The Newtown Pentacle

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subsidiary impression

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

You see it all the time, here at your Newtown Pentacle. The Bayonne Bridge, deemed an archaic impediment to navigation by those scions of NY harbor whose hidden machinations are confined to secretive board room meetings at Port Authority and the NYC EDC, is often used as a frame for tugboat shots by your humble narrator. Othman Amman’s second masterpiece (after Hellgate), the bridge is destined to be altered shortly. Accordingly, a group of enthusiasts, antiquarians, and weirdos were gathered one fine September morning to walk across it.

from a Newtown Pentacle posting of June 26, 2009

The fourth largest steel arch bridge on Earth with a height of 150 feet over the water, it connects Bayonne, New Jersey’s Chemical Coastline with Staten Island. It’s primary mission is to allow vehicular traffic access to Manhattan via the Holland Tunnel…

The Bayonne Bridge was designed by a man who helped design the Hell Gate rail bridge on the East river- and was principal designer for the Verrazano bridge over the Narrows, The George Washingston Bridgeover the Hudson River, the Bronx Whitestone Bridge over the East River, the Throgs Neck Bridge over the East River. He was brought in to simplify the design of mighty Triborough– which is actually a bridge and highway complex spanning multiple waterways and islands. A swede Swiss, Othmar Amman worked for Gustavus Lindenthal (designer of the the Queensboro and Hell Gate Bridges), and took over as head bridge engineer at the New York Port Authority in 1925. He also directed the planning and construction of the the Lincoln Tunnel.

He was Robert Moses’s “guy”.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

We came to… Staten Island… via the ferry, and accessed a bus which took us to a less than savory section of the forgotten borough adjoining the bridge. There, the walkway was gained and off we went. Amongst our number was Kevin Walsh of Forgotten-NY fame, my aide de camp and far eastern correspondent Armstrong, as well as our railroad expert, and a certain lady who knows that all that glitters is gold. Stairway to heaven, indeed.

from panynj.gov

Initially, the bridge was planned for motor vehicles, bicycles, and pedestrians only. Accordingly, a suspension bridge design was developed since this type of bridge offered the most economical way to engineer a single span across the Kill Van Kull for motor vehicles. However, the suspension scheme was abandoned when the Port Authority commissioners insisted that considerations be made for at least two rail transit tracks to be added at some future date. (Studies showed that adapting a suspension design for rail traffic would be cost-prohibitive.) With rail traffic in mind, the bridge’s chief designer, Othmar H. Ammann, began developing a scheme that spanned the Kill Van Kull with a single, innovative, arch-shaped truss. As with the suspension bridge scheme, Ammann worked on the arch design in partnership with architect Cass Gilbert. The arch bridge that emerged promised to be a remarkably efficient solution, well suited to the site from both an engineering and aesthetic standpoint.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Like the thrice damned Kosciuszko Bridge over my beloved Newtown Creek, Bayonne Bridge is a relict of an earlier age with a less than bright future. Public fortunes will be spent on reengineering it to fit the needs of private commercial interests. Government sources describe a scenario in which the arch itself will remain unaltered, but that the road which it carries will be obliterated and replaced. Increasingly important to accomplish the walk before this happened, we ignored the signs along the walkway adjuring against suicide and left… Staten Island… for New Jersey to see what could be seen. More to come…

Also- Upcoming tours…

for an expanded description of the October 13th Kill Van Kull tour, please click here

for an expanded description of the October 20th Newtown Creek tour, please click here

previously indifferent

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Despite excited anticipations- the main, backup, and double backup plans which I had so carefully concocted for photographing the Space Shuttle Enterprise on its journey up the Hudson to the Intrepid fell apart independently and left me with only terrestrial options for the point of view.

So many others would be photographing the installation of the grand device on the deck of the aircraft carrier from this common perspective that little value would have been achieved for me from this angle and it was decided to abort the mission. This is the price one pays for violating rule number one, which is “Make no assumptions”.

Apologies are offered to you, lords and ladies, for failing to deliver the goods.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shots presented instead are from the day before that heroic journey, depicting the spacecraft dangling over a barge at Weeks Marine in New Jersey on the Fifth of June. Happenstance had carried me out onto the water that day, as the estimable Working Harbor Committee was engaged in presenting three consecutive tours of the “Hidden Harbor”. The two trips during the day were the “Senior Tours” which are made possible by the Borough President of Manhattan, Scott Stringer.

These harbor tours offer a trip out on the sixth borough to the clientele of the various Senior Citizen Centers, and nearly a thousand people gather at the Circle Line annually to take advantage of the generosity and dispensation of Mr. Stringer.

Your humble narrator was narrating humbly, along with lead speaker Captain John Doswell.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Three distinct passes were made past the Shuttle, two on the aforementioned Senior Tours, and the third on one of the “Hidden Harbor Sunset Tours” offered by the Working Harbor group (of which I am a member, and also serve on the Steering Committee). The Sunset Tours are spectacular, incidentally, and as summer is once more upon us- following a regular schedule of excursions.

Whenever we got close to the shuttle, the microphone was quickly handed to Capt. Doswell, and I raced to an opportune point of view to quickly crack out some shots.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That expensive and rented Canon lens, which was mentioned recently, came in quite handy while attempting to get these shots. The extra clarity, sharpness, and reach it offered allowed me to get in quite close to the spacecraft- although I was physically the better part of a mile away.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In those days before personal degeneracy and madness, when I was employed full time and on staff in the big leagues of the advertising industry, interesting opportunity often arose. When I announced that a holiday weekend trip to Florida was in the offing, during which I would be visiting an artist friend employed by the Disney corporation, a co worker asked if I would be interested in visiting nearby NASA.

Strings were pulled (I was working on a government account at the time), and soon Our Lady of the Pentacle and myself found were attending the NASA “diplomat tour”.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An actual space shuttle engineer gave us a personal viewing and tour of the vast works of the space agency at the Johnson Space Center, and we encountered the space shuttle Atlantis in it’s “garage” and “up on the jacks”. Additionally, we were asked to don clean suits and entered the assembly room for the International Space Station as well as other hidden parts of the facility not normally shown to visitors.

Our visit was cut short as news that the USS Cole had been attacked spread through the installation, and NASA went into lockdown.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Enterprise has, of course, never been to space. Amongst the Shuttle fleet, it is sort of the “floor model”. It has done a lot of time in the air, as extensive studies of the aerodynamic properties and shape of the “space plane” have been carried out that altered the design of the later space going craft which followed it off the assembly line.

It now lives on 42nd street, on the west side, why not go have a look?

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Also:

June 16th, 2012- Newtown Creek Alliance Dutch Kills walk (this Saturday)

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Newtown Creek Alliance has asked that, in my official capacity as group historian, a tour be conducted on the 16th of June- a Saturday. This walk will follow the Dutch Kills tributary, and will include a couple of guest speakers from the Alliance itself, which will provide welcome relief for tour goers from listening to me rattle on about Michael Degnon, Patrick “Battle Ax” Gleason, and a bunch of bridges that no one has ever heard of.

for June 16th tickets, click here for the Newtown Creek Alliance ticketing page

June 23rd, 2012- Atlas Obscura Thirteen Steps around Dutch Kills walk

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Additionally- the “Obscura Day” Thirteen Steps around Dutch Kills tour proved that the efficacy and charms of the Newtown Creek’s least known tributary, with its myriad points of interest, could cause a large group to overlook my various inadequacies and failings. The folks at Atlas Obscura, which is a fantastic website worthy of your attentions (btw), have asked me to repeat the tour on the 23rd of June- also a Saturday.

for June 23rd tickets, click here for the Atlas Obscura ticketing page

June 30th, 2012- Working Harbor Committee Kill Van Kull walk

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My various interests out on the sixth borough, NY Harbor, have brought me into association with the Working Harbor Committee. A member of the group’s Steering Committee- I also serve as the “official” group photographer, am chairman and principal narrator of their annual Newtown Creek Boat Tour, and occasionally speak on the microphone during other tours (mainly the Brooklyn one). This year, the group has branched out into terrestrial explorations to compliment the intense and extant schedule of boat tours, and I’m going to be leading a Kill Van Kull walking tour that should be a lot of fun.

The Kill Van Kull, or tugboat alley as its known to we harbor rats, is a tidal strait that defines the border of Staten Island and New Jersey. A busy and highly industrialized waterfront, Working Harbor’s popular “Hidden Harbor – Newark Bay” boat tours provide water access to the Kill, but what is it like on the landward side?

Starting at the St. George Staten Island Ferry terminal, join WHC Steering Committee member Mitch Waxman for a walk up the Kill Van Kull via Staten Islands Richmond Terrace. You’ll encounter unrivaled views of the maritime traffic on the Kill itself, as well as the hidden past of the maritime communities which line it’s shores. Surprising and historic neighborhoods, an abandoned railway, and tales of prohibition era bootleggers await.

The tour will start at 11, sharp, and you must be on (at least) the 10:30 AM Staten Island Ferry to meet the group at St. George. Again, plan for transportation changes and unexpected weirdness to be revealed to you at MTA.info.

for June 30th tickets, click here for the Working Harbor Committee ticketing page

Happy Birthday, Bayonne Bridge

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

A Sunday, the first day that the Bayonne Bridge opened for use to the general public was 28,856 days ago, on November 15th, 1931 at 5 A.M.

from a Newtown Pentacle posting of June 26, 2009 (where a few of these photos first appeared)

The fourth largest steel arch bridge on Earth with a height of 150 feet over the water, it connects Bayonne, New Jersey’s Chemical Coastline with Staten Island. It’s primary mission is to allow vehicular traffic access to Manhattan via the Holland Tunnel…

The Bayonne Bridge was designed by a man who helped design the Hell Gate rail bridge on the East river- and was principal designer for the Verrazano bridge over the Narrows, The George Washingston Bridge over the Hudson River, the Bronx Whitestone Bridge over the East River, the Throgs Neck Bridge over the East River. He was brought in to simplify the design of mighty Triborough– which is actually a bridge and highway complex spanning multiple waterways and islands. A swede, Othmar Amman worked for Gustavus Lindenthal(designer of the the Queensboro and Hell Gate Bridges), and took over as head bridge engineer at the New York Port Authority in 1925. He also directed the planning and construction of the the Lincoln Tunnel.

He was Robert Moses’s “guy”.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A brutal beauty, the elegant parabola of the Bayonne Bridge is not likely to remain unaltered at its centennial.

from wikipedia

The Bayonne Bridge is the fourth longest steel arch bridge in the world, and was the longest in the world at the time of its completion. It connects Bayonne, New Jersey with Staten Island, New York, spanning the Kill Van Kull.The bridge was designed by master bridge-builder Othmar Ammann and the architect Cass Gilbert. It was built by the Port of New York Authority and opened on November 15, 1931, after dedication ceremonies were held the previous day. The primary purpose of the bridge was to allow vehicle traffic from Staten Island to reach Manhattan via the Holland Tunnel.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A new class of titan ship, the Panamax class cargo carrier, would be stymied from entering Newark Bay and the elaborate port infrastructure which lines its shores by the shallow height of the bridge’s roadway.

from nycroads.com (be sure to click through, and check out the historic photo of the bridge under construction)

Ground was broken for the Bayonne Bridge on September 1, 1928. The span is comprised of a two-hinged, spandrel-braced trussed arch in which the bottom chords form a perfect parabolic arch. As the span’s primary structural members, these manganese-steel chords carry most of the dead load and uniform live load, which is then transferred to the concrete abutments. The span’s top chords (which were constructed from a lighter silicon steel) and web members are stressed by live loads and temperature.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Humorless, the suggestion to lower the water falls on deaf ears amongst those stern and hardened engineers employed by the Port Authority.

from panynj.gov

Initially, the bridge was planned for motor vehicles, bicycles, and pedestrians only. Accordingly, a suspension bridge design was developed since this type of bridge offered the most economical way to engineer a single span across the Kill Van Kull for motor vehicles. However, the suspension scheme was abandoned when the Port Authority commissioners insisted that considerations be made for at least two rail transit tracks to be added at some future date. (Studies showed that adapting a suspension design for rail traffic would be cost-prohibitive.) With rail traffic in mind, the bridge’s chief designer, Othmar H. Ammann, began developing a scheme that spanned the Kill Van Kull with a single, innovative, arch-shaped truss. As with the suspension bridge scheme, Ammann worked on the arch design in partnership with architect Cass Gilbert. The arch bridge that emerged promised to be a remarkably efficient solution, well suited to the site from both an engineering and aesthetic standpoint.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One can only hope that the solution to the Bayonne Bridge’s height issue can be solved in as elegant a fashion as Othmar Ammann’s original design.

from panynj.gov

In 1931 the Port Authority built the Bayonne Bridge, which connects Bayonne, New Jersey and Staten Island, New York and sits at the entrance of the Port Authority’s maritime facilities over the Kill Van Kull. Due to the increasing size of vessels, the 151-foot airdraft (the distance from the water’s surface to the underside of the bridge roadway) of the bridge presents a navigational challenge to some vessels today – a challenge that is expected to increase as larger ships transit the Panama Canal after its expansion in 2015. The Port Authority recognizes the importance of developing and maintaining a world class port with deep and clear channels for vessels and the infrastructure to support the movement of cargo.

In order to address this navigational challenge, in 2008 the Port Authority commissioned the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to complete an analysis of the commercial consequences of and the national economic benefits that could be generated by a potential remedy of the Bayonne Bridge’s airdraft restriction. The final report concludes that despite the high cost of possible solutions, the national economic benefits (i.e. the transportation cost savings to the nation) that would result from implementing a remedy would far outweigh the costs. The total project cost of modifying or replacing the bridge could range from $1.3 billionto $3.1 billion and could take ten years or more to complete.

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 15, 2010 at 3:05 am

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