The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Hells Gate’ Category

vacant box

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Back to Hells Gate, where I belong.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned in Moday’s post, a humble narrator found himself lurking in fear along the Western Queens waterfront recently, specifically the legend choked narrows of the East River which nearly four centuries of European mariners have called the “Hellegaat” or “Hells Gate.” It was late in the day, and the flood tide was heading out towards Bowery Bay and Long Island Sound.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A succession of tug and barge combinations were taking advantage of the titanic flow, heading north and then perhaps east. I had a meeting to attend, so I only stuck around for two of the vessel transits.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The first was Sea Lion, towing a seemingly empty barge meant for the transport of recyclable materials. Notice the mesh fencing on the lip of the thing, a device contrived to avoid having materials within the barge swept up on the wind and into the water.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sea Lion, famously, found itself in a bit of trouble off a different coast of Long Island back in January of 2014, when it sunk off of Atlantic Beach. There were injuries, but as far as I know, no fatalities – thank goodness.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Bouchard transport is a historical star in the NY Harbor family, with the company having been founded nearly a century ago by Capt. Fred Bouchard in 1918. That’s a fuel barge being towed in the shot above, incidentally.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The tug is the Ellen S. Bouchard, a 3,900 HP boat. You can read about her history at this page found at the ever reliable tugboatinformation.com.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s it for a somewhat maritime focused week at this, your Newtown Pentacle, see you Monday with something completely different. There’s still a few spots left for the Insalubrious Valley tour with Brooklyn Brainery, btw, come with? The Calvary walk is sold out, but it looks like we’ll be doing it again sometime soon.

Upcoming Events and Tours

Saturday, June 25, 10:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek,
with Brooklyn Brainery. Click here for more details.

Sunday, June 26, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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Written by Mitch Waxman

June 24, 2016 at 12:00 pm

shaken open

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From Hells Gate… in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The titular centennial for the Hell Gate bridge, one of the prides of Astoria, will be occurring shortly. Accordingly, the “powers that be” hereabouts have begun to gather and plan for a community celebration. A meeting was called recently, and one marched over to the forbidden northern coast of Queens to participate. This particular meeting was the moment when the centennial efforts got serious, as none other than Peter Vallone Sr. was in the room. If you don’t who that is, or what it means when the great man himself is present, you don’t know much about Astoria.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As is my habit, I left a LOT earlier than I needed to, and walked to the meeting location “the long way.” The “short way” takes about 25-30 minutes, the “long way” is a meandering but somewhat photogenic path that’s more like 90 minutes. My chosen path would, I hoped, allow me to catch some maritime traffic taking advantage of the flood tide on the East River for transiting to the north and east. I wasn’t disappointed, but I’ll show you that later in the week. That’s a Dann towing company tug in the shot above, incidentally.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The “long way” involves me walking from HQ on the south eastern side of Astoria, where we share borders with Woodside and Sunnyside, down Broadway and then following the East River north in the direction of Astoria Park. That’s where I encountered this scene above, which is a great example of why I love living in this neighborhood.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

“I like the way you think” is what I told the fellow in the Lay-Z-Boy on Shore Blvd. I also assured him that if he were to run for elected office, he could count on my support. He encouraged me to take his photo, incidentally, as his innovative notion of what a “folding chair” is was something wonderful.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ll show you some of the maritime traffic I spotted along Hell Gate in a post later on this week.

Upcoming Events and Tours

Saturday, June 25, 10:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek,
with Brooklyn Brainery. Click here for more details.

Sunday, June 26, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 20, 2016 at 1:30 pm

uncertain factors

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Wash out, man, wash out.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

You’ll recall that at the end of February, there was a Götterdämmerung of a rain storm, one which produced quite a bit of coastal flooding. I got a phone call the day after the storm that declared that the shoreline at Astoria Park had fallen victim to the event. This would be some storm, thought I, which could bring a wave of water up the 15-20 feet from Glass Beach at Hells Gate all the way up to Shore Road.

I had to go take a look. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

From where Newtown Pentacle HQ is located, on Astoria’s Broaday in the 40’s, it’s only a small “schlep” to get to Astoria Park. In a car, it’ll take you around ten minutes, but only because of lights and traffic. It’s a 30 minute walk, or 45 if you lazily saunter.

Along the diagonal path, there’s a lot to see, and since Astoria rules… why not?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned above, Shore Road is elevated some 15-20 feet over the East River shoreline at Hells Gate. The rocky beach down there is littered with jetsam, it would be flotsam if it was still suspended in the water column, and the smaller particles of jetsam are mixed in with the gravel and small stones with little bits of river polished glass – hence “Glass Beach.”

Regardless, one reiterates – that would have to be one HELL of a storm to bring the water all the way up to Shore Road from Hells Gate.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Observations were enacted, and there were two wash outs which had deposited a terrific amount of quite slippery mud onto both sidewalk and street. The trail of soil and vegetation led back uphill to Astoria Park itself, which actually jibed with what I thought to have been the case. It was the park that flooded during the heavy rains, and the river had not in fact risen. If the East River rose 20 feet, waves would be lapping away at Steinway Street’s intersection with Northern Blvd. and we’d be talking about the Sunnyside Yards lake.

Mayor de Blasio would, of course, call it the Sunnyside Yards lake and resort and announce his intentions to install waterfront affordable housing along Skillman Avenue.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Fairly obviously, the two mud and water flows emanated from the two Bridges over Astoria Park, which gathered the storm water and then fed it down their outfall pipes into and onto the soil in Astoria Park, which caused the “lahar” or slippery mud deposits which were observed on Shore Road.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

March 15, 2016 at 11:00 am

unknown respondent

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Sludge Boats, baby, Sludge Boats.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

These shots are actually from the height of that shoulder injury period last month, and represent a desperate desire one acted upon to “shake it off” by indulging in a bit of exercise. The weather was less than cooperative from a light point of view, and the affected limb was less than pleased at the rest of my body moving around, so I decided that since I was in the “hell of pain” I’d simply head over to Hells Gate and indulge the horror.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Luckily for my diversion starved and somewhat depressed state of mind, the MV Red Hook was observed while debarking from the Wards Island dewatering facility across the river. Wards Island is the end point for the sewage sludge process, which is operated by the NYC DEP. Centrifugal machines are fed the material, which has the consistency of syrup or warm honey at the end of the thickening process at the various neighborhood sewer plants, which is carried here by the DEP’s fleet of “Honey” or Sludge boats. The dewatered material is compressed into “cakes” and sold for use as fertilizer on non food crops such as cotton and Christmas Trees.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

MV Red Hook is one of NYC’s older generation of Sludge Boats, although it’s the newest of its type – having come online in 2012. The newer class of Sludge Boats has been discussed here at Newtown Pentacle before.

from NYC.gov

The Red Hook sludge vessel was built over a three-year period in Brownsville, Texas by Keppel AmFELS. Once completed, it took seven days to make its way to New York City, arriving on November 19, 2008. The vessel has recently completed post-delivery dry-dock inspections and adjustments at the Brooklyn Navy Yard and is ready for service. Each six-person crew consists of a captain, chief engineer, assistant engineer, mate and two mariners. Crews work a 40-hour week divided into 14, 13, and 13 hour shifts. The Red Hook is slightly over 350 feet long, about 53 feet wide, with a depth of slightly over 21 feet. It has eight storage tanks with 150,000 cubic foot capacity equivalent to 1.2 million gallons. The Red Hook weighs over 2,098 long tons and is designed to travel at 12.75 knots or approximately 15 miles per hour. On a typical week, each vessel makes 14 round trips and visits eight wastewater treatment plants.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

All of the DEP’s honey boats will find themselves heading to or from Wards Island periodically, after making their rounds at one of the City’s 14 sewer plants. Hells Gate is a great place to spot them, and Shore Road along Astoria Park is a great place to observe Hells Gate.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There are many who would agree with me, in my assertion that the view from Shore Road rocks.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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

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