The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Kill Van Kull’ Category

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

landing above

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Bayonne.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned yesterday, 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 8, 2015 at 11:00 am

decadent element

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Bayonne Bridge progress, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A recent Working Harbor Committee excursion, one of our education tours for kids (typically inner city teenagers who are introduced to the idea of a career on the water or at the ports by Martime professionals and Coast Guard Officers whom we bring onboard) headed out to Port Elizabeth Newark. These kids tours are what WHC is really about, and the public tours we do are actually fundraisers that support these other efforts.

Your humble narrator was onboard solely to photograph this time around, and I soon found myself focusing in on the Bayonne Bridge reconstruction project.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There are three major bridge projects underway in NY Harbor at the moment – two are replacements (Kosciuszko Bridge at Newtown Creek, and Tappan Zee over the Hudson) and the third is a retrofit – Bayonne Bridge.

In the case of Othmar Amman’s masterful Bayonne Bridge, the roadway is being raised to allow a new class of cargo ship access to the Port Newark terminals and it’s the BB’s owner which is running the show – The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Bayonne Bridge spans the Kill Van Kull, connecting Staten Island’s North Shore to New Jersey. Just beyond it is the busiest cargo operation in the North Eastern United States. The continuing modernization of global container based shipping operations has created a sort of arms race to see how big a cargo ship can get (economy of scale) and the most recent iterations of these giants cannot cross under the roadway. In order to remain economically viable, the Port Authority has been forced to redesign the bridge so as to accommodate these larger vessels.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s all sorts of “big industry” involved in this sort of undertaking, and in the shot above and below, you will observe a “beam spreader.” It’s job is to hoist the sections of approach roadway into place and hold them steady while crews of workers secure them to both the pylons which will support them and to the previous sections already installed.

You can see the difference in altitude between the old and new roadway in the shot above, with the older approach visible to the right hand side of the shot, backed up by the Freedom Tower.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After decades of inertia, wherein the various governmental entities found here in the megalopolis barely had the funding to perform basic maintenance on the various bits of infrastructure which make it possible to move people and commerce around, it’s actually startling to see so much of it going on all at once.

There is no investment more prosaic to make than in infrastructure. Unfortunately, in the case of all three bridge projects mentioned, none of them have avoided the mistakes of the House of Moses and incorporated a light rail line or any sort of mass transit into their modernizations. We are reinforcing and advancing the age of the Automobile.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Still, as I’m sure the crew of the James E. Brown tugboat would say about the project – “I feel good.”

Sorry – could not resist the pun.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Bayonne Bridge project is ongoing, and will continue to be documented at this – your Newtown Pentacle.

For more on the Bayonne Bridge project, direct from the “horse’s mouth” as it were – check out this page at the Port a Authority’s website.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

August 8th, 2015
13 Steps Around Dutch Kills – LIC Walking Tour
with Atlas Obscura, click here for details and tickets

fare together

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As detailed in this recent post, my camera was destroyed in an accident.

For those of you who have offered donations to pay for its replacement, the “Donate” button below will take you to paypal. Any contributions to the camera fund will be greatly appreciated, and rewarded when money isn’t quite as tight as it is at the moment.

Donate Button with Credit Cards

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Thursday last, the new camera got its first real workout on the Working Harbor Committee trip to Port Elizabeth Newark. Despite being largely the same device as the shattered and well weathered one (the firmware is a bit different, however, offering a couple of bells and whistles which weren’t present on the original) one opted to work the scenery encountered with a certain ferocity.

The Kill Van Kull tidal strait leads to Port Elizabeth Newark, which is the principal cargo port for the North Eastern United States. This is pretty familiar turf for me, and when I got onboard the NY Waterways ferry which WHC had chartered, forefront in my mind was the desire to come back with something a bit visually different from what I normally do.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The weather was not conducive to the “lurid shimmering of pale light” thing which typifies most of the maritime shots I produce. It was dark, due to threatening storm clouds, and kind of misty. Luckily, it wasn’t a “precipitating mist” wherein the moisture suspended in the air congeals onto any available surface. Instead, this was a light eating atmosphere. As my long lost pal Bernie would have advised – “use it” – so I went for composition and shadows of oily density. That’s the Port Authority’s Bayonne Bridge from the Newark Bay side, by the way.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A trip down the Kill Van Kull is remarkable only when you don’t see tugboats at work. The busy waterway is a 24/7 conveyor belt of maritime industrial goodness, with titan cargo ships and other vessels plying its length. Pictured above is the DonJon Towing company’s Meghan Ann driving a barge of scrap metal towards the port facilities. I can only presume, based on experience, that the tug was coming from my beloved Newtown Creek.

Speaking of Newtown Creek, confirmation that I’ll be conducting a free boat tour on Saturday as part of the City of Water Day event conducted by the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance arrived. Click the link below to get onboard.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

July 18th, 2015
Newtown Creek City of Water Day Boat Tour 
with Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, click here for details and tickets.

July 26th, 2015
Modern Corridor – LIC, Queens Walking Tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, click here for details and tickets.

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