The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Brooklyn’ Category

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the things that we, as in the environmental and activist community along Newtown Creek, have been asking officialdom about for years is about why there is zero signage advising the citizenry about not fishing or crabbing in the Newtown Creek. I know this might strike you as odd, but folks actually do fish and crab hereabouts. Observationally, these are people who were born overseas, so the signage issue becomes a bit complicated given the legendary “diversity” of Western Queens and North Brooklyn. The Albany people have always questioned as to why you’d need signage, as it’s illegal to fish without a license, and every NYS licensee has been advised about the environmental conditions encountered on the inland waterways of NYC – which is one of the most “Albany people” things I’ve ever heard.

Luckily, the Feds at EPA realized what we’ve been asking for is necessary and have begun the process of creating advisory signage, and the PRP (Potentially Resonsible Parties) consortium which styles itself as the “Newtown Creek Group” volunteered to manufacture the placards, which EPA would in turn design and install. The signage is pretty close to its final design iteration, and the latest version looks like this. As to where the signs should be placed? Who has carefully documented every little pocket and corner of the streets surrounding the Creek? Who can tell you where people commonly fish? That’s a Newtown Creek Alliance job, anyone can tell you that.

Let’s face it, who ya gonna call?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Accordingly, one found himself in Greenpoint recently at nine in the morning as the EPA team assembled. Civilians cannot ride in Government vehicles (which is an odd rule, as we technically own them) so the third party contractor who will do the actual installation of the things did the driving. We hit every little corner of the Newtown Creek where people can find access to the water, even the hidden spots where the “utes” of Greenpernt like to experiment with cannibinoids.

It was actually quite a beautiful morning, and the light was fantastic, so while the Feds got busy with the tape measures and GPS’d the various locations we visited, I waved the camera around a bit.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

We did encounter an “enforcement situation” in Brooklyn alongside the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge. There’s a protocol for “who’s responsible for what” along the Newtown Creek. Short version is this – EPA is in charge of Superfund, which is specifically related to the sediments under the water. New or ongoing pollution entering the water is the provence of the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation.

The NYC DEP is responsible for absolutely nothing anywhere or anytime, it’s not their fault at all, and they have no idea why they were named as a PRP in the first place as it’s all Exxon or National Grid’s fault.

The fellow from EPA I was on the bridge with confirmed my belief that “I should call this in” and the NYS DEC Spill Response hotline was called. If you spot oil slicks, plumes of floatable contaminants, or as in the case of the shot above – hundreds of gallons of milky white mystery juice exiting one of DEP’s open sewers – the protocol is to first photograph it, as documentation, and then to call 1 (800) 457-7362 to let DEC know about the situation so they can investigate.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

We were, as mentioned above, visiting every conceivable spot that the citizenry could find their way to the water.

That included “off limits” locations like the Montrose Avenue Rail Bridge over the English Kills tributary. As you can see from all the interesting graffiti on the bridge, which carries lead tracks of the Bushwick Branch LIRR, trespassing is pretty common back here. This is the reason that EPA asked Newtown Creek Alliance to send somebody along with them, as there’s the “official story” and a “real story” found along the water.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This family of Canada Geese were encountered at the Maspeth Avenue Plank Road, and were being predated by a feral cat who was anxious for breakfast. Momma and Poppa Goose were just out of frame to the left, so the cat made a brilliant decision and continued on into the brush to look for some easier prey. We encountered a couple of broods of Geese over the course of the morning. Geese can be ornery, as a note, and will smack you up if they’re annoyed.

One of these illegal alien avian bullies, at Maspeth Creek, actually hissed at us as we neared, and stuck its tongue out at me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The reasoning behind the signage is based around science rather than good humored politics, incidentally. When you’re chatting with environmental officials, they don’t refer to oysters or mussels as shellfish, rather they call them “bioaccumulators.” Animals that are high up in the food chain have internal organs – livers in particular – and muscular tissues which have amassed dangerous levels of whatever pollutant is found in the sediments of the waterway, which they’ve attained by consuming all the prey critters who are below them in the food chain hierarchy. In the case of crabs, in particular, you can encounter a fantastic amount of chemical concentrates due to their particular niche and occupations.

Newtown Creek is – of course – a Federal Superfund site. The sediment beds hereabout are a goulash of petroleum and petroleum byproducts, organocopper compounds, volatile organic compounds, PCB’s, coal tar, sewage, and everything else that has ever been dumped or spilled into the water. The sediment is referred to as “black mayonnaise” and it’s where the crabs live. It’s also where most of the invertebrates that form the bottom of the food chain for the fish population live. Itty bitty critters eat the decaying organics of the black mayonnaise, and slightly less itty bitty critters eat handfuls of the little guys, and the larger critters eat hundreds of them – you get the idea.

You don’t want to eat fish or crabs that you catch in the Newtown Creek. Really.


Upcoming Tours and events

Newtown Creek, Greenpoint to Hunters Point, walking tour with NYCH2O – June 29th, 7-9 p.m..

Experience and learn the history of the western side of Newtown Creek, as well as the East River Parks Hunters Point with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

To recap the last two posts, a humble narrator journeyed from Astoria to southeastern Brooklyn’s Plumb Beach to attend a lecture about Horseshoe Crabs offered by the NYCH2O outfit and which was led by my high school biology teacher – Alan Ascher. The first post covered the journey and setting, the second one discussed some of the characteristics of Plumb Beach, this one focuses right in on the Atlantic Horseshoe Crab itself – aka Limulus polyphemus. Scroll down to check them out.

That’s Mr. Ascher, and a horseshoe crab, above.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Plumb Beach faces out into a section of Rockaway Inlet, nearby Sheepshead Bay, and part of the totality of Jamaica Bay. Once fairly close to environmental ruination due to the ocean dumping of garbage, open sewers, and the development of highways and airports, large chunks of Jamaica Bay are now a part of the Gateway National Recreation Area and Wildlife Refuge – a Federally administered series of parks and conservation areas – and have therefore been recovering environmentally. There’s still a long way to go, of course, but compared to what this area looked like back in the 1980’s when I was in high school – it’s practically pristine in comparison.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

During May and June (particularly), but pretty much throughout the early summer, the so called “living fossils” which man calls the “Atlantic Horseshoe Crab” enact a mating dance. These critters first appeared in the fossil record about 450 million years ago, during the Ordovician Age. As a note, during the Ordovician, plants – let alone animals – hadn’t really begun to migrate out of the ocean onto the land yet. These creatures aren’t actually crabs (or crustaceans), and are instead part of a seperate subphylum called the Chelicerata. Their closest modern relatives are actually spiders and ticks.

from wikipedia

Horseshoe crabs have three main parts to the body: the head region, known as the “prosoma”, the abdominal region or “opisthosoma”, and the spine-like tail or “telson”. The smooth shell or carapace is shaped like a horseshoe, and is greenish grey to dark brown in colour. The sexes are similar in appearance, but females are typically 25 to 30% larger than the male and can grow up to 60 cm (24 in) in length (including tail).

Horseshoe crabs possess the rare ability to regrow lost limbs, in a manner similar to sea stars.

A wide range of marine species become attached to the carapace, including algae, flat worms, mollusks, barnacles, and bryozoans, and horseshoe crabs have been described as ‘walking museums’ due to the number of organisms they can support. In areas where Limulus is common, the shells, exoskeletons or exuviae (molted shells) of horseshoe crabs frequently wash up on beaches, either as whole shells, or as disarticulated pieces.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Mr. Ascher demonstrated the various anatomical features of the Horseshoe Crab, which despite its fearsome appearance is quite benign and harmless to humans. It has a set of “book gills” which are those flappy looking structures nearby its shell hinge, and possesses two sets of fairly primitive “eyes” which exhibit varying levels of sensitivity.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The blood of a Horseshoe Crab is not hemoglobin (iron) based, as most living creatures upon the earth are, and is instead copper based. Within its circulatory system, the crab’s blood is greyish white to pale yellow in color, but it turns a bright blue when atmospherically oxygenated. This helps them survive the high pressure and low oxygen environment where they spend most of their time, and their blood is harvested by the pharmaceutical industrial complex in pursuance of the creation of  “limulus amebocyte lysate” or “LAL.” This material is used to detect the presence of bacterial endotoxins in pharmaceuticals and artificial joint replacements, and believe it or not – enzymes from their blood are used on the International Space Station to detect blooms of fungi and bacteria growing on common surfaces.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The NYC H2O tour ended, and on my way back to civilization, I spotted a dead ray just sitting there on the sand. Desiccated by the sun, I was reminded of an old European Sailor’s craft, common during the age of sail, which would see rays of this type turned into “Jenny Hanivers” by skillful knife and needlework. Jenny Hanivers were offered for sail by sailors during port visits as baby mermaids, basilisks, or any number of imaginary critters to the gullible landlubbers.

from wikipedia

Jenny Hanivers have been created to look like devils, angels and dragons. Some writers have suggested the sea monk may have been a Jenny Haniver.

The earliest known picture of Jenny Haniver appeared in Konrad Gesner’s Historia Animalium vol. IV in 1558. Gesner warned that these were merely disfigured rays and should not be believed to be miniature dragons or monsters, which was a popular misconception at the time.

The most common misconception was that Jenny Hanivers were Basilisks. As Basilisks were creatures that killed with merely a glance, no one could claim to know what one looks like. For this reason it was easy to pass off Jenny Hanivers as these creatures which were still widely feared in the 16th century.

In Veracruz, Jenny Hanivers are considered to have magical powers and are employed by curanderos in their rituals. This tradition may have originated in Japan, where fake ningyo similar to the Fiji mermaid that were produced by using rogue taxidermy are kept in temples.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Well, that wraps up the story of going to Plumb Beach and checking out the Horseshoe Crab scene with my high school Marine Biology teacher. I did apologize to him for being thirty four years late to class, btw.

See you Monday, with something completely different, at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


Upcoming Tours and events

Newtown Creek, Greenpoint to Hunters Point, walking tour with NYCH2O – June 29th, 7-9 p.m..

Experience and learn the history of the western side of Newtown Creek, as well as the East River Parks Hunters Point with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 16, 2017 at 11:00 am

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As described in some detail in yesterday’s post, a humble narrator travelled clear across the western face of Long Island from Astoria to Brooklyn’s Sheepshead Bay neighborhood to attend a lecture by my high school biology teacher, an effort which was offered by the NYC H2O outfit. The lecture was occurring at Plumb Beach, which is a part of the Gateway National Recreation Area, and a Federal Park. The layout of the place includes a highway facing parking lot, which leads to a sandy beach and sand dunes, behind which are found a muddy type tidal marshland. I rode the R from Astoria to the 57th street stop in Manhattan, where I transferred to a Q express which carried me to the Sheepshead Bay Road stop, whereupon I walked down Emmons Avenue to Plumb Beach.

Whew, that accounts for like an hour and a half of my day, can you imagine how horrible it is to be me all the time?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My high school marine biology teacher was (and is) named Alan Ascher, and I remember him fondly. He didn’t remember me, which is sort of what I expected as I was an unextraordinary sciences student. I have fun memories of Mr. Ascher’s class, which revolved around an end of semester field trip to Jamaica Bay, onboard a boat, and the usage of a NYC Department of Education oriented permit to do some limited dredging of the bottom of Jamaica Bay in pursuance of biological specimens for study (critters).

First time I saw a live spider crab, or tube worm, was because this guy pulled them up out of the deep.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One specifically remembers maybe three or four of my teachers from high school. Two of them are for malign reasons. One of the malign duo was especially hated for her complete dereliction of duty as a teacher, another was for pursuing a certain vendetta against me. The latter was dealt with, decisively, later in life when I was no longer a powerless child. Another, a chemistry teacher named Bob Nissin, is remembered because he made the case to me that since I was inherently lacking mathematically I would be unable to pursue a course in the higher sciences – advice which was immensely helpful to a confused about his path and quite adolescent narrator.

Mr. Ascher, pictured above, is the guy who made me wonder – and more than wonder – all there is that might be found beneath the surface of the waters of New York Harbor.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The tour Mr. Ascher conducted felt familiar, as I had been on a similar outing during high school with him. We started in the parking lot, and went down towards the beach. It was low tide, as a note.

Mr. Ascher, then as now, talked about the shoreline grasses and their role in holding together the dunes surrounding the sandy littoral zone sloping down into the water. He mentioned the creation of the park back in the 70’s and the fact that this used to be an island called Hogshead.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A few mortal remains of the animal we had come to observe were scattered here and there on Plumb Beach, the Atlantic Horseshoe Crab – Limulus polyphemus.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Mr. Ascher described the role played by the quite artificial jetties installed at intervals along the Plumb Beach, and how they aid in the constant battle against shoreline erosion which is fought by the engineers of the National Park Service, Army Corps of Engineers, and other governmental entities who oversee such matters.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The group threaded its way over the dunes, with Mr. Ascher pointing out various vegetable species encountered, including the Beach Plumb (for which Plumb Beach is so named), Rosehips, and the substantial abundance of Poison Ivy. On the other side of the dunes, we encountered the previously mentioned tidal marsh.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This sort of scene, depicting a tidal stream swirling around the muddy shoreline of Jamaica Bay, is so incredibly familiar to me that it looks like home. Not much has changed since high school back here, except that there’s a lot less garbage and specifically a lack of medical waste.

Plumb Beach was always a great place to find thousands of hypodermics and used bandages embedded in the tidal zone. Along with other goodies, medical waste in great abundance would wash up here, back in the 1980’s – I tell ya. Trash was everywhere on the waterfront in this section back then, so I guess some things do seem to have gotten better, huh?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There were multiple examples of this sort of collection on the flat, shellfish and mussels abandoned by the tide, waiting for the water to return and flood the spot. Mr. Ascher reminded everyone to not venture too far in the direction of the muddy section, which has the characteristic of quick sand.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An abandoned boat, deposited here by some storm, has been turned into a gallery for graffiti.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The salt marsh itself was covered in Spartina and other grasses, and perforated by crab holes.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Mr. Ascher… I just can’t call him Alan… discussed the various things we were looking at and provided insights into the hidden world of aquatic creatures which were sequestering in the muddy flats during the intertidal.

There were also a bunch of weird looking Russian muscle guys running around in the bushes on the other side of the water from our group, characters whom I did not like the look of.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In the penultimate installment of “what I did last Friday,” presented at this – your Newtown Pentacle – you’ll encounter Horseshoe Crab pornography.

That’s your trigger warning, right there, lords and ladies.


Upcoming Tours and events

Newtown Creek, Greenpoint to Hunters Point, walking tour with NYCH2O – June 29th, 7-9 p.m..

Experience and learn the history of the western side of Newtown Creek, as well as the East River Parks Hunters Point with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 15, 2017 at 11:15 am

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It’s National Strawberry Shortcake Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the cool people I’ve met over the last few years is a fella named Matt Malina, who’s a showrunner at an environmental educational operation that calls itself NYC H2O. NYC H2O offers tours of High Bridge, resovoir paddles, Ridgewood Resovoir – if it involves water, Matt and his gang are there. I’ve done tours of Newtown Creek for Matt, btw, in fact I’ll be announcing an upcoming one is tomorrow’s post.

So, I got an email from NYC H2O offering a lecture for science educators that would occur at Plumb Beach in Brooklyn, which would discuss the ecology of the location and the biology of Horseshoe Crabs in particular. Soon, I found myself on the train, heading from Astoria in Queens to the old neighborhood back in Brooklyn.

Why? I had my reasons.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Until recently, I’d have just walked over to 31st street and caught the Q line there, but since the Second Avenue Subway opened, the Q doesn’t enter Queens anymore. A connection between the two goldenrod badged trains was instituted at 57th street in Manhattan, and off to Sheepshead Bay Road and deep into Brooklyn went I.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Back in high school, I used to work in a shop on this corner, for a locally owned photo finishing company called “Foto Depot.” Things haven’t changed too much around these parts, except for a change of the secondary “lingua Franca” from Spanish over to Russian. Didn’t linger and reminisce too long, however, as I still had a bit of walk ahead of me to get to the “House of Moses” at Plumb Beach.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I turned east on Emmons Avenue, and walked along the bulkheads of Sheepshead Bay. Last July, I offered a couple of posts about the area. This one discusses the Ocean Avenue Bridge pictured above, amongst other things.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A continuation of the same excursion, Mute Swans like the one above were discussed in this post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One continued along Emmons Avenue, and I beat down the urge to enter the Roll-N-Roaster to gorge on their wares.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The eastern side of Emmons Avenue terminates at the entrance to the Shore Parkway section of what’s now called just “The Belt Parkway” by the powers that be. This is another one of NYC’s master builder Robert Moses’s arterial road system projects, which opened in 1940.

from wikipedia

The Belt System is a series of connected limited-access highways that form a belt-like circle around the New York City boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens. The system comprises four officially separate parkways; however, three of the four are signed as the Belt Parkway. The three parkways that make up the signed Belt Parkway—the Shore Parkway, the Southern Parkway (not to be confused with the Southern State Parkway), and the Laurelton Parkway—are a combined 25.29 miles (40.70 km) in length. The Cross Island Parkway makes up the fourth parkway in the system, but is signed separately.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Moses called certain of his high speed roadways “expressways,” others “highways,” but the Belt is a “parkway.”

In Moses speak, parkway means that it hosted what he referred to as “shoestring parks,” which are both the green shoulders of the roadway itself and the entrances to the “buttonhole” parks that can be found periodically along the way. Given the relatively undeveloped shoreline of South Eastern Brooklyn in the 1930’s, when construction on the Belt Parkway project began, Moses and his team had a lot of leeway in designing out this shoestring concept between Bay Ridge and Cross Bay Blvd.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Plumb Beach hosts a sandy littoral zone which rises from the surf to a series of dunes. Behind the dunes, there’s a tidal salt marsh which has a muddy rather than sandy character. Famously, it’s one of the spots in NY Harbor where – during the late afternoon and evenings of May and June – you can witness Horseshoe Crabs both mating and digging nests. If you hang out till dawn, you’ll then see what seems like millions of birds descend on the nests to feed.

Now… why did a humble narrator travel way across the City to attend the NYC H2O lecture? Was it just to watch the arthropoda snuggle?

from wikipedia

Plumb Beach (sometimes spelled “Plum”) is a beach and surrounding neighborhood along the north shore of Rockaway Inlet, in the New York City borough of Brooklyn. It is located near the neighborhoods of Sheepshead Bay and Gerritsen Beach, just off the Belt Parkway. Originally an island, Hog Creek was filled in during the late 1930s. Since 1972 it has been a part of Gateway National Recreation Area, though the parking lot and greenway that provide primary access to the shore are the responsibility of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation and the New York City Department of Transportation. The neighborhood is part of Brooklyn Community District 15, although a section of the beach is not part of a Community District.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It was actually the instructor which drew my interest this time around, a fellow named Alan Ascher.

Alan Ascher was my high school marine biology teacher. I apologized to him, for being thirty four years late to bio.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

June 14, 2017 at 11:00 am

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It’s International Lemon Drizzle Cake Day.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My understanding is that there are isolated settlements, and pockets, of humanity which would be found to the north, west, and south of New York City but that just might be an old wives tale. Imagine… someplace which is not NYC… it boggles the mind. Do these semi mythological people wear skins and hunt with clubs? Are they the descendants of the Dutch who moved away when the English civilization took regency of our archipelago so long ago? Someday, one must mount an expedition and explore the dark continent found to the west, but for now… one is busy attempting to access a lead clad iron vault hidden away beneath the Steinway Branch Library at Broadway here in Astoria, wherein the Queens library system is rumored to store its collection of blasphemy riddled occult literature.

The Queens Library won’t admit, and will tacitly deny in fact, that a stout vault containing tomes of forbidden occult lore exists in Astoria, but you can’t fool a humble narrator… such wonders do exist, as does the dire information they contain. Why do you think the Greeks and Copts travelled from the orient and settled here? Grow up.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Word has it that Dutch Sea Captain Peter Praa brought certain “artifacts” back from the southern Pacific island of Ponape, which he buried in discrete locations around a land grant he acquired from the Dutch East India people which once belonged to Dominie Everardus Bogardus. This land was later inherited by Praa’s great grandaughter Anna Hunter. Hunters Point in LIC, as we know it in modern times, is constantly riven by the crews of laborers who are scratching into the mud and rock found here. The cover story offered by officialdom is that these laborers are merely construction workers employed by the Real Estate Industrial Complex, but don’t believe what you’re told. They’re searching for Praa’s treasure, and their employers seek possession of those occluded secrets carried back to the west which the Dutch thought best left buried and forgotten.

Just because a tale is fantastic, unbelievable, or inconceivably byzantine doesn’t mean it isn’t true. Sheesh.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Secrets and lies, secrets and lies. There are sections of the Newtown Creek about which even the otherwise overly transparent officials overseeing the Superfund proceedings will not opine. When questions arise about these isolated spots, they grow pale and elusive, avoiding your gaze and changing the subject quickly. What have they found in the muck and mire, in certain stretches of the waterway, particularly on the Brooklyn side, where the pirate Blackbeard is said to have buried a cache of stolen booty? The 19th century tales told by the toll bridge attendants of the Penny Bridge? The man like things with frog heads which they reported as loping out of the water in the dead of night and howling at the moon? Myths and old wives tales, if you believe the powers that be.

Who can guess, all there is, that might be buried down there?


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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It’s National Rotisserie Chicken Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The new green roof at Broadway Stages’ 520 Kingsland Avenue building was recently made available to me for a couple of hours by the folks who installed and created the place – Alive Structures – in pursuance of creating a portfolio of photographs for brochure and website purposes. This is also a Newtown Creek Alliance project btw, and I packed up the “full kit,” including tripod and cable shutter release, in anticipation of getting both “artsy” and “fartsy.” It ain’t that often that I get to do the full set up for “proper” landscape style shots.

As always, I went well beyond my shot list, and figured that I’d show off a little bit in today’s post. That’s the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant in the shot above, with the camera looking through the invisible methane flames that the DEP is burning off towards lower Manhattan.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking across Newtown Creek towards Long Island City – you can see the Long Island Expressway truss bridge rising some 106 feet above its tributary, Dutch Kills, but it’s been completely overshadowed by the titan slabs of mirror glass rising along Jackson Avenue between Court Square and Queens Plaza.

The truss dates back to Robert Moses and 1939, btw, and its height was dictated by the needs of the maritime and industrial powers who used to rule the roost in LIC.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking eastwards, towards the two Koscisuzcko Bridges (1939 and 2017 models), and over the petroleum tanks of Metro Fuel. The Greenpoint Avenue Bridge is just on the other side of these tanks, but occluded by them in this shot. At the extreme left of the photo is the tree line of Calvary Cemetery in Queens’ Blissville section.

Nothing like getting high along Newtown Creek, I always say.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For those of you who saw me looking particularly sun burnt in middle May, these shots are the reason why. I spent something like two and change hours up on the roof at 520 Kingsland Avenue, mainly waiting for the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself to dip behind the Shining City and make the shot above possible.

If you’d like to take a look at 520 Kinsgland for yourself, NCA and Riverkeeper will be conducting a “community visioning” project there tomorrow between one and four, and then between five and seven I’ll be offering a history lecture and green roof tour of the space… come with? It’s all free, and the RSVP details are in the links below.


Upcoming Tours and events

Newtown Creek Alliance and Riverkeeper Visioning, June 3rd, 1-4 p.m..

Imagine the future of Newtown Creek with Riverkeeper and NCA at the Kingsland Wildfowers Green Roof (520 Kingsland Avenue in Greenpoint) details here.

Newtown Creek Alliance History lecture with NCA historian Mitch Waxman, June 3rd, 5:00- 7:30 p.m.

An free hour long lecture and slideshow about Newtown Creek’s incredible history at the gorgeous Kingsland Wildfowers Green Roof (520 Kingsland Avenue in Greenpoint) followed by a walk around the roof and a Q&A – details here.

Green Drinks Queens LIC, June 5th, 6:00- 9:00 p.m.

Come celebrate UN World Environment Day with Green Drinks: Queens on the LIC Waterfront! This year’s theme is “Connecting People With Nature.”details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

angry pustule

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Everybody hates a tourist, they say. Me? I love ’em, especially when I’m the guide and the tour has come to my beloved Newtown Creek. 3.8 miles long, Newtown Creek is a tributary of NYC’s East River which defines around 3 miles of the currently undefended border of the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens. Newtown Creek has multiple tributaries of its own – Dutch Kills, Unnamed Canal, Whale Creek, Maspeth Creek, the East Branch, and English Kills. It’s largely surrounded by an industrial zone which was once home to petroleum refineries and manufactured gas plants, which has left behind an unwholesome environmental legacy in the ground and water which earned the Newtown Creek a place on the Environmental Protection Agency’s “Superfund” list.

There are multiple bridges crossing the Newtown Creek. Starting from the west – you’ve got the Pulaski Bridge; at Dutch Kills you’ve got the DB Cabin and Cabin M rail bridges as well as the Borden Avenue Bridge, LIE truss bridge, and Hunters Point Avenue Bridge. Back on the main waterway, there’s the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge. At the East Branch there’s the Grand Street Bridge, and at English Kills there’s the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge and the Montrose Avenue rail bridge. Pictured above are the 1939 and 2017 model Koscisuzcko bridges.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Early 21st century industry on the Newtown Creek is typified by the waste handling trade, and whether it’s the recycling yards or the “putrescent waste” handlers, there are dozens of waste transfer stations found along the bulkheads. There are still petroleum and gas businesses found along the water, but the name of the game these days is distribution rather than manufacture. Newtown Creek is one of the favored release points for NYC’s combined sewer system, and about 1.4 billion gallons of untreated sewage finds its way here annually. The TV and film industry, or “Hollywood,” has recently been acquiring huge parcels along the waterfront. At the mouth of the Newtown Creek, near its intersection with the East River, enormous housing and real estate projects are underway which will bring a large residential population to its shores.

The hard bottom of Newtown Creek is about 25-40 feet below the surface, depending on where you are. The “soft bottom” of Newtown Creek is roughly 15-20 feet down – a bed of toxic sediment composed of industrial waste (petroleum and byproducts, coal tar, raw sewage – everything that has ever fallen or been released into the water) which is referred to as “Black Mayonnaise.” The removal of this black mayonnaise and the restoration of normal environmental conditions in the water is the stated mission of the Federal Environmental Protection Agency’s Superfund team.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Endemic environmental pollution exists in the upland properties surrounding the Newtown Creek. The “Greenpoint Oil Spill” is the second largest oil spill in American history, after the Deepwater Horizon Spill in the Gulf of Mexico. There’s other pockets of oil on the Queens side in Blissville. On both the Brooklyn and Queens sides, plumes of chemicals and solvents move about in subterranean mud with the tides. Thousands of heavy trucks ply the streets surrounding the Newtown Creek daily. The unending miles of concrete, and nearly complete lack of vegetation, causes the summer temperatures to rise between ten and fifteen degrees higher in the industrial zones than in the surrounding neighborhoods  in accordance with the “Maspeth Heat Island Effect.” The air is filled with particulate materials delivered by automotive exhaust from the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, Long Island Expressway, and Queens Midtown Tunnel.

Welcome to the Newtown Creek.


Upcoming Tours and events

Newtown Creek Alliance and Riverkeeper Visioning, June 3rd, 1-4 p.m..

Imagine the future of Newtown Creek with Riverkeeper and NCA at the Kingsland Wildfowers Green Roof (520 Kingsland Avenue in Greenpoint) details here.

Newtown Creek Alliance History lecture with NCA historian Mitch Waxman, June 3rd, 5:00- 7:30 p.m.

An free hour long lecture and slideshow about Newtown Creek’s incredible history at the gorgeous Kingsland Wildfowers Green Roof (520 Kingsland Avenue in Greenpoint) followed by a walk around the roof and a Q&A – details here.

Green Drinks Queens LIC, June 5th, 6:00- 9:00 p.m.

Come celebrate UN World Environment Day with Green Drinks: Queens on the LIC Waterfront! This year’s theme is “Connecting People With Nature.”details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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