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Deadman’s curve and the Pratt Oil Works, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Normally, one would not be seen marching along the LIRR tracks in Blissville, but I had my reasons. It was a Sunday afternoon, anyway, meaning that the chances of there being any rail traffic at all on the Lower Montauk would be slim to none so I decided that it would be a good time to throw the dice and hope that I wouldn’t get squished by a passing locomotive. There’s plenty of places to dive out of the way, if I were able to discern an approaching train, but that’s kind of the issue – trains move pretty quickly and the physics of how sound moves around the air dam created by the engine as it’s moving seriously reduce the “early warning” time. Saying all that, I didn’t get squished, but do not recommend you chance it yourself. It is illegal trespass, after all.

Me, I was scoping out the latest wrinkle in the environmental story around the fabled Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I went to a meeting a couple of weeks ago at the NYS DEC offices in Long Island City, which discussed the “Pratt Oil Works Site” or as I’ve been referring to it for several years – “The Queens County Oil Works of Charles Pratt” or alternatively “The Blissville Seep.” ExxonMobil has taken responsibility for the site, which ultimately used to belong to its corporate parent Standard Oil, and has (under DEC guidance) begun the process of siphoning “product” out of the ground. Said product, the ExxonMobil folks said, is distinct from the liquid product which has been oozing from the Creek side bulkheads into the water. The modern day owner of the site is largely the Waste Management company, which operates a waste transfer station along Railroad Avenue that handles DSNY collections and loads up the Garbage Train. Said garbage train provides framing in the shot above. The Queens County Oil Works was in operation from 1842-1949, whereupon the property was subdivided and sold off. ExxonMobil representatives described the materials their contractor Roux will siphoning out of the ground as “Lube Oil and wax” and the petroleum product oozing into the Creek as “LNAPL” or Light Non-Aqueous Phase Liquid. LNAPL is lighter than water and floats on top of ground water.

ExxonMobil’s contractors, Roux Associates, who handle the Greenpoint Oil Spill for them directly across the Newtown Creek in Greenpoint, has been activated to handle the Blissville situation. Roux has installed 62 wells on the property, 42 of which are recovery wells and the other 20 are monitoring wells. Waste Management, separately, has several issues they’re dealing with on the site, including a high level of acidity in the soil and the presence of toxic chemicals – specifically Toluene and Chlorinated Volatile Organic Compounds. Waste Management will be aerosolizing these chemicals, meaning that they will be using a process called “SPARGing” which will release them into the open air.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

ExxonMobil representatives were cagey about the quantity of “product” in the ground, even after I confronted them about specifics. Saying that, I’m certain they know exactly what’s down there, as engineers who have installed 62 wells don’t just do so randomly and hope for the best. Waste Management claimed that their timeline for remediation of both the soil ph conditions and the presence of “chemicals of concern” would be four to eight years, whereas the ExxonMobil folks said it’s an open process and wouldn’t commit to a timeline.

Oddly enough, a review of the combined project’s boundaries corresponds neatly to the property lines of the former Queens County Oil works. Luckily for Blissville, here in Queens, subterranean oil deposits respect above ground political and property lines. If you are technically minded, or just curious enough to “get it straight from the horse’s mouth,” follow this link for the NYS DEC fact sheet.


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Kosciuszcko Bridge project in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A couple of weekends ago, I decided to take the camera out for a walk and we headed on over to the Queens side of DUKBO – Down Under the Kosciuszcko Bridge Onramp. Most of what’s going on at the work site right now, which will result in the second half of the new bridge, seems to involve foundation and structural work. Laurel Hill Blvd. is largely closed to traffic due to the construction, as you’d imagine.

The shot above looks south along Laurel Hill Blvd. towards Brooklyn.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The steel piles above are the firmament which will carry the approach ramp for the bridge, which in turn carries the Brooklyn Queens Expressway. These will be the southbound lanes, which are also meant to host the bicycle and pedestrian lane that I – for one – am pretty excited about. I’ve seen renderings of the planned bike and pedestrian section and it promises to be a photographer’s dream come true.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

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, and the aftermath of the demolition as seen from Calvary Cemetery in LIC’s Blissville section in this post from October 5th. This post from December of 2017 closed out an event filled year in DUKBO, and a visit to the site at night is described in this March of 2018 post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the first section of the new bridge, which opened last year, and as seen from 43rd street in industrial Maspeth.

The NYS DOT has committed to making the currently dirt and equipment filled lots along 43rd street available to the NYC Parks Dept. for conversion to public “green space.” There’s other spots around the project which will turned into publicly accessible areas, but most will be shadowed by the onramps.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One scuttled across the Lower Montauk tracks of the Long Island Railroad to get a better view of the progress at the construction site. The land in this spot used to be the home of a company called Phelps Dodge, which acquired it from the original tenant – General Chemical. General Chemical manufactured sulphuric acid hereabouts, and Phelps Dodge incorporated the GC campus into their operations, which was mainly copper refining.

This section of the LIRR tracks used to be known as “Deadman’s curve” for all the factory workers who were struck by speeding locomotives hereabouts. It’s also the site of the Berlinville Railroad disaster, where two LIRR trains collided in 1893. Check out this contemporaneous NY Times piece for more on that.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After having crossed the tracks and a byway formerly known as “Creek Street the still forming concrete towers which will support the “cable stay” roadway of the second bridge came into view. Having followed the project so closely as the first half of the new K-Bridge went up, it’s actually pretty interesting to watch them working on it this time around, given that I know how the story plays out.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shot above, depicting the teeny tiny construction workers moving around on ladders, is included for scale. Down on the ground, these guys are HUGE, six + footers who weigh a couple of hundred pounds each and who tower over a humble narrator. On the K-Bridge site, they look like action figures.

I continued along my southern path and headed down to the bulkheads of that lugubrious cataract of urban neglect known as the Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Kosciuszcko Bridge is found 2.1 miles from the East River, and overflies the Newtown Creek. It carries the Brooklyn Queens Expressway from the border of Sunnyside/Blissville/Maspth in Queens to Greenpoint/Bushwick/Williamsburg in Brooklyn.

Newtown Creek itself is an inland tributary of the East River, and extends 3.8 miles eastward of the larger waterway. There are multiple tributaries of Newtown Creek itself which extend into Long Island City, Bushwick, and Maspeth.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Having satisfied myself with a “check in” on the bridge project, one began his trek towards home and HQ in Astoria.

Sometime during this week, I plan on heading over to Greenpoint to see what’s doing with the K-Bridge project over there. I’ll let y’all know what I find.


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Back and forth, back and forth, it never ends.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Meeting season seems to be upon us all, wherein the various affiliations, causes, and organizations which I’m involved with want to get together in a room somewhere and discuss policy, plans, and or problems related to the issues of the day. Somehow this almost always involves me having to scuttle to Long Island City or Greenpoint at an inconvenient time, but it does allow for intervals on the journey to do a little shooting. Pictured above, a Long Island Railroad Mainline train set on its way from the City to points east, and crossing through the Sunnyside Yards.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Intrigued as I’ve been with long exposure shooting for the last several months, an endeavor which is usually carried out at night, whenever I’ve got a spot I can do a long exposure during daylight hours, I take it. That’s about two seconds of accumulated time from Queens Plaza in the shot above. I found a nicely positioned steel bracket which braces the construction scaffolding at one of the tower apartment construction sites on which to brace the camera, lock in the focus, and hold down the shutter button while watching the Fords roll by.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An even longer exposure from the other night on Kingsland Avenue in Greenpoint, alongside the Unnamed Canal sub tributary of the fabulous Newtown Creek. It depicts a somewhat abandoned Department of Sanitation Marine Transfer Station which sits on the shoreline street end of North Henry Street (whose north/south path is interrupted by the sewer plant). The fences were locked up about a year or so ago, and you used to be able to go in there and explore. I think they’re using it to warehouse “stuff” now, but can’t really say for sure. At the very least, they’ve fixed the lights inside the thing.


Upcoming Tours and Events

April 29 – Bushwick-Ridgewood borderline Walking Tour – with Newtown Historical Society.

Join Kevin Walsh and Mitch Waxman as they take us along the border of Brooklyn and Queens, Bushwick and Ridgewood, with stops at English Kills, an historic colonial Dutch home, and all kinds of fun and quirky locations. End with an optional dinner on Myrtle Avenue before heading back to the Myrtle-Wyckoff subway station. Tix are only $5 so reserve your space today!
Tickets and more details here.


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DUGABO, or Down Under the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge Onramp, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In yesterday’s post, we explored the darkened streets of industrial Blissville along Railroad Avenue to the west of the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge. Today, we head eastwards along this seldom examined lane. That car with the headlights on was a private security guard that was vouchsafing the various industrial locations in DUGABO, but since I was wearing my construction worker high visibility vest of invisibility over the filthy black raincoat, he just waved at me and drove away.

Under normal daylight circumstance, wherein the vest is not worn, private security would normally hassle one such as myself. “What’s you takins pickchas of” and “whose youse workins for” are the usual queries.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The concrete block fenceline to the right of the shot guards a parcel currently occupied by the NY Paving Company, who maintain a large fleet of construction vehicles therein. It’s part of the former home of the Van Iderstine rendering company, mention of which usually sends a shudder up the spine of any longtime resident of Greenpoint or Blissville. The railroad tracks on the left side of the shot are the LIRR’s Lower Montauk branch.

Van Iderstine was, and is, a rendering company (they moved to Newark about 20 years ago). Van Iderstine boils down organic material (spoiled meat, rotten eggs, butchers blood, animal bones) in pursuit of manufacturing tallow and agricultural fertilizers. The way they do it nowadays is fairly innocuous compared to the manner which the historical record talks about here in Blissville.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A private waste carting company hosts a smallish facility next door to NY Paving, one of the several waste transfer stations found along Railroad Avenue here in Blissville. There are a few street lamps on this side of the bridge, unlike the western side detailed in yesterday’s post. The good news is that it’s the “old school” sodium lamps here, rather than the bluish hued LED ones. I miss the oranges.

Van Iderstine’s had a contract with the City stipulating that if any large animal (horses, oxen, even circus elephants) were to die in the city limits, it would be sent to them for processing. Their grinders had a special rig to handle the elephants.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Until recently, Railroad Avenue terminated a few hundred feet from the spot where this shot was captured, a somewhat private road and cul de sac. That all changed when the City’s Solid Waste Management plan came into effect. The Waste Management Corporation built a facility down here to handle putrescent or black bag garbage, and then cut a new and unnamed road through the former Van Iderstine properties which connects to Review Avenue opposite First Calvary Cemetery.

The industrial scene in this section of Blissville has always been somewhat macabre, and disgusting to modern tastes. Yeast distilleries, swill milk dairies, bone blackers, slaughterhouses, neet oil manufacturers – all part of the historic story around these parts. When the petroleum people began to arrive in the late 19th century, it was considered a godsend as they were displacing the former lessees who took their stinks with them.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Also demanded by the Solid Waste Managment plan, a so called “Green Asphalt” plant was created here (as well as other places). When the City regrades or just digs out a street, the asphalt they scrape up might be brought to Blissville and recycled. They accomplish this by heating the stuff up and mixing it with fresh materials, and on humid days during the summer you can smell the scent of asphalt cooking all over Blissville, Laurel Hill, and the north side of Greenpoint.

Still better than Van Iderstine’s, longtime residents of both communities will tell you.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Waste Management has two waste transfer stations along Newtown Creek, the other is in East Williamsburg/Bushwick along the English Kills tributary of Newtown Creek. The one in Blissville is the smaller of the two, but they both accomplish the task of handling the black bag garbage collected by the Department of Sanitation. Waste Management packages the collections up in those green box cars you see in the shot above, which form up the garbage train.

Like Green Asphalt, on hot summer days, you can smell this facility from almost a mile away. I’m told that the Van Iderstine works, and the old Manhattan Adhesives company glue factory (in the Miller Building on the Brooklyn side), were worse. Lord only knows what sort of poison there is lurking in the ground.

So, Mr. Mayor, back to that homeless shelter you want to place less than a half mile from here…


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DUGABO at night, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The reliable Greenpoint Avenue Bridge is a double bascule drawbridge which spans the Newtown Creek, connecting the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn with the Blissville section of Queens. Heavily travelled, there are two access roads alongside the bridge which lead down to the aptly named Railroad Avenue. This is the latest Greenpoint Avenue, or John J. Byrne memorial, Bridge. The 1900 vintage bridge which the modern version replaced was just to the west of the modern span, sat in the footprint of the access road in the shot above, and it carried railroad tracks. There have been five Greenpoint Avenue Bridges, this is the 1987 model which is a renovated version of GPA Bridge #4. It’s 1.37 miles up the creek from the East River, and opens a few times a day to allow tugboats and oil barges egress.

The 1850’s original was called the Blissville Bridge, and it was made of wood.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Railroad Avenue is the very definition of what I often refer to as “the concrete devastations of Western Queens.” Formerly, this area was remarkable for the presence of the Tidewater Pipeline company (a Standard Oil subsidiary) and the Buckeye Pipeline. In recent years, the Broadway Stages company has been buying up property along the bulkheads in pursuance of creating TV and movie filming locations. Their desire to maintain the “real” and “gritty” side of LIC for theatrical usage has accidentally turned the company into building preservationists.

If the area looks familiar to you, you’ve likely seen it in some of the Marvel Netflix productions like “Punisher” or “Daredevil” that were filmed down here. Every cop show in NYC has done a scene hereabouts as well.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If you follow Railroad Avenue to its western terminus, you encounter the Sims Metal recycling works. Sims has been mentioned too many times to count at this – your Newtown Pentacle – so I’d ask you to just type “Sims” into the search box at upper right of this page to check them out. Suffice to say that in addition to handling all sorts of scrap metal and junk cars, Sims Metal also enjoys a municipal contract with the City of New York which sees them handling the metal/glass/paper curbside recycling program (blue and clear bags) that the Department of Sanitation operates.

If you were here during during the work week or in the daylight hours, on Railroad Avenue in Blissville, there would be dozens and dozens of heavy trucks and DSNY vehicles idling while waiting for their chance to tip out their collections at Sims. All of these trucks transit through Blissville, some come twice a day.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Blissville Yard of the Long Island Railroad is an MTA owned facility. Up until the 1990’s, there was regular passenger service along these tracks, which are known as the Lower Montauk.

Today – the name of the game on the Lower Montauk is freight, and the Blissville Yard is used to build the up the linked box cars of the garbage train, six days a week. In tomorrow’s post, I’ll show you the other side of Railroad Avenue, where the black bag or putrescent garbage goes for processing, and loading, into these green box cars.

As a note, the shots being presented in today’s post are all long exposures. Railroad Avenue literally has no street lights, and it’s only ambient glow from the industrial lots surrounding it illuminating things.

Figuring that somebody would ask, in between the tripod shots I cracked out a handheld one that accurately depicted something closer to what the naked eye can see down here at night – this one.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

These oil tanks are now part of the Broadway Stages properties portfolio, but they were once known as the Lukoil/Getty dock. The signage on the fence indicates that the pipe you see in the lower left hand corner is a now inactive valve for the Buckeye Pipeline. The building in the distance is the former Tidewater facility that juts up against the bulkheads of Newtown Creek.

Getty is one of the family of oil companies (a subsidiary of Mobil, I believe) which were initially named in the 2010 Superfund decision by the EPA. More recently, Sims Metal and the Long Island Railroad have been added to the list of “potentially responsible parties.” The City of New York itself is one of the bad guys, too.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the western side of Railroad Avenue, here in Blissville’s DUGABO (Down Under the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge Onramp), for you. Waste Transfer stations, fading oil infrastructure, movie and TV sets, no street lights or sidewalks. Tomorrow, I’ll show you the eastern side of DUGABO.

Your first thought, just like the Mayor, must be that it would be ideal to site a gargantuan homeless shelter nearby, right? What could go wrong with that idea?


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Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs, me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Towards the end of last week, a humble narrator found himself over in the Shining City of Manhattan. I had business to discuss with somebody, mainly creating a new walking tour route, and we actually stomped out one of my proposed routes (Wall Street to 23rd street via the “East River Greenway”) after which one found himself at the NYC Ferry dock at 34th street. A quick journey across the river to Long Island City, as the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself slipped behind New Jersey, soon found me scuttling about in a Long Island City which was cloaked in preternatural darkness.

The tripod was deployed and a humble narrator got busy with the camera, which seemingly generated much interest for both private security personnel and ordinary passerby. Click, whir, click. That’s a LIRR train idling at the Hunters Point Avenue station, if you’re curious.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The crap hole security fencing around the Sunnyside Yards doesn’t do much to actually secure the railyard, but it does get in the way of your shots. In many ways it’s a metaphor for the entire MTA. Pictured above is a long exposure of the 7 line subway exiting the Hunters Point Avenue station, and climbing onto its elevated course towards the next stop – which is the Court Square station.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another long exposure shot, this time from the 54th avenue footbridge over the tracks, looking westwards towards the Pulaski Bridge and the Queens Midtown tunnel. I would have waited for a train to roll by, but on my way to this spot, two LIRR units had just transited by (see below). Like a lot of the shots recently presented here, this is a narrow aperture and low ISO sensitivity photo with an exposure time of about thirty seconds.

That’s where all those light trails come from. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I was on Borden Avenue, and heading for the 54th avenue footbridge, when the signal arms came down and the parade of LIRR rolling stock began. As a note, the shots above and below are handheld exposures, unlike the ones above.

One thing about all this night shoot stuff I’ve been up to lately is the need to be able to switch back and forth between the two strategies utilized for low light shots. In the case of these passing trains, I wanted to “freeze” the moment, so they are wide aperture and high ISO shots representing about 1/200th of a second, give or take.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Proponents of the proposed “BQX” trolley line really should spend some time on Borden Avenue at rush hour to observe what an “at grade” crossing looks like on a well trafficked arterial street. Vehicle traffic backs up for blocks and blocks, and any traffic lanes which might intersect with the arterial begin to feel the effect of it within minutes.

As Robert Moses might have opined, it’s not about about the traffic, it’s about the flow.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The tracks which the LIRR units are heading onto in this series are the ones you saw in the tripod shot from the 54th avenue footbridge. They lead into the Sunnyside Yards and the trains are going to be heading eastwards, I’m told, towards first Woodside and then Jamaica and then out to Nassau and Suffolk Counties.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After unit 414 completed its journey past Borden Avenue, number 420 began its own trip. A humble narrator was squealing with glee, as a note, because simple things make me happy. After a day spent in Manhattan, which has become the most boring place on Earth, LIC welcomed me home with this grand parade?

I missed you too, Queens.


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February 22, 2018 at 11:00 am

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pictured above is an example of the ultimate reason as to why the proposed BQX trolley line is infeasible, what with the blinking signal arm barriers and the train horn blowing – which rail is required to do at grade crossings such as the Borden Avenue location adjoining the Pulaksi Bridge and Queens Midtown Tunnel pictured above in LIC. One doesn’t want to deep dive on that topic today, however, as thinking about the Mayor depresses me and I don’t want to be “blue.”

A humble narrator was on his way to a “thing” in LIC when this train began to move across Borden Avenue, an occurrence which caused him to utter something which sounded like “squeeeee,” drop to one knee in the middle of the street, and laugh maniacally while waving the camera around.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Long Island Railroad uses their nearby Hunters Point Yard to stage train sets for rush hour duty, and the tracks lead across Borden Avenue over to the Hunters Point Avenue stop at the southern extant of the Sunnyside Yards. From there, the trains head into the City and Penn Station, before heading out to Woodside, Jamaica, and then Long Island.

At least, that’s what I think happens. I’m not a rider of the LIRR except for rare occasion, and mainly I just like taking pictures of trains moving around in crowded urban settings.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Now that tour season is just about over, and my weekends are my own again, plans for how to spend my time are being laid. I’ve got more than a few things to shoot on my list, which I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to.

It really bakes my muffins when I don’t get to regularly wave the camera around at cool things, and despite the amazing places I’ve been this summer, I’ve generally been the tour guide or if onboard a vessel – on the mike – and I’ve barely been able to “do my thing.” I’ll sneak the occasional photo in when conducting a tour, but it’s a snapshot, not a photograph (there’s a difference).

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Good news is that the weather is finally in the “filthy black raincoat” range of temperatures, and since I don’t have to maintain my summertime “early bird” schedule quite as stringently – late night shooting is back on the menu.

Where will I go first? Things to do, things to see, people to avoid – here in the great metropolitan city…


Upcoming Tours and events

Exploring Long Island City, from Luxury Waterfront to Abandoned Factories Walking Tour,
with NY Adventure Club – Sunday, November 12th, 2:30 p.m. – 4:30 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.


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