The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Degnon Terminal’ Category

less than

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Another day, another bridge across Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There are five bridges crossing the Dutch Kills tributary of that lugubrious ribbon of urban delight called the Newtown Creek, here in Long Island City. You’ve got two movable railroad bridges, the retractile Borden Avenue Bridge, the high flying truss which carries the Long Island Expressway and then slopes down into the Queens Midtown Tunnel, and the good old Hunters Point Avenue Bridge. There’s been a bridge of one kind or another here since about ten to twenty years after the Civil War, with one notable span made of wood whose opening and closing was powered by ropes and a donkey. The current bridge was installed in 1910, when Michael Degnon was building his industrial terminal around Dutch Kills, and the Pennsylvania Railroad was finishing up their construction of the Sunnyside Yards.The Hunters Point Avenue Bridge was originally a double bascule drawbridge, but back in the 1980’s, the City rebuilt the roadway and replaced the mechanism with a single bascule version, which is the one featured in today’s post.

Apparently, Hurricane Sandy did quite a job in the electrical equipment that operates the thing, and since the City is required by the United States Coast Guard to maintain the HPA Bridge as a movable structure there’s been folks working “down below” in the gears and gizmos of the thing. It’s on one of my main routes when I’m out for a walk.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The other night, Dutch Kills was frozen into a giant plate of ice. This isn’t surprising, since the hydrology of the canal displays very little in the way of laminar or horizontal flow. The water rises and falls with the tide, obviously, but the shapes and angles of the bulkheads in addition to zero sources of flowing water at its terminus other than a couple of open sewers cause the waters of Dutch Kills to mimic the behaviors of a stagnant lake rather than a flowing creek.

A few years ago, I started reading up on hydrology and talked to some of the powers that be about using “shaped” concrete forms to cause zones of compression and expansion which would passively move the water around a bit, but nothing really came of it. I still think this sort of engineering is the way to go, however. As I understand the concept, rounded shapes act as “brakes” in fluid systems, whereas narrowing the width and obliquing the angle of channel walls causes water to flow (think river rapids). Essentially, large bodies of water can’t rise that much above the level of surrounding water bodies they’re connected to, so when the volume hits a point of compression it gets “squeezed” and pressurized which causes it to begin moving towards a point where it can expand again. As an example, the same water pressure in your kitchen faucet is what feeds into your garden hose, with the only difference between the wildly dissimilar behavior of the same water pressure being that the stuff in the hose has been compressed all the way through the nozzle and the sink faucet flow can just expand into the basin.

Design in enough points of compression and expansion, you’ve got “flow.” Or at least, that’s my theory. What do I know, I’m a schmuck with a camera, not an engineer.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another hypothesis I can offer is that the Newtown Creek is far more biologically active at night than it is during the daytime. All the time I’ve spent around the waterway in the last year at night has revealed an otherwise hidden world that comes out in the dark. There’s higher mammals, both feral cats and raccoons, which are occupying the predator and scavenger niches. You can see and hear vast numbers of fish splashing around in the water, and there’s all sorts of critters crashing around at the littoral edges and along the bulkheads.

The shots in today’s post were exposures of about thirty seconds, so you won’t see what I saw when shooting them unless it held stock still for that interval of time. What I saw was a big fat raccoon foraging around at the water’s edge, scooping up shell fish and other horrible wriggly things to eat for dinner. Actually, it was probably for breakfast, as the trash pandas are nocturnal – just like me.


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boyhood antiquarianism

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East side, west side, all around the town.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A third arm would come in handy when shooting in the rain, as managing both umbrella and camera is a bit of a chore. I’ve spent my life waiting for a “disruptive new take” on umbrellas, but the current generation of engineers seems obsessed with reinventing key chains instead. The giant golf umbrella I’m currently using is huge and sturdy, and came into my possession as a bit of branded “shwag” manufactured by some non profit group. It’s a bit of a carry though, and has a tendency to catch the wind due to its immense circus tent like size. Have we reached “peak umbrella” or is there a revolution in handheld rain shelter on the horizon? I’m talking to you, Elon Musk.

Often, a humble narrator finds himself dreaming about an umbrella that is deployed along the spine and straight up out of my backpack, which would leave both of my arms free for other tasks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The problem with umbrellas ultimately come down to their tendency to catch the wind, so the perfect solution to shooting in the rain would involve the deployment of some Star Trek or Dune style personal shielding of the electromagnetic type. You’d just need a gizmo that could pump out a massive amount of electromagnetic radiation and another that formed a magnetic bottle around yourself. Of course, this would destroy your personal electronics, likely disrupt the bio electrical functioning of the body, induce instant cancer in both you and everybody within a few hundred yards, but you’d be dry and the lens wouldn’t be spotted with rain drops.

On a related note – a general consensus, arrived at by the squad of morons and malcontents whom I spend my time with, states that googling any health concern you might be experiencing returns a result that it’s likely some type of cancer. Also, the cancer isn’t regular cancer, it’s super cancer. That’s the kind of cancer where the tumor rips itself free of your body and then prowls around in search of new victims, usually puppies and young children. The Super Cancers can attach themselves to infrastructure, throwing out whip like tentacles that snatch birds out of the air mid flight and plucking fish from the sea. Funnily enough, the only known method for killing Super Cancer, which is bullet and fire resistant, is Monsanto’s Roundup Weed Killer. Go figure.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Engineers are depressingly grounded in the laws of the physical universe, I find. One discovered this several years ago when I was espousing the use of heat guns in place of shovels for wintertime sidewalk snow and ice clearance. Despite my brilliant moment of transcendent realization, all that my engineer friends could talk about were the laws of energy conservation, Isaace Newtwon, and that the amount of energy required to melt ice in subzero temperatures would be incalculable. Next thing you know, they were telling me that my other dream of creating my own race of Atomic Supermen by exposing tank dwelling fetuses to gamma rays would just result in filling an intensive care ward with handicapped children afflicted by Super Cancer were they to be birthed. Pfah.

Shit on my parade? Go design a better umbrella, kid.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 3, 2019 at 2:30 pm

no triumph

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Freaking Tuesdays…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s part of the Degnon Terminal industrial park in LIC seen in the shot above, a complex which is a smidge over a century old. It originally had companies like Ever Ready Battery, American Chicle Gum, Loose Wiles Bakery, and warehouse operations for Manhattan department stores like Bloomingdales and Sterns (my mom called the latter Stoynes). The Real Estate Industrial Complex has done a fantastic job of repopulating the area with smaller corporate entities in recent years, rebranding several of these behemoth structures as “The Factory LIC” or “The Falchi Building” and attracting startups and smaller companies to the cavernous spaces within. LaGuardia Community College occupies one or two of the historic buildings, and a third rate modern one as well. As you move west towards Skillman Avenue along 47th avenue (known 100 years ago as Nelson Avenue, and as Nott Avenue before that, and as the salt meadows or “boueries” of the Payntar Family prior to that), the artisinal and fancy pants face of modernity drops away and you encounter the remains of the real LIC.

Crummy, crumbling, crusty. Hey, unlike in North Brooklyn, at least the Real Estate people didn’t just burn everything down and endanger the lives of the Fire Department people to get to the future.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I checked in on that widening bulkhead collapse on 29th street, at the turning basin of Newtown Creek’s Dutch Kills tributary. Nothing has been done, whatsoever, to ameliorate it or the inevitable collapse of 29th street into the poison mud. It’s all kind of depressing, and presuming the thing doesn’t collapse over Thanksgiving weekend, I’m going to have to start annoying the Deputy Commissioners at the city DOT here in Queens about it as soon as the holiday is over. #Carnage gets you a bike lane? How about #MitchinvitesNY1toLIC really soon after the Amazon announcement to talk about literally crumbling road infrastructure and multiple bulkhead collapses along Newtown Creek’s LIC coastline?

Godalmighty, I hate everyone so much because of this kind of stuff. Why am I the only one…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has a strange feeling that 2019 is the year when the bottom will break on this particular bucket of trouble called Long Island City. There’s so many individual problems and issues here – enviromental, municipal infrastructure, transit, the Sunnyside Yards Deck, ludicrous levels of traffic, hospital beds, police capability, FDNY resources… A strong wind blows through these parts and the whole house of cards will come falling down, I tell’s ya.

The Chinese Zodiac informs that 2019 is the year of the pig, but I’m feeling entirely like a different kind of critter will typify the action hereabouts in the coming year.

“Little pig, little pig, let me come in.”

“No, no, by the hair on my chiny chin chin.” 

“Then I’ll huff, and I’ll puff, and I’ll blow your house in.”


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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 20, 2018 at 1:33 pm

cyclopean ruinations

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Bulkhead collapse at Dutch Kills! 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

First off, these are shots from my iPhone (which I had to use instead of the usual DSLR for a variety of reasons). Secondly, my intention yesterday was to just wander around LIC for a while while it was still foggy, set up the tripod here and there and get busy with the camera. Walking down 29th street (between 47th avenue and 49th/Hunters Point Avenue), you’re able to spy the turning basin of the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek, and this is part of my regular route around the area. 

When I got to 29th street, however, I found this scene. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sometime between last Saturday and yesterday (Wednesday the 12th) a not insignificant stretch of the bulk head collapsed into the water. Those trees used to be at street level, and from the look of it, when the debris fell in the water it displaced a long abandoned fuel barge from the spot it’s been in for a decade or two. The barge is now riding up against an adjacent building on one side, and a second sunken fuel barge on another. It’s been pushed several yards from its former resting place, in the direction of the center of the channel. 

As a note, this is the second bulk head collapse on the Queens side of the Newtown Creek watershed in recent years, with the other occurring not too far away at the Vernon Avenue Street end. Disturbing portent, no?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As is my habit, when encountering some profound alteration to the Newtown Creek watershed, I rang up my colleague Willis Elkins from Newtown Creek Alliance. He happened to be nearby, and we both puzzled over who to speak to about this situation. Two pronged, we decided, and got busy with the photos. Willis reached out to a few contacts whom he knew had regency over the spot (29th street is not a NYC street at all, it’s in fact a “railroad access road” owned by the LIRR) and I contacted Jimmy Van Bramer’s office, hoping they might be able to figure out what to do about this. 

Saying that, I’m a bit concerned about hydrological undermining on 29th street now, which a lot of very heavy trucks use regularly. Disturbing subsidences indeed. 


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Written by Mitch Waxman

September 13, 2018 at 11:00 am

calloused outlook

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A few shots from the Degnon Terminal, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Modernity knows the complex of cyclopean factory buildings along Thomson Avenue in Long Island City as the campus of LaGuardia Community College. If – like me – you can see through time to earlier ages, you know that Thomson Avenue was named for the guy who used to own the Neptune Water Meter company over on Jackson Avenue, a recently demolished building which in the latter 20th and early 21st centuries was the home of 5ptz. You’d know that until the start of the 20th century, this area was a pestilential mosquito breeding swamp known as the waste meadows, and that it wasn’t until the Pennsylvania Railroad decided to site their Sunnyside Yard nearby that the swamp was drained and filled in.

The waste meadows were owned by the estate of a former Governor of New York State named Roscoe P. Flowers, and their acreage was bought up by the Degnon Terminal Realty company.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Michael Degnon was a contractor who could accomplish the impossible during the age of “progress” in the newly consolidated City of Greater New York. He came to prominence installing the masonry cladding of the Williamsburg Bridge and finishing the subway tunnels which August Belmont and William Steinway had started. The rock “spoils” which were produced when mining the subway tunnels connecting Queens and Manhattan were brought here to LIC, raising the land to a high and dry condition. Degnon began to sell his land off to large industrial concerns, and constructed their factories for them. His Degnon Terminal offered a “terminal railway” which allowed for shipping connections to maritime barge and cargo ships at Newtown Creek’s Dutch Kills tributary, as well as direct connections to the Long Island Railroad and Pennsylvania Railroad trackages on the LIRR’s Lower Montauk and Main Line. Additionally, connections to the New York Connecting Railroad and the Hell Gate bridge were possible as well. Degnon is buried in First Calvary Cemetery if you’d like to leave him some flowers.

As the Queens Chamber of Commerce called it contemporaneously, Queens was the “Borough of Homes and Industry” a hundred years ago.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just this last week, a meeting of the “Newtown Creek Superfund Community Advisory Group” was held at one of CUNY’s LaGuardia Community College buildings in the former Degnon Terminal, and as is my habit – the camera was deployed before and after the meeting. The shot above looks north in the direction of the Sunnyside Yard and you can just see the arch of the Hell Gate Bridge on the horizon. That yellow streak is the IRT Flushing Line – or 7 train – moving through the shot while the shutter was open for about fifteen seconds.


Upcoming Tours and Events

June 22nd – The Birthplace of Mobil Oil: A Walking Tour
– with Newtown Creek Alliance.

Join NCA historian Mitch Waxman and NCA’s project manager Willis Elkins for walk through the birthplace of Mobil Oil, past the DEP’s largest Wastewater Treatment Plant and to the Kingsland Wildflowers green roof. The tour will also visit NCA’s Living Dock on the way; showcasing restoration efforts adjacent to major industrial operations and in the wake of legacies of pollution and neglect.
The tour will end at the 22,000 square foot Kingsland Wildflowers project, with panoramic views of the Newtown Creek and Manhattan skyline at sunset.

Tickets and more details
here.

June 30th – The Skillman Avenue Corridor
– with Access Queens.

Starting at the 7 train on Roosevelt Avenue, we will explore this thriving residential and busy commercial thoroughfare, discussing the issues affecting its present and future. Access Queens, 7 Train Blues, Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce, and Newtown Creek Alliance members will be your guides for this roughly two mile walk.
Skillman Avenue begins at the border of residential Sunnyside and Woodside, and ends in Long Island City at 49th avenue, following the southern border of the Sunnyside Yards for much of its path. Once known as Meadow Street, this colonial era thoroughfare transitions from the community of Sunnyside to the post industrial devastations of LIC and the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek.

Tickets and more details
here.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

June 22, 2018 at 11:00 am

inimical oddity

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Darkness continues.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It rained all day on Sunday, whereupon a non precipitatating mist set itself up in the atmosphere during the evening hours. Given my recent fascination with wandering about the darkened Newtown Creek watershed in such conditions, a humble narrator strapped on the camera kit and debarked HQ for Long Island City. My target for this photo excursion was a section of the waterway found in Long Island City, specifically the Dutch Kills tributary. 

Pictured above, looking across Skillman Avenue and the “A section” of the Sunnyside Yards towards Jackson Avenue and the Sapphire Megalith.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A decade ago, one used to refer to this area as “Lonely Island City” since you’d seldom see anything other than a stray or lost human back here. The “zone” around the Degnon Terminal was largely deserted until recent years, when the Real Estate Industrial complex began to construct large dwellings on former industrial land along Jackson Avenue and elsewhere in LIC. All of a sudden, the humans began to appear back here. 

Where can a guy go to be alone with his thoughts in Western Queens these days? Always somewhat nocturnal, a humble narrator’s solution to the presence of the human horde has simply been to shift my schedule a bit. This causes loved ones no end of worry, me wandering about in the darkness all by my lonesome.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

You’re never unobserved or truly alone in Long Island City, it should be mentioned. 

In the cupola of the Sapphire Megalith, there is an impossible thing which cannot exist that is always watching you with an unblinking three lobed burning eye, after all. It hungers for profit and employs an army of acolytes to do its bidding.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Additionally certain precautions are taken, including the usage of a reflective construction worker’s vest which is roughly worn over the filthy black raincoat. Last week, in the comments, somebody asked if I carry a firearm when I’m out at night shooting to protect myself from malign passerby who might want to rough me up in pursuance of stealing my camera or emptying my pockets. I don’t. 

Were a stranger to strike me, filth and disease would crawl up their arm causing them to collapse into a pile of mouldering meat and rotting bone. That’s what I’m packing – plague and death are the horsemen I ride with. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Atmospherically, everything was pretty much what I hoped it would be when leaving Astoria for points south and west. The mists and clouds were largely at high altitude, and only ribbons of fog were present at ground level. 

My plan for the evening was to spend only a few hours wandering about, but I actually ended up being out for nearly six hours, whereupon I returned to HQ and developed the shots I had captured. One didn’t get to bed until about five in the morning, hence the late post you’re reading right now. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One did not experience any missing time, as a note, I was working the whole time. If I was abducted by a UFO, I’m certain that shots of it would have been on my camera card when I got home. Pictured above is 29th street along the Dutch Kills turning basin, looking back at the gargantuan complex of residential luxury buildings erected within the last decade in the Court Square area of LIC. 

The thing in the Megalith has won. 


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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

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