The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘English Kills’ Category

grassy cobbles

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Monday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week, one described the circumstances of a navigation of Newtown Creek on September 27th during which the photos in today’s, and prior postings, were captured. The small boat I was riding in had been navigated all the way back to the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge by it’s Captain – Carter Craft. There’s still a bit of navigable water beyond this span, a double bascule drawbridge owned and operated by the NYC DOT, but I seldom go back there in anything larger than a rowboat and I don’t do that often at all.

Down Under the Metropolitan Bridge Onramp or DUMABO, that’s how I “tag” anything which I’ve written about this bridge, or the area directly surrounding it in Brooklyn. The English Kills tributary of Newtown Creek is entirely contained within the political boundaries of the Borough of Brooklyn, in its East Williamsburgh section.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

English Kills is entirely hidden from view on the surrounding streets. A once natural waterway canalized by the various Corporate entities which once housed themselves here, and the United States Army Corps of Engineers. From the surrounding streets, you’d never know it was there if it wasn’t for the industrial noises and horrific smell. The odor is not unlike what you’d expect were you were to shit into a bucket of rubber cement thinner, and then set it out to sit in direct sunlight, while a running diesel engine out gassing exhaust. The sound is a “constant din” as in there’s no specific point source for it, rather there’s an atmosphere of noise echoing off the factory and warehouse walls.

The canalized shape of English Kills follows the jigsaws grid of the surrounding streets, which causes its waters to stagnate around the right angled turns. The presence of CSO’s – or Combined Sewer Outfalls – all along Newtown Creek means that the only fresh water entering English Kills comes from these upland drains. This flow is a mix of storm water, road runoff, and sewage. The latter is full of piss and poop, if you need me to point that out. The runoff and storm water washes through the neighborhoods first, carrying garbage and whatever might have dripped out of vehicles passing by on the roadways, and then into the stagnant water column of the tributary.

Because of the stagnation, a bed of sedimentation sits 15-20 feet thick under the surface of the water, sometimes poking out into the air at low tide. The sediments are referred to as “Black Mayonnaise.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Historic records suggest that the natural waterway that was once here, prior to colonization by the Dutch, was fed by upland streams and rock springs running down into the waterway’s basin from the highlands surrounding it, in modern day Maspeth, Ridgewood, and Bushwick. It’s the availability of that fresh water bubbling up from the rock springs that drew German beer breweries to establish themselves in these areas. The springs were capped, and the ground water claimed. That was the first industrial nail in the coffin of this part of the larger waterway. Contaminants and pollution from industrial plants literally miles away on the Creek would end up getting pushed back here and since there was nothing tidally pushing back, the bad stuff settled to the bottom. The Black Mayonnaise encountered “here” can be very different from conditions encountered “there,” despite the fact that it’s the same water body. Even on English Kills, the section you’re looking at in the shot above is entirely different from the hellscape found a half mile away in the zone around the apocalyptic Montrose Avenue Railroad Bridge nearby Newtown Creek’s terminus, at Bushwick’s Johnson Avenue.

Few of the modern businesses on English Kills use their maritime bulkheads, once amongst the most valuable in NY Harbor or even the world due to the nearby Evergreen Line Railroad tracks – which are today’s Long Island Railroad Bushwick Branch tracks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Open sewers dating back to the Civil War are seen here.

English Kills is the extermination of ration and hope, and a cautionary tale about municipal indifference. The NYC DEP, who operate those CSO drains mentioned above, found themselves under regulatory scrutiny by New York State a few years ago due to the low levels of oxygen present in these waters. The low oxygen situation is caused by sewage bacteria, which they allow into the Newtown Creek via the CSO’s. The answer DEP came up, since doing anything at all about the outflows themselves would be very expensive to the City, was to instead build an aeration system into the waterway. Giant bubble wands, reminiscent of a hobbyist aquarium’s setup, pump air into the water, which causes surface turbulence. These bubbles theoretically cause atmospheric oxygen to diffuse into the water.

The air flow also introduces mechanical energy into the bottom sediments and causes them to rise and coat the shorelines, where the so called black mayonnaise becomes exposed to the air.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Grand Street Bridge, a swing bridge, is pictured above. The center of that bridge is where the currently undefended border of Brooklyn and Queens is found. If hostilities ever break out, this will be a flash point and no man’s land where campaigns of armed attrition will play out.

Our time on Newtown Creek was nearing an end and my pal Carter captained us back toward Greenpoint, and the Manhattan Avenue Street End where he picked us up earlier in the day. A humble narrator was on an emotional roller coaster, it should be admitted.

“Every time might be the last time.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Along our journey back in the direction of the East River, nearly three miles back on the Maspeth side, we saw a guy fishing in Newtown Creek.

Tomorrow, more! And then even more! More all the time, now with extra more! Now – more than ever – more!


“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

October 31, 2022 at 11:00 am

subdued sort

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Tuesday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After returning from Pittsburgh, a humble narrator set about developing photos and chilling out for a couple of days before resuming the normal round. Some Newtown Creek Alliance business found me in Brooklyn’s East Williamsburgh section, alongside the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge, on September the 8th.

We were checking out a venue for our annual fundraiser – the Tidal Toast – and needed to do a walkthrough. NCA is awarding a humble narrator with the “Reveal” award in this – my last year on Newtown Creek – on October 20th. If you’d like to attend, and support a great organization which has been central to the last 15 years of my life, click here for more information.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After a week of traveling in Pittsburgh, and all of those heavy breakfasts, the idea of a walk back to Astoria afterwards sounded fantastic to me. The weather was great, and my camera batteries full.

This is the view from the venue that the Tidal Toast will be held at, which is the Brooklyn studios of a hand painted advertising sign and billboard company called Colossal Media.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My plan for the afternoon was simple. I walked down Grand Street, towards the Grand Street Bridge crossing on Newtown Creek’s tributary English Kills, where Grand Street transmogrifies into Grand Avenue when it enters the Maspeth section of Queens.

Along the way, there’s a lot of sights. Pictured above is a metals recycling operation.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the Grand Street Bridge, which is going to be replaced fairly soon. Something I’m going to miss out on.

Since I was in the neighborhood, one pointed his toes first at the Maspeth Avenue Plank Road, and then at the Maspeth Creek tributary.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There were a passel of Canadian Dicks Geese in the poison waters of Maspeth Creek, swimming around and dunking their heads into the slimy liquidity, to eat up whatever debased forms of life they subsist off of.

In recent years, Newtown Creek has become infested with noisome and quite aggressive Canada Geese.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A cast away automobile was visible on the shoreline when I was passing by. Visibility is related to where you are in the tidal cycle for this sort of thing.

The geese didn’t care, nothing matters to them either.


“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

October 11, 2022 at 11:00 am

scintillant semicircle

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Friday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

What you’re looking at above took place on 29th street in Long Island City on the 15th of July, at the Dutch Kills tributary of the Newtown Creek. It’s not the end of the story, it’s just the latest chapter in a tale that I began telling you all about in September of 2018.

For two and change years, the shorelines of the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek have been actively crumbling, dissecting, and collapsing. The situation has caused 29th street itself to become undermined, and subsequent bulkhead collapse continues.

2020’s Unaltered Bone,” 2022’swide scattering,” “expiring orb,” “harmless stupidity,” “plumbed descent,” “yellow rays,” “crawl proudly,” “nemesis mirror,” “ugly trifles,” “torture of,” “verdant valleys,” “budding branches,” “crystal coldness” all tracked and followed the collapse.

The theme offered in all of these posts was “nothing matters and nobody cares.” I also offered that in the end I would make “them” care. Luckily, my pal Will Elkins – Newtown Creek Alliance’s Executive Director and the guy with the megaphone – managed to marshal the political world around 29th street. The moment in time in this post is his doing.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Newtown Creek Alliance cares, and as it turns out – so do City Council Member Julie Won, the presumptive next NYS Assemblyman for LIC Juan Ardila, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, Democratic District Leaders Emilia Decaudin and Nick Berkowitz, the executive committee of Queens Community Board 2, the President of LaGuardia Community College, and about fifty to sixty of the local business stakeholders.

This matters, and now everybody cares. I felt like this. Told y’all we’d ultimately make them all care.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

29th street is my last dragon to slay on Newtown Creek. After this, it’s all about moving out of New York City, and rebooting into a different life elsewhere. For the first time, I’m feeling like everything I’ve been working on and for in the last fifteen years is in good hands, and that there’s another generation ready and willing to take the wheel.

My beloved Creek is going to be just fine without me, with stewards like Will Elkins and the amazing staff he’s surrounded himself with at Newtown Creek Alliance fighting the good fight.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My Pal Val attended the presser, and after the event was done, she wanted to check out the Gaseteria/NYS Marshalls impound lot which was described to you at the beginning of this week.

We jumped in her car and went over to Greenpoint, and the English Kills tributary of Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a scrap metal operation located on English Kills, but their entrance is on Grand Street. All that material is brought in by truck, but shipped out via maritime barge. Just one of those barges carries the equivalent cargo of 38 heavy trucks.

It’s insane how little used this sort of hauling is utilized in the archipelago City of Greater New York.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Back next week with something different at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


“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

August 12, 2022 at 11:00 am

nervous overstrain

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Monday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On July 5th, I had rented a car from the Avis outfit for a couple of days in pursuance of visiting people and places well outside of the normal study area. During the daylight hours, I was driving around the neighborhoods that made me in Brooklyn, with Our Lady of the Pentacle and my pal Armstrong along. When the sun began to set, a brief interval of rain began, but I wasn’t willing to just let a rental car sit in front of HQ. I packed up the camera and drove over to the fabulous Newtown Creek.

My plan for the night involved visiting a few of the less pedestrian friendly areas which I normally skip when on foot for various reasons. Distance, cul de sacs, danger… lots of reasons. All of that is negated by having a set of wheels to scoot about with.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a long dead end street on the Brooklyn side of Newtown Creek called Maspeth Avenue. Industrial in nature, it’s found directly opposite the Maspeth Plank Road site on the Queens side. Maspeth Avenue follows the course of the English Kills tributary of Newtown Creek along the hazy border between Greenpoint, Bushwick, and East Williamsburgh.

For many years, the spot I had driven over to and was shooting in was known as “Gaseteria,” which was a fuel depot hosting gasoline tanks. Secretly owned by mobsters and operated at the behest of a Capo Regime named Michael Franzese, Gaseteria went out of business when the FBI found out about their diversion of millions or possibly billions of dollars of NYS taxes into the pockets of the Colombo Family. Franzese has given up “the life” and now works the evangelical circuit as a speaker and author. He’s got a YouTube channel where he discusses his misadventures and eventual (self claimed) redemption.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Gaseteria site became the address of the NYS Marshall’s Office for a while, and this is where they would tow your car to if NYS was the entity impounding it. One of the most absolutely hilarious things NYS and NYC do is siting and or establishing tow yards or impound lots in remote places that you can’t get to without a car. To wit – here’s where this spot is on a Google map.

The car I was in – with its roof – came in handy, as it had started to rain. I set up my tripod on the passenger seat and rolled down the window on that side. Cannot tell you how suspicious I must have looked.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I never cross a fenceline while on foot if I can help it. If you get into trouble while on foot, you’re just plain screwed. Given that I was behind the wheel of a rental car for a change… also, it was raining, and NYC never looks as good as it does when it’s raining. Thereby, forward!

That large tank in the background is one of the two Liquefied Natural Gas holders which the National Grid people maintain on their enormous properties in Brooklyn. This site in Greenpoint used to belong to the Brooklyn Union Gas Company, which manufactured gas there for nearly a century (creating an environmental nightmare in the process which poisoned both land and water), and is the former home of the “Maspeth Holders” which were imploded in 2001. The LNG contained within the modern system is held at cryogenic temperatures. I should mention that whereas the other energy companies along the Newtown Creek are generally pretty open about what they do and make regular attempts at “public relations” with the surrounding communities, National Grid is a “black box” and they don’t want you to even notice them.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I had been driving more or less constantly since about 8:30 in the morning. I was in parts of Brooklyn and Queens which I haven’t visited since the Reagan Administration, and my energy was waning. I made one last stop on my way back to Astoria, at Apollo Street in Greenpoint.

Apollo Street used to be part of the Standard Oil/Mobil operation in Greenpoint. It was the dividing line between two operational petroleum refining units – Locust Hill and Sone & Fleming. These days, it’s an abandoned street end where a lot of illegal dumping takes place. After grabbing the shot above, I rigged the camera back over to “hand held” mode and packed up my gear. The camera was sitting on the passenger seat.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On my way home, while waiting for traffic lights to change, I couldn’t help but pop out one or two more.

Luckily, just as I arrived back at HQ, a spot opened up directly in front of the place. I headed up stairs, set the camera battery to charge, and got ready for my 6-7 hours of unconscious hallucinations. The 6th was going to be another fun day, during which I’d be driving a lot and visiting places normally inaccessible to the dedicated pedestrian.


“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

August 8, 2022 at 11:00 am

jaded sensibilities

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Tuesday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On May 15th, a humble narrator was helping out a couple of my buddies from Newtown Creek Alliance on a walking tour of the eastern side of the creek – in East Williamsburgh, Maspeth, and Ridgewood.

Pictured is the end of all hope at Newtown Creek’s English Kills tributary in the East Williamsburgh area. This is some 3.8 miles from the East River.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Water conditions back here are as bad as they get on Newtown Creek, and that’s really saying something. There’s lots of oil sheens, the water has virtually zero oxygen in it, and the only source of fresh water coming into this area other than the infinitesimal influences of the tidal cycle emerge from one of the largest open sewers in NYC, found at the head of the canal.

It smells like rotting ham and wet reptiles back here.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the north side of English Kills is one of Waste Management’s transfer stations, one which is connected to the Bushwick Branch Long Island Railroad freight tracks. This is the same rail you see behind Flushing Avenue in Maspeth, and which leads to the Fresh Pond Yard found to the north east.

That’s the garbage train pictured above. Normally, when I show you this sort of thing, it’s nearby the Review Avenue Waste Management facility which is in Long Island City’s Blissville section.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Nearby the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge, this derelict tanker truck caught my eye. It’s sitting alongside the Manhattan Polybag site, which is currently abandoned and being worked on/remediated for toxic materials that were being released into the water. The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation is in charge of this one.

Nothing but happiness and joy at the fabulous Newtown Creek, I always say. Happiness and joy…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another tributary of Newtown Creek on the eastern side of its course is called “The East Branch.” It splits like a letter “Y” at the Grand Street Bridge. One section of it terminates at Metropolitan Avenue nearby Scott Avenue in Ridgewood, and it’s there that you’ll find the fourth largest open sewer in NYC.

Happiness and joy…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The other section of the East Branch forms a short barge sized canal, which is visible from the Western Beef supermarket’s parking lot. There’s a nice view there, pictured above, of the Grand Street Bridge.

Get your shots of this centuried span while you can, the City is in the earliest phases of replacing the thing.


“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 28, 2022 at 11:00 am

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