The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Greenpoint’ Category

firmly sustained

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DUGABO – Down Under the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge Onramp.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last night, one ventured forth with two goals; first: get a decent night shot showing as much of the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge as I could get into frame, second: try and get some equally nocturnal shots of the trains moving around on the Queens side in Blissville. While I was shooting the former, the GPA Bridge suddenly opened to allow a tug and barge through, which is how I got those light streaks in the shot above – they’re the running lights of the tug. Yay.

By the time I got to the Queens side, the railroad guys seemed to have done all the moving stuff around they needed to do for a while, but I hung around for about 45 minutes and waved the camera and tripod around at a few things.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Before you ask, this spot in DUGABO is likely not where Amazon is going to base itself. A humble narrator received several phone calls about the subject yesterday, but I’m as clueless as to that tale as everyone who is not Gubernatorial staff is. The ways of the Dark Prince of Albany are subtle, and manifest in secret. Do not try to peer too deeply at the abyss that the Dark Prince dwells within, for he may notice and fix his gaze upon you. When the Dark Prince reveals his intentions, the children will rejoice, but prior to that only lament will be theirs and ours.

Seriously, not a clue. I’m reading the papers too, that’s all I’ve got. I also have no opinion on “good or bad” yet, since I have no information at all to work with. I’ve asked around as well, and have received a universal “dunno.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On my way home, this odd little monument to workplace safety was encountered in Blissville in front of the world’s largest Fortune Cookie Bakery, a distinction which Long Island City has long enjoyed being the home of.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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exceedingly gruesome

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I still need a vacation.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One spent an interval arguing with a proverbial “angry old white man keyboard warrior” type yesterday afternoon, who accused me of being a “hystrionic hipster clown.” I’ll accept clown, but hipster? I encounter this sort of fellow occasionally in real life, sometimes when I’m conducting a tour. You can always spot them; head cocked back, one eye slightly winced, sour look on the face. They showed up to see me screw up so they can then call me out on something. Usually, they will interject with some obvious thing – “you gonna mention the Long Island Railroad?” or something.

Yes, I will, when we get to that section of the tour. If they continue with the derision, I tend to bury them with a depth of knowledge that they aren’t prepared for, or introduce them to the group and hand them the microphone. Screw with the bull, you get the horns. Given my love of conflict and argument, if you come at me all aggressive like, I’m going to freaking bury you with a smile on my face as I do it. Brooklyn, that’s where I’m from.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Getting all granular about every little thing is something that I prefer not to do. I’ve never claimed to be an expert on all things – however – I do possess an enormous knowledge base which covers a lot of subjects. Subway and train people are the worst about this sort of thing, writing you off if you don’t know the model number of some twenty turn screw that the Dual Contracts era engineers had problems with. I know a lot about a lot of things, and know everything about one or two things. Given my particular interests, which generally revolve around Newtown Creek, anything that’s tangentially related to the waterway’s history is something I’ve read up on and at least tried to talk to an actual expert on the subject. That means I know far more than most “civilians” about wastewater management, trash hauling, maritime shipping, and the sociopolitical history of Brooklyn and Queens. It’s a pleasure to meet somebody who wants to share what they know about trolleys or some other esoteric subject, but the vast majority of these armchair scholars just want to hoard their knowledge.

The fellow who was being aggressive and nasty to me yesterday didn’t get the “full treatment,” which is what I call the vulgar display of my well honed internet research powers. Suffice to say that within fifteen minutes of his ugly attentions and nasty commentary, I knew his home address and had a photo of him sitting on his porch in Smithtown out on Long Island. As expected, he was a retired city employee pining for the “good old days.” Seriously, folks, there is no such thing as online anonymity unless you are very, very skilled in hiding your tracks. All I need is your email address and I can follow the wires back to, at least, the corner you live on. Imagine what the cops can do. Don’t make threatening statements online, with the ideation that you won’t get kicked in the skedooch.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m not offended by the “hipster” or “clown” accusations, incidentally, although “hipster” is a bit of stretch. What pissed me off was the accusation that I’m some sort of transplanted Midwest suburbanite who recently arrived in NYC to disaffectedly enjoy soy mocha lattes at some upscale Williamsburg cafe. I’ve encountered this sort of thing before, and it just ticks me off. Other than something like six to eight composite weeks when I was off galavanting in New England or Europe on vacations, I’ve woken up in New York City every single day for the last fifty one years. I didn’t pick up and move to Long Island or Westchester or …Staten Island… like some goddamned little kid afraid of what he’s seen in the big bad City. That would be giving up, and admitting that the malefic intelligence of the City had beaten you.

It’s standard “keyboard warrior” technique, calling somebody names. Let’s talk face to face, on the street where things are tangible and real. Say it to my face, if you want to deploy your MAGA code words and veiled threats.

Feh. 

Upcoming events


Saturday, November 3rdTidal Toast, a fundraiser party to support Newtown Creek Alliance in our mission to “Reveal, Restore, Revitalize” the Newtown Creek. Since 2002 the Newtown Creek Alliance (NCA) has been the voice of Newtown Creek; working with industry, agencies, and residents alike to promote awareness, remediation, access, resilient businesses and ecological restoration. This celebration will champion the Vision for the future of the waterway and those that have contributed their time, energy and effort to it.
More information and tickets here. 


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 2, 2018 at 11:15 am

provoking curiousity

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DUGABO, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As you may have discerned by this point, one tends to circuit the Newtown Creek in its entirety about once a month.

Obviously, since I live in Queens, and specifically on the south eastern side of Astoria, the LIC and Maspeth zones are routinely visited when I stroll out for one of my constitutionals. The Brooklyn side is a bit more of a reach, especially the extant sections of English Kills which kiss up against the Ridgewood and Bushwick borderlands. The other night, while getting my gumption up in preparation of conducting a walking tour for Atlas Obscura, I wandered down to the Greenpoint Avenue street end to see what’s what and wave the camera around a bit. I find my time spent at the Creek and behind the camera to be rather introspective.

My beloved Creek never disappoints… thought I…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

then one laughed a bit after spotting this wry bit of signage adorning a parked car…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

commented to myself about the indomitable will to live that this patch of moss, found on the bulkhead’s edge, is possessed of…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

pondered my role in the universe, then I grew concerned about an itchy spot on my left leg, while spending way too much time framing this throwaway shot of some oil tackle…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

wondered if some new form of inorganic life was organizing itself here in the poison cauldron of the Newtown Creek…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

and that’s when I realized that time was growing short and that I had to get over to the meetup spot so that I could check everybody in for the tour.

Yes, my inner dialogue is that pedantic. My leg still itches a bit, and it’s possible that I may have picked up some poison ivy contamination on Sunday, or it’s just leg cancer. Who can say?


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 3, 2018 at 11:00 am

drowsy realisation

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Newtown Creek, where all things are possible.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So, I’m hanging out with a photographer friend of mine, and she’s got a car. Therefore, since she’s become quite enamored with my beloved Creek, I decide to show her a few of the less than obvious locations where interesting shots can be attained. One of these spots is one that I seldom visit, the Maspeth Avenue street end on the Brooklyn side.

The Maspeth Avenue street end on the Queens side is the Maspeth Avenue Plank road, as a note, which I’m at quite frequently. The Brooklyn side is a pain in the neck to get to on foot.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The reason it’s a pain in the neck is that there really aren’t any sidewalks, one side of the street is defined by the fences of the National Grid site, and it’s a long “road to nowhere” which doesn’t offer any possible “escape route” should anyone take issue with a photographer wandering around – which happens occasionally. The other side of the street hosts a series of waste transfer stations, vehicle impound lots, and concrete plants. All of those businesses are defined by Maspeth Avenue on the street facing or western side of the street, and by the English Kills tributary on the eastern side of their lots. In recent years, there’s been an abundance of homeless folks living out of their cars camping out along the National Grid side. If I get in trouble on this section of Maspeth Avenue while on foot, I’m pretty much screwed as I’d have to walk or run to get away from it. Since my friend had a car, we could zip down to the water and do our thing, then zip back out.

It’s pretty desolate and lonely back there.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The water quality is abysmal in this section, which is one of the narrowest points on the Newtown Creek. It’s where Furman Island used to be, just across the water on the Queens side, and the DEP has installed an aeration system in the narrow which creates weird lipid jellies of foamy garbage and sewer solids that collect up along the bulkheads.

The industrial people use the street itself as a private lot, storing materials and heavy equipment wherever they want to.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One climbed up on a giant pile steel beams for the shot above, which gave me a vantage over to the Queens side.

Someone has been using these steel beams as a shelter wall, and the signs of occupancy were all over the place at the Maspeth Avenue street end – clothing, suitcases, chairs, bedding.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This suitcase in particular caught out attentions.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

‘Nuff said. 


Upcoming Tours and Events

Monday, October 1st, 6:30 p.m. – Infrastructure Creek – with Atlas Obscura.

Join Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman as he leads an exploration of the city’s largest sewer plant, tunnels, draw and truss bridges, rail yards, and a highway that carries 32 million vehicle-trips a year over flowing water.

Tix and more details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 25, 2018 at 1:30 pm

began negotiating

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A few shots from Penny Bridge, along Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It was a busy weekend for a humble narrator, and had to show my face in public for a couple of events. Had a bit of time afterwards that was productively spent, as a photographer friend and I hit a couple of “sweet spots” along that troublesome cataract of municipal neglect called the Newtown Creek whereupon I got busy with the tripod and the clicking.

Pictured above, the Koscisuzcko Bridge project is moving along nicely.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One seems to be obsessed with longish exposures of rotting piles these days, can’t tell you why. Give me a centuried mass of lumber groaning with ship worms and wood lice sticking out of the water and I’m happy.

Other people like seeing family or friends, I’ve got decaying maritime infrastructure. What can I tel you, I’m all ‘effed up.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking westward, towards the Shining City.

See y’all tomorrow, and check out the offer for the “Infrastructure Creek” walk I’ll be conducting on October 1st.


Upcoming Tours and Events

Monday, October 1st, 6:30 p.m. – Infrastructure Creek – with Atlas Obscura.

Join Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman as he leads an exploration of the city’s largest sewer plant, tunnels, draw and truss bridges, rail yards, and a highway that carries 32 million vehicle-trips a year over flowing water.

Tix and more details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 24, 2018 at 11:00 am

unusually odd

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Friday odds and ends.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

MOOOOOON. That’s what I said. Ultimately I should have said “cable clutter” since that’s what you notice first. I will never understand how the spectrum/rcn/Verizon people are allowed to get away with this sort of thing in Queens. The City will hand out tickets for looking at something too long in this Borough, treats local businesses like a cash register with fines for minor infractions, and polices parking like clockwork. We have DSNY inspectors picking through the trash, building inspectors ordering sidewalk replacements all willy nilly, but when it comes to the metric shit ton of dead wires hanging off the utility poles – nada.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Same sort of thing applies over in Brooklyn, as a note. If your home had a cracked water pipe, the DEP would gladly bill you for every gallon and then fine you for the flow going into their sewers. When it’s the City, on the other hand…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The thing in the Sapphire Megalith just laughs.

Have a great Labor Day weekend, Lords and Ladies – I’ll be walking amongst you in the shadowed edges, amongst the revenants and along the remnants.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 31, 2018 at 11:00 am

imaginary conversation

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A public service announcement from the Newtown Pentacle.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The City of Greater New York, like many of the other older North American East Coast cities, uses a combined sewer system. What that means is that sanitary waste water pipes, leading from the sort of domestic tackle pictured above, enters into an underground sewer pipe which also handles storm water. When the weather is dry, the municipal agency tasked by NYC with handling the flow (the Department of Environmental Protection or DEP) does a fairly passable job. When the weather is wet, however, things start getting ugly. A quarter inch of rain, citywide, translates into a billion gallons of storm water entering the network of pipes, junctions, and weirs hidden below the streets. This additional volume of storm water surges into the shared pipes, and the mixed up storm and sanitary water ends up having to be purged out into area waterways via open pipes. There are about 400 of these “Combined Sewer Outfalls” in NYC.

As you’d imagine, the DEP is fairly careful about handling this, and to their credit – working diligently to correct this situation. Not always willingly, of course, but they are in fact “doing something.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Massive “gray infrastructure” investments like the Newtown Creek Waste Water Treatment plant in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint section are part of the story. Designed to handle in excess of 800 million gallons a day of what the DEP staff refers to as “honey,” this particular plant is the newest and largest of the 14 sewer plants the agency maintains. If you flush a toilet anywhere in Manhattan below 79th street (and in small sections of Brooklyn and Queens), your “honey” is headed here via a pump house found on the corner of East 13th street and Avenue D on the Lower East Side. A technolological marvel, the NCWWTP is unfortunately unique in DEP’s property portfolio. The Bowery Bay plant in Astoria opened during the Great Depression in 1939 for instance, and the oldest operating plant in DEP’s system is in Jamaica, Queens which opened in 1903 (and last received an upgrade in 1943).

The stratospheric costs of upgrading their plants has caused DEP to embrace a bit of lateral thinking in recent years, which is where conservation and “green infrastructure” come in.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Green infrastructure takes several forms. There’s what the DEP used to call “bio swales” which a clever Deputy Commissioner has recently rebranded as “rain gardens.” This program will, when you put together all of the rain gardens citywide, have opened up a fairly large acreage of open soil for storm water to enter the ground via, rather than dancing along the concrete until finding a storm drain. The emerging technology and policy that they’re still figuring out are “green roofs.” The problem with retrofitting old structures for green roofs is that more often than not, the roof is structurally the weakest section of a building. The other problem is convincing building owners that there’s a benefit in spending time and treasure on them. 

A humble narrator is a back room conversation kind of fellow, and the ears I’ve been whispering in for the last few years have been filled with this crazy idea of creating a municipal code requirement – in the same way NYC requires fire stairs and suppression systems, lights on the front of your house, sidewalks of a certain size and specification and so on – for storm water neutrality in new construction. I’ve been told it’s up to DEP to request codifying it, as it’s not up to City Planning or anybody on that side of City Hall. The Real Estate Industrial Complex people I’ve mentioned this to are generally into it, as a green roof would be a saleable amenity which would enhance their offerings and wouldn’t increase their construction costs noticeably.


Upcoming Tours and Events

Friday, August 3rd, 6:30 p.m. – Infrastructure Creek – with 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, 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.

Tix and more details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 3, 2018 at 11:00 am

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