The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for the ‘Dutch Kills’ Category

heavy rumblings

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On this day, in 3,114 B.C.E., the Mayans began their “long count” calendar. Today’s also the day, in 480 B.C.E., that Leonidas and his 300 Spartans finally succumbed at Greece’s Thermopylae to the human wave attacks of the Persian armies of Xerxes. In 1929, Babe Ruth became the first baseball player to achieve 500 career home runs, and in 1972 the United States exited its last combat units from Viet Nam. Today is the day that industrialist Andrew Carnegie died in 1919, the painter Jackson Pollock also kicked the bucket in 1956, and we also lost comedian Robin Williams on this day in 2014. In 1992, the Mall of America opened for business, and in 1965 the Watts riots kicked into gear in Los Angeles.

 Me? I don’t have too much to do today, but it’s going to be a fairly busy weekend. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m planning on checking out the “Queens Anti-Gentrification” march on Saturday afternoon in LIC. What I’ve read about, and offered by, this group doesn’t exactly jibe with reality as I know it, but I figure if somebody is willing to stick their neck out and offer their views and opinions in public you owe it to them to at least listen to what they have to say. So far, I haven’t been a fan of their tactics either, but there you are. After that, I’m hopping on a ferry to Pier 11 in Manhattan, where I’ll be boarding a boat with the Working Harbor Committee. I’ll be sharing the microphone with Andrew Gustafson of Turnstile Tours and we will be talking about the Brooklyn Waterfront’s (Newtown Creek to Sunset Park) “Past, Present, and Future.”

Come with?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ll be up early on Sunday to conduct the “Poison Cauldron of the Newtown Creek” walking tour for Newtown Creek Alliance. This is one of my favorite excursions to conduct, and it tells the story of the oil and energy industries in North Brooklyn from the 1850’s all the way to the present. It also moves through one of the most god awful areas NYC has ever created, so how’s that for a selling point? 

See you Sunday?.


Upcoming Tours and events

Brooklyn Waterfront Boat Tour, with Working Harbor Committee – Saturday August 12th, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.

Explore the coastline of Brooklyn from Newtown Creek to Sunset Park, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman, Andrew Gustafson of Turnstile Tours, and Gordon Cooper of Working Harbor Committee on the narrating about Brooklyn’s industrial past and rapidly changing present. details here.

The Poison Cauldron of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance – Sunday August 13th, 11 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Explore the hellish waste transfer and petroleum districts of North Brooklyn on this daring walk towards the doomed Kosciuszko Bridge, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

Two Newtown Creek Boat Tours, with Newtown Creek Alliance and Open House NY – Wednesday August 16th, 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.

The neighborhoods surrounding Newtown Creek are home to the densest collection of these garbage facilities anywhere in the city and collectively, the waste transfer stations around and along Newtown Creek handle almost 40% of the waste that moves through New York. Join Newtown Creek Alliance’s Mitch Waxman and Willis Elkins  to learn about the ongoing efforts to address the environmental burden that this “clustering” has caused. details here.

DUPBO Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with NYCH20 – Thursday August 24th, 7 p.m. – 9 p.m.

Explore Greenpoint and Hunters Point, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

serious citizens

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My quest to observe and photograph certain rumored artifacts, carefully hidden by the administration of Queens Borough President Curly Joe Cassidy in 1903, which an anonymous source informed me were recently uncovered by the labor of construction crews that were pursuing the lustful ambitions of their Manhattan based masters (to erect yet another bland residential tower here in Western Queens) was fruitless. Some things, it would seem, will remain hidden.

Perhaps that is for the best, for if the community as a whole was to ever truly understand the history of Long Island City… anarchy and red rage would reign as they abandoned all pretense of civilization. Men would become wild and mad, without moral convention or law, and they would would find new and savage ways to enjoy themselves, abandoning even “lip service” allegiance to that extraterrestrial thing which they once referred to as “God.”

Defeated, aimless, lost in ennui and abandoned by serendipity… a wandering mendicant and humble narrator soon found himself, like every other piece of wind blown trash in New York City, at the Newtown Creek. The Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek in the Long Island City section of Queens, specifically.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Dutch Kills was in a queer condition this particular late afternoon in the August of 2017. The burning thermonuclear eye of God itself hung squamous in the sky, occluded by vast gray and white agglutinations of atmospheric humidity. Recent rain had enriched the nutrient load of the water with raw sewage, causing a bloom of the photosynthetic organisms which feed on both fecund decay and the eye’s emanations. Within a few days, these single celled plants would choke themselves to death on their respiratory waste gases, and the water will turn brown as bacterial populations explode while consuming their corpses. The bacteria produce a waste gas which men call hydrogen sulfide, offering to passers by an aroma not unlike that of rotting eggs. A few days later the water will blacken as the self same bacteria, in turn, are killed off by starvation and asphyxiation. Their rotting colonies will in turn feed a new generation of algae, which will overpopulate when the rain again brings the sewer tide and the cycle begins anew.

The smell of the green creek is onerous and inescapable, and the brown creek is something else entirely. The stink of the black creek… let’s just call that “unusual.” It’s all very depressing, where unwholesomeness reigns.

A smell reminiscent of swamp dwelling reptiles was omnipresent on the day these photos were collected.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Dutch Kills was choked with 19th century industrial waste products and mounds of manure produced by pack animals when Michael Degnon began construction on the flooded waste meadows formerly owned by Governor Roscoe P. Flowers, back in 1909. Filling in the swamps with rocky till harvested from the subway and railroad tunnels his company constructed, Degnon’s goal was to build the greatest industrial park in the country hereabouts. The Degnon Terminal promised lots of sufficient size to construct enormous factory buildings, like the Loose Wiles “Thousand Windows Bakery,” as well as offering terrestrial railroad and “rail to barge” connections. Dutch Kills was bulkheaded under the supervision of the Army Corps of Engineers, it’s wetlands filled in, and industry was invited into “America’s Workshop.”

Borough President Maurice E. Connolly located his offices alongside Degnon’s, in what modernity refers to as the “Paragon Oil Building” on 21st street and 49th avenue, but which was built as the “Subway Building” and served Connolly as his Borough Hall.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Maurice E. Connolly, like all the Borough Presidents of Queens, was presented at inauguration with a 1661 scrap of parchment left behind by William Hallet. Describing a degenerate offshoot of the Lenape civilization encountered in Western Queens, who were rumored to be members of a shunned cult repudiated and suppressed by the larger aboriginal civilization, this dark knowledge is a closely guarded state secret which has been passed from leader to leader since the early Calvinist era of the Dutch colony of Nieuwtown. As far as I’ve been able to discern, the Borough Presidents of Queens have faithfully maintained the ignorance of Mayors and Governors, and that even the executive branch of neighboring Brooklyn is unaware of what the ancient message transmits.

What the document says about these Native American devil worshippers is known only by the intended recipients, but that soon after reading it, Connolly began allocating funding to a vast swamp draining and land reclamation project in Queens. He installed miles of sewer pipes in pursuance of draining western Queens, many of which lead directly into Dutch Kills (accusations and convictions for corruption related to this effort are what finally removed him from office, after 17 years, in 1928).

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the day these shots were captured, a bizarre amalgam of floatable items were observed in the solute rich compound which we will simply refer to as “water” for simplicity’s sake. Frizzled and black, these buoyant items were observed floating along on the tepid currents of Dutch Kills. It was a fairly low moment in the tidal cycle, but the start of the flood tide cycle was pushing in from the main spur of the Newtown Creek, and the black polyploid objects were meandering north towards the turning basin.

A zoom lens was employed, in pursuance of getting a closer look at the mysterious flotilla.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Whatever the material of ebon hue was remains a mystery to me. I can report that there were odd streaks, as carried to the surface on bubbles of biological gas rising from subaqueous depths, of oil and coal tar present.

Who can guess what secrets might be hidden in the sediments beds of black mayonnaise, where all the sins of the twentieth century reside and mingle?


Upcoming Tours and events

Brooklyn Waterfront Boat Tour, with Working Harbor Committee – Saturday August 12th, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.

Explore the coastline of Brooklyn from Newtown Creek to Sunset Park, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman, Andrew Gustafson of Turnstile Tours, and Gordon Cooper of Working Harbor Committee on the narrating about Brooklyn’s industrial past and rapidly changing present. details here.

The Poison Cauldron of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance – Sunday August 13th, 11 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Explore the hellish waste transfer and petroleum districts of North Brooklyn on this daring walk towards the doomed Kosciuszko Bridge, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

Two Newtown Creek Boat Tours, with Newtown Creek Alliance and Open House NY – Wednesday August 16th, 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.

The neighborhoods surrounding Newtown Creek are home to the densest collection of these garbage facilities anywhere in the city and collectively, the waste transfer stations around and along Newtown Creek handle almost 40% of the waste that moves through New York. Join Newtown Creek Alliance’s Mitch Waxman and Willis Elkins  to learn about the ongoing efforts to address the environmental burden that this “clustering” has caused. details here.

DUPBO Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with NYCH20 – Thursday August 24th, 7 p.m. – 9 p.m.

Explore Greenpoint and Hunters Point, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

unusually worried

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It’s National Raspberry Cream Pie Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is how it all works, this municipal recycling business.

Pictured is the Sims Metal facility in Sunset Park Brooklyn. Department of Sanitation performs its collection task using packer trucks – which work curbside pickup routes, essentially – and then they head over to a transfer station of either terrestrial or marine nature. On their way in to the transfer station, they drive over a scale and are weighed.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Once the trucks get past the scale, they wait their turn to “tip” or deposit the cargo they’ve collected.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is done in a fairly orderly fashion, with a Sims Metal employee directing the DSNY operator to a certain spot where the driver activates the mechanisms within the truck which push the garbage out. My understanding is that the hidden internal machinery is driven by steel cables which tension pulls a plate forward from the back of the hopper, and that’s (plus the angled hopper for a gravity assist) what pushes the load out.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If the material was collected from Boroughs other than Brooklyn, it’s brought in by tug and barge from one of the other Sims facilities like the one found at Newtown Creek in Long Island City. According to one of the Sims people I met, they said a barge carries the equivalent of a hundred garbage trucks worth of recyclables all at once.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Once DSNY has handed off the recyclable waste, a bull dozer like unit moves it into a drop shaft which in turn feeds it into the highly automated processing room.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s optical equipment that sorts plastics and glass by type, as well as fairly esoteric bits of kit which feature magnetic or electrical flux fields which capture the metals like steel cans and aluminum foil.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shapes and sizes of these moving conveyor belts also figure into the sorting and handling typology of waste.

I was told that a lot of this technology has been adapted from the agricultural industry – Big Agra, as it’s known – and that the biggest “players” in this sector are German and Dutch manufacturers.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Once this mingled pile of waste products has been separated out into distinct types (including separating the different forms of plastic) they’ll be bundled up and be prepared for shipment.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Plastics and glass are fairly worthless, it should be noted. Low oil prices over the last decade or so has caused the price of chemical feedstock for plastic manufacturers to plummet, as said material is a byproduct of petroleum refining and manufacture. That makes it cheaper to make new plastic than it would be to recycle old plastic. Glass recycling carries a pretty high energy cost, in terms of making it molten, so it’s mainly used a crushed up fill material in concrete and asphalt. That’s why some roads and sidewalks appear to shimmer in the sun.

Paper pulp is quite valuable, and VERY recyclable. So is metal, especially aluminum and copper. That’s based on the expense of producing new pulp, or refining mined ore. Sims Metal Management is a global corporation, and participates in a commodities market for these recyclable materials, which it sells (hopefully) at a profit internationally.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The DSNY trucks, meanwhile, having emptied their cargo into the Sunset Park facility, follow a certain path back out.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It carries them onto a second scale, just like the one they encountered when entering Sims. The differential tonnage between the weighings is what Sims bills New York City for their services.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Presumptively, this truck will head back to wherever it’s stationed to take on fuel and new crew, and head back out to perform more collection duties. Additional presumption would offer that it would likely end its next shift right back here at Sims Metal.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Well… as I said at the top of the post – this is the way it all works. Also, let’s all try to use less stuff that we can only use one time before throwing it away. Can you just imagine what all of this costs?


Upcoming Tours and events

The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance – Saturday August 5th, 11 a.m. – 1;30 p.m.

Century old movable bridges, the remains of a 19th century highway between Brooklyn and Queens, and explore two of the lesser known tributaries of the troubled Newtown Creek watershed. For the vulgarly curious, Conrad Wissell’s Dead Animal and Night Soil wharf will be seen and described, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

Brooklyn Waterfront Boat Tour, with Working Harbor Committee – Saturday August 12th, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.

Explore the coastline of Brooklyn from Newtown Creek to Sunset Park, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman, Andrew Gustafson of Turnstile Tours, and Gordon Cooper of Working Harbor Committee on the narrating about Brooklyn’s industrial past and rapidly changing present. details here.

The Poison Cauldron of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance – Sunday August 13th, 11 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Explore the hellish waste transfer and petroleum districts of North Brooklyn on this daring walk towards the doomed Kosciuszko Bridge, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

Two Newtown Creek Boat Tours, with Newtown Creek Alliance and Open House NY – Wednesday August 16th, 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.

The neighborhoods surrounding Newtown Creek are home to the densest collection of these garbage facilities anywhere in the city and collectively, the waste transfer stations around and along Newtown Creek handle almost 40% of the waste that moves through New York. Join Newtown Creek Alliance’s Mitch Waxman and Willis Elkins  to learn about the ongoing efforts to address the environmental burden that this “clustering” has caused. details here.

DUPBO Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with NYCH20 – Thursday August 24th, 7 p.m. – 9 p.m.

Explore Greenpoint and Hunters Point, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 1, 2017 at 11:00 am

noxious mysteries

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It’s National Cotton Candy Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So, before all of that bridge business last week, I was telling y’all about heading over to Sunset Park to see something extraordinary. It was a strange and intricate journey getting from “Point A” in Astoria, Queens to “Point R” in Red Hook, Brooklyn. A medium sized walk then carried me under and through the “House of Moses,” on my way south to Sunset Park.

What caused one such as myself to cross the western tip of a Long Island? Garbage, of course. In this specific case, however, it was recycling and I was going to the Sims Metal Management facility found on Gowanus Bay.

from nycedc.com

Sims Metal Management is the processor of all plastic, metal, and glass collected by the Department of Sanitation and the City selected Sims to be the operator of the new city-owned recycling facility. With a $48-million investment from the City and a $46-million investment from Sims, the new facility, designed by Selldorf Architects, created approximately 80 to 85 permanent jobs. The facility was built embracing sustainable design elements, including green roofs, renewable energy generation, and on-site storm water treatment among others. In July 2010, the recycling facility won an Award for Excellence in Design from the Public Design Commission. Construction commenced in October 2010 and will be completed by December 2012. Operations commenced in 2013.

The Sims Municipal Recycling Facility is a joint project of the Department of Sanitation, the Department of Small Business Services, NYCEDC, and Sims Metal Management.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As always, when a conflict of interest occurs for a humble narrator he puts it right out there front and center – the fellow who manages this recycling operation at Sims Metal is named Tom Outerbridge. Tom is one of my board members at Newtown Creek Alliance, and a friend, so there you go. Tom had allowed me to visit and photograph the company’s operations at Newtown Creek back in 2013, as you may recall – as detailed in the posts “carefully sheltered,” “stealthy attendants,” “temperamentally unfitted,” and “untold number.” Also, before you ask, yes – Tom is the grandson of Eugenius Outerbridge, first chair of the Port Authority for whom the Outerbridge Crossing bridge is named.

Breaking things down to operational basics, the Newtown Creek operation (Sims also has facilities in the Bronx and New Jersey) is about collection and transport, whereas the Sunset Park facility handles both collection and processing.

from simsmunicipal.com

Sims Municipal Recycling (SMR) is a division of the North America Metals business unit of Sims Metal Management Limited (Sims). SMR is dedicated to meeting the recycling needs of the municipal sector. SMR has a 20 year contract (with two 10-year extensions) with the New York City Department of Sanitation (DSNY) to provide processing and marketing services for 100% of the metal, glass and plastic and approximately 50% of the paper collected in the largest curbside program in North America. SMR also services a portion of the Chicago curbside program. SMR leverages its experience and resources and the resources of its parent company, Sims, to make curbside recycling efficient and effective.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

What you’re looking at are DSNY (Department of Sanitation) recyclable collection trucks unloading at the Sunset Park facility. This is the clear and blue bag stuff – the metal, glass, plastic, and paper we all seperate out from the black bag or putrescent garbage. If it’s coming in by truck, the group I was touring the Sunset Park facility with were told by the Sims personnel, it’s likely coming directly from the collection route in Brooklyn. A few photos down, you’ll see a barge being unloaded, and that’s how they ship the stuff in from the other boroughs.

from ibio.nyc.ny.us

New York City recycles a wide variety of waste, but some materials are more likely to be recycled than others. The city has three solid waste streams: refuse, paper recycling, and metal/glass/plastic recycling. Overall, about 44 percent of recyclable material is “captured” by city recycling programs with the remainder sent to landfills, according to data from the Department of Sanitation’s 2013 Residential Waste Characterization Study. But a lot of recyclables are thrown in the wrong bins—aluminum cans, for example, tossed in with regular trash. As a result, the capture rate for each of the recyclable materials varies widely, from as low as 5 percent to as high as 75 percent. Material that ends up in the refuse stream or the wrong recycling stream is not recycled. In fact, such “contamination” makes recycling more expensive.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

While I was watching from a catwalk set up above the shop floor, DSNY trucks kept on turning up. These are called “packer trucks” incidentally. There’s an orange “bulldozer” sort of machine that will come through after the DSNY trucks disgorge which sweeps all this material into the processing side of the operation (seen in tomorrow’s post).

from wikipedia

The New York City Department of Sanitation is the largest sanitation department in the world, with 7,201 uniformed sanitation workers and supervisors, 2,041 civilian workers, 2,230 general collection trucks, 275 specialized collection trucks, 450 street sweepers, 365 salt and sand spreaders, 298 front end loaders, and 2,360 support vehicles. It handles over 12,000 tons of residential and institutional refuse and recyclables a day. It has a uniformed force of unionized sanitation workers (Local 831 USA of the Teamsters). Its regulations are compiled in Title 16 of the New York City Rules.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Everybody back in Astoria had one question, when I told them about my visit to this spot, and it involved odor. It certainly didn’t smell like a freshly mowed lawn, but given the tonnage of garbage present, it was actually surprising how well the odor had been managed. I asked one of the hard hats about odor control, and she indicated that whereas there were indeed mechanical “scrubbers” simple ventilation and convection was doing most of the work.

The facility is at the water’s edge of Gowanus Bay, which provides for significant air flow and mixing. On the landward side, it’s an industrial park, so there aren’t too many residences to affect.

from wikipedia

Sims Metal Management also recycles post-consumer materials through a 20-year recycling contract with the New York City Department of Sanitation, which became effective in January 2009. Under this contract, the company is responsible for all curb-side recycling material, including all plastic, glass and metal on behalf of the City of New York. Packer trucks owned and operated by New York City deliver recyclables as a 26 commingled product to the company’s facilities. The commingled product then is processed using a series of screens, magnets, eddy currents, optical sorters and conveyors. The recyclables are separated and sorted into ferrous and non-ferrous metals, different plastic resins, glass and residue. Then the recycled materials are shipped to US and non-US markets.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That claw thingamabob is a “materials handler” and its operator was busy unloading a barge. Given the particular calendrical date my visit occurred upon, that’s actually Queensican recyclables being unloaded, which means that my own contribution to our municipal mess was somewhere in that 3-4 story high pile.

from wikipedia

A landfill site (also known as a tip, dump, rubbish dump, garbage dump or dumping ground and historically as a midden) is a site for the disposal of waste materials by burial and the oldest form of waste treatment (although the burial part is modern; historically, refuse was just left in piles or thrown into pits). Historically, landfills have been the most common method of organized waste disposal and remain so in many places around the world.

Some landfills are also used for waste management purposes, such as the temporary storage, consolidation and transfer, or processing of waste material (sorting, treatment, or recycling). Unless they are stabilized, these areas may experience severe shaking or soil liquefaction of the ground during a large earthquake.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The materials handler operator displayed a bit of finesse in the building of this mountain of refuse, using a bit of what a pool player would call “english” to deposit the thousands of plastic bags of garbage onto the mound.

from wikipedia

The municipal solid waste industry has four components: recycling, composting, disposal, and waste-to-energy via incineration. There is no single approach that can be applied to the management of all waste streams, therefore the Environmental Protection Agency, federal agency of the United States of America, developed a hierarchy ranking strategy for municipal solid waste. The Waste Management Hierarchy is made up of four levels ordered from most preferred to least preferred methods based on their environmental soundness: Source reduction and reuse; recycling or composting; energy recovery; treatment and disposal.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The amazing part of the operation was actually in the highly automated sorting process which happens in another section of the building, and which will be described in tomorrow’s post. My pals in the carting business always tell me that it’s about tonnages, btw. How much in, how much out. They also remind me that it “has to go somewhere.”

The point of what DSNY and Sims Metal are doing is keeping that “somewhere” from being a landfill.

On a side note, it seems that “Dumpster” and “Packer” aren’t descriptive terms for the garbage trucks and waste receptacles we’ve inherited from the past, rather they’re brand names.

from wikipedia

In 1937, George Dempster invented the Dempster-Dumpster system in which wheeled waste containers were mechanically tipped into the truck. His containers were known as Dumpsters, which led to the word dumpster entering the language.

In 1938, the Garwood Load Packer revolutionized the industry when the notion of including a compactor in the truck was implemented. The first primitive compactor could double a truck’s capacity. This was made possible by use of a hydraulic press which compacted the contents of the truck periodically.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s what the Sims Metal facility in Sunset Park looks like from the water. The operational section is under that tilted roof, with the rectangular section on the far left used as offices and visitor center.

On the right is the berth which the barges are moved into, and on the left is the transfer floor shown in today’s post.

As mentioned, tomorrow, you’ll see the separation and processing room at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


Upcoming Tours and events

The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance – Saturday August 5th, 11 a.m. – 1;30 p.m.

Century old movable bridges, the remains of a 19th century highway between Brooklyn and Queens, and explore two of the lesser known tributaries of the troubled Newtown Creek watershed. For the vulgarly curious, Conrad Wissell’s Dead Animal and Night Soil wharf will be seen and described, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

Brooklyn Waterfront Boat Tour, with Working Harbor Committee – Saturday August 12th, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.

Explore the coastline of Brooklyn from Newtown Creek to Sunset Park, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman, Andrew Gustafson of Turnstile Tours, and Gordon Cooper of Working Harbor Committee on the narrating about Brooklyn’s industrial past and rapidly changing present. details here.

The Poison Cauldron of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance – Sunday August 13th, 11 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Explore the hellish waste transfer and petroleum districts of North Brooklyn on this daring walk towards the doomed Kosciuszko Bridge, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

Two Newtown Creek Boat Tours, with Newtown Creek Alliance and Open House NY – Wednesday August 16th, 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.

The neighborhoods surrounding Newtown Creek are home to the densest collection of these garbage facilities anywhere in the city and collectively, the waste transfer stations around and along Newtown Creek handle almost 40% of the waste that moves through New York. Join Newtown Creek Alliance’s Mitch Waxman and Willis Elkins  to learn about the ongoing efforts to address the environmental burden that this “clustering” has caused. details here.

DUPBO Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with NYCH20 – Thursday August 24th, 7 p.m. – 9 p.m.

Explore Greenpoint and Hunters Point, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 31, 2017 at 11:00 am

repeated combination

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It’s National French Fries Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, one was invited to attend an event at the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant’s Nature Walk last week, and since I was planning on shooting the Kosciuszcko Bridge later in the evening at sunset, a humble narrator hung around for a few minutes taking in the scene at Newtown Creek.

If you haven’t been, the Nature Walk is part of the sewer plant, and is a sculptured public space designed by George Trakas. NYC is under an obligation to spend “1% for art” in all new municipal structures, and the Nature Walk was built as the 1% part. You can access it at the eastern side of Paidge Avenue in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s a New York and Atlantic Railway switcher locomotive above, crossing Long Island City’s DB Cabin rail bridge – which carries the LIRR’s Lower Montauk Branch tracks – at the mouth of the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek. New York and Atlantic was moving freight cars between the Wheelspur Yard (to the west) and the Blissville Yard (to the east). New York and Atlantic is the freight contractor for the Long Island Railroad, which owns the tracks and yards of the Lower Montauk Branch, and the extant lead tracks connecting to it like the Bushwick Branch. Their freight service area includes NYC, as well as Nassau and Suffolk counties.

There used to be passenger service on the Lower Montauk, but LIRR abandoned service to the stations along the Newtown Creek back in the 1990’s.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The particular engine seen in today’s post is an EMD MP15AC, the New York and Atlantic 151.

It’s a switcher locomotive, one which used to wear the brand colors of the LIRR. It’s a diesel powered unit, generating about 1,500 horse power and was manufactured by General Motors’ Electro-Motive Division sometime between August 1975 and August 1984. Apparently, New York and Atlantic has four of these units.


Upcoming Tours and events

13 Steps Around Dutch Kills Walking Tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance – July 15th, 10 a.m. – 1 p.m..

The “then and now” of Newtown Creek’s Dutch Kills tributary in LIC, once known as the “workshop of the United States.” with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

The Poison Cauldron of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with Atlas Obscura – July 22nd, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m..

Explore the hellish waste transfer and petroleum districts of North Brooklyn on this daring walk towards the doomed Kosciuszko Bridge, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

cellular corruption

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It’s National Mai Tai day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Increasingly, one realizes the depths of his personal ignorance about common things. Whilst watching, lovingly, my little dog Zuzu sleeping the other night it occurred to me that I didn’t know very much about Dogs from a scientific point of view. This led me directly into a “Wikipedia rabbit hole” during which canid evolution and its various family trees were explored, and soon it was 3:30 in the morning. This is an occupational hazard for the curious.

The next morning, I continued my reading on the Canids of the Holocene era, which led me to the Oligocene and the root ancestry of the Carnivora mammals. Moving forward instead of back in time, I soon found myself reading about the Hyena family, which somehow led to me watching videos of wild animals fighting. It was decided to end my explorations after witnessing a battle between a Hippo and a Rhino. The Hippo won, which was sort of unexpected but there you go.

I was able to control myself and avoid searching for “Tiger versus Hippo” as it might shatter a preconception I have which states that nothing can beat a Tiger in claw on claw combat, with the notable exception of a Russian. Russians and Tigers are probably the toughest bastards on the planet in terms of pure survival skills, IMHO, and long have I argued for the preservation of both specie just in case we are ever invaded by an extraterrestrial civilization.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It would be unexpected, I realize, for some space faring race of conquerors to suddenly find themselves beset by Russian Spetnatz troops riding militarized Siberian tigers. Supposition began to reign, and it occurred to me that the “tough guy” cultures of the Earth – all the tribes of man – would probably lend a unit of paired human and animal predators to the battle for earth. Maori riding rocket propelled tiger sharks in zero gravity, Inuit riding Polar Bears… the mind boggles when imagining units of French Dauphine commandos or Apache wolf riders. Vietnamese guerillas mounted on giant centipedes or Mekong Catfish, Polynesian Frogmen and their cephalopod partners, Bantu special forces with their Hippo armies – the mind boggles.

With the right inducement, we could probably create whole divisions of animalia who would require no human partner at all. It’s their planet too. Imagine units of angry Chimpanzees in space helmets suddenly introduced into the confines of a spacecraft. Chimps are ghastly and powerful warriors.

You don’t mess around with Chimps, as a note, as they’ll eat your face and twist off your junk just for shits and giggles.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A little known fact about Western Queens is that when the Europeans arrived here, Maspeth in particular, but all of the East River coastline was infested with wolves. It was likely the so called “Red Wolf” which was well established on the eastern coast of North America. The Dutch, and later the English, offered bounties to the populace for wolf pelts in pursuance of exterminating the predators which poached from the European farmer’s livestock.

According to my readings, entered into after watching Zuzu the dog snoring away in a corner of the living room, modern day wolves and dogs are both descended from a common ancestor which was far larger and more vicious than anything walking the earth today – a critter adapted for taking down the megafauna of the Ice Age. Who knew?

Happy July 4th weekend, lords and ladies, back on Monday with something completely different at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

June 30, 2017 at 1:00 pm

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It’s National Applesauce Cake Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator was out of the house early today, to attend a meeting sponsored by the Queens Chamber of Commerce which invited a team from the NYC EDC to present their feasibility study on the Sunnyside Yards at the Bulova Corporate Center found on the border of Astoria and East Elmhurst. I’m happy to say that this was a well attended meeting, and that the attendees included members of the Queens activist community as well as the usual and expected representatives from the Real Estate Industrial Complex. A breakfast meeting, bagels and coffee were offered, along with those very sweet little danishes which are typical of corporate catering.

The EDC presentation was offered by one of their many Vice Presidents, a charming fellow named Nate Bliss. I inquired after the meeting, and there was no relation to the Neziah Bliss family of Greenpoint, just as a note.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The EDC presentation was a roadshow version of the executive summary report found at their website. The presentation glossed over several seminal objections to the project which have been offered by various community organizations such as the gargantuan size of the deck itself (at 43rd street and Barnett Avenue in Sunnyside Gardens, for instance – 109-110 feet above street grade, or at Northern Blvd. and 39th/Steinway – 65-70 feet), but did acknowledge the transit and environmental issues associated with creating a new development that would require between 10 and 19 new schools to be built, and which would install a new population in LIC that would number about half that of Boulder, Colorado – on the 180 acres found between Queens Plaza and 43rd street, Northern Blvd. and Skillman Avenue.

I asked them what they’re planning on plugging the deck and city of towers built on it into, electrical wise. I threw some shade at the fact that their report says that’s it’s not feasible to bring construction materials to the job site, which is a rail yard, by rail. Pointedly asked them, as well, about how they intended to route the thousands of daily trucks which would be carrying in steel and concrete since they won’t be using the railroad to do it.

Ultimately, there’s two efficient routes, and both feed in through Manhattan from the continent – George Washington Bridge down 125th street to Triborough and then through Astoria, or Lincoln Tunnel across 42nd street to Queensboro. Guess which one they’ll pick?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

To be entirely clear, despite the fact that the Sunnyside Yards is literally “in my back yard,” my resistance to the plan has nothing to do with the dismissive term “NIMBY” thrown about by the Real Estate Industrial Complex and the bureaucrats of Lower Manhattan. Western Queens is suffocating for lack of infrastructure given the construction boom which has been underway for the last decade and a half. The MTA is overwhelmed, we’ve been closing power plants instead of building new ones, the sewer system is overburdened and outdated. Somebody in the meeting asked me “where are people going to live?” which is the sort of thing that a real estate developer always throws out as if they’re doing us some sort of favor or good deed with the condemnation of whole city blocks and the subsequent erection of mirror glass skinned towers.

Short answer is this – if we improve our transit system, people can live anywhere they want to. Before the ABC and 456 lines reached into northern Manhattan and the 123 lines went to the Bronx, those areas were typified by farmland. So was most of Queens and Eastern Brooklyn, prior to the arrival of the Subways a century ago. Transit expansion equals an opportunity for rapacious profiteering on the part of the real estate industrial complex, and since greed seems to be the only thing that motivates us these days… Imagine the possibilities of an elevated track that crossed from the 103rd Corona Avenue stop on the 7 south across the transit deserts of Queens and Brooklyn all the way to Broadway Junction.

The mind boggles. 


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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