The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Kill Van Kull’ Category

failing light

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It’s National Hazelnut Cake day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the tug Sea Lion in the shot above, hurtling across the Kill Van Kull with an industrial section of Bayonne, New Jersey and the skyline of Lower Manhattan providing a backdrop. One hasn’t been focusing in on the harbor all that much in recent months for one reason or another, but it’s nothing personal, rather it’s an “art” thing. There’s only so many ways to frame and shoot a passing vessel, when you really get down to it. I’ll figure out some way to make it interesting again, as I was trying to do in the shot above by shooting “wide open” and going for depth of field rather than my normal “tack sharp” narrow aperture method for maritime shots.

Sea Lion is looking pretty good, given that she sunk a few years ago off the coast of Long Island – check out NY Media Boat’s page describing that disaster.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Passing out of the Kill Van Kull, and into the Upper Bay, three McAllister tugs were observed “wrassling” a cargo ship into position for it to exit NY waters. There’s two tugs pictured above, the Eric and Bruce A. McAllister’s, and the third one was on the other side of the cargo ship.

I was onboard a NY Waterways boat hired by the Working Harbor Committee for a tour of Newark Bay, in my capacity as the group’s official photographer. These WHC trips have become quite a melancholy experience for me in the last few years, as I spend most of my time onboard reminiscing about a few buddies whom I always enjoyed hanging out or working with on these excursions that have left this mortal coil – Bernie Ente, Capt. John Doswell, and most recently John Skelson.

Absent friends… lift glasses… clink.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I didn’t observe the usual post op ritual which the WHC crew enacts this time around, heading over to a hole in the wall bar on Pearl Street for a pint to compare notes about the trip. Queens was calling, and given the intensity of my schedule during the month of May, I was of no mind to delay getting home to our Lady of the Pentacle and Zuzu the dog.

The 5 line carried me from Lower Manhattan to the 59th and Lex hub, where an R line transfer was enacted, which carried me home to the rolling hills of almond eyed Astoria.


Upcoming Tours and events

Newtown Creek Alliance and Riverkeeper Visioning, June 3rd, 1-4 p.m..

Imagine the future of Newtown Creek with Riverkeeper and NCA at the Kingsland Wildfowers Green Roof (520 Kingsland Avenue in Greenpoint) details here.

Newtown Creek Alliance History lecture with NCA historian Mitch Waxman, June 3rd, 5:00- 7:30 p.m.

An free hour long lecture and slideshow about Newtown Creek’s incredible history at the gorgeous Kingsland Wildfowers Green Roof (520 Kingsland Avenue in Greenpoint) followed by a walk around the roof and a Q&A – details here.

Green Drinks Queens LIC, June 5th, 6:00- 9:00 p.m.

Come celebrate UN World Environment Day with Green Drinks: Queens on the LIC Waterfront! This year’s theme is “Connecting People With Nature.”details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 1, 2017 at 11:00 am

unknown caller

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator is fairly crispy around the edges, and in a state best described as “too little butter scraped over too much bread.” The ridiculous schedule I’ve been keeping throughout the months of April and May is beginning to wear me down a bit, and I’ve got literally thousands of photos to process and deliver to various entities. Busy is good, admittedly, but “man alive” do I need a day or two off.

Pictured above is one of the Cormorant breeding/habitat stands which are observable beneath the Bayonne Bridge, at the intersection of the Kill Van Kull and Newark Bay

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Ultimately, it’s the dog who suffers. Poor Zuzu the dog didn’t get out for her slow motion walk last night until after midnight. She’s a bit pissed off at me, my dog. Saying that, she was quite engaged with the late night sniffing, probably because every other dog in the neighborhood had already taken care of business and every tree pit was redolent with their scents and “pee mail.”

Pictured above, the spring blossoms of a tree you might observe on the corner of 45th street and 34th avenue in Astoria, Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s entirely likely that, as we descend into the madness of a holiday weekend, you’re going to be greeted with single image posts tomorrow, Friday, and Monday, so apologies are offered. My services have been engaged by one of the local newspapers to photograph the Maspeth Memorial Day parade on Sunday, incidentally, so if you’re there and you see some weird looking old guy with a camera and a Newtown Creek Alliance hat, say hi.

Pictured above, a double entendre laden bit of signage from Third Avenue in Manhattan. If you don’t know the street slang meaning of “Toss my salad” I’d suggest you google it, as this is a family blog.


Upcoming Tours and events

Newtown Creek Alliance and Riverkeeper Visioning, June 3rd, 1-4 p.m..

Imagine the future of Newtown Creek with Riverkeeper and NCA at the Kingsland Wildfowers Green Roof (520 Kingsland Avenue in Greenpoint) details here.

Newtown Creek Alliance History lecture with NCA historian Mitch Waxman, June 3rd, 5:00- 7:30p.m.

An free hour long lecture and slideshow about Newtown Creek’s incredible history at the gorgeous Kingsland Wildfowers Green Roof (520 Kingsland Avenue in Greenpoint) followed by a walk around the roof and a Q&A – details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 24, 2017 at 1:00 pm

subaqueous civilization 

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The camera was desperate for an adventure last week, so a humble narrator acquiesced and took it out on the water for the Working Harbor Committee‘s Education tour. The Education tour is a private event, a boat trip which is conducted for school groups that culminates a program of classroom instruction on the subject of the harbor of New York and New Jersey. There’s a lot of great jobs at the Port, and for some reason most New Yorkers don’t consider it an option when they’re looking for work.

It ain’t just longshoremen or sailor type stuff either, as Ed Kelly from the Maritime Association and Andrew Genn from the NYC EDC explained to the hundred or so high school students who were onboard.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Unfortunately, one had to cross through the cursed earth of Manhattan to get to the WHC boat at Pier 11, which is roughly in line with Governeur Lane down in the financial district. This was in the midst of that sudden three day heat wave last week, so rather than walk in to town from Astoria or take the Ferry from LIC (my preference for such excursions) I just jumped on the subway. Why it takes so long to get from “a to b” these days is a complete mystery to me, as the trip ultimately resolves down to around 8 miles.

The good news is that on the way home, I used the Citywide ferry service to return to the blessed and heavy metals rich soil of Queens. I’m planning on hitting the new Rockaway Route soon, btw, as soon as my schedule allows it. It has been a very, very busy month of May for a humble narrator.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of the new Citywide Ferry service, I still haven’t ridden on one of the new Hornblower model ferries. The one that met me for the trip home was an older but super reliable NY Waterways version, the model which has been servicing the East River route for several years now. While the boat was making its regular stops, I spotted this little push boat tug towing a barge which had a crane set upon it. Couldn’t resist popping out a few shots of the thing.

The camera slept well that night, after having gotten some exercise and a bit of a workout on the water.


Upcoming Tours and events

Newtown Creek Alliance and Riverkeeper Visioning, June 3rd, 1-4 p.m..

Imagine the future of Newtown Creek with Riverkeeper and NCA at the Kingsland Wildfowers Green Roof (520 Kingsland Avenue in Greenpoint) details here.

Newtown Creek Alliance History lecture with NCA historian Mitch Waxman, June 3rd, 7 p.m.

An hour long lecture and slideshow about Newtown Creek’s incredible history at the gorgeous Kingsland Wildfowers Green Roof (520 Kingsland Avenue in Greenpoint).


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

gateway temple

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Bayonne Bridge progress, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Bayonne Bridge spans the Kill Van Kull waterway, connecting Staten Island with Bayonne, New Jersey. The fourth largest steel arch bridge upon the earth, it was designed by Othmar Amman.

Bayonne Bridge’s origins were commemorated in this 2010 post. The Bayonne Bridge, and the Frederick E Bouchard tug, were discussed in this 2012 post. Also back in 2012, I walked over the original Bayonne Bridge for the last time. In August of last year, I gathered the shots featured in this 2015 post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A new class of cargo ships, the Panamax, will soon become standard for global trade. These gargantua have necessitated the widening of the Panama Canal, and will be too large to fit under the Bayonne Bridge in its original configuration at high tide. Given that Port Elizabeth Newark is found just beyond the Bayonne Bridge, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has been forced to take steps.

Very expensive steps.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A seperate project is underway to increase the draught of NY Harbor’s Ambrose Channel and Kill Van Kull to fifty feet instead of forty via dredging, but the roadway of the Bayonne Bridge is being replaced by a new one which will be high enough to accommodate the new class of cargo ships.

–  photo by Mitch Waxman

In the shot above, you can see the project is well underway. The shots in today’s post were captured from the waters of the Kill Van Kull in May of 2016, btw. The new roadway is quite a bit higher than the original, and the older one is slated to be demolished.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Unlike the Kosciuszko Bridge at Newtown Creek (which is being fully replaced), the project engineers have decided to retain the original steel arch structure and approaches to the span. Also, unlike the Kosciuszko project, I have no special access or knowledge of the project beyond some water access.

I can tell you that certain harbor and shipping industry magnates I know favored demolishing the span entirely, reasoning that another class of mega cargo ships is inevitable, and that access to Newark Bay is paramount for the economy of the Northeastern United States. Right now, Port Elizabeth Newark is the second largest port facility in the USA’s part of North America. Bayonne Bridge provides a critical vehicular path to Staten Island and Brooklyn via the Verrazano Bridge for the trade items which arrive there.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

From a purely esthetic point of view, the composition and positioning of the new roadway is pretty “fugly.” Amman is turning in his grave, I’m sure.

Upcoming Events and Tours

Saturday, June 4, 11:00 a.m. -1:30 p.m. –
DUPBO: Down Under the Pulaski Bridge Onramp,
with Brooklyn Brainery. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 1, 2016 at 11:00 am

distance south

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Some tugboat action, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Working Harbor Committee, which I’m both a Steering Committee member and the Official Photographer of, is all about education. Our motto and mission is to “educate the public about the Harbor of New York and New Jersey” after all. To this end, there’s a bunch of public tours – I’ll likely be conducting the Newtown Creek boat tour in the fall, and on Thursday of this week will be part of a trio of narrators on the “Brooklyn Waterfront: Past and Present” excursion. Last week, our education director, Meg Black, invited me along for one of the student tours which WHC produces.

There’s a gaggle of high school kids and their teachers onboard for these student tours, and the speakers WHC brought onboard were “Harbor Heavyweights” from the NYC EDC, Martime Association, Port Authority, and the like.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The goal behind these student excursions is to provide a concrete experience that backs up the kids’s classroom work, and to encourage them to consider a career in the maritime world. For a lot of inner city kids, they aren’t even aware that the Harbor is out there waiting to hire them. There’s hundreds of individual career paths that you can choose from in the maritime world – everything from Homeland Security to working on ships. The great news about these waterfront jobs is that wherever there’s a Port, which is just about everywhere that you’d want to go, you’ve got a skill set which is highly transportable.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This particular tour left from Pier 11 in Manhattan about a NY Waterways Ferry. We headed over to the busy Kill Van Kull waterway separating Staten Island’s North Shore from Bayonne’s Chemical Coast and then visited Port Elizabeth Newark and the Global Marine Terminal in Newark Bay, after passing under the Bayonne Bridge. There was a parade of working vessels, some of which are pictured in today’s post.

Upcoming Events and Tours

Thursday, May 26th at 6 p.m. –
Brooklyn Waterfront: Past & Present Boat Tour,
with Working Harbor Committee. Click here for more details.

Saturday, June 4, 11:00 a.m. -1:30 p.m. –
DUPBO: Down Under the Pulaski Bridge Onramp,
with Brooklyn Brainery. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

even thirstier than

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A few tugs, observed, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week I was invited to attend the Waterfront Alliance’s annual conference, which takes place on a large excursion boat operated by the Hornblower corporation. Onboard, there’s a series of conferences in which bigwigs and harbor heavyweights discuss this or that issue which impacts the Harbor of New York and New Jersey. Onboard… well, let’s just say that after nearly a decade of a humble narrator hanging around with the harbor crowd that there were a LOT of familiar faces. Last year the conference boat headed north along the Brooklyn and Queens coastline, but this year I was pleasantly surprised when the trip went south and we found ourselves on the Kill Van Kull separating the north shore of… Staten Island… from the chemical coast of New Jersey.

“Cool” thought I, when Moran’s “Marie J Turecamo” tug slid past!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Kill Van Kull seldom disappoints, as it’s a busy maritime corridor connecting the upper harbor with Port Elizabeth Newark and the cargo docks which you’ll find back there. There’s almost always a ballet of tugs and cargo ships moving through here, and after Newtown Creek and the East River – it’s the one of the NYC waterways with which I’m most familiar and can speak intelligently about.

This is, of course, due to the tutelage I was lucky enough to receive from Capt. Doswell of the Working Harbor Committee, on the many, many Newark Bay tours he led back here for WHC. I’ve studied the place on my own, of course, but when you’ve got somebody like Doswell sharing his “smarts” with you – you shut up and listen.

I believe WHC is going to be conducting a Newark Bay tour this summer, but obviously our late Captain Doswell will be there in spirit only.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Waterfront Alliance boat didn’t go as far back as WHC does – we didn’t get a close look at Global Marine Terminal for instance – but it was a real treat to get to shoot some tugs. I was onboard the WA boat to shoot the actual conferences, and some Oyster thing in the morning as well, but after accomplishing my “shot list” one headed topside and checked a few things off of my personal shot list.

“Franklin Reinauer” on Kill Van Kull, check.

Upcoming Events and Tours

Saturday, May 21st at 3:30 p.m. –
A Return to The Poison Cauldron of the Newtown Creek,
with Atlas Obscura, in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Click here for more details.

Thursday, May 26th at 6 p.m. –
Brooklyn Waterfront: Past & Present Boat Tour,
with Working Harbor Committee. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 19, 2016 at 1:00 pm

marine things

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R.I.P John Skelson.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another member of “Team Bernie” has left us, this time it’s photographer John Skelson. John was a life long Staten Islander who spent a lot of his time on the North Shore along the Kill Van Kull photographing passing ships. Working Harbor Committee alumni, John produced shots for the WHC blog’s Friday feature – Ship Spotting with Skelson. Ship Spotting got John noticed by the NY Times and others, and happily I can report that during his final years he enjoyed a certain notoriety in maritime circles. He’s survived by his wife, Phyllis Featherstone.

That’s John Skelson pictured above, at his office on the Kill Van Kull, just a few months before he died.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week, in his honor, a few of us met up at Skelson’s office to collect a few shots and reminisce. Will Van Dorp from tugster.com showed up onboard the NY Media Boat. Afterwards, we retired to Liedy’s Shore Inn, drank a beer or two, and then headed back to other parts of the archipelago.

You people have no idea how connected all of us are to each other, out there on the edge of the water.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Team Bernie, as mentioned above, was the collection of harbor rats, rail enthusiasts, and antiquarians whom photographer Bernie Ente included on his adventures. Bernie went first, cancer. John Doswell went next, cancer. Skelson just died, cancer.

And you people wonder why I’m so obsessed with what’s lurking in the water. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

John Skelson was a good and kind man, as were Bernie Ente and John Doswell. He, and they, are dearly missed. The collective knowledge which died with them, which will be lost to time, is irreplaceable. Bernie, also a photographer left behind a wife and daughter, who are doing fine last I heard. Capt. Doswell’s wife Jeanne is still one of the operative and moving gears which allows Working Harbor Committee to continue.

And you people wonder why I blog every day, and kiss Our Lady of the Pentacle every chance I get.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s the worst part of growing older – just at that moment when you’ve got yourself figured out, know what and who you actually are – that’s when it comes. All the wasted time and emotional tumult, all the troubles and tribulations, just at the point when you’ve “figured your shit out” is when it all ends. That’s when all that’s left are clothes, papers and possessions, and someone you love finds themselves alone. There’s some truth to the concept that the person that suffers least is the one who died. Saying that, cancer.

And you people wonder why I’m the guy with the sign boards in Times Square that say “the end is nigh.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is Skelson’s Office. The tracks of the Staten Island Railroad are still there, at the corner of Richmond Terrace and Bard Avenue, between the gas station parking lot and the water. A general call is going out to the maritime community to refer to it as such. For those of you interested in photographing the show along the Kill Van Kull, Skelson’s Office is available for new tenants. Bring a zoom lens, and dress warm. Get there early, stay there late. NY Harbor never disappoints.

And you people wonder why I talk about legacy and “passing it on” so much. 

Also, on a completely different note:

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Want to get involved in the future of the Montauk Cutoff? A “visioning meeting” will be taking place tonight (December 2nd) at LIC’s Nomad Cycle (47-10 Austell Pl, Queens, NY 11101), between 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. There will be snacks!

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

December 2, 2015 at 11:00 am

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