The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Hells Gate’ Category

thousand young

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A goat with a thousand young, that sort of thing, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Magna Mater notwithstanding, one worries that he has lost his moorings, but I’ve thought that since the age of five.

So many dreams are left unfillfilled – such as sparking a witch panic in western Queens. It has also also long been one of my goals to lead a torch bearing mob, but little success has been found in pursuing this goal. There’s the nuanced side of it all – you need to store the rag wrapped sticks, the accelerants, and determine some sort of organizing point for the angry masses… it’s all quite complicated. You also need to get a group angry enough to take to the streets and chase the monster towards the old and flammable mill. There’s no way to start a political riot these days which doesn’t involve some sort of intense preparation, and advance permitting, and I’ve always been a spontaneous sort of guy. Also, my apathy can be considered as being weaponized, and I just can’t be bothered to pointlessly bleat. What’s wrong with a Monster anyway, who’s it bothering, and why do you want to slay it so badly?

At any rate – anarchy, chaos, and – wooooh.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I spent last night at the District Office, which is what I call the bar in Astoria that I frequent, and chatted with the working guys for awhile. A surprising number of them were “big” on Donald Trump’s candidacy for President. In particular, they were in favor of the expulsion of “illegal immigrants.” I reminded them that most of these “illegals” who would get caught up in this effort wouldn’t be of Mexican lineage (whom most stereotype as being the “illegals”) and that a significant number of 70-80 year old Greeks, Croatians, and Irish people who have lived here for decades would be the likely victims of this policy. Why? Because back in the 1970’s and 80’s it was fairly easy to buy a green card from forgers.

Also, given what I know about the way things actually work in this City – you’d have to literally go from house to house and search every attic and basement for “illegals” to comply with the Federal Mandate.

Speaking strictly as someone of Jewish descent, this sort of thing has been tried before in other countries and it didn’t work out well for anyone involved.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Let’s do the thought experiment though, said a humble narrator, of how President Trump’s expulsion program would actually play out – using Astoria as an example. NYPD sets up a cordon on 21st street, and on Woodside Avenue. A skirmish line of Police begin moving north from Northern Blvd., working their way through every building and business and demanding identification and proof of status from everybody they meet. Those individuals who aren’t “pure” citizens are arrested, and shipped out to a holding cell.

The detainees would have to taken somewhere for further processing. Since our jails are already fairly full, we’d have to create mass incarceration camps where they could await deportation. Our national nightmare is the presence of an army of terrorists on American soil, yes? I can think of no better way to create one than building concentration camps full of angry people that know implicitly how to avoid detection when crossing a national border whose only wish was to become Americans and live in the United States.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 26, 2016 at 12:20 pm

upon all

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Triborough and Hells Gate.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned, one is taking a short break – hence the singular image which greets you above. Back soon with new stuff.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours and events –

October 10th, 2015
Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour
with Atlas Obscura, click here for details and tickets

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 9, 2015 at 1:14 pm

swinging and plunging

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It’s all so depressing.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Not too long ago, a humble narrator left HQ and soon found himself at Hells Gate. One always finds it amazing how alone you can feel when surrounded by literally thousands of people, but there you go. Melancholy and regret notwithstanding, it was decided to sit down and watch the surrounding city for a spell from a stationary vantage point.

“Winter is coming” is what was on my mind.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Off in the distance – a tugboat was towing a barge down the East River from the direction of Flushing Bay, and since there was literally nowhere else for me to go, I sat and waited for it to transit.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The tug was the McAllister Girls. The fuel barge it was towing was clearly empty, given how high it was riding in the swirling maelstroms of the Hells Gate section of the estuarine East River.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The background was provided by the DEP’s Wards Island plant, where centrifugal machinery separates a pestilence of filth out of a watery solution which the sewer people refer to as “honey” but the rest of just call “sludge.” In NY Harbor, it is difficult to avoid fecal matter, as the harbor is full of it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The currents in this section of the river, spanned by both Triborough and Hell Gate bridges, are notorious and powerful. Once, Hells Gate was a breaker of ships and consumer of lives, before the Army Corps of Engineers exploded the underwater geology which promulgated the formation of whirlpools and ripping tides.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Even today, it takes a bit of skill – and a powerful set of engines – for Mariners to conquer the cross currents and tidal action of Hells Gate. It’s nowhere close to the historical force of water, spoken about with awe and respect by sailors in the historical record, but this stretch of the river is still fairly treacherous.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

McAllister Girls, of course, managed Hells Gate with little trouble. The tug and barge continued along, entering the east channel of the river and continuing along to the south. Likely, she was headed for Kill Van Kull or Arthur Kill to drop off the empty barge and begin the process of moving another full one to some farm of coastal fuel tanks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It was all pretty depressing though. Winter is coming.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

October 10th, 2015
Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour
with Atlas Obscura, click here for details and tickets

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 1, 2015 at 2:30 pm

faint draft

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Sludge Boats, baby, Sludge Boats…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For those two weeks which formed the end of November, a humble narrator was enjoying a vacation from all things with the Missus. In fact, for about half of our vacation time, Our Lady of the Pentacle and myself weren’t even on the North American continent. The week of Thanksgiving, we were back, but maintained a low profile.

One thing which drew me and the camera out of our splendid seclusion, however, was the news that the NYC DEP would be holding a ceremony to christen the fleet of three new sludge boats over at their Wards Island facility. How could I resist… I mean… Sludge Boats.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

MV’s (municipal vehicles) Rockaway, Port Richmond, and Hunts Point have been shaking down in NY Harbor all year. Remember, back in the beginning of 2014, when a humble narrator braved the chill climes of a polar vortex at the Brooklyn Navy Yard to bring you images of Hunts Point?

You’ll say “jump” and I’ll say “how high” when the subject of Sludge Boats is at hand. Height is what these boats are designed around, incidentally. This new class of MV’s can pass under the Pulaski Bridge, spanning my beloved Newtown Creek at high tide, without requiring the drawbridge to open.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The lady in the center of the shot is DEP Commissioner Emily Lloyd, incidentally, with Deputy Commissioner Angella Locata to her left. I don’t know who the lady on the right is, but I led this post off with her christening the Hunts Point, so there you are.

There were lots and lots of important folks at Wards Island – brass from DEP and City Hall, Press, even a press Helicopter – as well as a whole gaggle of us from the Newtown Creek Monitoring Committee. NCMC is a community group that performs citizen oversight on the multi billion dollar construction efforts at the Newtown Creek Waste Water Treatment Plant over in Greenpoint, and the delivery of these three new Sludge Boats are a sign that the decades long project is nearing completion.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After the ceremonial events were accomplished, the DEP welcomed all onboard the Hunts Point, allowing an opportunity for inspection and observation.

The Port Richmond peeled out of the dock early, probably because it had “shit to do.” Get it? Shit to do? Sludge Boat… Shit… Ahhh, nevermind. Port Richmond headed south toward the Triborough Bridge through the Hells Gate section of the estimable East River.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Exploration of the boat brought me to the big chair up on the bridge, and although no one would have let me start the engine and put Hunts Point through her paces, I did stand there murmuring “vroom vroom” until such time as I was asked to stop doing so. I did manage to say “make it so” and “ahead warp factor 3, Mr. Sulu” as well. One thinks that being so close to the very locus of Robert Moses’s power base on Wards Island causes odd concatenations in the thought process.

Alternatively, actually getting on a Sludge Boat after all these years simply made me giddy with delight. A big Mazel Tov goes out to the NYC DEP on the occasion of the birth of their new triplets.

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approaching triumph

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Infrastructure pornography, gratuitous and forbidding, in today’s post.

Also, I’ll be at Brooklyn Brainery on February 27th presenting “the Newtown Creek Magic Lantern Show.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Gaze upon the terrible scale of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, connecting Brooklyn with… Staten Island… Bridges are on my mind today, especially the ones that connect Long Island with other extant land masses scattered about the archipelago.

Today will be just a lot of photos, and your humble narrator will be taking advantage of the short interval of warmth offered today. Out and about, looking at things- that’s me.

from wikipedia

The bridge is owned by the City of New York and operated by MTA Bridges and Tunnels, an affiliate agency of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Interstate 278 passes over the bridge, connecting the Staten Island Expressway with the Gowanus Expressway and the Belt Parkway. The Verrazano, along with the other three major Staten Island bridges, created a new way for commuters and travelers to reach Brooklyn, Long Island, and Manhattan by car from New Jersey.

The bridge was the last great public works project in New York City overseen by Robert Moses, the New York State Parks Commissioner and head of the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, who had long desired the bridge as a means of completing the expressway system which was itself largely the result of his efforts. The bridge was also the last project designed by Chief Engineer Othmar Ammann…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

East River Bridge #1, or East River Suspension Bridge #1, or Brooklyn Bridge from Brooklyn.

from nyc.gov

The Brooklyn Bridge opened in 1883. At the time, it was the longest suspension bridge. It has been designated a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service, and a New York City Landmark by the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

East River Bridge #3, or Manhattan Bridge, from the water.

from nyc.gov

The youngest of the three DOT East River suspension bridges, construction began on October 1, 1901. The bridge opened to traffic on December 31, 1909 and completed in 1910. The Bridge’s total length is 5,780 feet from abutment to abutment at the lower level; and 6,090 feet on the upper roadways from portal to portal. Its main span length is 1,470 feet long and each of its four cables is 3,224 feet long. The Bridge was designed by Leon Moisseiff (1872-1943)…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

East River Bridge #2, Williamsburg Bridge, from Manhattan.

from nyc.gov

When it opened in 1903, the Williamsburg Bridge was the longest suspension bridge in the world, with a span of 1600 feet and a total length of 7308 feet and the first with all-steel towers. The 310-foot steel towers support four cables, each measuring 18_ inches in diameter and weighing 4,344 tons. In all, nearly 17,500 miles of wire are used in the cables that suspend the bridge 135 feet above the East River. The massive stiffening trusses were designed not only to withstand high winds, but also to support rail traffic on the deck.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

East River Bridge #4, Queensboro Bridge, from Long Island City.

from nyc.gov

The bridge was constructed between 1901 and 1909 and was opened to the traffic on June 18, 1909. A collaboration between the bridge engineer Gustav Lindenthal (1850-1935) and architect Henry Hornbostel, the main bridge is 3,725 feet long, the longest of the East River Bridges. The overall length of the bridge including the Manhattan and Queens approaches is 7,449 feet.

The site is an ideal location for a bridge as Roosevelt Island provides a convenient footing for the piers. Seventy-five thousand tons of steel went into the original bridge and its approaches. Its original cost was about $18 million, including $4.6 million for land. At the time of completion, it was not only the longest cantilever bridge in the United States, but also was designed for heavier loads than any other bridges.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Welfare Island, aka Roosevelt Island Bridge, from Roosevelt Island looking towards Queens.

from nyc.gov

The Roosevelt Island Bridge is a tower drive, vertical lift, movable bridge across the East Channel of the East River between the borough of Queens and Roosevelt Island, New York City. The span length is 418 feet. It was known as the Welfare Island Bridge when it was first opened to traffic in 1955.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Triborough Bridge, aka Robert F Kennedy Bridge, from Astoria, Queens.

from wikipedia

Construction began on Black Friday in 1929, but soon the Triborough project’s outlook began to look bleak. Othmar Ammann, who had collapsed the original design’s two-deck roadway into one, requiring lighter towers, and thus, lighter piers, saving $10 million on the towers alone, was enlisted again to help guide the project. Using New Deal money, it was resurrected in the early 1930s by Robert Moses, who created the Triborough Bridge Authority to fund, build and operate it. The completed structure was opened to traffic on July 11, 1936.

The total cost of the bridge was more than $60 million, one of the largest public works projects of the Great Depression, more expensive even than the Hoover Dam. The structure used concrete from factories from Maine to Mississippi. To make the formwork for pouring the concrete, a whole forest on the Pacific Coast was cut down.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Hell Gate Bridge, also from Astoria, Queens.

from wikipedia

The Hell Gate Bridge (originally the New York Connecting Railroad Bridge or The East River Arch Bridge) is a 1,017-foot (310 m)[3] steel through arch railroad bridge in New York City. The bridge crosses the Hell Gate, a strait of the East River, between Astoria, Queens and Wards Island in Manhattan.

The bridge is the largest of three bridges that form the Hell Gate complex. An inverted bowstring truss bridge with four 300-foot (91.4 m) spans crosses the Little Hell Gate (now filled in); and a 350-foot (106.7 m) fixed truss bridge crosses the Bronx Kill (now narrowed by fill). Together with approaches, the bridges are more than 17,000 feet (3.2 mi; 5.2 km) long.

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sensitive shadow

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Almost immediately following the appearance of the MV Newtown Creek sludge boat described yesterday, the Sea Wolf tug appeared at Hellsgate, making it ineffably clear that there is no place for me to escape from Newtown Creek and its world. Sea Wolf is a regular sight on the Creek, and the barge it was handling no doubt came from the recycling facilities of SimsMetal also found on the troubled waterway which defines the currently undefeated border of Brooklyn and Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Although my life seems to be some sort of permanent vacation, albeit one lived on an art students budget, it has been too long a time since one has left New York City and viewed something unspoiled- or just different. Part of this is due to work, and an inability to get away for any protracted length of time, but there is something else at work in my mind. One might actually have grown afraid to leave the megalopolis.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Like any prisoner, your humble narrator has become institutionalized, and cowers before the unknown world beyond the palisade walls of the Hudson or the crashing waves of Jamaica Bay. Rationalizations abound… there are a few places I’d like to visit- mainly in Europe (financially and culturally impossible), a few in Asia (similarly unattainable), and many in North America. Traditional vacation destinations don’t work for me, as personal descriptions of hell involve sitting in a chair on a beach and doing absolutely nothing while staring at empty horizons.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The manner in which my mind works, an admittedly byzantine and muddled process, breaks words down to find their true meanings. Recreation is “re-creation” and one has no desire to be recreated in any manner. Vacation is “vacant”. There is no break, no moment of rest for one such as myself. Enough of this idle, sitting in Astoria Park and watching the ships slide by. Clearly it is time to go back to my world of pain and misery along the Newtown Creek- where I belong.

Also- Upcoming tours…

for an expanded description of the October 13th Kill Van Kull tour, please click here

for an expanded description of the October 20th Newtown Creek tour, please click here

abrupt command

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Spending so much time around the Newtown Creek, despite its myriad charms, one often desires to visit other locales. Accordingly, a recent afternoon was spent wandering about the shorelines of Astoria, specifically the legend haunted Hells Gate. Astoria Park adjoins the waterway, and it’s unique elevation over the strait affords one a lovely opportunity to witness not just the rail lines which exploit the Hellsgate Bridge, but to spot and photograph a disturbingly heterogenous number of commercial ships.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My desire to escape the creeklands for a moment is merely a passing whimsy, an attempt at normalcy. One often fears that this, your Newtown Pentacle, might strike a single note too often and accordingly efforts are made to explore an ever expanding series of sites and situations around the harbor. This is what was on my mind, when a DEP Sludge Boat came into view.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My goal in coming here was to avoid all mention of the world normally occupied, and to enjoy an afternoon with “Our Lady of the Pentacle” while perambulating about beneath the autumnal thermonuclear burning eye of god itself. To merely experience a day absent from conversations about municipal waste handling, titanic industrial combines, and speculation about “all there is, that might be buried down there”.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Paranoid and stupefyingly pedantic, my world view is decidedly determinist. Nothing “just happens” and causation often indicates correlation as far as I am concerned. Newtown Creek will not allow me to escape its company, even for a short while. The Newtown Creek has actually begun to follow me about.

Also- Upcoming tours…

for an expanded description of the October 13th Kill Van Kull tour, please click here

for an expanded description of the October 20th Newtown Creek tour, please click here

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