The Newtown Pentacle

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My beloved Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has always indulged in the habit of taking periodic breaks from visiting that flooded valley of wonder called the Newtown Creek, in pursuance of occasionally allowing my immune system to scale back a bit to normal NYC levels. Now, New York is a pig sty, and often these days it feels like it’s dirtier than it’s been in decades. As a culture, we’ve done a great job of using “Public Service Announcements” to convince the citizenry of the the efficacy of condom usage, smoking cessation, and to get teenagers in the habit of not getting pregnant as often as in generations formerly. What we’ve stopped doing, however, is convincing people that littering is bad.

Street litter ends up in the sewer grates, and then into the water. It causes the NYC DEP, who operate that science fiction like sewer plant in Greenpoint – pictured above – no end of problems. They have to strain the solids from the otherwise liquidic flow which they refer to as “honey.” These solids become landfill, ultimately, which they would have anyway if just placed in those garbage baskets on nearly every street corner – they just wouldn’t be biohazardous waste as well, having been mingled with poop and sewage in the pipes.

That’s a lot of “funk.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That is what’s referred to as the “BP Amoco” tanks in Greenpoint, pictured above, although the facility has recently changed ownership. For the life of me, while I’m writing this I can’t remember the name of the new corporate entity who bought it. That’s a distribution yard. Petroleum products are barged in by a tugboat, off loaded into those tanks you see, and then pumped into delivery trucks for the proverbial “last mile.”

That’s also just about the dead bang center of the Greenpoint Oil Spill, in relation to the bulkheads of Newtown Creek that you’re looking at, at Greenpoint’s Apollo Street. Just east of here is the spot where the US Coast Guard spotted oil oozing from the bulkheads in the 1970’s, kicking off a decades long process which would eventually result in the entirety of Newtown Creek being named as a Federal Superfund site.

There’s a sediment bed down there under the water which contains a lot of gunk.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This one is looking across the Newtown Creek at Long Island City from the bulkheads at 520 Kingsland Avenue in Brooklyn, where Newtown Creek Alliance is now headquartered. That’s Sims Metal Recycling on the Queens side. From a maritime point of view, this is still an acutely active and well navigated section of the Newtown Creek. There’s multiple daily visits to the nearby Whale Creek tributary by NYC DEP sludge boats, tug and barge activity due to the presence of Sims in Queens, and Allocco Recycling in Greenpoint.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – a single barge carries the equivalent cargo of up to thirty eight semi trucks. That’s a lot of junk!

As you may have guessed by now, break time is over, and I’m once again communing with my beloved Newtown Creek.

“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 for $30.


Slideshow and book signing, April 23rd, 6-8 p.m.

Join Newtown Creek Alliance at 520 Kingsland Avenue in Greenpoint, Brooklyn for a slideshow, talk, and book signing and see what the incredible landscape of Newtown Creek looks like when the sun goes down with Mitch Waxman. The event is free, but space is limited. Please RSVP here. Light refreshments served.

Click here to attend.

The Third Annual, All Day, 100% Toxic, Newtown Creekathon. April 28th.

The Creekathon will start at Hunter’s Point South in LIC, and end at the Kingsland Wildflowers rooftop in Greenpoint. It will swing through the neighborhoods of LIC, Blissville, Maspeth, Ridgewood, East Williamsburg, Bushwick, and Greenpoint, visiting the numerous bridges that traverse the Creek. While we encourage folks to join us for the full adventure, attendees are welcome to join and depart as they wish. A full route map and logistics are forthcoming.This is an all day event. Your guides on this 12+ mile trek will be Mitch Waxman and Will Elkins of the Newtown Creek Alliance, and some of their amazing friends will likely show up along the way.

Click here to attend.

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 12, 2019 at 1:30 pm

calm alabaster

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“follow” me on Twitter at @newtownpentacle

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If one doth dare, acknowledging and admiring the languid splendors of the Newtown Creek from midstream is neither commonplace nor ordinary. Intellectual inebriation is experienced by one such as myself while engaged in ribald contemplation of the place.

Ineffable wonder surmounts the water body, and no place is more steeped in legend and litigation than the southern banks found between Greenpoint and Meeker Avenues in infinite Brooklyn.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In focus this day, here at your Newtown Pentacle, are the fuel tanks which betray the presence of the British Petroleum (formerly Amoco) facility at Apollo Street. This was a sliver of the gargantuan Standard Oil works, a bulk storage yard built on the property in 1969 by the fore mentioned Amoco oil corporation.

Refining of petroleum distillates ceased on Newtown Creek in 1966, and the local oil business in modernity is all about storage and distribution.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The BP yard is 9.98 acres, hosting one underground and eleven above ground tanks with an overall capacity of 5,902,512 gallons of storage. There is Kerosene, Gasoline, Ethanol, and #2 fuel oil in supply- all of which are available for bulk purchase by local companies.

Additionally, there’s eight dual phase recovery wells on site which, as of 2011, had siphoned some 21,500 gallons of petroleum from deep underground. That’s where a story that started during the 1880’s actually began in 1978.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Apollo Street in Greenpoint Brooklyn, where the Locust Hill refinery fire happened, and where the Standard Oil operation once towered, is pretty close to ground zero of the infamous and much referred to “Greenpoint Oil Spill”. In 1978, when a Coast Guard helicopter pilot first noticed that oil was oozing from the bulkheads of Newtown Creek- it was right across Apollo from the BP yard, at a former Paragon Oil terminal owned in modernity by a beverage importer and distributor.

In the shot above, the spot to look for are the three garage doors on the cream colored building just beyond the tanks. That’s where the Coast Guard first spotted the plume.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As a point of fact, however, it should be mentioned that the traditional manner in which Americans pronounce the word “Oil”- Oy Uhl – is incorrect in North Brooklyn.

Around these parts the way to say that word is simply “Erl”.

“Greenspoints Erl Spell” is what “Greenpoint Oil Spill” should sound like, if pronounced in proper Brooklyn patois.

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