The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for the ‘FDNY’ Category

unhallowed wizardry

with one comment

It’s still National Creme Brulee Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

We’re breaking with normal Newtown Pentacle tradition today, and there will be multiple posts coming your way, devoted to the seismic events on Newtown Creek which saw the central truss of the Kosciuszko Bridge first lowered and then carted away over the last couple of days. This second post carries some proper shots of the lowering action. In this morning’s post, a time lapse video of the lowering of the Kosciuszcko Bridge’s central truss was offered. What follows will be everything else I shot, basically all the stills.

There’s a third post that’ll be coming your way tonight, btw., so keep an eye on this – your Newtown Pentacle.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One had arrived at the Meeker Avenue street end, aka Penny Bridge, by about ten in the morning. Not too much was happening, and word reached me that the lowering process – originally scheduled to begin at ten, would be delayed several hours due to an engineering issue which needed to be solved.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There were several tugs buzzing about.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Above, you can see the two flat top barges which were married together by a steel superstructure which would accept and support the bridge section.


– photo by Mitch Waxman

The truss itself was no longer supported, structurally speaking, by the approaches or towers which had cradled it for the last seventy eight years. Instead, it was the four “strand jacks” which were holding it up. Those yellow bits were the shoes on which the truss’s girders sat.


– photo by Mitch Waxman

FDNY and NYPD harbor units were on scene, with different units arriving and departing all day.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The barges were continuously maneuvered, throughout the day.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

About two in the afternoon, the truss began to lower. It was moving so slowly, about twenty feet per hour I’m told, that to the eye it appeared entirely static.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I was using two cameras, if you’re wondering. One was on a tripod, the other handheld.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself dipped behind Manhattan, and the Newtown Creek grew dark, the crews were still lowering the truss. The garish lights of the new bridge activated.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There was quite a crowd gathered all around the Newtown Creek, and especially so at the Penny Bridge site where I was.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

By about 9:30 or so, the truss was almost resting on the barge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A groaning sound of buckling steel echoed out across the Creek as the weight of the truss was suddenly taken up by the superstructure on the barges.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One spent about twelve hours at Penny Bridge, or the Meeker Avenue Street End, on the 25th of July in 2017. I would have to come back to Newtown Creek the next day, of course, to get shots of the thing leaving. That’s tonight’s post, however, as I’m still finishing up the shots for that one as you’re reading this.

Documenting this project has been a long standing project of mine – this 2012 post tells you everything you could want to know about Robert Moses, Fiorella LaGuardia, and the origins of the 1939 model Kosciuszko Bridge. Just before construction started, I swept through both the Brooklyn and Queens sides of Newtown Creek in the area I call “DUKBO” – Down Under the Kosciuszko Bridge Onramp. Here’s a 2014 post, and another, showing what things used to look like on the Brooklyn side, and one dating back to 2010, and from 2012 discussing the Queens side – this. Construction started, and this 2014 post offers a look at things. There’s shots from the water of Newtown Creek, in this June 2015 post, and in this September 2015 post, which shows the bridge support towers rising. Additionally, this post from March of 2016 detailed the action on the Queens side. Most recently, here’s one from May of 2016, and one from June of the same year. Here’s one from August of 2016the December 2016 one, one from March of 2017 which discusses the demolition of the 1939 bridge.

Most recently – a post showing what I saw during a pre opening walk through in early April of 2017, and the fanfare surrounding the opening of half of the new bridge in April of 2017, and a walk through of the Brooklyn side job site in June of 2017. Lastly, here’s some night shots from early July of 2017.


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.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

quiet steps

with 3 comments

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shot above was captured at the corner on the Astoria side of Northern Blvd. and 47th street, a couple of weeks ago. If it was shot a hundred years ago, this location would have been described as the corner of Jackson Avenue and 17th avenue (aka 19th century Oakley Street) nearby Long Island City’s border with Woodside. Back then, there would have been streetcars (trolleys) rolling through the shot. That’s the sort of thing which I wish the NYC EDC’s BQX team would think about – putting streetcars back where they belong, along these old routes currently serviced by MTA’s buses. This particular trolley route was one that rolled off the Queensborough Bridge, the New York and Queens County Railroad.

The street grid of modern day Sunnyside continued through to the north towards Astoria across what’s now the Sunnyside Yards and those huge used car dealerships you see in the shot above, which are found on the southern side of Northern Blvd. in modern times.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Northern Blvd. is a widened version of Jackson Avenue, which is another one of the many road projects overseen by Robert Moses in the early 20th century. Another one of Mr. Moses’s projects was both the creation of the Grand Central Parkway (which fed traffic to his Triborough Bridge from Eastern Queens and Long Island) and the redesignation of Astoria Avenue into Astoria Blvd.

FDNY’s Engine 263 and Ladder 117 are housed in a consolidation era firehouse, pictured above, which predates the Grand Central’s construction. There’s a shot of the place from ca. 1920 you might be interested in perusing at this dcmny.org link which shows what things looked like back in the post WW1 period here in Western Queens. The historic shot looks west down Astoria Avenue towards Steinway Street.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the Long Island Rail Road as it rolls out of the 1870 vintage LIC Passenger Yard towards the Hunters Point Station. The incredible trainsarefun.com is an invaluable resource for studying this particular rail empire, and they offer this incredible aerial image from 1940 which shows the LIRR operation at probably its grandest moment.


Upcoming Tours and events

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

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 18, 2017 at 11:00 am

wide notice

with one comment

It’s National Prime Rib Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A recent afternoon found one wandering about the waterfront in LIC whereupon FDNY’s Tiller Ladder 175 truck was encountered. For those of you not in the know, Tiller Ladders are those “old school” fire trucks with a driver at both ends. This one was Ladder 175, which normally spends its time over in East New York, but based on the patches worn by the FDNY guys driving it, I’d say that Ladder 175 was in the possession of the Fleet Services unit that day.

Fleet Services have several properties in Maspeth and in Greenpoint, all within spitting distance of the fabulous Newtown Creek, and you can often spot interesting equipment awaiting mechanical or esthetic attention.

from wikipedia

In the United States, a tiller truck, also known as a tractor-drawn aerial, tiller ladder, or hook-and-ladder truck, is a specialized turntable ladder mounted on a semi-trailer truck. Unlike a commercial semi, the trailer and tractor are permanently combined and special tools are required to separate them. It has two drivers, with separate steering wheels for front and rear wheels.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As opined many times in the past, a historically minded fellow is a fool if he tries to fill in the blanks when the subject is the FDNY. Every firehouse has an active duty resident historian who can tell you EVERYTHING about the units therein and the pre consolidation history of the individual firehouse, and there are legions of retired firefighters who know literally EVERYTHING about the department in excruciating detail. When the City created itself in 1898, all fire units in Brooklyn and Queens saw their unit numbers raised by “100,” so… if there was a Brooklyn Fire Department ladder unit back then it would have been “Ladder 75.”

Saying that, I don’t know if East New York was part of the BFD, or if it was an independent operation.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The design and purpose of the tiller models is built around turning the ladder unit around narrow street corners, which is accomplished through the use of the double steering mechanisms. The trucks are also quite a bit longer than the tower ladder units, which extend and telescope their ladders from a turntable. This means that the tiller trucks can carry more equipment and muster more firefighters than more traditional units.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the rear operators cabin, with steering wheel and other controls.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As they drove away, I yelled out “are ya lost?” and “east New York is that way” while gesturing to the southeast.

You literally never know what you’re going to encounter in LIC, so it’s best to carry a camera, just in case.


Upcoming Tours and events

First Calvary Cemetery walking tour, May 6th.

With Atlas Obscura’s Obscura Day 2017, Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour – details and tix here.

MAS Janeswalk free walking tour, May 7th.

Visit the new Newtown Creek Alliance/Broadway Stages green roof, and the NCA North Henry Street Project – details and tix here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 27, 2017 at 11:00 am

hushed conversation

with one comment

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Lots of odds and ends today. A supposition which opines that I live on the most exciting corner in Astoria continues to play out, as evinced by a deployment of the ever reliable FDNY the other night. It seems that one of the neighbors discerned the olfactory evidence of combustion emerging from a storefront occupied by the local bagel shepherds, which was a report which the FDNY responded to with a fairly large deployment. The fellows on the big red trucks soon determined that this was a false alarm, and it all ended up being just another Astoria hullabaloo. 

My suspicions that I live on the most interesting corner in Astoria will soon bear a different kind of fruit, however, as the trickle of water which I reported to 311 as bubbling out of a manhole cover on the next block – about two weeks ago – has now grown into a small flowing stream. Never quiet – here in Astoria, Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Hypothetically – due to having had to sign a non disclosure agreement with the State of New York today, one cannot tell you where I am this morning or what I am doing. I am precluded from sharing photographs or discussing my visit to some mysterious location where my camera has been brought to today until some indeterminate time in the future when the embargo on such collected material has been rescinded by NYS officials. There are no specific penalties described for violating this embargo (which is odd), nor was it originally offered with an “expiry” date, which is fairly standard for such situations (an open ended NDA contract for such matters isn’t strictly “kosher” legally, anyway, and there’s also that whole first amendment thing which NYS doesn’t get to suspend). Saying that, a humble narrator made a big stink about the imposition of an open ended image embargo with certain hypothetical people whose offices would be found in some theoretical minor City – which would be found around two hundred miles to the north of the de facto Capitol of New York State at the other end of the Hudson River – and eventually I will be able to describe in some excruciating detail where I went this morning and what I saw at some later date whenever they decide it’s no longer a state secret. 

The photo of the two Kosciuszcko Bridges seen above is merely a decorative addition to this post – filler, if you will – and does not in any way indicate where I am, or what I may be walking upon or over as you’re reading this. The shot was gathered a week ago in Greenpoint, on April 9th, for the legally minded and prosecutorially inclined amongst you. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of the bagel shop which drew the attentions of the FDNY to Astoria one recent night, while waiting for the bagel shepherds to construct a sandwich for me one recent afternoon, one was standing outside in the rain and glowering at passerby when I noticed these two pigeons working a flooded tree pit for bits of food and drinking from the puddles. Our normal flock of pigeons, who live in Astoria in fairly considerable numbers, have lately been harassed by a sudden explosion of super aggressive sparrows. This flock of avian bullies has been chasing the pigeons about, and driving them from their ledges. The Sparrows, on the other hand, have recently begun to be harassed by a bunch of Ravens. The multitudinous Sparrows will be loudly chirping when a single “caw” is sounded, which shuts them all up. Down below, the street cats watch, and wait. Luckily, after the bagel shepherds completed the construction of my sandwich, I was able to remove myself from this internecine urban warfare and return to the tranquil safety of HQ where my little dog Zuzu polices the behavior and habits of all the lower life forms. 

Gang warfare, of the feathered variety, affects us all. It’s best to have an elderly dog around to keep things straight.


Upcoming Tours and events

First Calvary Cemetery walking tour, May 6th.

With Atlas Obscura’s Obscura Day 2017, Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour – details and tix here.

MAS Janeswalk free walking tour, May 7th.

Visit the new Newtown Creek Alliance/Broadway Stages green roof, and the NCA North Henry Street Project – details and tix here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

indubitably linked

leave a comment »

It’s UNESCO World Radio Day, in the member states of the United Nations.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Owing to other obligations and piss poor weather conditions for the last couple of weeks, one hasn’t got anything new to show you for this week. Accordingly, it has been decided to instead present a few archive shots of the various branches of NYC government which make life liveable for us here in “Home Sweet Hell.”

Today, the focus is on the FDNY – the redoubtable Fire Department of New York City.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The men and women of this municipal service are amongst the most visible manifestations of our collective willpower and substantial tax base, here in the five boroughs. It’s hard not to notice the sirens and flashing lights when they show up, either to quench a fire or to pick up some unfortunate soul who requires a speedy trip to the hospital. FDNY runs, regulates, and operates the EMT ambulance service in addition to their other more obvious duties involving fire prevention and the extinguishing of blazes they couldn’t prevent. They also govern the safety rules concerning public gatherings like stadium games, clubs, and concerts with a small army of inspectors.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

FDNY has a spectacular Marine division, which in addition to many smaller vessels – includes the thoroughly modern and science fiction like “Three Forty Three” and “Firefighter 2” fire boats. Pictured above is the Three Forty Three, doing parade duty on the Hudson River.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

February 13, 2017 at 11:00 am

Posted in FDNY, Fireboat 343

Tagged with , , ,

hitherto baffled

with 2 comments

Santa Claus, Sunnyside, the Turks, and FDNY Ladder 163 – in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Celebrating the forthcoming Saturnalia, on a stretch of Sunnyside’s Skillman Avenue, the community received a visit from Santa on Saturday the third of December. There was a street fair sort of thing, and all the local small businesses welcomed the arrival of both Father Christmas and the shoppers who followed him. The whole thing was orchestrated and underwritten by the office of Jimmy Van Bramer, the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce, and I think there were other donors but didn’t pick up on who they were. 

The owners of Flynn’s, Quaint and Claret, and the Dog & Duck all slept happily that night – I’m sure – after watching their establishments grow absolutely full to the gills with merry making community based customers who were lured over to Skillman Avenue for the event.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Even the Turks, who aren’t exactly Christmas people, got in on the show. They were grilling kebabs – or whatever the Mediterranean grilled meat on a stick standard is called in Anatolia – on a smoky BBQ.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I was asked to come and photograph the event by my friends in the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce, and did my standard “thing” at public events when behind the camera. Part of my “thing” is this – always take pictures of kids, dogs and the food.

I moved back and forth between 51st street and 43rd street on Skillman Avenue, which was closed to traffic due to the pending arrival of Santa and the concurrent lighting of a tree at that little church on the corner of 48th. I will admit that this sort of event photography ain’t exactly exciting for me – I mean… it’s not like something visually “exciting” is going to happen at a parade or street fair.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On one of my passes, the smoky Turkish BBQ pictured above had disappeared. The smoke liberally painting the air was now billowing up from their sidewalk basement gates, and FDNY had arrived on the scene.

As mentioned in the past, I was the Brooklyn kid who ran down the street yelling “Firemen, Firemen” whenever an engine or ladder truck screamed past. Nothing has changed for me, despite the passing of multiple decades.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A minor blaze had broken out in the basement of the Turkiyem Market, it seems.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Ladder 163 was called to the scene, along with their partner unit Engine 325 – both are stationed at the same firehouse and they call themselves the “Woodside Warriors.” The two units were discussed a couple of weeks ago, in this post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Given that this was a street fair, ultimately, the normal crowd control stuff they do didn’t apply and this was a rare opportunity to get in close and observe while FDNY did its thing. Saying that, I wasn’t “that” close as I was using that new zoom lens of mine – the Sigma 50-100mm f1.8. I also swapped in another Sigma lens occasionally, which was an 18-35mm f1.8. Periodically I fired off the flash for a bit of extra light, but I’m trying not to use camera mounted flashes these days.

These two Sigma lenses are now the core glass in my “NYC night kit,” btw.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The FDNY folks firehoses (monitors?) were charged up with hydrant water, but from what I surmised, the initial wave of personnel who went into the basement had managed to quell things using hand operated extinguishers. I suspect that they probably squirted a bit of water around down there anyway in the name of conquering any “hot spots,” or areas which might reignite.

BTW, I question “monitors” above as that’s what you’d call a fire suppression hose and nozzle on a boat. If any of “youse guys” are on the job, let me know what you call a fire hose in the comments. The comedic potential of the preceding sentence is acknowledged, but keep it clean – this is a family blog.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It was all terribly exciting. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The crisis was averted, and Sunnyside got back to the holiday season. Jimmy Van Bramer lit a Christmas tree at the church, kids sang holiday ditties, and eventually Santa showed up despite being around 25 minutes late. It seems that Santa got stuck in highway traffic, which amplifies the message on a bit of common knowledge held by all New Yorkers.

Nobody, and I mean nobody, beats the Van Wyck. Not even Santa.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

December 12, 2016 at 11:00 am

reasonably legitimate

with one comment

Another Astoria Hullabaloo.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week, I was walking home to Astoria with the goal of reuniting with Our Lady of the Pentacle and Zuzu the dog before they both fell asleep. I was returning from a meeting over in Sunnyside, and imagine my surprise as I encountered the Woodside Warriors on 34th avenue. Housed on 51st street, the 49th Battalion of the FDNY is composed of Engine 325 and Tower Ladder 163. The firefighters had taken over the corner of 45th street and 34th avenue.

Couldn’t possibly tell you what was going on, they were too busy for me to ask. Didn’t smell smoke, nor did I see arcing flashes of electricity, and it was just the FDNY response units on scene – no Ambulances or Police were there.

from wikipedia

There are currently six different types of fire companies in the New York Fire Department which all operate distinct types of apparatus: 198 Engine Companies, 143 Ladder (or Truck) Companies, 5 Rescue Companies, 7 Squad Companies, 3 Marine (or Fireboat) Companies, and the Hazardous Materials (Haz-Mat) Company. In addition to these six types of fire companies, there are numerous other specialized units that are operated by the Special Operations Command (S.O.C.), the Haz-Mat. Division, and the Marine Division. Each fire company has a specific role at the scene of an emergency.

Each type of fire company utilizes a certain type of fire apparatus, colloquially known as “rigs”.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Ladder 163 extended itself up to the roof level of the apartment building that FDNY was focusing on, but after spending a couple of minutes shining lights around up there, they retracted the basket back down to the truck. Notably, the Engine 325 folks didn’t connect their hoses up to the hydrants.

I have no clue what was going on, hence – I call it a hullabaloo.

from wikipedia

FDNY Ladder Companies (also known as Truck Companies) are tasked with search and rescue, forcible entry, and ventilation at the scene of a fire. A Ladder Company can operate three types of Ladder Trucks: an Aerial Ladder Truck, equipped with a 100′ aerial ladder mounted at the rear of the apparatus; a Tower Ladder Truck, equipped with either a 75′ or 95′ telescoping boom and bucket mounted in the center of the apparatus; a Tractor Drawn Aerial Ladder Truck, or Tiller/Tractor Trailer, equipped with a 100′ aerial ladder. A Ladder Company carries various forcible entry, ventilation, and rescue tools to deal with an assortment of fires and emergencies, including motor vehicle accidents.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Since nothing seemed to be going on, as far as the likelihood of the FDNY doing “batman” type stuff – which is fun to photograph – I continued back on my way home. Zuzu the dog needed walking, and that’s my job. The pup and I wandered about for a bit. She seemed a bit on edge, my dog, the sort of mood she gets into when the silhouette of a bicycle chained to a fence presents itself. The game was afoot, signaled the dog. Then she peed.

from wikipedia

Most of the Engine Companies in FDNY’s fleet are Seagrave Commander II’s and Seagrave Marauder II’s and include 500 gallon water tanks and either 1,000 or 2,000 gallon per minute pumps. The 2,000 gpm pumps are primarily located in the high-rise districts and are considered high pressure pumpers. With the loss of apparatus which occurred as a result of the September 11 attacks, FDNY began to use engines made by other companies including Ferrara, KME and E-One. The FDNY is making the move from a fixed cab to a “Split-Tilt” cab, so the Seagrave Marauder II Pumper will fill the FDNY’s new order for 69 new pumpers. In 2014, FDNY went to KME for an order of 97 pumpers over the next few years. The new KME pumpers feature the split tilt cab and are also high pressure pumpers. As of January 2015, All future pumper orders will be ordered from KME. Seagrave will no longer make the split tilt cab, high pressure pumpers for the FDNY.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The next day, on the self same corner that the FDNY were doing their thing, Zuzu discovered the scene above. The dog was upset that the Squirrel, which seemed to be reaching for its last cigarette, didn’t react when she barked at it. I wondered, and more than wondered…

Then, Zuzu the dog peed again. Short attention span, my dog.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 17, 2016 at 11:00 am

%d bloggers like this: