The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Brooklyn Navy Yard’ Category

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

crabbed penmanship

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Neato Keen, bro.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One found himself riding a southbound NYC Ferry, uncharacteristically early one recent morning (I’m not a morning person), and as mentioned last week – I can’t resist the shot above and make sure I click out a couple of exposures of it every time I see it. The shot is from Wallabout Bay, where you’ll notice the Brooklyn Navy Yard. It looks across a somewhat peninsular section of Manhattan called Corlears Hook. According to Riis and other 19th century contemporaries, Corlears Hook was the absolute bottom of the barrel when it came to poverty, disease, and the other vagaries of NYC tenement life. Oddly enough, it’s where Washington lived (on Cherry Street) in his early days as the first President, and a couple of generations later Boss Tweed lived in the same house that Washington did. There used to be a Whyos connected gang that operated out of Corlears Hook called the Sewer Rats who practiced river piracy in the 1850’s, which causally forced the creation of NYPD’s Harbor Unit. Later on, when the Williamsburg Bridge opened in 1899, the Delancey Street corridor between the East River and the Bowery saw a huge influx of Jews move in, and right up until the Great Depression maps were being printed with a legend labeling the area as “Jewtown” and or “The Ghetto.” Go figure.

To modernity, it’s known simply as the Lower East Side.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Wallabout Creek and Bay used to be called “Hennegackonck” by the locals before the Europeans showed up and started renaming everything. French speaking Walloons, that’s who settled here, and they were supposedly the first of the foreign newcomers to settle on Long Island. I’ve always had a hard time believing that one, personally, but “officially” that’s the story.

Wallabout Creek was the official border between the City of Brooklyn and the Bosjwick colonies to the north, which were separated from each other by a boggy swamp called the Cripplebush and from the Newtown colonies in modern day Queens by Newtown Creek and its tributaries. By the end of the 19th century, Brooklyn had absorbed the Bosjwick – or Bushwick – municipalities of Greenpoint, Williamsburg, and Bushwick and had expanded to its modern dimension. The Cripplebush was long filled in by this point.

The Wallabout Creek is just on the other side of that pier you see in the shot above.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a concrete company which operates out of this pier in the Navy Yard, one which receives its working material by maritime delivery. You’ll often spy heavy cargo boats docked here while hundreds of tons of gravel and other aggregate materials are unloaded from them and onto the pier for processing.

Truth be told, I was fascinated by the distinct colors of the various rock piles, and the clearly delineated lines between them. I also find the cyclopean scale of the operation absolutely and totally interesting.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The particular NYC Ferry line I was riding on was the Astoria one, heading for Lower Manhattan. They’ve recently added a Brooklyn Navy Yard stop to this line, which I’ve heard some grousing about online since it incurs an additional ten minutes onto the journey from Hallets Point in Queens to Pier 11 in Manhattan. Me? I’m just happy to now have the Navy Yard as part of my regular rounds.

It was always a pain in the neck to get in here, and has always been “catch as catch can.” During the First and Second World Wars, waving a camera around in Wallabout Bay while onboard a boat could have gotten you shot dead by the Marines guarding the place. Back then, the Williamsburg Bridge had wooden panels set up on the side facing the Navy Yard so that spies and saboteurs couldn’t observe military ships being built.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Although the Brooklyn Navy Yard doesn’t play the same role it used to doesn’t mean that you don’t get to see interesting vessels here. There are still operational dry docks, and the military still puts in here occasionally. The white hull vessel at the left edge of the shot above is the United States Navy’s “Pathfinder,” and the “Cape Ann” is a former privately held cargo ship (SS African Mercury, built 1962) which went to the MARAD Ready Reserve Force in 1980, and then was reassigned to be a part of the National Defense Reserve Fleet in 2002. It’s normally found on the James River in Virginia, so it must be in Brooklyn for a refitting or some other sort of service.

Maybe it needs its oil changed, or something.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just before entering into the Navy Yard, I spotted the MV Hunts Point sludge boat at the equivalent of Manhattan’s 23rd street, plying the East River.

Sludge Boat, baby, sludge boat.


“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

June 26, 2019 at 1:00 pm

half forgot

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Is there a “usual” anymore?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator is notoriously a creature of habits. If I find something enjoyable, I’ll repeat the experience over and over until it’s either no longer available or all the joy has been sucked out of it. Rinse, wash, repeat. I’m that way with certain points of views too. It’s an absolute imperative that I grab certain shots when passing the POV by, which is the case with the photo above from the Brooklyn Navy Yard perspective. You never know if “today’s iteration” is the last time you’ll see something, given how fast change occurs these days. To wit, notice how that new construction of yet another glass box residential tower is screwing up the primacy of the Empire State Building?

Additionally, whereas we’ve had wet and rainy years in the past, 2019 seems to be the year that NYC has become the Seattle of the East Coast. I’d prefer London fog to rain, myself, but I like it all atmospheric like.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned yesterday, before conducting a tour and whenever possible, I like to run the route a couple of days in advance and get my thoughts together. Accordingly, having ridden the Astoria line of the NYC Ferry to Wall Street/Pier 11, I transferred onto the Soundview line that goes north along the East River to the Bronx. After hugging the eastern coastline of Manhattan to East 90th street, the ferry heads into the Hells Gate section of the River. That’s the Triborough and Hell Gate Bridge pictured above, with Randalls/Wards Island on the left and the Shore Blvd. side of Astoria Park on the right.

I often wonder why there isn’t a ferry stop on Randalls/Wards. There’s such an abundance of playing fields and parkland there. Perhaps with future expansions of service there will be. Let’s just say that a certain someone is whispering into a few of the right ears about that one, every chance he gets.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Something you might notice, when riding the ferry, are units of the NYPD Harbor Patrol. I’ve ridden the boats with officers onboard, or seemingly at random, an NYPD vessel will shadow the Ferry along its route – as was the case last week. Obviously, this is connected to NYPD’s Homeland Security mission, an appropriately so.

That’s a SAFE “response boat medium” pictured above, which are increasingly long in the tooth vessels that first started populating the fleets of the “services” a little more than a decade ago. Every service has its own flavor of SAFE boat.

On a site maintenance note, I should be rectifying this ad banner insertion bullshit that WordPress has been inflicting on this site shortly.


“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

June 18, 2019 at 1:30 pm

varying antiquity

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And so doth Monday once more rise.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Prepping for last Saturday’s NYC Ferry tour found me riding around on a few of their boats last week, which is where I spotted the MV Hunts Point “Sludge Boat” crossing under the Williamsburg Bridge. Originally built as “East River Bridge #3” the bridge opened in 1899, a full ten years before East River Bridge #2 (Manhattan Bridge). It was built to replace the old Grand Street to Grand Street ferry operated by the company which Robert Fulton had founded. The Williamsburg Bridge was considered an eyesore when it opened, and the Municipal Art Society was founded as a response.

The Astoria line of the NYC Ferry, from which these shots were gathered, has recently added a new stop to its service, one which goes into the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Wallabout Creek was the first recorded site of European settlement on the Long Island side of the East River, in these parts. The Lenape word for the Wallabout, I’m told, was “Hemegacknock.” In 1801, shortly after the American Revolution, the newly minted Federal Government desired a ship yard along the East River. At the time, the busiest boat building center on the planet was found on the East side of Manhattan, and real estate prices for a property large enough for what the Feds wanted to occupy forced them to look towards the east. They purchased Wallabout Creek and Bay, and created the Brooklyn Navy Yard there in 1801.

By the American Civil War in the 1860’s, the BNY was employing over 6,000 people at the Wallabout.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

By World War 2, there were 10,000 employees and the Brooklyn Navy Yard hosted five miles of paved roads, 2 steel shipways to launch new vessels, six pontoon and cylindrical floats, and 4 dry docks. That ship you see above is sitting high and dry in one of the dry docks (it’s actually called a graving dock, but there you go).

Between 1937 and 1953, amongst several other large vessels; the BNY launched the Battleships Iowa, North Carolina, and Missouri. They also built the first angled deck aircraft carrier here, which was called the Antietam. After the Federal Government began contracting its ship building and servicing in NY Harbor, the Navy Yard fell on hard times. These days it’s experiencing a bit of a renaissance, and has become a corporate industrial park of sorts. The FDNY and NYC Ferry maintain bases here, and there’s also a movie studio, the country’s largest urban farm, and several warehouse operations working out of the Navy Yard. Additionally, there’s a new museum here called “Bldg 92” which preserves the history of the place, accessible from the Flushing Avenue or landward side.


“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.

worldly affairs

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More adventures with the new lens, the Sigma 50-100 f1.8.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned in prior posts, I recently acquired a new lens which I’ve been running around the City and using profusely in the hope of learning its ways. This is one of those posts where I pull back the curtain and talk about how, exactly, I shoot the photos which have populated the better than 2,000 posts published at this – your Newtown Pentacle.

The shot above was captured recently at the Brooklyn Navy Yard and well after dark. It was captured hand held with the lens wide open at f1.8, and the camera set to 1/50th of a second and the ISO sensitivity at 6400. Needless to say, it was quite dark, and that I was in the Navy Yard legally. That’s the actual color of the light, incidentally. The new lens is a real performer in this kind of setting, and there’s enough “brains” chipped into it that I was able to use it on autofocus rather than manual setting despite the low light. Those “army sniper” body posture techniques which I’ve mentioned in the past really come in handy when you’re trying to shoot something at under 1/100th of a second shutter speed. One of those “sniper techniques” is to squeeze the trigger after exhaling, for instance, as your body is steadier when in between breaths than during.

In my experience, 1/50th is the absolute lower limit for steadying handheld shots, which is due to my age and particular physiology. Younger and steadier people might be able to pull off 1/30th, but that’s right around where your pulse begins to interfere with the capture process and you’ve entered tripod territory.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Sigma 50-100 performs admirably in daylight as well, the shot above depicting a train in Queens Plaza was captured at ISO 400, f5.6, and at 1/640th of a second. Color rendition from Sigma’s art series lens family is always a bit oversaturated and garish, which – as I’ve said in the past is something I quite like – but I do find myself dialing the saturation back a bit when developing the daylight shots I gather with it.

The Sigma is HEAVY, weighing in at almost four pounds, incidentally. It’s quite a workout lugging the thing around for the 3-4 hour photowalk sessions I normally engage in, and for the first couple of weeks I was carrying it around with me my “carry arm” was quite sore when I arrived back home. While discussing the weight of the thing with my pal “Mumbly Joe the Union Insulator” at the local pub here in Astoria, who carries a massive tool kit around with him, he proferred that whenever you add a new tool to your kit it always feels like you’ve added a cinder block to your bag, but eventually you get used to it. At least that’s what I think he said, like I said – Mumbly Joe.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This somewhat sad shot of a Barbie brand bicycle lying astride the rocky shoreline of Hells Gate, in Astoria, was captured at 1/320th of a second shutter speed, at f5.6, and at ISO 200. It was also shot with the Sigma, and there’s a gnarly set of circumstances herein to capture – due to those bright white tires and the super saturated magentas of the bike coupled with the reflective translucency of the water. There’s a bunch of different exposure parameters at work in that photo, which form the compromises of the exposure triangle presented above.

Upcoming tours and events:


“The Untold History of the Newtown Creek (aka Insalubrious Valley)” walking tour
with New York Adventure Club, Saturday, October 1st from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Click here for tickets.


“First Calvary Cemetery” walking tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, Saturday, October 8th from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Click here for tickets.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 27, 2016 at 11:00 am

ecstasy of nightmare

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Wandering the waterfront, that’s me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

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

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

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

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

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

Upcoming Events and Tours

Saturday, June 25, 10:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek,
with Brooklyn Brainery. Click here for more details.

Sunday, June 26, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 17, 2016 at 11:00 am

inexpressibly more

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This actually and absolutely astounds one such as myself.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Wandering from Red Hook back to Astoria around a week ago, your humble narrator found himself on the south side of Williamsburg at the triangle formed by Wythe, Heyward, and Wallabout. This splinter of a building is rising up from a paved triangle which is created by the ancient paths surrounding it. A tiny three story house, it just seems… wow, in Williamsburg, every patch of soil will have apartments on it pretty soon. Wow.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Based on the number of entrances, this has to be a three unit building presumptively? A basement, a first floor, and then a duplex upstairs? Then again, the stairs on the Heyward (left) side might be a common entrance with internal stairs? Talk about an efficiency apartment. Sheesh. Check it out in google street view (this is a very new building, doesn’t even seem to have an address yet) to get an idea of the actual size of this lot – which is just bigger than five parking spots for cars.

Note: I did try to find a street address on this structure at NYC DOB, where I was easily defeated and gave up without trying too hard.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

By the way, there’s two cool Working Harbor Committee events going on this weekend you might want to attend.

Saturday, the 30th is a Port Newark excursion onboard the Circle Line with Captain John Doswell, Ed Kelly of the Maritime Association of Port of NY/NJ and Maggie Flanagan – Marine Educator South Street Seaport Museum. The boat boards at 10:30, sails at 11, and returns at 1:30. Click here for more info and tix.

Sunday, the 31st is the annual Great North River Tugboat Race and Competition. 10:00 AM – Parade of tugs from Pier 84 to the start line. 10:30 AM – Race starts – From South of 79th Street Boat Basin (near Pier I) to Pier 84. 11 AM – Nose to nose pushing contests and line toss competition. Noon – Tugs tie up to Pier 84 for lunch and awards ceremony. Exhibits, amateur line toss, spinach eating contest 1 PM – Awards ceremony. Tugs depart at about 2 PM.

For tix on the spectator boat, click here.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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