The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘New York Harbor’ Category

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Canada Goslings in industrial Maspeth.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Marching about recently, my path carried the camera past Maspeth Creek, which – as the name would imply – is in industrial Maspeth and is in fact a tributary of that lugubrious cataract of cautionary tales known to all simply as the “Newtown Creek.” Whilst scuttling past the Maspeth Creek waterway’s head waters, which flow out a sewer, these Canadian invaders were shifting from foot to foot in a manner which I did not like.

Geese, in general, are dicks. Canada Geese, in particular, are jerks as well as dicks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The good news, for this dick specie, is that there’s now more of them. “Goslings” are what you call baby geese. While I was shooting this, one of the adults – I’m presuming it was the papa – was ambling towards me while sticking his tongue out. I once had to punch a goose in the face at one of the area cemeteries to ward off an attack. This particular paragon of poultry  was intent on killing me for wandering too close to a nest, I guess. For you PETA types out there, one tried every other recourse first including “flight” before “fight” became my only option. That “sumbitch” chased me half way across Calvary Cemetery before I had to vigorously assert my right to be unmolested with a closed fist.

Seriously, Geese are mean dicks, but they’re real cute when they’re babies.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The one who was messing with me the other day is the big one, at the back of the group in the shot above. I’m not sure if Maspeth Creek is in the 108th or the 104th precinct, but if anyone recognizes that goose I’d appreciate it if you called the NYPD tips line and let them know. I bet that its name is Claude or Jean or something… pfft… Canada.

Back in conventional reality, rather than within my inner dialogue about rude avian biota, the Canada Goose is one of the many, many birds that arrive at Newtown Creek each and year.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Newtown Creek, and all of NY Harbor, sits in the migratory Atlantic Flyover zone. Every year you get to see nestlings putting on weight and size all summer long around the creek. Towards mid August and late September, they’ll begin vacating the area for parts unknown, returning in late March and April.

There’s a bunch of them wallowing around in the toxic sediments of Maspeth Creek, in the shot above.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Most of what I look out for as a hazard around the Newtown Creek are trucks rather than birds, and while making my way home, one marveled at all the different kinds. Semis, packers, roll on and roll offs, panel, box, wreckers, concrete… I even saw a couple of crane trucks. Industrial Maspeth is lousy with that sort of thing. There’s trains, too.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Leaving the Maspeth area via 48th street, you cross under and over the Long Island Expressway while heading north into Sunnyside. I like to use this steel and concrete landmark, a corridor of the House of Moses, to mentally signal that I’ve left the Creeklands and reentered the world as it’s meant to be.

As in, if an aggressive goose showed his face around south Sunnyside, he’d soon find himself cooked.


Upcoming Tours and Events

June 22nd – The Birthplace of Mobil Oil: A Walking Tour
– with Newtown Creek Alliance.

Join NCA historian Mitch Waxman and NCA’s project manager Willis Elkins for walk through the birthplace of Mobil Oil, past the DEP’s largest Wastewater Treatment Plant and to the Kingsland Wildflowers green roof. The tour will also visit NCA’s Living Dock on the way; showcasing restoration efforts adjacent to major industrial operations and in the wake of legacies of pollution and neglect.
The tour will end at the 22,000 square foot Kingsland Wildflowers project, with panoramic views of the Newtown Creek and Manhattan skyline at sunset.

Tickets and more details
here.

June 30th – The Skillman Avenue Corridor
– with Access Queens.

Starting at the 7 train on Roosevelt Avenue, we will explore this thriving residential and busy commercial thoroughfare, discussing the issues affecting its present and future. Access Queens, 7 Train Blues, Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce, and Newtown Creek Alliance members will be your guides for this roughly two mile walk.
Skillman Avenue begins at the border of residential Sunnyside and Woodside, and ends in Long Island City at 49th avenue, following the southern border of the Sunnyside Yards for much of its path. Once known as Meadow Street, this colonial era thoroughfare transitions from the community of Sunnyside to the post industrial devastations of LIC and the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek.

Tickets and more details
here.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

June 20, 2018 at 11:00 am

corridor outside

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Remember, remember…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On this day, June 15th in 1904, the General Slocum excursion boat left its dock at Peck Slip in Manhattan at ten in the morning with just over 1,000 people onboard – most of whom were women and children. It caught fire as it moved north on the East River, and reports of smoke below deck reached the wheelhouse as it was passing 97th street in Manhattan. It didn’t take long for the wood hulled boat to catch fire. It was a product of Tammany’s NYC, where safety inspectors could be convinced to overlook violations for a small sum, which is why the life vests were filled with sawdust and powdered cork and the fire hoses onboard were either non existent or rotted. Most of the crew abandoned ship, leaving the passengers to fend for themselves. By the time it grounded at North Brother Island, the official death toll was 1,021. Bodies were washing onshore at Hells Gate for days.

Today is the anniversary of the day that Lassez Faire capitalism and local control of the ferry industry ended in NYC, and why the United States Coast Guard was given broad oversight powers regarding safety onboard vessels in NY Harbor.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After the Slocum disaster, which scored the largest death toll of any single event in NYC until the September 11th attacks in 2001, the Coast Guard instituted regulations and rules for all shipping in NY Harbor which they enforce with military discipline. It’s why you hear an announcement on every ferry trip telling you where floatation devices can be found onboard, and why private pleasure and fishing vessels in the harbor are often “pulled over” by USCG for safety inspections.

It’s also one of the arguments I make when talking politics, with my friends who identify as “Conservative,” in defense of what they describe as “job killing regulatory oversight.” There is a staggering amount of inefficiency and an abundance of stupid rules in Government, but we also haven’t had anything like a General Slocum disaster in what… 114 years?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Given the focus point of my historical interests, which can be somewhat summed up as “maritime industrial history of NYC from the colonial to WW2 periods,” there’s a lot of horror stories which I’ve stumbled across. 95% of the environmental issues in NYC were caused by unfettered and unregulated industrial operations which, prior to 1972 and the Federal Clean Water and Clean Air acts, had zero obligation not to dump acid into rivers and streams or pulse metric shit tons of poison into the air. A disaster can occur in any era, but the needless deaths of 1,021 women and children onboard an excursion boat leaving from lower Manhattan to attend a picnic on Long Island? Unthinkable in the modern era.

All that is due to a regulatory regime for the maritime industry which was largely created and coded into law by Republican Party politicians led by Teddy Roosevelt. Dump acid into the water, or spew sulphur compounds into the sky? Also impossible thanks to a Republican named Richard Nixon. Give credit where credit is due, I say. I also question why the politics of the modern day has members of the same political party chipping away at the achievements of their historical forebears who ensured that you could just mindlessly walk onto a ferry without thinking about the General Slocum


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Written by Mitch Waxman

June 15, 2018 at 1:00 pm

business section

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Everything backfires, all the time.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After crossing over that primal mystery through which even thought cannot penetrate which are the waters of New York Harbor, and arriving on… Staten Island… one got busy with the tripod and camera. I was in pursuit of some iteration of the shot above, which I would mention I’m not 100% satisfied by, depicting the whole shebang visible from St. George. Jersey City in the left of the shot, Manhattan in the middle, and the East River on the right. This is just about twenty minutes after sunset, incidentally. I plan on heading back out there when the skies, and the stars, are right.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shot I was most happy with, and which sort of made the entire journey to… Staten Island… worth it was the one above, which is a long exposure looking westwards towards the Kill Van Kull. That concrete thingamabob is the 2004 “Postcards” 911 memorial, if your curious, commemorating the memories of the 274 Staten Islanders who lost their lives in the 1993 and 2001 World Trade Center attacks. The Postcards monument is shaped like a combination of two wings and a pair of hands praying, and there are profile sculptures of the victims inside it with their names, birth dates, and where they worked.

I, for one, don’t want to be remembered for where I worked but rather for where I lived.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Arriving back in Manhattan, my pathway home involved the MTA, and wouldn’t you know it… It took close to forty minutes for this work train to clear itself out of the South Ferry station, which in turn allowed the “R” line to transit through from Brooklyn and get me back to Astoria. Life is a joy, in a city which never sleeps.

As I’ve said many times, the “A” in “MTA” is for “Adventure.”


Upcoming Tours and Events

June 9th – Exploring Long Island City – with NY Adventure Club.

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?

Tickets and more details
here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

frightened servants

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So above, so below.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Whilst riding a big orange boat across the harbor, one recent and banal evening, litanies of wonder rolled past the lens. A United States Marine Corps V-22 Osprey was flying circuits around Governors Island, tugboats frolicked about in the warm light offered by the unoccluded burning thermonuclear eye of God itself, and the Shining City of Manhattan glowed. Onboard the Staten Island Ferry, riding towards its terminus at St. George on… Staten Island… one was surrounded by European tourists. Many of them bore an aspect which I did not like, as they seemed sly and sinister, and several showed the scars of old world pestilences. The chorus of languages they spoke all seemed guttural and base, not lilting or wholesome as in the manner of English spoken with a Brooklyn accent. Overall, their choices of clothing were mainly what offended me… the cargo shorts and polyester shirts… the bandannas… the knap sacks with too many zippers and cords to be functional…

A humble narrator was, of course, wearing garments nearly indistinguishable from rags. My garb was not unlike that of some exhumed corpse – threadbare, smelly, torn, battered. Just like me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Marines were flying circuits, as mentioned, no doubt as some sort of display during the annual Fleet Week event during which examples of the military might of the Nation is displayed in NY Harbor. The V-22, as I understand it, has vertical take off capabilities. When the propulsion units are in the orientation pictured above, the plane operates in a manner similar to a helicopter, but the pods can be rotated ninety degrees to provide thrust during conventional flying postures. Apparently this has been quite an engineering and operational challenge for the folks who work with this first of its class model of plane, but they seem to have worked out a lot of the kinks.

Whether there was any esoteric machinery in the V-22 scanning the bottom of the harbor for signs of those said to lurk down below, who can say?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

You’d have to imagine that were there a group of amphibian fish/frog men living in the sediments of NY Harbor, they’d likely have neighborhoods down there somewhat analogous – class distinction wise – to the ones you find up on the islands. The upscale Deep Ones of the Upper East Side, the working class population of those who dwelleth in the below at Hells Gate, the tragically hip battrachians of North Brooklyn, the shimmering horrors at Coney Island Creek, and so on.


Upcoming Tours and Events

June 9th – Exploring Long Island City – with NY Adventure Club.

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?

Tickets and more details
here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 6, 2018 at 11:00 am

thunderous remoteness

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File this one under “You don’t see that every day.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the Guy V. Molinari, part of the Staten Island Ferry fleet, in a shot from 2012. The boat is the first of its class and design, and the photo above is a fairly typical rendering of what you’d normally get to see of the boat, sans the atmospherics and dusky lighting, which was pure serendipity for a humble narrator.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The other day, while onboard a slow boat cruising along the Kill Van Kull, I was looking at the Caddell Dry Dock facility and what do I see floating there but the Guy V. Molinari up on jacks. For you longtime readers, I’ve mentioned Caddell before, but if you need a refresher course – click here for a 2012 post about the company and their floating dry dock business. Just for giggles, here’s another one from 2014 when the USS Slater was there.

from wikipedia

The MV Guy V. Molinari, MV Senator John J. Marchi, and MV Spirit of America, known as the “Molinari class”, carry a maximum of 4,427 passengers and up to 30 vehicles. Each boat is 310 feet (94 m) long by 70 feet (21 m) wide and has a draft of 13 feet 10 inches (4.22 m), tonnage of 2,794 gross tons, service speed of 16 knots (30 km/h), and engines of 9,000 horsepower (6.7 MW). 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For those of you who didn’t bother to click through, a floating dry dock is a maritime structure capable of submersing part of its superstructure, allowing vessels to inch into it. The floating dry dock then rises back up, picking up the vessel with it. This allows free floating structures to be lifted out of the water so that workers can perform maintenance tasks on the hull and other normally inaccessible areas.

Cool, huh?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has seen a lot of things over the years on NY Harbor: the nose of a submarine being barged under the Williamsburg Bridge, an experimental military attack boat at Hells Gate, a space shuttle dangling from a crane, the list goes on and on. I’ve never seen a Staten Island Ferry up on blocks before.

As a note, scenery like the stuff you’re looking at today will be on display the evening of May 17th when I’m on the microphone for Working Harbor Committee’s Newark Bay tour, ticketing link at bottom of post. Come with?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As always, Kill Van Kull was putting on the maritime industrial tour even as the boat I was on headed back out towards its eventual port of call on the Hudson River side of Manhattan Island. The whole Bayonne Bridge reconstruction project seems to be winding up, and there were crews demolishing the old concrete piers which supported the original roadway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking forward to spending a bit more time on the water, a humble narrator is.

I never got to take that vacation I was moaning about all winter, probably the best I can do for the summer is to try and not be on solid land as much as I possibly can be.


Upcoming Tours and Events

May 12th   RESCHEDULED for June 9th – Exploring Long Island City – with NY Adventure Club.

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?

Tickets and more details
here.

May 17th – Port Newark Boat Tour – with Working Harbor Committee.

For an exciting adventure, go behind the scenes of the bustling Port of NY & NJ on our Hidden Harbor Tour® of Port Newark! Get an insider’s view of the 3rd largest port in the nation, where container ships dock and unload their goods from around the world. See how the working harbor really works and learn about what all those ships and tugs do. See giant container terminals, oil docks, dry dock repair, and more! Tickets and more details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 11, 2018 at 11:00 am

frightened them

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The Queens Cobbler survived the cold, and Liberty walks the streets of Astoria.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve been spotting evidence, once again, that the Queens Cobbler is active and amongst us. A likely serial killer who leaves behind a single shoe as a taunt to both community and law enforcement, the Cobbler has been a subject mentioned so many times at this – your Newtown Pentacle – that the monster has actually tracked me down and left one of his ghoulish trophies on the ornamental fence surrounding Newtown Pentacle HQ last Christmas. One refuses to be cowed.

The boot above was spotted recently on Northern Blvd. nearby 39th avenue.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over in the still industrial section of Long Island City, not too far from Van Dam Street, the shoe above was noticed while a humble narrator was scuttling past. It is my belief that someday will a commercial self storage room, or an untenanted storeroom in some old factory, be opened and within will be hundreds and hundreds of single shoes – the mates to the ones which have been documented at this publication over the years. I believe the Cobbler keeps on of their victim’s shoes as a trophy, and discards the other as a taunt.

One would be hard pressed to describe the particular footwear of a missing loved one to the Police, I admit.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On a completely different note, this fellow has been wandering up and down Broadway here in Astoria throughout tax preparation season. He’s apparently employed by a local shop, whose corporate branding revolves around the Statue of Liberty, that handles financial matters to act as a living signboard and busker to drive potential customers to their door.

I’ve enjoyed a brief conversation with the gentleman, who attests that the costume is actually quite warm and comfortable, which he’s been glad of given the recent cold snap. Everybody has to make a living, I guess.


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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Written by Mitch Waxman

April 18, 2018 at 1:00 pm

dark figures

with 6 comments

If only I could be laconic, if.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sunday last, I conducted a tour for the NY Transit Museum onboard an NYC Ferry. The narrative was governed by the history of ferries in NYC, with a general historical overlay of the East River corridor. There’s a lot of information to pass on, and I will admit that it’s a bit of struggle to fit it all in. The tour left from Pier 11 in Manhattan, and we debarked the boat in LIC. Given that it’s a transit museum group, the last third of the tour focuses in on the former ferry services of the Long Island Railroad offered out of Hunters Point and then I take the group a few blocks into LIC. I can usually produce a LIRR engine sitting on a sidetrack thereabouts, and there’s always the Sunnyside Yards to talk about as well.

It was really, really cold for April last Sunday, in the 30’s when I left HQ.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is the second time I’ve narrated this particular tour, and hopefully will be presenting it again in the near future. Saying that, now that it’s been spoken aloud a few times, I’ve got some rewriting to do in the name of brevity and clarity. It’s so easy to bog down in historical minutia when discussing the East River, you have to be careful when narrating lest you lose the audience’s attention in a swirl of details. I never structure what I’m going to say as a dry recitation of facts and dates, which is the worst possible way to relate historical data, in my view. It’s a story, so tell it like a story, with a beginning/middle/end.

The cool thing about the Transit Museum is that they outfit me with a little closed circuit radio microphone and all the tour participants get these little radio headsets, so I don’t need to yell the whole time. That took a bit of adjustment time for me, as I’m used to using a booming voice and certain style of pronunciation on tours. Speaking into a mike is more a “radio  situation” where you want to get all mellifluous in terms of vocalizations.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Suffice to say that shortly after the Civil War there were as many as 21 seperate “official” ferry lines crossing back and forth between Brooklyn and Queens and Manhattan. Like a lot of 19th century industries, a politically connected monopoly emerged out of a company founded by Livingstone and Fulton which made regulation and inspection by Government officialdom go away, creating a lassez faire system whose excesses eventually led to the General Slocum disaster in 1915 1904 which made the idea of getting on a ferry rather unpalatable to early 20th century New Yorkers in the same way that entering a giant office building in the years following 9/11 was an unsettling experience. The Coast Guard was put in charge of safety matters, and they began to enforce strict safety regulations and practices on the ferry industry.

Then came Robert Moses…


Upcoming Tours and Events

April 14 – Exploring Long Island City – with NY Adventure Club.

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?
Tickets and more details here.

April 15- Newtown Creekathon – with Newtown Creek Alliance.

That grueling 13 and change mile death march through the bowels of New York City known as the “Newtown Creekathon” will be held on that day, and I’ll be leading the charge as we hit every little corner and section of the waterway. This will be quite an undertaking, last year half the crowd tagged out before we hit the half way point. Have you got what it takes the walk the enitre Newtown Creek?
Click here to reserve a spot on the Creekathon.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 11, 2018 at 11:00 am

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