The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Maspeth’ Category

furnace tending

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sometimes one will catch a glimpse of himself in a store window or other reflective surface, and even a humble narrator is known to flinch at the sight. Loping along in a filthy black raincoat, a wandering mendicant burdened down with a heavy sack of lenses and other photographic accoutrements, the ravages and scars of a half century in a City affectionately referred to as “home sweet hell” are scribed deeply into his flesh. Corpulent and corrupted, disliked and denounced, egomaniacal and estranged, feckless and forgettable, ghoulish and ghastly… all of these words fail to fully and generally generate the hateful, hopeless, idiotic image obvious to all but revealed to a humble narrator only as he passes by a pane of silvered glass on area streets.

No wonder children burst into tears, dogs growl, cats haunch up, women clutch at their purses, security cameras swivel and follow when one appears. Police and security personell always watch me closely, with their hands resting upon the weapons they’ve been issued.

from komatsuamerica.com

Move more material with less fuel and a more comfortable operator’s environment! The WA500-8 has a newly designed bucket with increased capacity and improved digging performance to maximize production. The EPA Tier 4 Final certified engine incorporates enhanced controller logic for lower fuel consumption. A new high capacity, heated, air suspension seat provides premium comfort.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One does not visit “the country” for fear of spreading an infection of blight. Like a pellet of some radioactive metal displayed in the midst of an otherwise verdant forest, one’s presence causes other living things to wither away. It has always been this way, for one such as myself.

The memories of childhood should be of summery afternoons spent in joyful pursuits, rather than locked rooms with tightly shuttered, and barred, windows decorated with atavist hangings. Sitting in the shadows of spare apartments, watching idle shafts of atmospheric dust lit by those few rays of light offered by the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself which somehow managed to permeate the barrack – these should not be the only recollections one is able to summon regarding those days. There was no joy, just tedium punctuated by wild and unpredictable furies erupting amongst those who cared for my needs.

Visitors to my caretakers were always of an advanced age. Often they brought plastic offerings obtained on a pilgrimage to some eastern land, formerly held by the Ottoman Turks. These plastic things often carried religious idioms written in English but rendered in a hebraized script. The visitors would carry on conversations in a language familiar only to the parts of Europe that have historically bordered Russia, and indeed within the Tsar’s former holdings. Sometimes these conversations would erupt into anger, others laughter. It was all very puzzling, but ultimately pedantic and boring.

from wikipedia

The expressway begins at the western portal of the Queens–Midtown Tunnel in the Murray Hill section of Manhattan. The route heads eastward, passing under FDR Drive and the East River as it proceeds through the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority-maintained tunnel to Queens. Once on Long Island, the highway passes through the tunnel’s former toll plaza and becomes known as the Queens–Midtown Expressway as it travels through the western portion of the borough. A mile after entering Queens, I-495 meets I-278 (the Brooklyn–Queens Expressway) at exit 17. At this point, I-495 becomes the unsigned highway NY 495, although it is still signed as an Interstate Highway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The psychic plague which one was infected with at an early age is that nothing which is good or joyous or in any way positive stays with me for long. Others remonstrate the negative experiences of their lives, blocking out trauma, and do not realize that their lives are subconsciously shaped by avoiding similar pain. A humble narrator, on the other hand, gleefully rips away at his scabs every chance he gets, and likes to scratch away at scars. One has quite a bit of time for reflection, on my long scuttles around the concrete devastations of the Newtown Creek. Just the other day, one grew furious over an event which occurred in the Second Grade when I was accused of kicking someone in the leg as our class was on the way to Assembly in the school auditorium.

“My list” goes all the way back to before Kindergarden. All the good stuff thats ever happened to me? That one started when I woke up this morning, and it’s been a shitty day so far. What can I tell you, I’m all ‘effed up.

also from wikipedia

A portion of the path of the Long Island Expressway was along the former road path and right of way of a streetcar line that went from the southern part of Long Island City to southern Flushing.

The Long Island Expressway was constructed in stages over the course of three decades. The first piece, the Queens–Midtown Tunnel linking Manhattan and Queens, was opened to traffic on November 15, 1940. The highway connecting the tunnel to Laurel Hill Boulevard was built around the same time and named the “Midtown Highway”.  The tunnel, the Midtown Highway, and the segment of Laurel Hill Boulevard between the highway and Queens Boulevard all became part of a realigned NY 24 in the mid-1940s. In the early 1950s, work began on an eastward extension of the Midtown Highway. The road was completed to 61st Street by 1954, at which point it became known as the “Queens–Midtown Expressway”. By 1956, the road was renamed the “Long Island Expressway” and extended east to the junction of Queens (NY 24 and NY 25) and Horace Harding (NY 25D) Boulevards. NY 24 initially remained routed on Laurel Hill Boulevard (by this point upgraded into the Brooklyn–Queens Expressway) and Queens Boulevard, however.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Unfortunately for my self loathing, while these shots were being gathered, my attention was taken up by a conference call with environmental officialdom and hotly discussing Newtown Creek, so I didn’t have a chance to really work myself over about that thing in Second Grade, nor the debacle that was my ninth birthday, or any of the humiliations suffered but left unanswered in Junior High School. On the plus side, my left foot was giving me a bit of trouble, so at least there was some tangible physical pain I could enjoy, rather than the psychic kind I relish.

Such reveries, wherein a humble narrator spends his mental capacity on beating himself up, are a little luxury I like to enjoy. The internal soliloquy also has other tasks to work on – wondering about what’s making a certain smell, plotting vengeance, planning future walking tours, working the camera, avoiding getting squished by a truck. I hate getting squished more than anything. Regrets… I’ve had a few.

from wikipedia

The first known construction cranes were invented by the Ancient Greeks and were powered by men or beasts of burden, such as donkeys. These cranes were used for the construction of tall buildings. Larger cranes were later developed, employing the use of human treadwheels, permitting the lifting of heavier weights. In the High Middle Ages, harbour cranes were introduced to load and unload ships and assist with their construction – some were built into stone towers for extra strength and stability. The earliest cranes were constructed from wood, but cast iron, iron and steel took over with the coming of the Industrial Revolution.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Long Island City’s Hunters Point and Degnon Terminal (LaGuardia Community College zone) areas have become positively infested with humans since this whole real estate frenzy has set in. Manifest, motley mobs of mankind now occupy these precincts of Queens’ rookeries. Lonely Island City is no more, if it ever was. The only place one can be truly alone, and avoid the shocking countenance of his own reflection, is industrial Maspeth. There are zero reflective surfaces hereabouts, except on the steel bumpers of newly washed heavy trucks. All is caked in grit, and clods of unknown substances. The waters in this section of the Newtown Creek offer a certain perfume, hinting at the respiratory or digestive processes of unknown biological or bacterial entities. Vast puddles of rancid water line the broken streets. The very air you breathe is a poisonous fume.

A humble narrator is probably the only person on this entire Long Island, or one of the lesser islands of the archipelago, who actually longs for chances to visit Industrial Maspeth. Other than somebody who has something they need to illegally dump into the water or leave some junk on the street, of course. Most of the folks who come here do so simply to earn their keep, notably those who have to deal with the rest of us being slobs.

Me? I love the place.

from wikipedia

The Bureau of Cleaning and Collection is responsible for collecting recycling and garbage, cleaning streets and vacant lots, and clearing streets of snow and ice. BCC assigns personnel and equipment to standard routes while managing the weekly allocation of personnel to address litter and illegal dumping.

The Cleaning Office oversees the removal of litter and debris from city streets, collects material for recycling and garbage from public litter bins and coordinates with Derelict Vehicle Operations to remove abandoned vehicles. The Lot Cleaning Unit cleans vacant lots and the areas around them, and around city-owned buildings in order to meet the city’s Health Code standards.

The Collection Office oversees regularly scheduled recycling and garbage collection services to the city’s residential households, public schools, public buildings, and many large institutions.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

What I really like to do around here, however, is creep down to the shoreline and hide in the bushes. One will really let loose hereabouts, and start laughing maniacally, instead of my usual hissing and basso growling. The stoutest cord long broken, my crazy laugh will shortly turn into a sobbing cry and then wailing lament, before transitioning back to the hilarity. I’ll cycle through this a few times. Once a flock of geese came to investigate the racket, another a laborer came sniffing around thinking that somebody was drowning a pig in Newtown Creek. There’s a reason I hide in the bushes, along with all the other monsters I’ve seen.

I don’t get too close to the water though, due to an irrational phobia revolving around my whole “seeing ones own reflection unpreparedly, with all its sudden and dire implications” disorder.

As a note: You should never look too deeply, or too long, into a mirror lest a piece of yourself become trapped within it. At least that’s the opinion amongst certain occultists. In the case of the lugubrious Newtown Creek…

from wikipedia

Laughter is not always a pleasant experience and is associated with several negative phenomena. Excessive laughter can lead to cataplexy, and unpleasant laughter spells, excessive elation, and fits of laughter can all be considered negative aspects of laughter. Unpleasant laughter spells, or “sham mirth,” usually occur in people who have a neurological condition, including patients with pseudobulbar palsy, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease. These patients appear to be laughing out of amusement but report that they are feeling undesirable sensations “at the time of the punch line.”

Excessive elation is a common symptom associated with manic-depressive psychoses and mania/hypomania. Those who suffer from schizophrenic psychoses seem to suffer the opposite—they do not understand humor or get any joy out of it. A fit describes an abnormal time when one cannot control the laughter or one’s body, sometimes leading to seizures or a brief period of unconsciousness. Some believe that fits of laughter represent a form of epilepsy.


Upcoming Tours and events

Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour, with Atlas Obscura – Sunday, December 10th, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Explore NYC history, hidden inside sculptural monuments and mafioso grave sites, as you take in iconic city views on this walking tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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unhallowed wizardry

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It’s still National Creme Brulee Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

We’re breaking with normal Newtown Pentacle tradition today, and there will be multiple posts coming your way, devoted to the seismic events on Newtown Creek which saw the central truss of the Kosciuszko Bridge first lowered and then carted away over the last couple of days. This second post carries some proper shots of the lowering action. In this morning’s post, a time lapse video of the lowering of the Kosciuszcko Bridge’s central truss was offered. What follows will be everything else I shot, basically all the stills.

There’s a third post that’ll be coming your way tonight, btw., so keep an eye on this – your Newtown Pentacle.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One had arrived at the Meeker Avenue street end, aka Penny Bridge, by about ten in the morning. Not too much was happening, and word reached me that the lowering process – originally scheduled to begin at ten, would be delayed several hours due to an engineering issue which needed to be solved.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There were several tugs buzzing about.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Above, you can see the two flat top barges which were married together by a steel superstructure which would accept and support the bridge section.


– photo by Mitch Waxman

The truss itself was no longer supported, structurally speaking, by the approaches or towers which had cradled it for the last seventy eight years. Instead, it was the four “strand jacks” which were holding it up. Those yellow bits were the shoes on which the truss’s girders sat.


– photo by Mitch Waxman

FDNY and NYPD harbor units were on scene, with different units arriving and departing all day.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The barges were continuously maneuvered, throughout the day.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

About two in the afternoon, the truss began to lower. It was moving so slowly, about twenty feet per hour I’m told, that to the eye it appeared entirely static.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I was using two cameras, if you’re wondering. One was on a tripod, the other handheld.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself dipped behind Manhattan, and the Newtown Creek grew dark, the crews were still lowering the truss. The garish lights of the new bridge activated.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There was quite a crowd gathered all around the Newtown Creek, and especially so at the Penny Bridge site where I was.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

By about 9:30 or so, the truss was almost resting on the barge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A groaning sound of buckling steel echoed out across the Creek as the weight of the truss was suddenly taken up by the superstructure on the barges.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One spent about twelve hours at Penny Bridge, or the Meeker Avenue Street End, on the 25th of July in 2017. I would have to come back to Newtown Creek the next day, of course, to get shots of the thing leaving. That’s tonight’s post, however, as I’m still finishing up the shots for that one as you’re reading this.

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 Kosciuszko 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 Kosciuszko 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.

Most recently – 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, and a walk through of the Brooklyn side job site in June of 2017. Lastly, here’s some night shots from early July of 2017.


Upcoming Tours and events

The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance – Saturday August 5th, 11 a.m. – 1;30 p.m.

Century old movable bridges, the remains of a 19th century highway between Brooklyn and Queens, and explore two of the lesser known tributaries of the troubled Newtown Creek watershed. For the vulgarly curious, Conrad Wissell’s Dead Animal and Night Soil wharf will be seen and described, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

Brooklyn Waterfront Boat Tour, with Working Harbor Committee – Saturday August 12th, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.

Explore the coastline of Brooklyn from Newtown Creek to Sunset Park, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman, Andrew Gustafson of Turnstile Tours, and Gordon Cooper of Working Harbor Committee on the narrating about Brooklyn’s industrial past and rapidly changing present. details here.

The Poison Cauldron of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance – Sunday August 13th, 11 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Explore the hellish waste transfer and petroleum districts of North Brooklyn on this daring walk towards the doomed Kosciuszko Bridge, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

Two Newtown Creek Boat Tours, with Newtown Creek Alliance and Open House NY – Wednesday August 16th, 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.

The neighborhoods surrounding Newtown Creek are home to the densest collection of these garbage facilities anywhere in the city and collectively, the waste transfer stations around and along Newtown Creek handle almost 40% of the waste that moves through New York. Join Newtown Creek Alliance’s Mitch Waxman and Willis Elkins  to learn about the ongoing efforts to address the environmental burden that this “clustering” has caused. details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

phenomenal boldness

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It’s National Peaches ‘N’ Cream Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As described yesterday, the Open House NY organization created an event with the NYC Department of Sanitation at the latter’s enormous “General Repair Shop” on 58th street, right on the hazy border between Woodside and Maspeth. The shop handles vehicle maintenance for DSNY and for several other city agencies, as well as building maintenance for the various Sanitation facilities scattered throughout the 5 boroughs.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It seems that the City’s snow removal equipment takes quite a beating during the winter, and part of the job for the working stiffs here is to recondition and repair it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The amount and kinds of equipment on display in the various shop sections was staggering, which included the chassis straightener pictured above. A couple of the folks on the tour were mechanics, and they looked like kids in a candy store.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There are multiple floors in the General Repair Shop building, which was erected in 1964.

Everything I’ve shown you so far was from one of the upper floors, which is accessed by the vehicular ramps found on 58th street. Downstairs, we visited several smaller shops, including this one which was dedicated to woodworking.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The section pictured above is a sheet metal, and general metal working, shop.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An abundance of inventory was available, and I can’t imagine the logistic difficulties of keeping the army of labor employed in this giant facility armed with everything they’d need to do their jobs.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This lathe caught my eye, if for no other reason than its scale. Apparently, they can fabricate axles for trucks with this gizmo.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The sort of esoteric industrial age equipment found hereabouts was incredible, and the sort of stuff you might be able to find on a WW2 era Navy ship. That’s a “turret lathe” if you’re curious.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An engine mechanic’s shop was visited, where truck engines were being broken down and rebuilt.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It goes without mentioning that the Sanitation Department keeps a clean house.

Despite all of this material, and its occupation, the place was clean as a whistle. We were told that the “Commish” had been there earlier in the day, so maybe that’s why, but in my experience the folks who handle our collective mess are generally “obsessive compulsive” about staying clean. Never known an off duty Sanitation worker who wasn’t sweet smelling and perfectly groomed.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Couldn’t resist a close up on those gear heads.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Open House NY tour lasted a couple of hours, and our last stop was at a “clean room” with a vehicle emissions testing lab. An MTA Bus was secured in place by stout chains, and positioned over steel cylinders set into the flooring.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The bus was actuated, and its engine roared into action. If the wheels had been able to gain purchase, it would have likely been moving at thirty to forty miles an hour.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

All sorts of scientific “tackle” had been attached to its exhaust system, which gathered its emissions and ran it through filtration materials to test what the thing breathes out.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The OHNY tour ended, and we tourists were released back into the darkness of industrial Maspeth. It was time for DSNY to get back to work. Me too, and I had to evacuate the area before the night gaunts and ghasts at the nearby Mt. Zion and Third Calvary Cemeteries realized that I was in the neighborhood after the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself had dipped behind the Shining City of Manhattan.


Upcoming Tours and events

Newtown Creek, Greenpoint to Hunters Point, walking tour with NYCH2O – June 29th, 7-9 p.m..

Experience and learn the history of the western side of Newtown Creek, as well as the East River Parks Hunters Point with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 21, 2017 at 11:00 am

strict silence

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It’s National Ice Cream Soda Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If you found yourself in Queens, between two cemeteries and two highways and at the angle between Woodside and Maspeth (technically Woodside, according to the US Postal Service), at 52-35 58th street – one would be hard pressed not to notice the gargantuan building that’s operated by the NYC Department of Sanitation – which is labeled as being “Department of Sanitation Central Repair Shop.” I’m told that the interior of this industrial facility holds about a million square feet of space, and long have my eyes wished to view that which does transpire within.

The earliest mention I could find of the Central Repair Shop, incidentally, dates back to August of 1955 when the Sanitation Department Commissioner requested that the City Planning Commission include $15 million smackers in their 1956 budget to build the place. The building opened during the tenure of Commissioner Frank J. Lucia, but I’m not certain if he’s the fellow who oversaw its construction.

Wishes come true if you want them hard enough, lords and ladies, for both Commisioners and Humble Narrators.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

You may recall that there was a bit of a hullabaloo here at the Central Repair Shop back in 2011 which made the news.

The building was designed, btw, by the architecture and engineering firm of Fellheimer and Wagner. By me, it’s quite an attractive structure, but I do like my “modernism” and the exterior of this structure would look very much at home if it was found in Batman’s Gotham City.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The purpose of this facility, which opened during the Mayoralty of Robert Wagner and the Borough Presidency of Mario Cariello in August of 1964, is to service the vast fleet of trucks and other heavy equipment used by the Department of Sanitation. Coincidentally DSNY also handles fleet maintenance for several other City agencies here – and you’ll notice examples of the DEP, Buildings, DOT and other municipal fleet vehicles scattered throughout today and tomorrow’s posts.

I was lucky enough to score a ticket to visit this spot on a tour created by the Open House NY outfit.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Central Repair Shop is immense, with literally hundreds of heavy trucks occupying maintenance bays almost as far as the eye could see. Before you ask – no, it didn’t smell. All the garbage trucks receive a power wash before they enter the building, and there was an elaborate ventilation system in place which vented the shop floors.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I didn’t catch his last name, but the fellow with the shaved head pictured above was named Bob, and he was one of the managers of the shop building. He conducted the tour for the OHNY group, which hosted a fairly substantial number of folks. As is usually the case with such tours, everybody was waving around expensive camera setups.

Given the amount of low light photography which a humble narrator has been engaging in during recent years, I surmised two things rather quickly – a) I was going to have to use a flash and b) wide open apertures weren’t going to cut it in here given the levels of foreground detail and long sight lines. I angled my flash at the white ceiling for “bounce light,” and set the camera to f5.6 at ISO 6400 for pretty much the whole endeavor.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The lighting situation was complex within the Central Repair Shop, with combinations of sodium and flourescent overhead light fixtures above and street facing windows carrying in bright sunlight. Coupling that with metallic and reflective surfaces that ran the entire spectrum from black to white, the flash provided a fill light that brought everything together under one overarching color temperature. The narrowed aperture allowed for a certain hyper focal distance to be achieved.

Normally, I’d just shoot using ambient light and a wide open lens (f2.8 or faster) but that wasn’t going to work this time around. When the shots came off of the camera, they required a bit of tweaking, contrast and color temperature wise.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Saying all that, I’ve personally never seen a garbage truck up on a lift before.

More tomorrow from inside the Department of Sanitation’s Central Repair Shop, at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


Upcoming Tours and events

Newtown Creek, Greenpoint to Hunters Point, walking tour with NYCH2O – June 29th, 7-9 p.m..

Experience and learn the history of the western side of Newtown Creek, as well as the East River Parks Hunters Point with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 20, 2017 at 11:00 am

odd purchases

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the things that we, as in the environmental and activist community along Newtown Creek, have been asking officialdom about for years is about why there is zero signage advising the citizenry about not fishing or crabbing in the Newtown Creek. I know this might strike you as odd, but folks actually do fish and crab hereabouts. Observationally, these are people who were born overseas, so the signage issue becomes a bit complicated given the legendary “diversity” of Western Queens and North Brooklyn. The Albany people have always questioned as to why you’d need signage, as it’s illegal to fish without a license, and every NYS licensee has been advised about the environmental conditions encountered on the inland waterways of NYC – which is one of the most “Albany people” things I’ve ever heard.

Luckily, the Feds at EPA realized what we’ve been asking for is necessary and have begun the process of creating advisory signage, and the PRP (Potentially Resonsible Parties) consortium which styles itself as the “Newtown Creek Group” volunteered to manufacture the placards, which EPA would in turn design and install. The signage is pretty close to its final design iteration, and the latest version looks like this. As to where the signs should be placed? Who has carefully documented every little pocket and corner of the streets surrounding the Creek? Who can tell you where people commonly fish? That’s a Newtown Creek Alliance job, anyone can tell you that.

Let’s face it, who ya gonna call?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Accordingly, one found himself in Greenpoint recently at nine in the morning as the EPA team assembled. Civilians cannot ride in Government vehicles (which is an odd rule, as we technically own them) so the third party contractor who will do the actual installation of the things did the driving. We hit every little corner of the Newtown Creek where people can find access to the water, even the hidden spots where the “utes” of Greenpernt like to experiment with cannibinoids.

It was actually quite a beautiful morning, and the light was fantastic, so while the Feds got busy with the tape measures and GPS’d the various locations we visited, I waved the camera around a bit.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

We did encounter an “enforcement situation” in Brooklyn alongside the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge. There’s a protocol for “who’s responsible for what” along the Newtown Creek. Short version is this – EPA is in charge of Superfund, which is specifically related to the sediments under the water. New or ongoing pollution entering the water is the provence of the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation.

The NYC DEP is responsible for absolutely nothing anywhere or anytime, it’s not their fault at all, and they have no idea why they were named as a PRP in the first place as it’s all Exxon or National Grid’s fault.

The fellow from EPA I was on the bridge with confirmed my belief that “I should call this in” and the NYS DEC Spill Response hotline was called. If you spot oil slicks, plumes of floatable contaminants, or as in the case of the shot above – hundreds of gallons of milky white mystery juice exiting one of DEP’s open sewers – the protocol is to first photograph it, as documentation, and then to call 1 (800) 457-7362 to let DEC know about the situation so they can investigate.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

We were, as mentioned above, visiting every conceivable spot that the citizenry could find their way to the water.

That included “off limits” locations like the Montrose Avenue Rail Bridge over the English Kills tributary. As you can see from all the interesting graffiti on the bridge, which carries lead tracks of the Bushwick Branch LIRR, trespassing is pretty common back here. This is the reason that EPA asked Newtown Creek Alliance to send somebody along with them, as there’s the “official story” and a “real story” found along the water.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This family of Canada Geese were encountered at the Maspeth Avenue Plank Road, and were being predated by a feral cat who was anxious for breakfast. Momma and Poppa Goose were just out of frame to the left, so the cat made a brilliant decision and continued on into the brush to look for some easier prey. We encountered a couple of broods of Geese over the course of the morning. Geese can be ornery, as a note, and will smack you up if they’re annoyed.

One of these illegal alien avian bullies, at Maspeth Creek, actually hissed at us as we neared, and stuck its tongue out at me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The reasoning behind the signage is based around science rather than good humored politics, incidentally. When you’re chatting with environmental officials, they don’t refer to oysters or mussels as shellfish, rather they call them “bioaccumulators.” Animals that are high up in the food chain have internal organs – livers in particular – and muscular tissues which have amassed dangerous levels of whatever pollutant is found in the sediments of the waterway, which they’ve attained by consuming all the prey critters who are below them in the food chain hierarchy. In the case of crabs, in particular, you can encounter a fantastic amount of chemical concentrates due to their particular niche and occupations.

Newtown Creek is – of course – a Federal Superfund site. The sediment beds hereabout are a goulash of petroleum and petroleum byproducts, organocopper compounds, volatile organic compounds, PCB’s, coal tar, sewage, and everything else that has ever been dumped or spilled into the water. The sediment is referred to as “black mayonnaise” and it’s where the crabs live. It’s also where most of the invertebrates that form the bottom of the food chain for the fish population live. Itty bitty critters eat the decaying organics of the black mayonnaise, and slightly less itty bitty critters eat handfuls of the little guys, and the larger critters eat hundreds of them – you get the idea.

You don’t want to eat fish or crabs that you catch in the Newtown Creek. Really.


Upcoming Tours and events

Newtown Creek, Greenpoint to Hunters Point, walking tour with NYCH2O – June 29th, 7-9 p.m..

Experience and learn the history of the western side of Newtown Creek, as well as the East River Parks Hunters Point with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

cylcopean mass

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It’s National Applesauce Cake Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator was out of the house early today, to attend a meeting sponsored by the Queens Chamber of Commerce which invited a team from the NYC EDC to present their feasibility study on the Sunnyside Yards at the Bulova Corporate Center found on the border of Astoria and East Elmhurst. I’m happy to say that this was a well attended meeting, and that the attendees included members of the Queens activist community as well as the usual and expected representatives from the Real Estate Industrial Complex. A breakfast meeting, bagels and coffee were offered, along with those very sweet little danishes which are typical of corporate catering.

The EDC presentation was offered by one of their many Vice Presidents, a charming fellow named Nate Bliss. I inquired after the meeting, and there was no relation to the Neziah Bliss family of Greenpoint, just as a note.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The EDC presentation was a roadshow version of the executive summary report found at their website. The presentation glossed over several seminal objections to the project which have been offered by various community organizations such as the gargantuan size of the deck itself (at 43rd street and Barnett Avenue in Sunnyside Gardens, for instance – 109-110 feet above street grade, or at Northern Blvd. and 39th/Steinway – 65-70 feet), but did acknowledge the transit and environmental issues associated with creating a new development that would require between 10 and 19 new schools to be built, and which would install a new population in LIC that would number about half that of Boulder, Colorado – on the 180 acres found between Queens Plaza and 43rd street, Northern Blvd. and Skillman Avenue.

I asked them what they’re planning on plugging the deck and city of towers built on it into, electrical wise. I threw some shade at the fact that their report says that’s it’s not feasible to bring construction materials to the job site, which is a rail yard, by rail. Pointedly asked them, as well, about how they intended to route the thousands of daily trucks which would be carrying in steel and concrete since they won’t be using the railroad to do it.

Ultimately, there’s two efficient routes, and both feed in through Manhattan from the continent – George Washington Bridge down 125th street to Triborough and then through Astoria, or Lincoln Tunnel across 42nd street to Queensboro. Guess which one they’ll pick?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

To be entirely clear, despite the fact that the Sunnyside Yards is literally “in my back yard,” my resistance to the plan has nothing to do with the dismissive term “NIMBY” thrown about by the Real Estate Industrial Complex and the bureaucrats of Lower Manhattan. Western Queens is suffocating for lack of infrastructure given the construction boom which has been underway for the last decade and a half. The MTA is overwhelmed, we’ve been closing power plants instead of building new ones, the sewer system is overburdened and outdated. Somebody in the meeting asked me “where are people going to live?” which is the sort of thing that a real estate developer always throws out as if they’re doing us some sort of favor or good deed with the condemnation of whole city blocks and the subsequent erection of mirror glass skinned towers.

Short answer is this – if we improve our transit system, people can live anywhere they want to. Before the ABC and 456 lines reached into northern Manhattan and the 123 lines went to the Bronx, those areas were typified by farmland. So was most of Queens and Eastern Brooklyn, prior to the arrival of the Subways a century ago. Transit expansion equals an opportunity for rapacious profiteering on the part of the real estate industrial complex, and since greed seems to be the only thing that motivates us these days… Imagine the possibilities of an elevated track that crossed from the 103rd Corona Avenue stop on the 7 south across the transit deserts of Queens and Brooklyn all the way to Broadway Junction.

The mind boggles. 


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mouldering bulk

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It’s National Canadian Bacon Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

“Blowing it to bits” is a bit of an exaggeration, as offered by NYC’s tabloid headline writers (and the Governor of New York State), referring to a recently offered plan by the NYS DOT regarding the controlled demolition of the Kosciuszko bridge. Really… this isn’t going to be like the end of the movie Diehard, if anything it’s going to be a bit more like the end of Fight Club.

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 Kosciuszko 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 Kosciuszko 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 2016, and finally the December 2016 one.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The NYS DOT held two meetings this week, one of which I attended, in which they described their plans. First – the central truss removal plan no longer involves the usage of maritime cranes. What their engineers described instead was the construction of four temporary towers which would support machinery which they described as “strand jacks,” which would lower the central truss down to couple of waiting flat top barges. Welding torches would be used to sever the truss’s links to the bridge superstructure, after the strand jacks are attached to support its weight. The truss will be lowered and secured to the barges, whereupon tugboats would guide it westward out of Newtown Creek, and across the harbor to New Jersey where its steel will be recycled.

They indicated this process would play out sometime around the end of April or the beginning of May. The DOT folks were quite vague about specific dates, saying that these were probable time frames but that they couldn’t commit to specifics at this point in time. This is problematic for me, personally, as I’m in the process of negotiating for boats to do Newtown Creek tours this summer, and the procedure described above includes the closure of the creek to all traffic for a couple of days. Worry, worry.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There are two steel towers on either side of the Newtown Creek, which the engineering people indicated would be removed using conventional means (torches and cranes). Beyond the two steel towers, there are 21 spans supported by concrete piers – 10 in Brooklyn and 11 in Queens – which support roadway sections that range between large 230 foot long and 800 ton units and smaller ones that are 120 feet long which weigh in at 2-300 tons. These sections are the ones that DOT and the contractor partnership working for them are proposing to use the explosives on.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The explosives used, and it should be mentioned that the very conservative FDNY Explosives Unit was present and participating in the discussion, would be shaped charges. What that means is that these things are essentially copper bars with high explosive material attached. The charges are placed at critical structural points on the bridge sections, and when their detonation is triggered, the copper chops right through the steel like a knife through butter. The sections which the explosives will be attached to will be “wrapped in filter fabric and conveyor belting equipment,” as they told us. It’s all very complicated.

The detonation will introduce structural deficits into the bridge sections, which will cause them to collapse in a controlled manner, effectively dropping straight down with little or no flyaway debris. There will be dust on impact with the ground, of course, which is a bit of a concern but the engineers say they have techniques to control that too.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Vibration from the dropping sections – which again, weigh anywhere between 200 and 800 tons – is a concern, and the engineering folks described a series of dampening and avoidance technologies and techniques to handle that. These involved building engineered soil berms with internal steel structures, digging trenches, and so on. To be honest, I’m a bit concerned about what will amount to a seismic event, given the proximity of Calvary Cemetery and the somewhat ancient building industrial stock of West Maspeth and Eastern Greenpoint, but the FDNY guys seemed cool with it all.

As I said during the meeting – “If an FDNY Deputy Chief told me to go jump off the bridge, I’d probably listen to him or her,” but I have a more than normal level of respect for the FDNY’s opinions. One of the guys speaking at the meeting was a deputy chief, as a note.

As you may notice from the shot above, and the reason this whole demolition story is flying around, is that the DOT and their contractors are nearly done with constructing the eastern half of the new bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The 200,000 units a day of vehicle traffic carried by the Brooklyn Queens Expressway will soon be rerouted onto the new bridge, at which point the old bridge is irrelevant and in the way. A twin of the new bridge will then be erected on its footprints. As often mentioned in the past – this western side of the new span will include a pedestrian and bicycle path.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In West Maspeth, once called Berlinville, you’ll find the sections of the roadway sitting on truck trailers and awaiting insertion into the span. Based on what I’m seeing, they should be installed shortly, and my guess would be that sometime in March the new span over Newtown Creek will be complete.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One thing which I’m looking forward to in 2017 is a promised walk with the DOT over the new bridge shortly before traffic is rerouted. They’ve been a little vague as to when this will happen, but they have said repeatedly that it will occur. As a note, those are the tracks of the Lower Montauk branch of the LIRR, and a section of them known historically as “Deadman’s Curve.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Anywho, that’s your Kosciuszko Bridge replacement project update for the first quarter of 2017, see you on Monday at this – your Newtown Pentacle – with something completely different.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

March 3, 2017 at 11:00 am

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