The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Greenpoint’ Category

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End to end, and where your poop goes, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s a view of the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant over in Greenpoint, the newest and largest of NYC’s 14 sewer plants. The eight egg shaped structures which define the facility are bio digesters. What that means is that they contain cultures, in industrial amounts, of the same bacteria that the human gut carries. After undergoing several stages of filtration – mechanical, aeration, and so on – NYC’s brew of sewage and storm water is pumped into those eggs whereupon the bacteria go to work. The micro critters consume what’s left of nutrients in the “honey” (which is how the wastewater engineers of the DEP refer to the stuff) and both the digestive process and their biologies sterilize the stuff. The DEP spends a lot of time making sure that the environment inside the eggs is conducive to this biological action, which includes maintaining a constant interior temperature that matches that of the human body.

It seems that we humans have a remarkably inefficient gut, which is why we fart when consuming too much food. So too, does the sewer plant get gassy.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Those four cylinders burn off the waste gases produced within the eggs, which largely take the form of Methane. As this turns the sewer plant in Greenpoint into one of the largest point sources of “greenhouse gases” in NYC, the DEP is working with the National Grid company in pursuance of harvesting the methane, which would be chemically modified a tad and added to National Grid’s “natural gas” supply and sold to customers. One is fairly familiar with both this partnership and the process, and the wheelings and dealings behind it, and it’s pretty problematic.

The alternative, however, is to do nothing and continue pumping millions of tons of methane into the atmosphere annually.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over in Manhattan, at the corner of East 13th and Avenue D, is the Manhattan Pump House. If you’re in the City and flush a toilet anywhere south of 79th street, your “product” is coming here. I’ve been inside this structure, which plunges multiple stories down into the ground (it’s actually deeper than it is tall). All of the “flow” goes into that cylindrical structure on the left side of the facility, which is called a “surge tower.” There’s a black maelstrom visible from the catwalk, which spirals down into a pipe laid across the bottom of the East River and then eastwards deep under Greenpoint and to the plant.

So, that’s where your poop goes.


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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 24, 2019 at 1:00 pm

who wouldst

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Happy Memorial Day, y’all.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Spotted these stout iron doors and old timey giant padlock here in Astoria one recent evening on my way home from a thing. The thing in question was a Community Board meeting revolving around noise and “quality of life” complaints leveled against a couple of bars on my side of the neighborhood so although I’m not officially a member of that particular committee I showed up to see what’s what and learn how that particular process works. Turns out that like everything else governmental, it’s fairly pedantic and there’s a well worn procedural pathway from “A” to “B.”

Another well worn pathway, one that I scuttle along, is where I encountered this lock and iron door combo, which seemed newly installed.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another night, another meeting, this time in Greenpoint for some Newtown Creek business. My path home found me dragging the carcass down Norman Avenue, where this grocery store’s outdoor shelving caught my eye.

The meeting in question offered an analysis of all the sites along the Queens side of the Newtown Creek (and a few in Brooklyn) that are currently under the administration of the NYS DEC. Luckily, my calendar for the coming week is fairly open for serendipity and doing things that I actually want to do. What that means is that the weather will likely be unpredictable, since God hates me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Yet another occasion which I was obliged to attend recently found one marching through the still industrial side of Long Island City, and along the bulkheads of the Dutch Kills tributary of the fabulous Newtown Creek – where this shot was recorded.

Back tomorrow with more things I’ve seen in places I’ve gone.


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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

May 27, 2019 at 11:30 am

insidious outrages

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Wednesday’s are seldom fun.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s been a pretty busy couple of weeks for a humble narrator, which has seen me visiting several spots scattered around the Newtown Creek. Last week, Newtown Creek Alliance offered a lecture by NYS DEC’s Randy Austin titled “Oil Spills 101” to the public at our 520 Kingsland Avenue HQ. Well attended, the lecture is nevertheless something which I’ve experienced multiple times, so after helping out with setup and introductions, I went upstairs to the Kingsland Green Roof and set up the camera for landscape action. Unlike the failed attempt at such an endeavor described last week, this time I remembered to click all the right buttons and followed my checklist exactly.

See? I’m smart, not dumb, smart. Not like people say.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shot above, which presents here at Newtown Pentacle as a rather small image in the vertical sense, is actually a MASSIVE panorama image whose resolution would easily accommodate the pixel count needed for a five foot long print. Click through to flickr and check out the “all sizes” tab if you’re interested. I’d mention that you’d likely not want to do that if you’re on your phone right now. It’s a GIANT image.

Of late, the camera technique I’m using for panorama shots involves turning the tripod mounted camera on its side, in “portrait mode,” and then rotating the leveled tripod head around about five degrees for every exposure. The one above is composited from around thirteen individual shots stitched together. The reason for this, and why I’ve started doing pano shots this way, is that any lens distortion is usually more pronounced at the edges of the frame, and the “squarest” section of any lens is at center. I was using an ND ten stop filter on my lens as well, which means that the shot above represents about five minutes of actual elapsed time, since the ND filter allows me to do longish exposures in full daylight.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A more conventional shot is above, looking over the DEP’s Newtown Creek Waste Water Treatment plant property towards Greenpoint’s St. Anthony’s and the lower Manhattan skyline beyond.

Also, regarding the ludicrous plethora of ads which WordPress has been inserting into the blog – and of late into the body copy – is a state of affairs which is currently out of my control to stop. In June, I’m going to start making a few changes once the site officially turns ten years old, and one of them will involve eradicating as much of that junk as possible.


“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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Old man shakes fist at cloud.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The time of the year which one refers to as “meetings season” is upon me. The good news is that laziness and inertia are cancelled out by “have to,” and the bad news is that I have to attend a bunch of meetings. The meetings mostly revolve around – you guessed it – Newtown Creek. Just last night, I was over in Greenpoint at a CAG (Superfund Community Advisory Group) meeting with several layers of officialdom – City, State, Federal. The EPA discussed part of their technical process, called “modeling”.” As described; they collect multiple lines of evidence regarding the “yuck” found in the water, assigning categories to the contaminants, and determine its nature, transport mechanisms, and risks. EPA has all sorts of algorithmic formulae through which the raw data is processed, and the modeling phase of their operation involves converting an abundance of observation into an action plan which will guide the actual physical removal or abeyance of continuing transport for the contaminants of concern found in the waterway.

If you think that paragraph sounded boring, you should attend one of the CAG meetings yourself. The paragraph above is Hemingway compared to the actual presentations, many of which are frankly “above my head,” as math is involved. I’m an arithmetics idiot, literally. On my SAT’s back in high school, I got ten points under a perfect score on the language side, and ten points higher than signing my name correctly on the math side.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After EPA finished up their presentation, a combined team from NYS’s DEC (Department of Environmental Conservation) and DOH (Department of Health) spoke to the CAG group about the many, many sites which are under some sort of environmental enforcement decree along the Newtown Creek. A lot of attention was paid to the Queens side in particular. Essentially, you couldn’t throw a stone between the Pulaski Bridge and Maspeth Creek without it landing on or close to a DEC administered site. LIRR’s Arch Street yard, a certain spot nearby the Hunters Point Avenue Bridge, the Buckeye Pipeline, the Qantas resources and the Pratt sites in Blissville, the massive former Phelps Dodge properties in Maspeth, the Greenpoint Oil Spill, the National Grid site, the Morgan Oil Terminal site, and the Manhattan Polybag site were all discussed. There was even an upland property which at didn’t know existed, the Equity Manufactured Gas site. I had no idea about that one.

The DEC guy had a bit of fun with me, saying “See, you don’t know everything.” A roomful of regulators whom I’ve been tormenting as the “walking Newtown Creek encyclopedia” for years all laughed at that one. Ha ha.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After the meeting, which occurred at McCarren Park’s multipurpose rooms and play center (or something), I decided to hoof it back to Astoria as it was a nice night and it wasn’t raining. After getting back to the neighborhood, which involved setting up the tripod a few times along the way, I ended up in a debate with two Hellenes about the origins of the ethnodecriptive term “Greek.” I favor the interpretation that it’s a latin language racial slur (Grik – short legged) popularized by the Roman Empire, and asked them if the actual Hellenic Language uses “Greek” or even refers to their nation state as “Greece” when speaking about it in their own tongue. This devolved quickly, and I was put on the spot to explain the origins of the Jews, and soon found myself arguing against the Eastern Orthodox assertion of the Jews as being Christ killers.

All in good fun, nothing like a good historical debate with the Pizza guy and his buddies at midnight on Broadway here in Astoria. It was all very civil. That’s a word with a latin origin too, civil is. Polis, and politic, are hellenic words.


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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

May 16, 2019 at 1:30 pm

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It’s not luck or preparation, just good timing with me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Returning to Astoria after a recent sojourn to the fabulous Newtown Creek, one elected to cross the waterway at a point some 1.3 miles from its intersection with the East River. Luckily, that’s where the City of Greater New York maintains that chunk of our collective property which they call the “John J. Byrne memorial bridge” or as it’s known more simply to everybody else – the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge.

As I was nearing the apogee of the span, descending traffic barrier signal arms accompanied by bells and flashing lights provided indication that this double bascule draw bridge was about to open up and allow a maritime passage. What fun!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Gazing through the security fencing, a humble narrator did spy a barge and tug plying the contaminant rich waters of the Newtown Creek. The barge was set up to act as a platform for a crane, by all appearances. Perhaps it was coming from the nearby Kosciuszcko Bridge project, but that’s just idle speculation.

It’s a big old creek, Newtown is, with lots and lots going on all the time.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

With the bridge open and the always heavy flow of automotive and truck traffic halted, one took the opportunity to run around on the roadway without the fear of getting squished. You can just see the top of that crane moving alongside the Brooklyn side roadway bascule, above.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The NYC DOT bridge tender was definitely keeping an eye on me, to which I say “fair enough.” Imagine the sight of one such as myself, darting to and fro across the concrete roadway, hooting and hollering in my revel, camera waving about and filthy black raincoat whipping in the breeze.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Then the joy came to an end, as all joy must. A return to the ultra mundane occurred as the bridge returned to its resting state. One set his feet solidly to work and strode defiantly into Blissville, eyes fixed on the north, where Astoria eternally awaits.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

March!

That’s the Long island Expressway there, incidentally, at Borden Avenue and Van Dam. I love this point of view on it.


“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.


Events!

Slideshow and book signing, April 23rd, 6-8 p.m.

Join Newtown Creek Alliance at 520 Kingsland Avenue in Greenpoint, Brooklyn for a slideshow, talk, and book signing and see what the incredible landscape of Newtown Creek looks like when the sun goes down with Mitch Waxman. The event is free, but space is limited. Please RSVP here. Light refreshments served.

Click here to attend.

The Third Annual, All Day, 100% Toxic, Newtown Creekathon. April 28th.

The Creekathon will start at Hunter’s Point South in LIC, and end at the Kingsland Wildflowers rooftop in Greenpoint. It will swing through the neighborhoods of LIC, Blissville, Maspeth, Ridgewood, East Williamsburg, Bushwick, and Greenpoint, visiting the numerous bridges that traverse the Creek. While we encourage folks to join us for the full adventure, attendees are welcome to join and depart as they wish. A full route map and logistics are forthcoming.This is an all day event. Your guides on this 12+ mile trek will be Mitch Waxman and Will Elkins of the Newtown Creek Alliance, and some of their amazing friends will likely show up along the way.

Click here to attend.

grim party

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Merry merry.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator is taking this week and the first half of next off, so singular images will be greeting you through the week. Have a joylessly laconic Festivus, a Merry Christmas, and a Kwazy Kwanzaa.

Be back on the 27th to finish up the year at this. your Newtown Pentacle.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 26, 2018 at 11:00 am

frenzied letter

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My beloved Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An interesting thing about night time tripod based photos, which take fairly long intervals to capture, is that you become quite familiar with traffic patterns on area bridges. One was out fairly late on a Sunday night recently, shooting from the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge, and attempting to execute the shot above in between traffic light signal rotations. Finding a twenty five second interval, even forty minutes after midnight on a Sunday night, in which a heavy truck or MTA Bus is not crossing the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge and causing it to shake, vibrate, or heave… is a challenge.

There were about six shots on my camera card previous to the one above which were ruined by the sudden appearance of a speeding garbage truck, bus, or oil delivery semi and their somewhat seismic effect on the bridge. Such is life, I suppose.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Things were a bit quieter back on Greenpoint’s Apollo Street, the titular epicenter and official discovery point of the Greenpoint Oil Spill. Once upon a time, this was the dividing point between two of Standard Oil’s refinery facilities (both of which later became a part of Mobil), but today it’s just a wasted little street end defined by a former BP Amoco and now Kinder Morgan petroleum distribution tank farm. The eastern side of the street is owned by the Manhattan/Empire Beverage Distribution company, a warehouse based operation that accomplishes the holy task of stocking NYC’s bars and liquor stores with product.

I’ve never met the Empire Beverage people, but I’d personally like to thank them for facilitating my life long love of degeneracy and for several besotted episodes of happiness that have punctuated my otherwise miserable existence.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Funnily enough, at night, the sections of the Newtown Creek industrial zone where you’d expect things to be buzzing 24 hours a day are rather quite peaceful. It’s basically you and hundreds of feral kitties back here. There are weird moving shadows you’ll spot out of the corner of your eye snaking along the rooftops, which are often accompanied by a chittering sound that I do not like, but the less said about that the better.

There are some things you do not want to say too much, or know anything about, quite frankly.


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