The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for the ‘Williamsburg Bridge’ Category

animal smell

leave a comment »

I’m so jaded.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has begun to understand the literary trope of Vampires acquiring new human familiars every fifty or so years so as to remain connected to the world around them in some way. That picture above is a pretty normal sight for me to witness, so much so that I’ll often pass by the scene above without bothering to photograph it. When you hang around with the crowd that I do, unless it’s a shot of some hidden subway tunnel that has sixteen inches of undisturbed dust on the floor with a satanic altar in the middle of the shot, sights like the one above are just “meh.” Jaded.

This thought occurred to me a couple of weeks ago when I was hanging out with some of my Newtown Creek peeps watching a tug wrestle a few barges into place. We watched the show with some disinterest, as such sights have become ultra mundane to us over the years. There was a young kid on the boat with us, and his jaw was pinned wide open while his eyes were as big as saucers. Bringing new people to the show, and seeing the wonder play out on their faces, is critical in remembering just how amazing all these things actually are. Like I said, Vampires and human familiars.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This week’s minor injury has involved a sprain in my right foot, which compliments a chronic bit of pain in the left one. There’s little to be done for the left one, given that it’s the after effect of having snapped a bone or two in it around thirty years ago. The right one has been all wrapped up in an elastic compression bandage and is seemingly on the mend. Should make tonight’s “Infrastructure Creek” walking tour fun for me.

There’s still space available if you’re desirous, and it would likely allow this Vampire the ability to feel emotions again. Walk ups are always welcome, and I’ll be on the corner of Greenpoint and Kingsland Avenues in Greenpoint no later than 6:30.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has a rather full schedule this week, and I’ll be scuttling all over the city, but I fear not too much in the way of fun will be on the menu. The third week of October, however, isn’t exactly packed yet, and I’m hoping for the opportunity of interesting things to take photos of occurring. Who can guess what the weather will be, or what injury I might be inflicted with next?

That’s what I call excitement, anticipating the next random abrasion or puncture of the skinvelope or an unheralded structural issue emerging from the ossuarial or ligamentary systems. If I was actually a Vampire, I’d be able to instantly heal like Wolverine, which would be cool and also allow me to win bets at bars.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Come on a tour!

With Atlas ObscuraInfrastructure Creek AT NIGHT! My favorite walking tour to conduct, and in a group limited to just twelve people! October 15th, 7-9 p.m.

Click here for more information and tickets!

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

October 15, 2019 at 11:00 am

vast trepidation

with one comment

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

leave a comment »

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

varying antiquity

with 2 comments

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.

gray city

with one comment

It’s complicated, man…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator is known for his somewhat quixotic inflections of mood by those who know him privately. It’s not exactly “manic depressive” in the clinical sense, but it often doesn’t seem far off. With me, it’s more “happily content and patient / consumed with red hot anger and resentment.” I don’t know why, maybe my parents loved me too much, or not enough. Can’t say.

Either way, I’m often a hot mess and the only way out of feeling bad is to get out and do something. Work, hard work, is the answer to almost every problem – as I see it. In many ways, I’m a lot like that horse Boxer from Orwell’s “Animal Farm.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Since nothing grinds my gears worse than a summer cold, an experience which I recently suffered through, one has been hitting the terrestrial pavement and the deck plates of boats as hard as I can for the last couple of weeks in pursuance of working harder. Now, the odd thing is this – I haven’t been to the Newtown Creek.

Normally, Newtown Creek is my happy place. Also, being exposed to that waterway bolsters my immune system and generally keeps me from getting sick and or contracting a summer cold. Oddly, however, I haven’t felt Queens calling for me to go there in a few weeks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s not that I’m bored with the place – far from it. There’s just some little bird chirping away inside my  “happily content and patient / consumed with red hot anger and resentment” state of mind that’s saying “explore” and is thinking about the far horizons.

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 21, 2016 at 2:30 pm

last stages

with one comment

The modern day East River in today’s post, which bums me out.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One such as myself once absolutely loved the idea of riding the East River Ferry. As a matter of fact, I seem to enjoy all ferry rides, presuming that the deck is accessible and amenable to photographic pursuits. These days, the actual experience of doing so brings on depressive episodes. One of the problems with the “historian” point of view is that you tend to realize that whatever rises must also fall, and that bills must ultimately be paid. That is why we all toil and labor, to service debts, and the City of New York is currently racking up a hell of a tab.

Recently, the Alice Oldendorf bulk cargo ship was observed at work, making a delivery to a concrete plant at the Brooklyn Navy Yard as I rode the aforementioned ferry.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The ship hosts a series of cranes and conveyors which unload her holds, producing the cyclopean mounds of sand and gravel witnessed above. It’s nice to know that at least some part of ancient Williamsburg still hosts a working waterfront, or at least a working waterfront that is engaged in the production of something other than artisanal pickles.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One cannot help but drop his jaw whenever the former Havemeyer or Domino Sugar plant site comes into view. It is being redeveloped as a residential structure – more luxury condos for the children of the rich to dwell within. The question of what will happen to these structures when NYC slides backwards into an era of degeneracy and decay is one few ask.

Any historian will tell you that it’s a cyclical thing here in the megalopolis, one that flips back and forth on a roughly forty year cycle which can be directly correlated to rates of crime, and that the City’s current upswing began in the late 1990’s – reversing a decline process that started shortly after the Second World War.

Rich people tend to move away from the City center when things get hairy. The rest of us are kind of stuck here.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Williamsburg is officially lost as a point of interest for me. Bland boxes of steel and glass will extend all along the East River soon enough, stretching from the former industrial heartland once called “America’s Workshop” in Long Island City all the way through the Gold Coast of North Brooklyn to the Williamsburg Bridge. Criminals are already beginning to focus their attentions on this area, just as they did in the age of industry. Why? Because predators go where the prey is.

It’s cliché to even comment on it anymore, one realizes.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Scenes long familiar, lost. The wilderness of the oligarchs is upon us, and deep in the woods – wolves howl to celebrate and delight. The nobles will be safe in their keeps, but the peasants – we’re on our own.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

August 2nd, 2015
The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek – Bushwick & Mapeth Walking Tour
with Newtown Creek Alliance, click here for details and tickets.

August 8th, 2015
13 Steps Around Dutch Kills – LIC Walking Tour
with Atlas Obscura, click here for details and tickets.

As detailed in this recent post, my camera was destroyed in an accident.

For those of you who have offered donations to pay for its replacement, the “Donate” button below will take you to paypal. Any contributions to the camera fund will be greatly appreciated, and rewarded when money isn’t quite as tight as it is at the moment.

Donate Button with Credit Cards

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 27, 2015 at 12:43 pm

lean notary

leave a comment »

Shots from all over the edge of a Long Island.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, a cargo ship was unloading a load of concrete manufacture supplies. The ship was performing the unloading process all by itself, with a series of swing out booms and cranes with mechanical buckets and shovels all busily employed. These shots were all gathered during the Solstice, when everything looks a bit ethereal, as the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself is in its position of annual primacy over the megalopolis.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

You can’t see the Williamsburg Bridge lit like this during winter time, as the angle of the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself is considerably less efficacious. My camera’s color and light meters were all over the place when I shot these, as what would normally be thought of as afternoon lighting lasted well past 6 pm – I think this particular shot was from around 6:30-7. Notice the wild angle that the light is falling at – longest day of the year light.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is from pretty late in the day, as the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself is finally slipping down past the shield wall of Manhattan. It depicts my beloved Newtown Creek, as shot from a familiar spot on the Pulaski Bridge. It’s a handheld shot, and is a bit grainy, but there was just something wonderful about the scene – couldn’t resist.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

There are two Newtown Creek walking tours coming up.

Saturday, June 28th, The Poison Cauldron
With Atlas Obscura, click here for tickets and more info.

Sunday, June 29th, The Insalubrious Valley
With Brooklyn Brainery, lunch included, click here for tickets and more info.

%d bloggers like this: