The Newtown Pentacle

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How many times a week can you say it’s Monday, huh?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As described last week, my pal Val drove her Valmobile – with myself and a libertarian named Scott within it – out to a photogenic spot on the Kill Van Kull waterway which forms a busy martime shipping channel as well as the border betwixt… Staten Island… and Bayonne, New Jersey. After visiting this spot – known to my circle as “Skelson’s Office,” it was decided to make like a chicken and cross to the other side. Our path carried the Valmobile over the newly reconfigured Bayonne Bridge.

By reconfigured, I mean that the Port Authority has just finished spending multiple millions of bucks to raise the roadway from its original height in pursuit of allowing ever larger cargo ships access to the Port Elizabeth Newark complex in Newark Bay.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In Bayonne, which is largely the unknown country for a humble narrator, we floundered around a bit but managed to find a couple of opportune spots that largely looked westwards towards the port facilities. We were becoming increasingly apprehensive about weather, which as you see from the shot above, was forming up an afternoon thunderhead of the type you expect to see in late August around these parts.

If I was a superhero, my nom de plume would be “Captain Vocabulary.” On that note, the beams of light at the left side of the shot are referred to as “crepuscular rays.” Scott the Libertarian didn’t care, which is a big part of that particular political philosophy – not caring – and he was busy trying to figure out a spot where we could buy lunch in the surrounding neighborhood on his phone while Val and I waved our cameras about.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the control tower at Newark Airport just left of center, which kind of suggests where this shot was gathered. The blue tug is part of the DonJon outfit, and it was wrestling a seemingly empty group of barges into place.

More tomorrow at this – you Newtown Pentacle.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the beginning of the week of Monday, August 24th. My plan is to continue doing my solo photo walks around LIC and the Newtown Creek in the dead of night as long as that’s feasible. If you continue to see regular updates here, that means everything is kosher as far as health and well being. If the blog stops updating, it means that things have gone badly for a humble narrator.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 24, 2020 at 1:00 pm

intact copy

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A short aside on the Arthur Kill, and a look at the Goethals Bridge project.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For the last few days, I’ve been describing a day trip to South East Brooklyn, which we’ll return to later on, but for today’s post I want to show you what’s going on at the veritable edge of NYC on the western end of… Staten Island… at the Arthur Kill waterway. That’s the Goethals Bridge construction project you’re looking at, which is another one of the three mega projects involving bridges going on in NYC at the moment.

I was actually “at work” when these shots were captured, conducting a corporate boat excursion for a group that wanted to “see something different” than what you normally get on a harbor cruise. They were all eating lunch on another deck as we passed by the Goethals so I grabbed my camera and got busy.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m nowhere near as familiar with Goethals as I am with the Kosciuszcko Bridge over my beloved Newtown Creek,  of course, but I can tell you that the span overflying the water is 672 feet long. With its approaches, which connect Elizabeth, New Jersey (and the NJ Turnpike) to… Staten Island… the structure is actually some 7,109 feet long. It’s 62 feet wide, 135 feet over the Arthur Kill, and carries about 80,000 vehicles a day.

Goethals opened in June of 1928, and along with the nearby Outerbridge Crossing, was the inaugural project for a newly created organization known to modernity as the Port Authority of New and New Jersey.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Like several of the depression era bridges in NYC, Goethals has been deemed as being insufficient for the amount of traffic it carries, and it has developed some structural issues over the last century. Port Authority is building a replacement bridge, which will be a cable stay type span. It’s going to be wider, have modern traffic lanes, and incorporate both bicycle and pedestrian access into its design. It’s also meant to be a “smart bridge” which will utilize active sensor technologies to monitor traffic and structural integrity.

The PANYNJ has also left room in their designs for future modifications to the span like adding a rapid transit line. The blue bridge you see just north east of the Goethals is a railroad lift bridge which connects New Jersey’s CSX rail lines to the New York Container Terminal port facility on the… Staten Island… side. It’s called the “Arthur Kill Vertical Lift Railroad Bridge,” for the curious.

The part of… Staten Island… where all this is happening is called “Howland Hook.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the Elizabeth, New Jersey side, where the Goethals connects to New Jersey’s “Chemical Coast.” It’s called that for the enormous presence of the petroleum industry in Elizabeth. This area was formerly the property of the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey.

SOCONJ retained the corporate branding of the Standard Oil trust after the Sherman anti trust act was invoked by President Teddy Roosevelt back in 1911. That branding was “S.O.,” which over the course of the 20th century first became “ESSO” and then later became “EXXON.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The new Goethals Bridge is meant to be ready for use in 2018, at which point the PANYNJ will begin the demolition project to get rid of the original. The 1928 steel truss cantilever bridge was designed by a fellow named John Alexander Low Waddell, who also designed the nearby Outerbridge Crossing. As a note, Outerbridge Crossing is not called that due to it being the furthest out bridge, as colloquially believed. It’s named for a a guy named Eugenius Harvey Outerbridge, and I’m friends with his grandson Tom.

The Goethals Bridge(s) is named for General George Washington Goethals, superviser of construction for the Panama Canal, and first consulting engineer of the Port Authority of New and New Jersey.

The PANYNJ has a neat website set up for the project which includes live construction webcams, check it out here.

Upcoming Events and Tours

Saturday, July 23, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
Calvary Cemetery Walking tour,
with Brooklyn Brainery. Click here for more details.

Tuesday, July 26, 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. –
Glittering Realms Walking tour,
with NYC H2O. Click here for more details.

Wednesday, July 27, 1st trip – 4:50 p.m. 2nd trip – 6:50 p.m. –
2 Newtown Creek Boat Tours,
with Open House NY. Click here for more details.

Saturday, July 30, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
DUPBO Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura. Click here for more details.

Sunday, August 21, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
Poison Cauldron Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

nervous overstrain

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Maritime Sunday drifts into port again.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A “Ro-Ro,” car carriers like Courageous Ace allow a fleet of newly manufactured vehicles to be driven on and off the ship and unloaded without the usage of Gantry or Transfer Cranes, hence “Roll on, Roll off” or “Ro-Ro.”

Radio call sign IMO 9252204, Courageous Ace is 198m long with a 32m beam and has a gross tonnage of 439. In Americanese, that means its 649.606 feet long and 104.987 feet tall, or around one and three quarter football fields long and just under one quarter of a football field high off the water. Why football fields, like horsepower, remain a measurement we all can reference I will never understand. Comparisons follow.

Courageous Ace is just shy of what the Citigroup building in LIC turned horizontal and set afloat would look like, and is approximately the same size as the Richard J. Daley Center in Chicago (the office building in the Blues Brothers movie). It’s owned and operated by Mitsui O.S.K. Lines.

from mol.co.jp

MOL takes a proactive stance in reducing the environmental burden of its vessels as we transport environmental-friendly automobiles that offer improved fuel efficiency and lower CO2 emissions. MOL launched the Courageous Ace in 2003, with a bow that is aerodynamically rounded and beveled along the bow line to help reduce wind resistance. This groundbreaking design results in significant energy savings.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Charles D. McAllister was one of two tugs assisting the colossus into its berth in New Jersey. She seemed to be on watch rather than actively towing, perhaps two tugs were required further out, beyond the Narrows. A large vessel like Courageous Ace actually has to deal with cross currents, and its draft requires that it stay in the deep maritime channels maintained by US Army Corps of Engineers and stick to a route proscribed by the Coast Guard.

from mcallistertowing.com

McALLISTER TOWING is one of the oldest and largest family-owned marine towing and transportation companies in the United States. Founded by Captain James McAllister in 1864 with a single sail lighter, the company has served the maritime community continuously, earning a reputation for unsurpassed excellence. Today, the company operates a balanced and extensive fleet of tugs, barges, and ferries in the major ports on the U.S. East Coast and in Puerto Rico. Captain Brian A. McAllister is the President and a great-grandson of the founder, representing the fourth generation of McAllisters at the helm. Five McAllisters of the fifth generation are also employed by the company.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My guess would be that the Ro-Ro had already finished its journey and slowed down sufficiently that using two tugs to move into the dock would have been overkill.

from tugboatinformation.com

She (Charles D. McAllister) is powered by two Caterpillar 12-D398 Turbo main engines with Lufkin reduction gears at a ratio of 7.14:1 for a rated 1,800 horsepower. She is a twin screw tug, fitted kort nozzles and flanking rudders.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Ellen McAlllister was doing all the work, noodling the giant into berth. Shortly after docking and whatever business Homeland Security and Customs required of the ship was accomplished, hundreds of brand new automobiles and trucks would be driven off the ship and into a lot. Some of these vehicles will be loaded onto trains for transport all up and down the Northeast, others onto trucks for more localized delivery. The Ellen McAllister was profiled recently in the NY Times, linked to below.

from nytimes.com

For two or three or four weeks at a time, the men — and a few women — of this tugboat business live in constant sight of the flashing red light atop the Empire State Building and 1 World Trade Center’s red-and-white sparkle, but they rarely, if ever, set foot in Manhattan. Most of their exposure to the city occurs during the occasional walk from their Staten Island port to the corner store, where they buy lottery tickets.

feverish digging

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Today’s Maritime Sunday post, from Port Newark.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The 2013 Working Harbor Schedule is underway, and while attending one of Captain Doswell’s intriguing “Beyond Sandy” Hidden Harbor tours, the Elizabeth McAllister emerged from the rain and mist. The evening was distinguished by the difficult atmospheric conditions, which obliterated the lighting effects of the setting of the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself in the western sky.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The weather was actually ridiculous, with heavy fog and rain lashing through it, accompanying unseasonably low temperatures. Hardship for land lubbers, that is, because NY Harbor keeps working no matter what nature throws at it. Sailors are used to this sort of thing.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Elizabeth McAllister was launched the same yeur that I was, in 1967, but unlike me- she has changed her name a few times. The always brilliant tugboatinformation.com site has a great work up on her that details her birth, a 1988 calamity, and chronicles the tugs career.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The tug was headed over to the RORO cargo ship Freedom Ace to assist the larger vessel’s transit through the narrow Kill Van Kull. The Maritime Sunday shout out this week is sent to the cast and crew of Elizabeth McAllister, and mention should be made that if you too would like to see scenes like this one- get onboard with the Working Harbor Committee.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Want to see something cool? June 2013 Walking Tours-

The Poison Cauldron Saturday, June 15, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets now on sale.

Kill Van Kull– Saturday, June 22, 2013
Staten Island walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Working Harbor Committee, tickets now on sale.

The Insalubrious Valley Saturday, June 29, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Newtown Creek Alliance, tickets now on sale.

grin horribly

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Prurient thrills and visual stimulation help to attenuate the shocking reality of my daily existence, a non ending series of humiliating but overwhelmingly dull events. Referring to the biblical quotation, your humble narrator is neither hot nor cold, and is instead merely lukewarm. Unlike the stout seamen and union workers who staff the gargantuan cargo docks of Port Elizabeth Newark, it is my lot to always disappoint and or fail those who count upon me.

Sometimes the burden is overwhelming.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

These shots were gathered upon a trip produced but he Working Harbor Committee, and are notable simply because they depict the Gantry Cranes and ship loading action at night. This is fairly typical for the workers of the port, a twenty four hour operation which keeps the wheels of commerce spinning here at the heart of the Megalopolis. There is always something making its way here which needs tending, a juggernaut of consumer goods and foodstuffs.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The agenda of the powerful and elite is one that we all must follow, or so I am told by those closer to the source of all things. Therefore, untold fortunes will soon be spent to rearrange this bridge to accommodate the needs of these dock facilities, which will further it’s role as an economic engine. Said monies, of course, will be gathered from or passed onto the populace at large. The docks serve this populace, it is in their best interest, I am told.

The message of this Maritime Sunday is a tepid one, as stated above. It’s not good, nor bad. It just is.

Also- Upcoming Newtown Creek tours and events:

for more information on the November 9th Newtown Creek Magic Lantern Show, click here

for an expanded description of the November 11th Newtown Creek tour, please click here

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