The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Long Island City’ Category

secret societies

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It’s National Brandied Fruit Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another few weeks to go and then I get to become gods lonely man again, a situation which a humble cannot wait for this year. There’s been a couple of days in the last week wherein my “full armor” has been deployed, and a filthy black raincoat has been observed by the hard hats of Newtown Creek as it flaps about in the wind beyond their fences. The “me” who conducts the tours is by design a very nice fellow, generous with his time, and entirely mission oriented towards my portion of the Newtown Creek Alliance motto of “reveal, restore, revitalize.” I’m on the “reveal” side of things, incidentally. As far as the other two go, I’d advise you visit newtowncreekalliance.com and check out the various street end projects in Maspeth and Greenpoint being worked on my colleagues at NCA, as well as the very promising “North Henry Street project” and Living Dock. NCA is loosely affiliated with multiple organizations around the Newtown Creek watershed, sharing both members and goals.

One of those organizations is the frankly spectacular Smiling Hogshead Ranch on Skillman Avenue at Pearson Place in Long Island City. A community garden and urban farm, the Hogshead folks are presenting a Harvest Festival at their site tomorrow – Saturday the 21st – between noon and seven p.m. I’m going to conduct three short walks for them, free, starting at 2, 3:30, and 5 if you want to come along and meet the folks who turned a derelict set of rail tracks into a verdant green space with little more than the sweat of their brows.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One realizes that he is deluding himself about just being able to button up the raincoat and disappear into the miasmic air of the Newtown Creek for a while, since I’ve become fairly familiar to the folks who work around the creeklands and despite all of my best efforts to remain isolated from humanity… one will end up having to talk to them. Unfortunately, I have become… some how… garrulous and affable. This shakes my entire self image.

How the hell did this outsider end up being affable? Just the other day, one opined to “Our Lady of the Pentacle” that I have somehow become “approachable” in recent years. Used to be that when I walked into a shop, security would follow me around and old ladies would clutch at their purses out of shock and fear. I’d see some monster staring at me from across the room, and then while reaching out to touch its horrible countenance, suddenly realize that I was looking in a mirror and touching a pane of silvered glass. Our Lady informed that I’m old now, which makes me seem less “edgy” than formerly.

Saying that, a couple of rather inexpensive but recent additions to my camera bag have created new possibilities for night shooting, which is something I plan on doing a LOT of in the coming months of sepulchral darkness and cold.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Oh, to dance along the bulkheads again. Filthy black raincoat flapping in the wind, camera in hand, dodging trucks and trains. Recording the truth of our times in graphic narrative and garish color, and uncovering the tales of days gone by when clear eyed mariners plied the grease choked water in steam powered vessels. Poking my lens into the nooks and crannies of that lugubrious cataract of urban decay known as the Newtown Creek…


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 20, 2017 at 1:00 pm

bygone mystery

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It’s National Sausage Pizza Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Gentrification… it’s all anyone wants to talk about these days, and it seems like people are just coming out of the woodwork to use the “G” word and pronounce the oncoming doom of NYC. One wonders where they’ve been all these years. All of us out here in the wilds of Brooklyn and Queens have watched first DUMBO, and then Williamsburg, and of late LIC and Greenpoint get hit by the wrecking ball, which is then followed by the erection of banal residential towers without any accompanying infrastructure to accommodate the increased population. For decades, voices in the wilderness have been yelling and screaming about this, and our pals over in the Shining City of Manhattan said “so what”?

Something else I’ve been saying for a decade now is that the Manhattancentric city planning model is the problem. Manhattan is not something you want to point to other than as a cautionary tale.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Now that the same process is playing out in the East Village and Chelsea, where the ivory towered academics live and hang out, it’s become a crisis. You’ve got “not from here” interlopers showing up in Queens and sounding the alarm bells about a fire whereas those of who live here are ankle deep in ash. They inform us that we are not “real” community activists, and that they have the answer to all of our problems without any understanding of how things work. The tactics employed by these outsiders are provocative, and deadly to relationships between government and community which have been painfully and slowly built by generations past and maintained by those in the present.

Are these relationships effective? Is there nothing that can be done to resist the population loading and exploitation of Western Queens by the speculative financiers of Lower Manhattan? Are these outsiders correct in believing that 1960’s era protest techniques will do anything but cause the government people to circle their wagons? Would they be here at all if cherished Manhattan neighborhoods weren’t now in the sights of the financiers of the Real Estate Industrial Complex?

Are the financiers mustache twirling villains colluding with Tammany style politicians?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Reality (census and tax base wise) states that the vast majority of residential buildings in NYC fall under the category of family owned small businesses, once you move away from the City’s core (think 5 subway stops from Manhattan). If you were to draw a bell curve depicting the rising rents in NYC and compare it to a) inflation, b) fuel costs, c) water taxes you’d find a disturbing concurrence in the shape of those curves. Our homeless situation is due largely to the fact that the City and State no longer supplies the levels of supplemental rent assistance to low income families which they used to, a program which I believe was suspended back in 2010, but I may be wrong on the date for that one. As the wrecking balls along the East River have demolished the industrial and warehousing sectors, low income New Yorkers have been forced to take service sector jobs which neither pay as well nor offer any sort of job security.

This is something which the folks who throw the “G” word around miss – jobs and job creation.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For nearly a decade now, a humble narrator has been deriding the “statements that sound good at cocktail parties” thrown about by elected officialdom and real estate industrial complex employees alike. The REIC folks will offer that their construction activity creates mass employment, and that despite the tax abatements like 421a they enjoy, their projects are a nexus of job creation activity that includes the entire supply chain of their projects – concrete, steel, etc. This is actually true, but given that construction of a new building does not continue forever, it means that all of their contributions to the tax base tend to end after a period of 36-60 months after the demolition crew came in and knocked down the old factory or warehouse which provided career long employment. After that, the warehouse which employed thirty people is replaced by a residential building that has a porter, manager, and a super. It’s also common practice for the development corporation to transfer the property to a management corporation, whereupon all the agreements made by the former do not have to be honored by the latter.

Speaking from a historical perspective, NYC is defined by constant change, construction, and tumult – and going back to Astor – Real Estate has always been one of the major economic forces in our municipality since the earliest days. Believe it or not, the influence of the financial industry on Wall Street is a relatively recent thing. Used to be that industrial activity, shipping, and real estate were the dominant financial contributors to NYC’s health and wealth.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve said it before, and I fear I’ll be saying it for the rest of my life – infrastructure is the skeleton on which our municipal flesh hangs. Without, we’d be a bag of mostly water flopping around in the sun.

The very quality of our lives depends on the transit, water, sewerage, and electrical grids. Hospital beds, school desks, fire stations, police capabilities. All the social welfare agencies, old age homes and elderly rent control programs like SCRIE, are essential. I’ve had high ranking City officialdom use the metaphor for running the show as being “like working on the engine of a locomotive while moving at 1,000 mph, towards a cliff.” You need to tinker around enough to improve the system as you go – but shutting it down, going off the cliff, or applying the brakes to it are unthinkable options.

Thing is, infrastructure costs a lot of money, and involves a lot of labor. People who labor have, by definition, jobs. People who have jobs can afford to pay rent to the hundreds of thousands of residential small business property owners in NYC, which creates a tax base. Don’t know why I have to spell this out, but the “G” people don’t seem to understand it. Maybe it’s because academics and poli-sci majors at say… Hunter… don’t take economics classes and focus on their music instead. Dunno. Sometimes you gotta see the forest beyond the trees.


Upcoming Tours and events

The Hidden Harbors Of  Staten Island Boat Tour,
with Working Harbor Committee – Sunday, October 15th, 2 p.m. – 4 p.m.

A very cool boat tour that visits two of the maritime industrial waterways of New York Harbor which adjoin Staten Island and Bayonne in New Jersey – The Kill Van Kull and the Arthur Kill. There will be lots of tugboats, cargo docks, and you’ll get to see multiple bridges from the water – including the brand new Goethals Bridge. I’ll be on the mike, narrating with WHC board member Gordon Cooper details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 11, 2017 at 1:00 pm

meager funds

with 3 comments

There does not seem to be a verifiable national food holiday for Oct. 9th, although one checked source suggests that it’s National Moldy Cheese Day.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator, for one, is sick of this summer stuff at this point. One realizes, as my pal Chrissy Remein from Riverkeeper pointed out to me recently, that this global warming thing is getting pretty apparent by this point and that this is the “new normal,” but regardless – I’m tired of the shvitz. I shouldn’t have to leave the house in October dressed as I would be for a July afternoon, and as another friend of mine would opine – “get home with total swamp ass.”

Pictured above is the scene as observed just west of Queens Plaza late on last Saturday afternoon.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I conducted an LIC tour on Saturday, during which the weather was – as mentioned, “shvitzy and swamp ass” – but as is my habit I arrived at the meetup spot a bit early. Vast clouds of haze were rising from the vicinity of the Queens Midtown Tunnel and so a humble narrator investigated. It would seem that road work crews were installing a new coat of asphalt to east bound toll plaza, which accounted for the misty haze as VOC (volatile organic compound) tainted steam rose from trucks of a superheated industrial waste product (produced by the petroleum industry) which we as a culture mix with concrete and liberally spread about on vehicular roadways.

Those are the work crews pictured above, in DUPBO – Down Under the Pulaski Bridge Onramp.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The preceding Friday was equally as uncomfortable to be moving through the Newtown Creek industrial zone, with its affection of the so called “Maspeth Heat Island” effect. This environmental condition, named for the area of industrial Maspeth just east of LIC but is similarly experienced along the banks of the entire Newtown Creek, sees ambient temperatures rise 5-15 degrees higher than in surrounding neighborhoods due to the complete absence of vegetation and abundance of concrete. The concrete and masonry walls of factory buildings, sidewalks, and roads all bake in the radiation of the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself and store up energy, becoming radiant sources of heat. It feels a bit like walking about in a kiln, or oven, even on days when the Mercury never rises out of the 70’s. Forget about the sensation encountered when the atmosphere is already in the 90’s early in the morning.

That’s the Hunters Point Yard of the Long Island Railroad pictured above, which is similarly in DUPBO.


Upcoming Tours and events

The Hidden Harbors Of  Staten Island Boat Tour,
with Working Harbor Committee – Sunday, October 15th, 2 p.m. – 4 p.m.

A very cool boat tour that visits two of the maritime industrial waterways of New York Harbor which adjoin Staten Island and Bayonne in New Jersey – The Kill Van Kull and the Arthur Kill. There will be lots of tugboats, cargo docks, and you’ll get to see multiple bridges from the water – including the brand new Goethals Bridge. I’ll be on the mike, narrating with WHC board member Gordon Cooper details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

fouled iteration

with 2 comments

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator is not what you might describe as a “morning person.” Despite my predeliction for being awake during the “hour of the wolf” and the “witching hour,” however, duties and obligation have seen me waking up before the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself presents itself in the eastern sky for the last couple of weeks.

An interval of confusion, and sudden onset of weakness and physiological discohesion, occurs periodically and causes me to fall into unconsciousness. One then wildly hallucinates for several hours – which I think you people call “dreaming sleep” – and this has been occurring earlier and earlier in the evening of late. One classifies this as “no good.” I’ve always opined that my ancestors were the ones who sat at the mouth of the cave with a spear whilst the rest of the tribe slept, at the ready to fight off nocturnal bears or opportunistic giant serpents. The only time I enjoy seeing the oculus of God itself rising is when I’ve been up all night.

Bah!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One was working late one recent night here at HQ in Astoria, despite having seen the entire solar cycle play out, when a change in atmospherics occurred and a blanket of fog rolled through the ancient village. Couldn’t resist setting up my old Canon G10 on its magnetic tripod and cracking out a few shots – just to capture the utter creepiness of the night.

As a note, this was proper fog, not a precipitating mist. The latter is ruinous to try and capture, as it’s actually “grounded rain” rather than the fine mist typical of the former. On nights such as this, the stout Croatians of Astoria bind their windows shut tightly, proclaiming that the fog might carry some miasmic disease or mysterious things that swim through the air. Strigoi, they call them.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over in Greenpoint, on one of the early morning outings which I’ve been forced to endure, this evidentiary shot was captured showing that the Queens Cobbler serial killer is still amongst us and continuing their deviltry. Someday, we will all know the truth of the Cobbler, if he or she doesn’t get us first and leave behind a single shoe, meant to serve as a taunt for the Golden Shield Detectives of the NYPD to analyze and puzzle over.

Who can guess, all there is, that happens in the darkest corners of the Newtown Pentacle at night?

I will say it again – BAH!


Upcoming Tours and events

Exploring Long Island City, from Luxury Waterfront to Abandoned Factories Walking Tour,
with NY Adventure Club – Saturday, October 7th, 1 p.m. – 3 p.m.

Long Island City is a tale of two cities; one filled with glittering water-front skyscrapers and manicured parks, and the other, a highly active ground transportation & distribution zone vital to the New York economy — which will prevail? With Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

The Hidden Harbors Of  Staten Island Boat Tour,
with Working Harbor Committee – Sunday, October 15th, 2 p.m. – 4 p.m.

A very cool boat tour that visits two of the maritime industrial waterways of New York Harbor which adjoin Staten Island and Bayonne in New Jersey – The Kill Van Kull and the Arthur Kill. There will be lots of tugboats, cargo docks, and you’ll get to see multiple bridges from the water – including the brand new Goethals Bridge. I’ll be on the mike, narrating with WHC board member Gordon Cooper details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 6, 2017 at 11:00 am

local inquisitiveness

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There is no National Food day on October 5th!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As promised in Tuesday’s post, one headed over to Calvary Cemetery in the Blissville section of Long Island City to check out the scene after the October 1st “energetic felling” or demolition of the approaches of the Koscisuzcko Bridge. Given that Laurel Hill, which Calvary Cemetery is carved into, offers some altitude and commanding views of the bridge(s) it’s a pretty good choice as far as “point of view.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Long time readers of this – your Newtown Pentacle – will tell you that this bridge replacement project has been explored before.

Documenting this project has been a long standing project of mine – this 2012 post tells you everything you could want to know about Robert Moses, Fiorella LaGuardia, and the origins of the 1939 model Kosciuszcko Bridge. Just before construction started, I swept through both the Brooklyn and Queens sides of Newtown Creek in the area I call “DUKBO” – Down Under the Kosciuszcko Bridge Onramp. Here’s a 2014 post, and another, showing what things used to look like on the Brooklyn side, and one dating back to 2010, and from 2012 discussing the Queens side – this. Construction started, and this 2014 post offers a look at things. There’s shots from the water of Newtown Creek, in this June 2015 post, and in this September 2015 post, which shows the bridge support towers rising. Additionally, this post from March of 2016 detailed the action on the Queens side. Most recently, here’s one from May of 2016, and one from June of the same year. Here’s one from August of 2016the December 2016 one, one from March of 2017 which discusses the demolition of the 1939 bridge.

Here’s a post showing what I saw during a pre opening walk through in early April of 2017, and the fanfare surrounding the opening of half of the new bridge in April of 2017, a walk through of the Brooklyn side job site in June of 2017. Here’s some night shots from early July of 2017. A series of posts focused in on the removal of the central truss of the 1939 bridge from the summer of 2017 – a timelapse, some stills, and the barging out of the truss.

Most recently, in late September of 2017, a final series of shots of the old bridge were captured in this post. Acquisition of a souvenir chunk of steel from the 1939 bridge was described in this post, and a video of the “energetic felling” of the approaches on October 1st was offered in this one. Still shots and views of the aftermath from the waters of Newtown Creek from later in the day on Oct. 1 are found in this posting.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the south side of the job site, the Breeze company’s demolition crews are hard at work, and they were chipping and grinding away at a section which must be blocking the Lower Montauk tracks and the LIRR’s right of way. This section of the tracks is known as “dead man’s curve” due to it having been the site of the legendary Blissville Rail disaster and for the number of laborers employed by the now vacated Phelps Dodge company who thought that they could outrun a freight train.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It is somewhat surreal, this current landscape in DUKBO. This view is looking north towards Sunnyside’s 43rd street, which is found on the other side of the Long Island Expressway viaduct that forms a shield wall between the industrial zone and the residential neighborhoods.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This view is looking eastwards towards West Maspeth, from a prominence inside the cemetery.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Here’s a link to a FAR larger incarnation of the stitched panorama above, which captures the entire scene. This is a HUGE file, for those of you reading this on your phones, btw.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I promise this will be the last Kosciuszcko Bridge post for a bit. In my defense though, in my roll as Newtown Creek Alliance Historian, part of my “job” is to record the events of the Superfund era and to document the seismic changes happening along the fabulous Newtown Creek for posterity.


Upcoming Tours and event

Exploring Long Island City, from Luxury Waterfront to Abandoned Factories Walking Tour,
with NY Adventure Club – Saturday, October 7th, 1 p.m. – 3 p.m.

Long Island City is a tale of two cities; one filled with glittering water-front skyscrapers and manicured parks, and the other, a highly active ground transportation & distribution zone vital to the New York economy — which will prevail? With Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

The Hidden Harbors Of  Staten Island Boat Tour,
with Working Harbor Committee – Sunday, October 15th, 2 p.m. – 4 p.m.

A very cool boat tour that visits two of the maritime industrial waterways of New York Harbor which adjoin Staten Island and Bayonne in New Jersey – The Kill Van Kull and the Arthur Kill. There will be lots of tugboats, cargo docks, and you’ll get to see multiple bridges from the water – including the brand new Goethals Bridge. I’ll be on the mike, narrating with WHC board member Gordon Cooper details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

flowing ichor

with one comment

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

At the moment, one is not even sure what day it is, due to multitudinous “things I have to do” which have played out over the last two weeks. A lot of these have involved leaving the house before the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself has risen and arriving back at Newtown Pentacle HQ after it has occluded itself behind New Jersey. It is impossible for me to focus on or make “small talk” at the moment, as a tidal force swirls behind my eyes and between my ears.

In short, I’m pooped.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Tomorrow, hopefully, I’ll have another set of Koscisuzcko Bridge shots ready for you which I captured yesterday before having to utterly change gear and put on a suit to go to a fancy pants gala dinner over in the city. Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen was a speaker, and in pursuance of not heckling her, I went outside instead and chatted with a lovely fellow who had spent 28 years in the NYPD who was sharing some of his war stories with me.

I really cannot stand listening to any member of the De Blasio executive team blowing their own horns.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I think that’s a Monarch Butterfly in the shot above. It’s kind of a pretty shot, I think, which is made interesting by the fact that the flowering plants the butterfly is inspecting are growing at a sewer plant in Greenpoint, and that the water forming the background of the shot is Newtown Creek.

Never know what you’re going to see along my beloved creek, so it’s best to always carry a camera whe you’re there, otherwise no one will believe what you tell them without some sort of photographic backup.


Upcoming Tours and events

Exploring Long Island City, from Luxury Waterfront to Abandoned Factories Walking Tour,
with NY Adventure Club – Saturday, October 7th, 1 p.m. – 3 p.m.

Long Island City is a tale of two cities; one filled with glittering water-front skyscrapers and manicured parks, and the other, a highly active ground transportation & distribution zone vital to the New York economy — which will prevail? With Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

The Hidden Harbors Of  Staten Island Boat Tour,
with Working Harbor Committee – Sunday, October 15th, 2 p.m. – 4 p.m.

A very cool boat tour that visits two of the maritime industrial waterways of New York Harbor which adjoin Staten Island and Bayonne in New Jersey – The Kill Van Kull and the Arthur Kill. There will be lots of tugboats, cargo docks, and you’ll get to see multiple bridges from the water – including the brand new Goethals Bridge. I’ll be on the mike, narrating with WHC board member Gordon Cooper details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 4, 2017 at 1:00 pm

particularly pleased

with 4 comments

It’s National Chocolate Milk Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

What you’re looking at up there, lords and ladies, is my own personal piece of the old 1939 Kosciuszcko Bridge. I can now say that the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, or part of it anyway, is in my house.

Here’s the scoop on how I got it:

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week, I described bringing an NYU class to Long Island City where we got to do a short visit at a large recycling operation, found along the Newtown Creek, called SimsMetal.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

While I was there, an inquiry was proferred to the fellows who work there whether or not a sample cut from the tons of Kosciuszcko Bridge steel they had lying about might be possible to obtain. Turns out that they had to cut pieces down to size for shredding over in New Jersey anyway, so it wouldn’t be a problem, I was told. Only hitch was that the welder guy was taking a few days off, so I’d just have to wait till he returned.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So I get the call a couple of days later telling me that the welder guy was on site, and that I should pop over and tell him what I wanted. I asked him for a couple of rivets, basically.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Popping the rivets out would be a pain, I was told, but then the welder asked if I minded if they had a bit of steel attached. “Sure,” said a humble narrator and then the sparks really started to fly.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Before I knew it, a smoking and acetylene hot chunk of the Kosciuszcko Bridge hit the concrete. It’s a little hard to make out in the shot above, but the thing was literally out gassing.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The chunks got tossed in a stainless steel thingamabob that looked like a giant soup ladle that was filled with water. The water instantly began to boil when the steel went in.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This little chunk of steel is going into the permanent “Newtown Creek Collection.” I’ve got a few LIRR railroad spikes that are very old, I think “Woodrow Wilson” old. I’ve also got the padlock that used to hang on the Kinsgland Avenue refinery gates at Mobil in Greenpoint, but I generally don’t collect artifacts. This time is one of the exceptions.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Think about the journey this hunk of metal has had. It was probably forged sometime in the early to mid 1930’s in Pittsburgh, travelled all the way to NYC and the House of Robert Moses, and was installed over the Newtown Creek when it was still the busiest maritime industrial waterway in North America. The Kosciuszcko Bridge opened seventy eight years ago in the late August of 1939, but it had been under construction for quite a while before that.

Now it’s mine. 


Upcoming Tours and events

Exploring Long Island City, from Luxury Waterfront to Abandoned Factories Walking Tour,
with NY Adventure Club – Saturday, October 7th, 1 p.m. – 3 p.m.

Long Island City is a tale of two cities; one filled with glittering water-front skyscrapers and manicured parks, and the other, a highly active ground transportation & distribution zone vital to the New York economy — which will prevail? With Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

The Hidden Harbors Of  Staten Island Boat Tour,
with Working Harbor Committee – Sunday, October 15th, 2 p.m. – 4 p.m.

A very cool boat tour that visits two of the maritime industrial waterways of New York Harbor which adjoin Staten Island and Bayonne in New Jersey – The Kill Van Kull and the Arthur Kill. There will be lots of tugboats, cargo docks, and you’ll get to see multiple bridges from the water – including the brand new Goethals Bridge. I’ll be on the mike, narrating with WHC board member Gordon Cooper details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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