking at there, loading a municipal waste truck. Specifically it’s called the Brooklyn C&D Transfer Station, or Varick Avenue Transfer Station by its operators, a company called Waste Connections. Don’t know much about them, and I’ve never met anyone from the company. Apparently – and this is based on a single google search, so don’t hold me to it – they accept construction and demolition materials, asphalt, concrete, and “special waste.” The latter is an industry catch all term for waste materials that can include; Cement Kiln Dust Waste, Crude Oil and Natural Gas Waste, Fossil Fuel Combustion Waste, Mining and Mineral Processing Waste. It seems to be a 24 hour business down there on Varick Avenue, and I’ve never personally seen it closed. There’s usually a line up of privately owned dump trucks waiting to get in there and “tip” their collections.

Companies like this one process, separate, and then ship out all sorts of unwanted material to either other shipping outlets like rail or port facilities, or truck it out of NYC in huge vehicles like that pictured municipal waste truck. Waste handling is a big industry at the Newtown Creek, I tell you. Garbage industry folks, however, will often chime out the adage “It’s got to go somewhere.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

They seem to have a separate yard for metals here, and luckily for the wandering photographer, one of the laborers was using some welding equipment while framed up all nice by a well lit materials handler. This is what recycling actually looks like, incidentally. Most people seem to think it’s an occupation populated by Hippies and Oompa Loompas dressed up in clean white uniforms, but it’s quite a heavy industry by definition. It’s also quite a dangerous industry for laborers. There’s all sorts of slippery material on the ground, heavy tools and machines rolling about, multi ton piles of stuff… easy place to get dead, a waste transfer station is. People who work here have to be very, very careful at work.

Back Monday… at this, your Newtown Pentacle.


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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

February 28, 2020 at 11:00 am

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Happy 117th birthday, Grand Street Bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As part of the nocturnal survey of Newtown Creek one is in the midst of undertaking, a recent evening found the camera perched atop the currently undefended border of Brooklyn and Queens, and a humble narrator lost in a paroxysm of appreciation for the venerable Grand Street Bridge. Not long for this world – as the powers that be have decreed that it shall soon be expensively replaced – this beauty was erected in 1903, replacing an earlier iteration described by the United States Coast Guard as a “hazard to navigation.” The first bridge here was built in 1875, the current version is the third Grand Street Bridge.

Grand Street Bridge is the property of the City of New York, specifically the Department of Transportation. It connects Grand Avenue in Queens with Grand Street in Brooklyn. It’s found 3.1 miles back from the East River’s junction with Newtown Creek, sits at the demarcation point of two Newtown Creek tributaries – the East Branch and English Kills – and is a movable “swing bridge” which sits on a mechanical turntable that rotates the bridge ninety degrees to allow maritime egress.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The western sidewalk of the bridge doubles as a bike path, which few bicyclists actually use, seemingly preferring to just use the vehicle lanes. Heavily trafficked by MTA buses going to and from their Grand Avenue Bus Depot on the Maspeth, Queens side, the bridge is narrow and a causal factor in many of the traffic problems experienced in Maspeth, Ridgewood, East Williamsburg, Bushwick, and eastern Greenpoint. This is due to the narrowness of the thing, which modern trucks cannot cross two abreast. Instead, drivers wait for traffic to clear the span, which causes backups that stretch for multiple blocks.

Even late at night, when these shots were gathered, it was quite a bother finding a 30 second interval without a heavy vehicle crossing. The Grand Street Bridge shakes and shimmies when even a passenger car crosses it, whereas the passing of a bus or a garbage truck triggers a local bridge quake. Said vibration is ruinous for a tripod mounted camera.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Next up on my 2020 survey of the Newtown Creek will be the extreme eastern side of the waterway, followed by a series of walks down the visually miserable Brooklyn side of it. The reason it’s miserable is that are so few places where you can access or even view the water, as opposed to the Queens side where – as you’ve seen in recent weeks – there are multiple points of view worth looking at. Hopefully this is something I can find the time and opportunity to accomplish in the next couple of weeks.

Tomorrow, something different at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


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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.

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A whole lot of garbage.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The high flying pedestrian and bike lane section of the new Kosciuszcko Bridge is something which I’ve been waiting to explore and exploit since I first learned of the bridge replacement project years ago. The bridge(s) officially opened last year, and I personally witnessed our Sith Lord Governor cut the ceremonial ribbon on the project with that red laser sword of his, but Darth Cuomo was fibbing when he said construction was done. The Governor would likely offer that he finds my lack of faith disturbing.

Principal construction, yes, but the contracts for this project don’t end until at least the end of 2020. Within two days of the official opening, vehicle lanes were blocked off by jersey barriers vouchsafing construction equipment and tool sheds, and orange netted wooden breastworks were once again hugging the bridge’s superstructure and perfectly visible to the children of Blissville and Maspeth. While I was on the bridge last week, for instance, a crew of Union electricians were working on perfecting the street lights illuminating the roadway. That’s the Sith way, I guess.

I’m still trying to figure out how to photograph that series of unearthly LED generated “colours out of space’ which the decorative lighting systems produce.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

See that Waste Transfer Station pictured above, found in Greenpoint?

Hostile reaction to the presence of wandering mendicant photographers over the years at this site have marked my general preoccupation with recording its splendors. Once, a brusque exchange with some hard hatted fellow driving a pickup truck resulted in a humble narrator being actively pursued as he walked quickly away from a threatened physical encounter. I lost the guy after darting across Meeker Avenue, but for a minute there I was sweating. It was August, so I was sweating anyway, but…

Don’t mess with the garbage guys, they specialize in making things disappear and go away. Newtown Creek, especially back here, isn’t Disneyworld and it’s real easy to get hurt if you don’t know the lay of the land. Say it with me – BROOKLYN.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Despite it all, I do love a good mound of trash.

A problem our City has, though, revolves around trucks being the primary means for transporting this material out of the City after it’s processed. Big players in this industry like Allocco Recycling and Sims Metal use maritime industrial resources to float our recyclable waste away on barges, towed by Tugboats. Waste Management has two giant facilities along the Creek which are serviced by railroad, providing the putrescent cargo which the infamous “Garbage Train” hauls through the Fresh Pond Yard and out of Queens over the Hell Gate Bridge. In either example, however, local collection trucks operated by DSNY or private carters focus their routes in on narrow corridors and intersections around the Newtown Creek, logarithmically increasing traffic in the surrounding residential neighborhoods, on their way to and from any or all of these “waste transfer stations.”

As I remind the “bicycle people” all the time, their quest for safer streets is directly related to reducing the personal waste flow of every New Yorker. According to officialdom, the average New Yorker produces about 1,300 lbs. of garbage a year. Reduce that by even a single percentile, and you’ve taken some of these trucks off the streets. Garbage, lords and ladies, will bury us all.

One wishes Darth Cuomo could fix that.


“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

January 8, 2020 at 11:00 am

thing depicted

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Happy Birthday Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One will not assert that the Verrazzano is in fact a giant cage designed to contain a Lenape earth monster submerged in NY Harbor. Instead, the focus is on the engineering achievements of Othmar Amman and the organizational prowess of Robert Moses – the two fellas who are primarily responsible for the Verrazzano opening on November 21, 1964.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator will avoid rattling on about how in just five years Moses’ crews of more than 12,000 laborers constructed the thing, nor about its various statistics and cyclopean size. One will mention that the 228 feet of clearance over high water offered by the Verrazzano Narrows Bridge is the governing height used by maritime engineers for how high to build all sorts of shipping. Sooner or later, every ship on the planet will theoretically enter NY Harbor, and the Verrazzano is the gatekeeper.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The only mistake in this fairly sublime structure’s design was the omission of a mass transit trackway between Brooklyn and Staten Island, in my opinion. The upper deck opened on this day in 1964, but the lower roadway was still under construction and wouldn’t be available for use until June 28 of 1969.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My pal Kevin Walsh of Forgotten-NY, whose childhood in Brooklyn’s Bay Ridge section was framed by construction of the Verrazzano, gave a talk last night at the Bay Ridge Historical Society about the span. I wasn’t able to attend, but I’ve also been privileged to receive his remembrances about the thing in person.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It seems that the towers of the Verrazzano are fairly infested with nesting Peregrine Falcons, so it can rightfully be referred to as an aerie. Down below, on the water, it’s a maritime superhighway, as the Ambrose Channel leads commercial shipping into NY Harbor towards Port Elizabeth Newark under the bridge. Suffice to say that a significant number of sensors and scanners are secreted and secured to the span, searching for various security threats which might be carried in to the inner harbor on these ships.

Friends in the maritime industrial world have opined, regarding these devices and technologies which they can’t talk about, that “it’s like Star Trek.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Today marks 55 years for the Verrazzano. As far as the “mythological” senses shattering behemoth that the Lenape whispered of as being “the grandfather of turtles,” which the Verrazzano’s great weight keeps locked in a primeval prison, the less said the better.

There are also things dwelling in the waters on the… Staten Island… side of the narrows which we must not ever talk about, lest they arise.


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Buy a book!

Limited Time 25% off sale – use code “gifts25” at checkout.

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

November 21, 2019 at 1:00 pm

correlated causeways

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Eleven bridges, one creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pulaski Bridge is the first span you encounter, when you’ve left the East River and embarked on a journey down the fabulous Newtown Creek. A double bascule drawbridge, and electrically powered, the Pulaski Bridge connects 11th street in Long Island City with McGuinness Blvd. to the south in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint. Built in 1954, the Pulaski Bridge is owned and operated by the New York City Department of Transportation or “NYC DOT.” The Pulaski Bridge carries five lanes of traffic, plus a dedicated bicycle lane and a separate pedestrian pathway. It overflies the Queens Midtown Tunnel and Long Island Expressway, as well as active railroad tracks found on Borden Avenue.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

DB Cabin acts as a gatekeeper to the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek. It’s a railroad swing bridge owned by the Long Island Railroad, and connects two rail yards – the Wheelspur Yard (to the west, or left in the shot above) and the Blissville Yard – across the water. Both rail yards and the bridge itself are part of the LIRR’s Lower Montauk tracks. DB Cabin dates back to the 1890’s and is in a terrible state of repair. The swing bridge’s motors are nonfunctional, which isolates the Dutch Kills tributary from maritime traffic, and from the rest of the Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Cabin M is just to the north of DB Cabin on Dutch Kills, and the single bascule drawbridge connects the Montauk Cutoff with the Blissville Yard mentioned above. The Montauk Cutoff is an elevated track which used to provide a connection between the LIRR’s Main Line tracks at the nearby Sunnyside Yards with the Lower Montauk tracks along the north (or Queens side) shoreline of Newtown Creek. The 2020 Capital Plan just released by the Long Island Railroad’s owner – The MTA – includes funding to demolish Cabin M.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Borden Avenue Bridge is owned by the NYC DOT, and is one of just two retractile bridges in NYC (the other being the Carroll Street Bridge over the Gowanus Canal). Built in 1908 to replace an earlier wooden drawbridge (1868) at the intersection of Borden Avenue and Dutch Kills, Borden Avenue Bridge received extensive upgrades and structural repairs in 2010 and 2011, and had its electronic components destroyed by flooding during Hurricane Sandy. Another round of repairs and upgrades began in 2019, which included asbestos abatement work.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Long Island Expressway is 71 miles long, and is operationally managed in three sections. The Queens Midtown Expressway is how it’s owners, the New York State Department of Transportation, refer to the section found between the Queens Midtown Tunnel and Greenpoint Avenue in Long Island City. This section is elevated, rising to 106 feet above the waters of Dutch Kills. The LIE truss pictured above handles some 87.7 thousand daily vehicle trips, or 32 million annually, to and from Manhattan,

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Hunters Point Avenue Bridge is due north west of Borden Avenue Bridge and the LIE truss. It’s a single bascule drawbridge, owned by the NYC DOT. Replacing an earlier wooden draw bridge that was opened and closed by a donkey walking on a wheel, the Hunters Point Avenue Bridge was built in 1910. Back then, it was a double bascule bridge, but a rebuild in the 1980’s simplified the mechanism to a single bascule. The masonry of the bridge is original to the 1910 design.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Greenpoint Avenue Bridge is found some 1.37 miles from Newtown Creek’s intersection with the East River, and roughly a half mile from the mouth of Dutch Kills. It’s a double bascule bridge, built in 1987, and owned and operated by the NYC DOT. There have been many Greenpoint Avenue Bridges, dating back to the first one built by Greenpoint’s town father Neziah Bliss back in 1850, but that one was called the “Blissville Bridge.” The Greenpoint Avenue Bridge is a traffic machine, carrying 28.3 thousand vehicle trips a day, or about ten million a year. Most of that traffic takes the form of heavy trucking.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The brand new Kosciuszko Bridge(s) replaced a 1939 vintage truss bridge that carried the Brooklyn Queens Expressway over Newtown Creek and are found some 2.1 miles from the East River. The NYS DOT is busy putting the finishing touches on the new cable stay bridge’s construction. In addition to the… ahem… high speed traffic lanes of the BQE, there is also a pedestrian and bicycle pathway found on the new Kosciuszko Bridge which connects 43rd street in Queens’s Sunnyside section with Meeker Avenue in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Grand Street Bridge is a swing bridge connecting Maspeth’s Grand Avenue in Queens with East Williamsburg/Bushwick’s Grand Street in Brooklyn. 3.1 miles back from the East River, in a section of Newtown Creek once called “White’s Dock,” the NYC DOT have recently announced plans to replace this 1909 beauty – which is actually the third bridge to occupy this spot. Damage from Hurricane Sandy, and the narrow roadways with height restrictions that the bridge offers, have pretty much sealed its fate. It will be missed.

This is where the main spur of Newtown Creek ends, as a note. Directly east is a truncated tributary called the East Branch, and another tributary called English Kills makes a hard turn to the south just before you encounter Grand Street Bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Metropolitan Avenue Bridge is a double bascule drawbridge that crosses the English Kills tributary of Newtown Creek, and is owned by the NYC DOT. Metropolitan Avenue was originally built as a private toll road in 1813, and the first bridge here was a part of the “Williamsburg and Jamaica Turnpike.” The current Metropolitan Avenue Bridge was built in 1931, although it has received significant alterations in 1976, 1992, 2006, and again in 2015. The 2015 alterations?

You guessed it, Hurricane Sandy strikes again.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Montrose Avenue Rail Bridge is the final crossing found over the waters of Newtown Creek and its tributaries. Some 3.7 miles back from the East River, it’s the property of the Long Island Railroad and used for freight service on their Bushwick Branch tracks. A truss bridge, or trestle if you must, my understanding of things are that whereas the trackway and parts of the rail bridge date back to approximately 1924… there has been quite a lot of work done on the thing which I have not been able to fully document so rather than fill in blanks with assumptions – I’m just going to say that I don’t know everything… yet.

It’s an active track, it should be mentioned.


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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.

agonizing mortality

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Three Boroughs today.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Right up there is the very first shot ever published at your Newtown Pentacle, which is an oldie but a goodie. Queensboro Bridge just before it’s centennial parade, and I was the only person on the upper level when this was captured. Archive shots will be greeting y’all for a bit while my smashed toe heals, an endeavor which is shaping up to be quite the ordeal. I’m heading over to the hospital later on to get it properly looked at, since – despite one of my hidden talents being first aid and the ability to tie off a sterile field dressing – things aren’t progressing as I’d like them to and I have to consult with somebody whose first name is Doctor.

I really cannot afford to do this, invoking the broken medical system here in NYC, but you have to do what you have to do and a possible infection related to a broken bone is not something you want to play around with.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m not sure what the name of that rail bridge is in the shot above, but I can tell you that it’s in the Bronx. Another archive shot, I captured it during another one of the Centennial events about ten years ago, celebrating the Madison Avenue Bridge.

Man, my foot is killing me today. The swelling has gone down, but that means that I can now fully experience and enjoy the injury.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s what it looks like when the ship or boat you’re on is entering the Gowanus Canal, and that’s the Hamilton Avenue Bridge. Got this one a while back on a Working Harbor Committee excursion to Gowanus Bay and the canal. My pal Joseph Alexiou was on the mike, who is someone you should be paying attention to on all matters involving the Gowanus and South Brooklyn in general.

Oww.


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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

November 1, 2019 at 1:00 pm

tardy confessions

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Better late than never, huh?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Single shot today, depicting the newly renamed Newtown Creek Waste Reclamation Center… or something like that… as DEP just changed its name again. Y’know, the sewer plant in Greenpoint with the big silver eggs? That one, yeah. At night.

Back tomorrow with something more substantial, but just as moist.


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Come on a tour!

With Atlas ObscuraInfrastructure Creek AT NIGHT! My favorite walking tour to conduct, and in a group limited to just twelve people! October 29th, 7-9 p.m.

Click here for more information and tickets!

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

October 22, 2019 at 6:27 pm

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