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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Before I offer a conspiracy theory in today’s post, lets instead start with a bit of NY Harbor trivia – the height of all ships doing business within the Port of New York and New Jersey is governed by the height of the Verrazano Bridge’s span, as relative to the water. All cargo, military, and cruise ships which can be anticipated to someday enter NY harbor are actually designed with the Verrazano’s height in mind.

That means, ultimately, that this last exemplar of the House of Robert Moses erected in 1964, which sets a maximum height limit of exactly 228 feet over the water (at high tide), controls the design of a good chunk of the planet’s shipping fleets (although you’d be scraping the Verrazano’s deck at 228′ so they build them a bit shorter). A somewhat contemporaneous counterpart to the Verrazano is the Puente de las Américas (Bridge of the Americas) over the Panama Canal, which also plays a major role in the design of maritime vessels, setting a height limit of 201 feet over high water for any and all vessels using the crossing. The other approach to the Port of New York and New Jersey is governed by the Goethals Bridge over the Arthur Kill, which offers 135 feet of clearance, just to be entirely anal retentive about things.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Verrazano Bridge is startlingly enormous, with a main span over the narrows stretching out for nearly a mile at 4,260 feet. Engineer Othmar Amman always liked to point out that his team had to take the curvature of the Earth itself into account when designing and placing the towers, which are off parallel to each other by 1.625 inches. When you add in the approaches on either side to the bridge, the entire thing is some 13,700 feet in length – roughly 2.6 miles. It’s now the 11th largest suspension bridge in the world, and the longest found on either American continent.

There are 143,000 miles of wire incorporated into its cables, enough to wrap around the earth’ equator 5.74 times or stretch half way to the moon. Its towers are 649.68 feet tall, making them the tallest structures outside of Manhattan in all of New York City. It carries nearly 190,000 vehicle trips a day, 69.35 million annually. The best estimates I’ve been able to find suggest that the combined steel of the bridge weighs some 1,265,000 tons.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Verrazano Bridge, due to its position and height, is affected by weather more heavily than any other span in New York Harbor. The roadway will actually sag down about a dozen feet during the summer months due to heat expansion, and the winds one encounter on the upper roadway preclude any discussion of pedestrian or bicycle paths being established. One can personally report that while driving over the thing during storms, my automobile was being rocked from side to side by heavy gusts of wind. The bridge is owned and operated by the MTA Bridges and Tunnels division, which is what Governor Nelson Rockefeller turned Robert Moses’s old Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority into.

The people at Bridges and Tunnels have a set of rules and customs governing the bridge during harsh weather conditions, which all depend on whether or not the roadways are wet or not, and whether the winds are either sustained or gusting. Speed restrictions begin to apply at 30 mph sustained winds and wet roads, while wet conditions coupled with sustained wind over 40 mph might trigger restrictions on crossings by motorcycles, mini buses, tractor trailers and other types of vehicles.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve noticed, over the years, that all of NYC’s bridges are possessed of a certain and unique to the span harmonic. Partially, it’s how the structure of the bridge interacts environmentally and also because of the sound of the vehicles running over it cause a vibration as their tires spin against the decks. To my hearing, the Verrazano makes a “wmmm-mmm-mhoooooosh-shhh” sound, but that could just be the particular interaction with the roadway of the vehicles which a humble narrator crosses the thing within, which have always been passenger cars. It’s efficacious to close your windows on the bridge no matter what, lest a torrent of air suddenly swirl into the passenger cabin, causing disarray and a tumult. I’ll leave it to musicians to tell you what key the Verazzano Bridge is in.

Like all MTA Bridges and Tunnel crossings, certain types of vehicles are forbidden. These types of vehicles (amongst others) include steam rollers, vehicles loaded with unconfined animals or poultry, wheelbarrows, and velocipedes.

Yes, they specifically mention velocipedes in the rules.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve always thought, with the born and raised in Brooklyn perspective that I am possessed by, that the bridge is actually some sort of giant shackle forcing the former City of Richmond or… Staten Island… not to secede from the City of Greater New York and join up with New Jersey instead. A mass exodus of Brooklynites, including my own parents, occurred during the late 1980’s and 90’s to Staten Island over the thing. Most of them, to quote my Dad, were “sick of this shit, and wanted to get the ‘eff out of here,” referring to the colloquialized “old neighborhood” which was “better back then.” I still don’t believe the old adage about being able to leave your door unlocked at night. Rent was a bit cheaper on Staten Island however, my parents perception of crime was far lower, and the semi suburban lifestyle encountered on Staten Island appealed to them in their retirement and dotage. They were also one step closer to Atlantic City where they liked to go on weekends away.

Staten Island is “car country,” unlike the city center neighborhood of Astoria, Queens where I now live. Mass transit (other than the ferry, I mean) exists but… you kind of need to have a car on Staten Island.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Now for the conspiracy theory: A humble narrator is an idiot, of course, and has always cherished a personal theory that Robert Moses knew something more about NYC than he was letting on. Famously, before beginning his government career, Moses wandered the countryside on foot. Robert Caro suggests that even at a young age, he was planning highways and parks. Pffft… who does that at an early age? Moses was monster hunting, obviously, and he must have found something terrifying during his wanderings. I mean… c’mon… that’s fairly obvious, right?

Why else would he have built a steel and concrete cage around New York Harbor? Would old Bob Moses really have gone out of his way to destroy the coastal wetlands, swamps, and tidal marshes (which are precisely the sort of places you’d find monsters like “Grendels Mother” lurking) of New York Harbor for no reason other than malice? After conquering the human/fish hybrids at Hells Gate with his mighty Triborough, he set about the process of creating the world’s biggest padlock here in the narrows to close the door on his monstrous gate.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Who can guess, all there is, that might be imprisoned down there beneath the 1,265,000 tons of steel? Is the arterial highway and bridge crossing system of New York City actually some sort of great barrier designed to keep slime dripping colossi in check? Is there some dark secret which will be held forever unknowable and immobile by the Verazzano Bridge?

What hidden and occult knowledge did Robert Moses take to the grave with him?


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cemented hillocks

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Today is World Food Day, on this hungry planet.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As promised, here’s a few shots gathered on Friday the 13th at the Atlas Obscura “Into the Veil” event at Greenwood Cemetery. A friend I was showing them to on Friday asked me what the “night into day” technique I employed to capture these images entails other than long exposure times, and I tried to explain the exacting series of steps and settings which are employed, but by then he had fallen asleep. It’s complicated.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In a couple of instances, I hung a work light of the front of my tripod. The shot above is a fair representation of what was within the range of human vision. The moon was occluded on Friday by heavy cloud cover and atmospheric humidity was quite high, which is ruinous for this sort of shooting due to the scattering and consumption of light by airborne moisture.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The same setup, this time employing the whole checklist of “night into day” techniques which I’ve been working on. The difficult part of this, and why I’m stifled with the result, involves the sky – which isn’t blown out.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

LED lighting continues to grow in popularity, but it provides a bugbear of problems for digital photography. LED lights are actually strobing hundreds of times a minute, and throwing out weird wavelengths of saturated color light which the camera sensor struggles to interpret. Notice the difference between the automotive brake light generated red streak on the hill and the unnaturally garish reds of the LED architectural light on the Steinway Chapel at Greenwood.

Just have to figure out how to conquer that one, as I don’t think LED’s are going away anytime soon.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 16, 2017 at 2:15 pm

thunder crazed

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It’s National Yorkshire Pudding Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Tonight, one will finally get to do something purely by choice rather than circumstance or obligation, as I’m attending Atlas Obscura’s “Into the Veil” event at Greenwoord Cemetery. Well… my plan doesn’t exactly revolve around “attending” so much as being in the Cemetery while the Atlas event is going on. A humble narrator is going to figure out where the crowds are headed and then me, the camera, and my trusty tripod are going off in an entirely different direction to do some long exposure night shots of the type contained in today’s post. I will consider tonight a great success if I do not have to talk to anyone.

It’s been a while since I was able to just “take pictures.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last year, I made the mistake of going with a group to this thing. The herd dynamic found us wandering about in broad and aimless circles punctuated by sudden panicked urgency, as one person after the other suddenly announced that they needed to urinate. No one seemed to be able to coordinate their lavatorial schedules with the rest of the group, so it was fairly rare to get a ten minute interval of shooting in before we had to run off in the direction of a porta potty.

I’m like a camel in this regard, and when out “in the field,” carefully monitor the amount of liquids one consumes so as to not necessitate biological crises. Others in my group last year were convinced that they were visiting a Kuwaiti desert and required constant hydration, which resulted in excessive urination, as Greenwood is in… y’know… Brooklyn.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My photographic plan for tonight revolves around long exposures and my unpatented “night into day” techniques. “Night into Day,” as I call it, involves exposures in the half minute to minute range accompanied by the usage of extremely narrow apertures, a tripod, and shutter release – for the curious. All the shots in today’s post were accomplished using this sort of procedure, for example the shot above was invisible to the human eye and was just a vast expanse of darkness, and my hope is that tonight I can capture a few memorable shots at Greenwood.

I’ll show you what I got next week, at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


Upcoming Tours and events

The Hidden Harbors Of  Staten Island Boat Tour,
with Working Harbor Committee – Sunday, October 15th, 2 p.m. – 4 p.m.

A very cool boat tour that visits two of the maritime industrial waterways of New York Harbor which adjoin Staten Island and Bayonne in New Jersey – The Kill Van Kull and the Arthur Kill. There will be lots of tugboats, cargo docks, and you’ll get to see multiple bridges from the water – including the brand new Goethals Bridge. I’ll be on the mike, narrating with WHC board member Gordon Cooper details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 13, 2017 at 1:00 pm

sounds heard

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It’s apparently National Soft Taco Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Unusual is a Sunday evening post at your Newtown Pentacle, but I wanted to get that piece of Kosciuszcko Bridge demolition video live – asap. Above is a panorama image of the scene as witnessed from about .6 of a mile eastwards of the span at the Maspeth Avenue Plank Road just as the smoke began to clear. I’ve been a busy bee for the last 48 hours, developing shots of the event. I also had to conduct a Newtown Creek tour for a class from the University of Toronto in the afternoon, which was a combination of a walking tour and a boat tour (via the North Brooklyn Boat Club). 

The shots in today’s post were captured in the late afternoon of Sunday, October 1st from the waters of the fabulous Newtown Creek, and it’s the scene you’ll observe in DUKBO – Down Under the Kosciuszcko Bridge Onramp.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

North Brooklyn Boat Club is based alongside the Pulaski Bridge (which about 1.5 miles west of the Kosciuszcko Bridge) in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint section. The NBBC has two large canoes which can make bringing small groups of people out onto Newtown Creek possible. After a brief instruction about safety and how to handle the crafts, we all donned life vests and turned the marine radio’s switch to “on” and got onboard.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The scene in DUKBO is otherworldly, with the highway having settled into neat slabs along the still extant concrete piers of the 1939 Kosciuszcko Bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is the Brooklyn side.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The steel piers are still standing, and will no doubt be disassembled via conventional demolition techniques.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking westwards, along the bulkheads of the National Grid properties at Greenpoint’s border with Bushwick (or East Williamsburg if you must).

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the Queens side, in the shot above.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This closeup is looking northwards, along the Blissville section of Long Island City’s border with Maspeth, towards Sunnyside. For reference, this used to be the NYPD tow yard.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As early as Sunday afternoon, there were already wielders with torches (and other labor going on as well) cutting into the rubble. This giant piece of steel truss, as far as I could discern from my vantage, was laying across the Lower Montauk Tracks of the LIRR.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I imagine getting the right of way clear as quickly as possible is a major priority.

As a note, the students from the University of Toronto we were guiding around had seemingly lost the ability to speak at this point and had become lost in the terrible majesties of the lugubrious Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As you’re reading this, I’m heading over to the Newtown Creek to go see what’s going on, and I’ll update you as things progress at the Kosciuszcko Bridge site at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


Upcoming Tours and event

Exploring Long Island City, from Luxury Waterfront to Abandoned Factories Walking Tour,
with NY Adventure Club – Saturday, October 7th, 1 p.m. – 3 p.m.

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

The Hidden Harbors Of  Staten Island Boat Tour,
with Working Harbor Committee – Sunday, October 15th, 2 p.m. – 4 p.m.

A very cool boat tour that visits two of the maritime industrial waterways of New York Harbor which adjoin Staten Island and Bayonne in New Jersey – The Kill Van Kull and the Arthur Kill. There will be lots of tugboats, cargo docks, and you’ll get to see multiple bridges from the water – including the brand new Goethals Bridge. I’ll be on the mike, narrating with WHC board member Gordon Cooper details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

shrewd questioning

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It’s National Pecan Cookie Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For the last few days, a humble narrator has carried you around Calvary Cemetery in the Blissville section. As mentioned, I always have at least one ulterior motive or backup plan involving anything I do. My purpose in coming here was to walk out the route which I was going to guide a group around the place via during a walking tour, refamiliarizing myself with sight lines and “rehearsing” as it were. Along the way, however, there was so much to see that the camera was clicking and whirring away as I walked through the ancient polyandrion.

My ulterior motive today was to document the current phase of the demolition of the old Koscisuzcko Bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Long time readers of this – your Newtown Pentacle – will tell you that this bridge replacement project has been explored before.

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 Kosciuszko 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 Kosciuszko 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’s some night shots from early July of 2017. Finally – Here’s a series of posts focusing 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.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The “explosive” or “energetic demolition” of the remainders of the old bridge was originally meant to happen this Sunday the 24th of September, but for a variety of reasons – including the high winds and weather induced by Hurricane Jose out in the Atlantic Ocean – the NYS DOT engineers decided to reschedule the event for a later date.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In the meantime, Breeze Demolition is wrenching and prying anything off of the structure that they can.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The idea, essentially, is to lessen the amount of material which will hit the ground during the so called energetic demolition. This reduces the chances of “flyaway” debris and seismic shock, and will quicken the reopening of area streets in Greenpoint and Maspeth afterwards. From what I’ve been told by the DOT, once the charges go off, the entire mass of the old bridge will drop in its own footprint. The point of removing what they can by conventional means involves reducing the seismic “hit” of having more than a mile of steel and concrete falling all at once.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

All over the old roadway, giant mechanical “insects” are chewing and chipping away at the old bridge. As the bits are removed – and these bits can weigh multiple tons, as a note – they are sent off to be recycled.

As has always been the case with this bridge project, the NYS DOT is being strangely cryptic about the recycling operation, and unwilling to discuss it in any sort of detail. Why they act like this thing is a state secret…

Honestly… do you think ANYTHING happening along Newtown Creek can be kept a secret from ME?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pfft

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So… the following Saturday after the Calvary Walking Tour, I was doing a private tour for group of students from NYU while wearing my Newtown Creek Alliance hat. As it happens, I was able to arrange for our party to visit the Sims Metal Management LIC Dock so that they could understand the recycling process in a tangible manner.

Sims Metal Management is big on education – it’s a baked in part of the mission at their Sunset Park facility for instance – but the LIC location is a fairly dangerous industrial site with giant machines whizzing about and hundreds of tons of various recyclable materials stacked up. These guys and gals who work here toss around crushed cars in as seemingly casual a fashion as you would throw a napkin into the trash – and the only reason that can do this routinely and without killing each other is care, practice, and long experience.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The site manager met us at the gates of Sims, which is at the end of a long and quite dusty road found alongside a railyard in Blissville, and after a brief lecture about safety and the signing away of liability was completed, the site manager got on his radio and told his crew to shut everything down and take a coffee break. My NYU group and I followed him out onto the deck, and he took over the narrator duties. The kids from NYU were “gob smacked” having never suspected that anything like this place existed, let alone existent .8 of a mile from the East River in LIC.

While the site manager, named Lachman Hanoman, spoke to the group about what Sims does and how they do it – I waved the camera around a bit (even I don’t get in here very often), and guess what I spied with my little eyes?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Kosciuszcko, Kosciuszcko, men have named you…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A bridge found alongside a graveyard, which is no longer a bridge, being pulled apart in expectation of its final demolition. Pieces of that bridge, observed along the fabulous Newtown Creek, at a graveyard for steel. That’s the executive summary of today’s post. Also – I know all, I see all.

Tomorrow – something completely different at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


Upcoming Tours and events

The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura – Saturday, September 23rd, 11 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Join us on the wrong side of the tracks for an exploration of the hidden industrial heartlands of Brooklyn and Queens, with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

Exploring Long Island City, from Luxury Waterfront to Abandoned Factories Walking Tour,
with NY Adventure Club – Saturday, October 7th, 1 p.m. – 3 p.m.

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


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

sweating brow

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It’s National Welsh Rarebit Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator is indulging in a bit of down time this week, and single images will be greeting you from now until Labor Day on September 4th.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 4, 2017 at 11:30 am

spittle flecked

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

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


Upcoming Tours and events

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

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


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 25, 2017 at 1:46 pm

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