The Newtown Pentacle

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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.


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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

have unlocked

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Wednesday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Tired and overwhelmed is a humble narrator, who is out taking pictures of the greatest city in the history of mankind this week and not attending any Zoom meetings or frankly doing anything he doesn’t want to do. Thereby, this week you’ll be encountering single images here at Newtown Pentacle, in pursuance of taking a short break from the normal blather.

Pictured above is the eastern terminus of the fabulous Newtown Creek, found some 3.8 miles back from the East River in Bushwick/East WIlliamsburg.


“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

April 28, 2021 at 11:00 am

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Friday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One last shot of the NYC DEP’s aeration system at Newtown Creek’s East Branch in operation, with the MTA’s fortress like counting house in the background.

That’s one of the facilities which the transit agency uses to count the money from bus boxes and subway token booth collections. I’ve been told that workers who do this within the fortress are compelled to wear jumpsuits with padlocks on the zipper to discourage theft. The only theft allowed at MTA is at Jay Street in Brooklyn, or in Albany’s corridors of power.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Leaving Brooklyn, reentering Queens, one last look at the venerable Grand Street Bridge was enacted. This span is going to be replaced in the next few years, and there’s a considerable amount of work that the NYC DOT needs to do before that process can fully begin. There’s a long list of weekends and evenings during which the bridge will be closed to both vehicular traffic and to pedestrian or bicycle access this autumn and winter, so if you cross it on the regular like I do – plan alternate routes.

Industrial Maspeth, which I’ve long described as my happy place, was echoing with Mexican music on this particular night. One found himself pursuing the sound, which led me towards the Haberman section of the Lower Montauk tracks maintained by the Long Island Railroad.

It sounded great.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I won’t snitch on the various illegal parties, raves, concerts, and gatherings I’ve witnessed in the industrial zone during the pandemic months. As an old fart, I’ve actually been enjoying the opportunity to spend a lot of quality time at home with Our Lady of the Pentacle. We’ve been cooking at home, spending leisurely and sometimes boozy nights talking about things which concern and inform our days, and in general making the best of it all. My sympathies during this interval have been applied to those who are going it alone, and to the young.

I cannot imagine what it’s been like to be in your late teens or early twenties and endlessly trapped in the house with your parents. Somewhere out there – hidden in the preternatural darkness of the happy place, young people were finding ways to enjoy themselves.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the beginning of the week of Monday, September 28th. My plan is to continue doing my solo photo walks around LIC and the Newtown Creek in the dead of night as long as that’s feasible. If you continue to see regular updates here, that means everything is kosher as far as health and well being. If the blog stops updating, it means that things have gone badly for a humble narrator.


“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.

was whining

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Thursday’s sextuplet.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Have you ever encountered a standing wall of sound so intense that your visual field begins to narrow? One which causes your teeth to hurt? How about one which is actually painful to be in the way of? Well, if you desire this sort of novel experiential stimulus, I’d suggest paying a visit to the Grand Street Bridge on a warmish evening when the NYC Department of Environmental Protection has its aeration systems for the Newtown Creek operating.

The pump house for this ill conceived system is nearly a half mile away, across the water in Maspeth, and is the latest shape which environmental pollution has taken here at the fabulous Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking westwards from the Grand Street Bridge, you’ll notice schools of predatory fish splashing about in the lit up area of the shot above. The aeration system is theoretically operated for the benefit of benthic organisms like these. In actuality, it’s to comply with a court order that the DEP is forced to oblige due to their releases of billions of gallons of untreated sewage into the waterway, which carry a bacterial charge so intense that the microorganisms contained therein consume all the oxygen from the water column which in turn suffocates the fish.

Not dumping raw sewage into the water? That’s crazy. Build a multi million dollar aeration system that generates jet engine levels of noise to overcome your inability to fulfill the mission laid out for you in the NYC charter? Check!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has been working around several different photographic approaches to capturing the aeration system, with its churning tumult and maelstrom of surface whipped mucosa meringue for a while. I finally hit upon the right exposure triangle and settings, one which illustrates what’s happening here. These shots are from the Grand Street Bridge, looking more or less along the Brooklyn/Queens border towards Ridgewood, Bushwick, and Maspeth.

Notice that frothy meringue? Sewerage, whipped.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The particular section of Newtown Creek you’re looking at here is called “The East Branch” and one arm of it used to flow east all the way to Onderdonk Avenue. Today, it’s truncated by a gigantic seven vaulted sewer that drains neighborhoods as far away as Canarsie into the canalized waterway.

Look at all the energy being pumped into the water here. That’s the Department of Environmental Protection at work, burning fossil fuels to power electrical generators to overcome the effect of the 2.1 billion gallons of raw sewage they release into these waters annually, while producing a standing wall of noise louder than that of an approaching subway train. Dichotomy much?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Makes for interesting pictures though, huh?

Here’s one of my urban parables – I used to have neighbors that were Police Cadets. Like all young cops, they liked swinging their dicks around when I or any of the other neighbors were doing something they didn’t like. When they would have a party however, it was mainly other cops who showed up. When the party went on too long, or got too loud, they’d tell you to go ‘eff yourself if you complained that it was four in the morning. If you called the cops to complain, then you’d just have more cops showing up to join their party.

In the case of the DEP, guess who hands out tickets for noise complaints? Guess who polices the dumping of hazardous material into area waterways? Watchmen? who watches them?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s really quite a shit show.

See what I did there? Shit show?

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the beginning of the week of Monday, September 28th. My plan is to continue doing my solo photo walks around LIC and the Newtown Creek in the dead of night as long as that’s feasible. If you continue to see regular updates here, that means everything is kosher as far as health and well being. If the blog stops updating, it means that things have gone badly for a humble narrator.


“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.

correlated causeways

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Eleven bridges, one creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pulaski Bridge is the first span you encounter, when you’ve left the East River and embarked on a journey down the fabulous Newtown Creek. A double bascule drawbridge, and electrically powered, the Pulaski Bridge connects 11th street in Long Island City with McGuinness Blvd. to the south in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint. Built in 1954, the Pulaski Bridge is owned and operated by the New York City Department of Transportation or “NYC DOT.” The Pulaski Bridge carries five lanes of traffic, plus a dedicated bicycle lane and a separate pedestrian pathway. It overflies the Queens Midtown Tunnel and Long Island Expressway, as well as active railroad tracks found on Borden Avenue.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

DB Cabin acts as a gatekeeper to the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek. It’s a railroad swing bridge owned by the Long Island Railroad, and connects two rail yards – the Wheelspur Yard (to the west, or left in the shot above) and the Blissville Yard – across the water. Both rail yards and the bridge itself are part of the LIRR’s Lower Montauk tracks. DB Cabin dates back to the 1890’s and is in a terrible state of repair. The swing bridge’s motors are nonfunctional, which isolates the Dutch Kills tributary from maritime traffic, and from the rest of the Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Cabin M is just to the north of DB Cabin on Dutch Kills, and the single bascule drawbridge connects the Montauk Cutoff with the Blissville Yard mentioned above. The Montauk Cutoff is an elevated track which used to provide a connection between the LIRR’s Main Line tracks at the nearby Sunnyside Yards with the Lower Montauk tracks along the north (or Queens side) shoreline of Newtown Creek. The 2020 Capital Plan just released by the Long Island Railroad’s owner – The MTA – includes funding to demolish Cabin M.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Borden Avenue Bridge is owned by the NYC DOT, and is one of just two retractile bridges in NYC (the other being the Carroll Street Bridge over the Gowanus Canal). Built in 1908 to replace an earlier wooden drawbridge (1868) at the intersection of Borden Avenue and Dutch Kills, Borden Avenue Bridge received extensive upgrades and structural repairs in 2010 and 2011, and had its electronic components destroyed by flooding during Hurricane Sandy. Another round of repairs and upgrades began in 2019, which included asbestos abatement work.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Long Island Expressway is 71 miles long, and is operationally managed in three sections. The Queens Midtown Expressway is how it’s owners, the New York State Department of Transportation, refer to the section found between the Queens Midtown Tunnel and Greenpoint Avenue in Long Island City. This section is elevated, rising to 106 feet above the waters of Dutch Kills. The LIE truss pictured above handles some 87.7 thousand daily vehicle trips, or 32 million annually, to and from Manhattan,

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Hunters Point Avenue Bridge is due north west of Borden Avenue Bridge and the LIE truss. It’s a single bascule drawbridge, owned by the NYC DOT. Replacing an earlier wooden draw bridge that was opened and closed by a donkey walking on a wheel, the Hunters Point Avenue Bridge was built in 1910. Back then, it was a double bascule bridge, but a rebuild in the 1980’s simplified the mechanism to a single bascule. The masonry of the bridge is original to the 1910 design.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Greenpoint Avenue Bridge is found some 1.37 miles from Newtown Creek’s intersection with the East River, and roughly a half mile from the mouth of Dutch Kills. It’s a double bascule bridge, built in 1987, and owned and operated by the NYC DOT. There have been many Greenpoint Avenue Bridges, dating back to the first one built by Greenpoint’s town father Neziah Bliss back in 1850, but that one was called the “Blissville Bridge.” The Greenpoint Avenue Bridge is a traffic machine, carrying 28.3 thousand vehicle trips a day, or about ten million a year. Most of that traffic takes the form of heavy trucking.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The brand new Kosciuszko Bridge(s) replaced a 1939 vintage truss bridge that carried the Brooklyn Queens Expressway over Newtown Creek and are found some 2.1 miles from the East River. The NYS DOT is busy putting the finishing touches on the new cable stay bridge’s construction. In addition to the… ahem… high speed traffic lanes of the BQE, there is also a pedestrian and bicycle pathway found on the new Kosciuszko Bridge which connects 43rd street in Queens’s Sunnyside section with Meeker Avenue in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Grand Street Bridge is a swing bridge connecting Maspeth’s Grand Avenue in Queens with East Williamsburg/Bushwick’s Grand Street in Brooklyn. 3.1 miles back from the East River, in a section of Newtown Creek once called “White’s Dock,” the NYC DOT have recently announced plans to replace this 1909 beauty – which is actually the third bridge to occupy this spot. Damage from Hurricane Sandy, and the narrow roadways with height restrictions that the bridge offers, have pretty much sealed its fate. It will be missed.

This is where the main spur of Newtown Creek ends, as a note. Directly east is a truncated tributary called the East Branch, and another tributary called English Kills makes a hard turn to the south just before you encounter Grand Street Bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Metropolitan Avenue Bridge is a double bascule drawbridge that crosses the English Kills tributary of Newtown Creek, and is owned by the NYC DOT. Metropolitan Avenue was originally built as a private toll road in 1813, and the first bridge here was a part of the “Williamsburg and Jamaica Turnpike.” The current Metropolitan Avenue Bridge was built in 1931, although it has received significant alterations in 1976, 1992, 2006, and again in 2015. The 2015 alterations?

You guessed it, Hurricane Sandy strikes again.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Montrose Avenue Rail Bridge is the final crossing found over the waters of Newtown Creek and its tributaries. Some 3.7 miles back from the East River, it’s the property of the Long Island Railroad and used for freight service on their Bushwick Branch tracks. A truss bridge, or trestle if you must, my understanding of things are that whereas the trackway and parts of the rail bridge date back to approximately 1924… there has been quite a lot of work done on the thing which I have not been able to fully document so rather than fill in blanks with assumptions – I’m just going to say that I don’t know everything… yet.

It’s an active track, it should be mentioned.


“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.

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