The Newtown Pentacle

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surviving entry

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A good place to get dead, the Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Something I get asked about all the time is whether or not bodies get regularly dumped into Newtown Creek. My stock response is “only of its amateur hour.” If you’re dumping a body in NY Harbor, you want to make sure that it disappears quickly. Nothing that falls into Newtown Creek vanishes, it just sinks to the bottom and eventually it comes bubbling back up to the surface. The East River is crap for this duty as well. The Hudson, or Jamaica Bay, however…

Nevertheless, a lot of people have ended up dead in the Newtown Creek over the centuries.

Charles Hannigan, who once lived on fifth street in the Eastern District of Brooklyn, was fishing along and drowned in the Newtown Creek in early September of 1856. His body was never recovered. On August 1st of 1866, a 40 year old escapee from a lunatic asylum in Flatbush, named John Montayne, attempted suicide at Newtown Creek but was revived. In 1870, a dock worker named Patrick Boyle fell into Newtown Creek nearby Hunters Point and drowned, while three men watched and did nothing to help him. In September of 1874, a Long Island City Policeman, Officer Minnocks, found the body of an infant with a crushed skull floating in Newtown Creek. In February of 1878, Blissvillian William Owens fell out of a rowboat and drowned in Newtown Creek, his body was never recovered. In 1886, the body of S.W. Meyers, who had disappeared eight weeks prior in Manhattan, was found floating nearby the Penny Bridge along Newtown Creek.

Meyers was described as feeble, and given to fainting spells. It was presumed that he just fell into the water and drowned.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Joel Rifkin, the serial killer, dumped a 55  gallon steel drum containing the corpse of a woman in May of 1992 in Newtown Creek, according to his 1995 confession. In 1996, a United States Army Captain named John Lau disposed of the bodies of a married couple, Alexander and Liane Barone, in the Newtown Creek not too far from the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge. A fellow named Derek Winefsky drove his car at high speed through the waterside fence line of Greenpoint’s Apollo Street in 2008, and whereas his body was recovered, that of his passenger disappeared into the murk. In October of 2017, a decomposing body was discovered at the very end of the English Kills tributary of Newtown Creek in Bushwick by one of my colleagues at Newtown Creek Alliance.

Basically, it’s pretty difficult and expensive to dispose of a human body, even under the best circumstances. Ever heard how much a funeral costs? Imagine trying to do it all quiet and secret like.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator has no first hand knowledge of the following, rather it’s the product of bar room banter with all sorts of old timey characters, disreputable rogues, and grifting undesirables in Long Island City and Greenpoint; back in the “old days” when the “boys” were still in charge around the Creek and one of their uncooperative business associate needed “getting rid of,” it wasn’t that difficult to find a local crematorium or industrial furnace tender whose palm was easily greased. Additionally, if the cover story you offer – regarding your employment – to both religious leaders and Federal prosecutors is that “you work in waste management,” ditching 150-250 pounds of meat into the waste flow isn’t that big a challenge.

So the short answer is “No, Virginia, people don’t dump bodies in Newtown Creek that often, and if they do they’re amateurs.”


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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 2, 2018 at 1:00 pm

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It’s National Sacher Torte Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The concrete devastations of Newtown Creek, after the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself has slipped behind and become occluded by the state of New Jersey, are spooky. During daylight, they’re just a cautionary tale with occasional glimpses of terror and wonder, but after darkness settles in on the soot stained masonry offered by the warehouses, factories, and the Great Wall of Calvary Cemetery – one finds himself constantly looking over his shoulder. In the case of the furtive glance captured above, my apprehension was directed towards the spot where Review Avenue transmogrifies into Laurel Hill Blvd. nearby the old and nearly forgotten Penny Bridge. The masonry of the 1894 Penny Bridge is still extant, despite the actual span having been demolished around 1940. The first Penny Bridge, which was little more than a rope walk, opened thereabouts in 1803. It is at Penny Bridge that the presence of the spectral Blissville Banshee was first reported in 1884, as she glided across the oily waters of the Newtown Creek.

I mean – this ain’t Queens Plaza – where legions of vampires are known to drop from the steel rafters of the subways when night comes – but… Blissville after dark is just plain weird.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s not just me who feels this way, either. Last Spring, a buddy of mine – who’s fairly fearless – was walking along this stretch with me at night. He began to ask insistently where we were, and opine that he was completely disoriented despite being in his native borough. Paranoid ideations began to blossom in his mind, and despite my insistence that we were on very familiar ground, anxiety began to overwhelm his reason. A distinct sigh of relief escaped his cranial breathing holes when we emerged onto Greenpoint Avenue after walking down shadow haunted Review Avenue in a generally northern direction.

Perhaps he was experiencing the sort of chronal tunnel vision that I often do.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Could he have subconsciously known that Van Iderstine’s used to be here, or about Fleischmann’s Yeast with their stable of pneumoniac cattle. The unhealthy condition of these cattle, which attracted the attention of newspaper reporters, hygenicists, and State Board of Health Inspectors from Albany back in 1879, was attributed to being fed only fermented grain produced by the yeast brewers, which slid into their feeding troughs still steaming and straight from from the distillery process. The milk these cows produced was blueish in coloration, and nearly 1% alcohol by volume. This so called “swill milk” was not considered fit for general human consumption, as it was the lowest grade of dairy product commercially available in that era, but was considered a fitting protein source to serve to the orphans and prisoners confined on Blackwells Welfare Roosevelt Island. Nellie Bly might have spent ten days in a madhouse, but I don’t think she mentioned drinking swill milk in her famous exposé.

Van Iderstine’s, for those of you lucky enough to it have never heard of the business which used to inhabit these parts, ran a fat rendering mill hereabouts that was extant until the latter half of the 20th century. Animal parts, spoiled meat, rotten eggs, barrels of butchers blood – all were boiled down in open copper vessels here in Blissville in pursuance of the manufacture of tallow. Ghastly business, that.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Despite the atmospheric temperatures being low enough to allow one the usage of his full armor – the filthy black raincoat and a stout hat coupled with durable clothing woven from ruggose fibers – one is always aware of his vulnerability and obsequiousness to malign elements of society due to conducting my excursions on foot. It would be a simple matter for one or two stout men to overpower one such as myself, known for his physical cowardice and nervous temperament.

Others with stronger constitution might venture into the shadows of rumor haunted Blissville, but a humble narrator chooses instead to acknowledge his lurking fear and remain naught but a passing outsider and scuttling stranger.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Upon arriving at the inverse end of Review Avenue, a quick glance over my shoulder revealed a small group of stocky men forming up and pointing in my direction. They were clad in shadow, but the outlines of their group against the sodium lit walls of masonry revealed shapes which did not seem “right.” Discretion being the better part of valor, a humble narrator engaged the services of a passing taxi and made haste for the locked doors of HQ back in Astoria.

The world is a scary place, and the concrete devastations of Western Queens can be scarier than even the pathless deserts of Arabia, where the secrets of cities lost await discovery by the scientifically curious. What might be found… in those wisely abandoned metropolises… if occult rumors are to believed… could easily spark another dark age, and retard the forward progress of mankind – or possibly end civilization itself and condemn mankind to an endless era of ape like barbarity.

As far as the Blissville section of LIC goes – who can guess, all there is, that might be hidden down there?


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.


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It’s National Chocolate Milk Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

What you’re looking at up there, lords and ladies, is my own personal piece of the old 1939 Kosciuszcko Bridge. I can now say that the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, or part of it anyway, is in my house.

Here’s the scoop on how I got it:

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week, I described bringing an NYU class to Long Island City where we got to do a short visit at a large recycling operation, found along the Newtown Creek, called SimsMetal.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

While I was there, an inquiry was proferred to the fellows who work there whether or not a sample cut from the tons of Kosciuszcko Bridge steel they had lying about might be possible to obtain. Turns out that they had to cut pieces down to size for shredding over in New Jersey anyway, so it wouldn’t be a problem, I was told. Only hitch was that the welder guy was taking a few days off, so I’d just have to wait till he returned.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So I get the call a couple of days later telling me that the welder guy was on site, and that I should pop over and tell him what I wanted. I asked him for a couple of rivets, basically.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Popping the rivets out would be a pain, I was told, but then the welder asked if I minded if they had a bit of steel attached. “Sure,” said a humble narrator and then the sparks really started to fly.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Before I knew it, a smoking and acetylene hot chunk of the Kosciuszcko Bridge hit the concrete. It’s a little hard to make out in the shot above, but the thing was literally out gassing.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The chunks got tossed in a stainless steel thingamabob that looked like a giant soup ladle that was filled with water. The water instantly began to boil when the steel went in.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This little chunk of steel is going into the permanent “Newtown Creek Collection.” I’ve got a few LIRR railroad spikes that are very old, I think “Woodrow Wilson” old. I’ve also got the padlock that used to hang on the Kinsgland Avenue refinery gates at Mobil in Greenpoint, but I generally don’t collect artifacts. This time is one of the exceptions.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Think about the journey this hunk of metal has had. It was probably forged sometime in the early to mid 1930’s in Pittsburgh, travelled all the way to NYC and the House of Robert Moses, and was installed over the Newtown Creek when it was still the busiest maritime industrial waterway in North America. The Kosciuszcko Bridge opened seventy eight years ago in the late August of 1939, but it had been under construction for quite a while before that.

Now it’s mine. 


Upcoming Tours and events

Exploring Long Island City, from Luxury Waterfront to Abandoned Factories Walking Tour,
with NY Adventure Club – Saturday, October 7th, 1 p.m. – 3 p.m.

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? With Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

The Hidden Harbors Of  Staten Island Boat Tour,
with Working Harbor Committee – Sunday, October 15th, 2 p.m. – 4 p.m.

A very cool boat tour that visits two of the maritime industrial waterways of New York Harbor which adjoin Staten Island and Bayonne in New Jersey – The Kill Van Kull and the Arthur Kill. There will be lots of tugboats, cargo docks, and you’ll get to see multiple bridges from the water – including the brand new Goethals Bridge. I’ll be on the mike, narrating with WHC board member Gordon Cooper details here.


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It’s National Pepperoni Pizza Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Positively cinematic, First Calvary Cemetery in the Blissville of Queens is. The Roman Catholic Church acquired Laurel Hill, found along the troublesome Newtown Creek, from the Alsop family back in 1848. The Alsops had held the land since 1648, when a fellow named Thomas Wandell acquired it from the Dutch colonial authorities. Wandell, an associate of Oliver Cromwell’s who had fallen out of favor with the Lord Protector, died in 1691 and the land passed to his nephew Richard Alsop (who died in 1718). The last Alsop who actually worked the land died in 1837, and it was a distaff member of the family who was a member of Manhattan’s “Knickerbocracy” that sold it to the church.

The Church sent armies of laborers to Blissville, who altered Laurel Hill into its current shape, installed a drainage system, and by 1860 or so there were as many as fifty interments a day taking place here.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There are a few simply gorgeous structures in First Calvary Cemetery (ultimately, there are four Calvary Cemeteries in Queens, with the other three found over in Woodside) such as the Almirall Chapel.

Archbishop Farley had returned from a visit to Rome in 1908 with the intention of creating a new funerary chapel at Calvary which would also host an ossuary for the nuns, monks, and priests of his diocese. Architect Raymond Almirall designed the structure pictured above, which is one of the earliest poured concrete buildings in New York City. The dome of the chapel is forty feet across and eight eight feet high. Atop it is a statue of “Christ the redeemer” designed by a female sculptor (her sex is mentioned as it is quite significant that a female was chosen for this commission during the particular time period) named Merro Beatrice Wilson. The Almirall Chapel sits atop a shaft which leads down a hundred feet to a partially completed cruciform vault where the bones of Farley’s priests and nuns lie.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The real show stopper at Calvary Cemetery is the Johnston Memorial. Erected in 1873, at a cost of $200,000 (that would translate to about $4 million in modern terms) the Johnston Memorial, like the Almirall Chapel, forms a centerpiece of the section it’s found in. There were three Johnston brothers, who operated a very successful milliners business on Manhattan’s “Lady’s mile,” specifically on Fifth Avenue and 22nd street. Brother Charles died in 1864, and brother John left the world in 1887. The remaining Johnston brother, Robert, went mad with grief and fell into poverty. He died in a barn on the grounds of a an upstate nunnery, during a thunderstorm, in 1888.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Johnston memorial is well appointed with some exquisite carvings, and luckily the brothers sprang for granite rather than marble. The marble monuments all over Calvary Cemetery have the appearance of melting ice cream, due to the former presence of an acid factory in nearby Maspeth. A marble frieze over the entrance to the mausoleum, however, displays the characteristic damage from exposure to Newtown Creek’s corrosive atmospherics which one can see all over the cemetery’s acreage.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Calvary sits upon, and in, Laurel Hill. A natural prominence left behind by the glaciation process, Laurel is one of the foothills which lead through Maspeth towards the beginning of the terminal morraine of Long Island, which truly begins at another Roman Catholic cemetery called Mount Olivette. This “Y” shaped ridge of actual bedrock is what the elluvial shoals of the landform of Long Island are supported by, and they continue all the way to eastern shore with the the two branches of the Y terminating at Montauk and the Hamptons.

The view from Calvary is astounding, and I always remark that “you can see the whole soup bowl” of NYC’s inner harbor from up here. You used to be able to see a lot more, but… y’know… luxury towers and the real estate guys.

As a note, burial in First Calvary is quite desirable for Roman Catholics. Accordingly, the price of a grave hereabouts is astronomical, making this – from a square footage vs pricing ratio POV – the most valuable real estate in all of Long Island City.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Adorning the dome of the Johnston Mausoleum, in addition to the statue of Jesus at its top, are granite renderings of four angels who gaze out at the sky from the cardinal points of a compass.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

To the east, the industrial zone of West Maspeth is hard to miss. The Brooklyn Queens Expressway and the Koscisuzcko Bridge are just out of frame in the shot above.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned above, Calvary Cemetery is positively cinematic. It’s where Bruce Wayne’s parents, and Spider Man’s Uncle Ben, were buried in the movies. It’s also where Vito Corleone was interred in the Godfather movie. The place is seen regularly in television and movies as a set piece when you need a New York City backdrop for a funeral.

You never know what you’re going to find at Calvary Cemetery in the Blissville section of Queens, along the fabulous Newtown Creek, I always say. Bring a camera, and wander around the place without a plan, see what Calvary wants you to see. It’ll still be there the next time you come back, this history book etched in stone.


Upcoming Tours and events

The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura – Saturday, September 23rd, 11 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Join us on the wrong side of the tracks for an exploration of the hidden industrial heartlands of Brooklyn and Queens, with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

Exploring Long Island City, from Luxury Waterfront to Abandoned Factories Walking Tour,
with NY Adventure Club – Saturday, October 7th, 1 p.m. – 3 p.m.

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? With Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

September 20, 2017 at 1:30 pm

accursed sorceror

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It’s National Butterscotch Pudding Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My route on the Calvary Cemetery walk I conducted a couple of weeks ago enters the Cemetery on the Review Avenue side, by the old Penny Bridge. As mentioned in yesterday’s post, my habit is to walk out the route of a walking tour a couple of days prior to committing it, so one headed over to First Calvary in the name of doing just that.

I had badly misjudged my clothing choices, in terms of dressing for the weather when leaving the house, as it had gotten quite warm and humid as I was walking from Astoria to Blissville and one was clothed for fall rather than summer. Not wanting to walk down the sun choked sidewalk on Review Avenue in such uncomfortable clime, I instead entered the polyandrion via the Greenpoint Avenue gates and cut across the property in the direction of the Penny Bridge entrance – hoping that the cover of the tree canopies would provide some surcease from the radiations of the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself. This sojourn provided me with few trees unfortunately. An interval in a distaff section of the place that I seldom visit occurred instead. As always, the needs of the camera outweigh the needs of the man, so I toughed it out and suffered through the heat. As an aside, my headphones were in my ears, and I was participating in a group call with the environmental community of Newtown Creek and the Federal Environmental Protection Agency regarding the ongoing superfund process. For those of you reading this who were on the call, this is what I was doing while we were talking.

The shot above looks out at the intersection of Greenpoint Avenue/Review Avenue/Vandam Street at the off ramp of the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge, shot from the heights of Calvary’s walls, for the vulgarly curious.

I always have an ulterior motive, it seems, or at the very least – I’m a champion level multitasker.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My ulterior motive this particular day involved gathering a few last shots of the 1939 Koscisuzcko Bridge, whose final destruction is imminent. Any day now, it’s going to be “energetically demolished” with explosive charges. I’m not spilling any beans when I say it was meant to be this Sunday – the 24th (the commander of the 94th precinct in Greenpoint took care of that one), but that date has now been moved back once again. It’s not for me to say when the date is, but it won’t be long now, I may or may not have been told.

The path carried me along the high masonry wall of First Calvary, and along the southern border of the place.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Along said path, I encountered this tree. Like all the trees which throw their roots down into the loam at Calvary, I can assure you that it’s fed by a morbid nutrition. The rather thorough cocooning of its branches and leaves though, filled me with an existential dread of the sort only condemned men would know.

I’m all ‘effed up. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There seemed to be some of sort of insect civilization at work within the webbing. If the old adage that “you are what you eat” holds true, the reality of this hidden hive lurking in a tree rooted in the nitre choked soil of Calvary Cemetery – found in a place called Blissville along the fabulous Newtown Creek – one would not like to inquire too deeply into the life cycles of these organisms.

Conversely, I want to know EVERYTHING about the little buggers.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One took a wide berth around this tree, lest its inhabitants center their interest upon a humble narrator.

You can’t be too careful, I always say, around the tomb legions.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My path continued along the high masonry wall of First Calvary, towards the Penny Bridge gates and the Alsop Cemetery, which was ancient when the Dutch lost regency of this land to the British. By this point, my error in judgement regarding garment choices and weather were dragging my energy down, it should mention. As my grandmother would have said – I was all f’shvitzed. Fatigue related to heat began to set in, and only one expression of resigned horror was able to escape my lips.

Oy, it’s so humid

Upcoming Tours and events

The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura – Saturday, September 23rd, 11 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Join us on the wrong side of the tracks for an exploration of the hidden industrial heartlands of Brooklyn and Queens, with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

Exploring Long Island City, from Luxury Waterfront to Abandoned Factories Walking Tour,
with NY Adventure Club – Saturday, October 7th, 1 p.m. – 3 p.m.

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? With Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 19, 2017 at 12:00 pm

outspread under

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It’s National Watermelon day, in these United States

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A sense of place is one of the things that I always keep in mind when I’m out shooting around Newtown Creek. Without a glimmer of the skyline, in particular a recognizable silhouette like the Empire State Building, it’s impossible to say if you’re looking at NYC or just some post industrial landscape anywhere in the great American rust belt.

Saying all that, you’ve got to be careful about how much of the frame is filled by iconic architecture like Empire State as the people who own the building zealously defend a theoretical copyright on images in which it appears. If the shot above was to appear in an advertisement, for instance, a fee would need to be negotiated with the building’s management for usage of its image. The Empire State Building is like Brad Pitt or Beyoncé.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has been thinking about the ownership of reproduction rights over something that you can’t help but have occupy a certain proportion of shots captured whilst out in public. Back when I was a full time advertising retoucher, one of the most ridiculous assignments I received was to remove any and all identifiable “brands” from a series of stock photos. These photos were going to published in a direct mail offering for a large credit card company serviced by the agency, and the client didn’t want to negotiate with the various brand owners for usage. Therefore, one spent a week or so retouching every logo and identifiable brand image out of shots of Times Square, the Ginza strip, and Picadilly Circus.

The results were bizarre, and looked like something from the second act of a zombie movie, but the client was happy and I got paid… so… victory. I guess.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Personally, since I’ve stepped behind the camera over the last decade or so, a point is made to frame my shots in such a manner as to necessitate as little retouching out of logos and brand marks as possible. As I always say to the creative types – check with the retoucher before the shoot if you want to save yourself a bunch of money.


Upcoming Tours and events

We’re cancelling Saturday the 5th’s Insalubrious Valley tour due to a forecast of scattered thunderstorms with lightning expected.

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.

DUPBO Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with NYCH20 – Thursday August 24th, 7 p.m. – 9 p.m.

Explore Greenpoint and Hunters Point, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


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It’s National Pecan Pie Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One says it all the time – “you never know what you’re going to see along the lugubrious Newtown Creek, so bring your camera.” Last week, I was attending an event at the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant Nature Walk in Greenpoint when something surprising occurred.

As a note, not sure if my friend’s project is “public” yet, but when it is I’ll share links with you.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It wasn’t surprising to see a tugboat at Newtown Creek. It’s still a quite busy maritime industrial waterway, although it’s a shadow of itself compared to a century ago during the First World War when more cargo (by tonnage) than the entire Mississippi River moved along its contaminant stained bulkheads.

What was surprising is what’s intruding on the shot above, in the lower left hand corner. That’s a fishing pole.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Some fellow rode up on his bike and began assembling his angling equipment, while I was at the Nature Walk. He dropped a hook and lure into the waters of Whale Creek, where the sludge boats dock, and began wiggling his line around. I had a brief chat with him – nice guy – and he assured me that he was “catch and release” fishing and wouldn’t dream of eating anything caught in NYC’s waters.

Then his line went taught and he began to engage the fishing rod’s reel.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s a striped bass which he pulled up out of the Whale Creek tributary of Newtown Creek. Whale Creek adjoins and is entirely contained by the largest and the newest of NYC’s 14 sewer plants, and as mentioned above, is where the so called Honey (or sludge) Boats dock, and where they load up the treated and concentrated sewer sludge. There’s also a combined sewer outfall at Whale Creek, which is odd as it’s on the grounds of a sewer plant, but that’s the DEP for you.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sport fishing, or “catch and release” as its called, is something I have absolutely no problem with. Saying that, one of the folks also attending the event at the Nature Walk was offended and offered “why harm and annoy such a magnificent animal?” I’d say the same thing if somebody was dropping hooks out of trees for raccoons, but maybe that’s my terrestrial mammal privilege at work. The good news is that there are foot and a half long fish swimming around in freaking Newtown Creek.

Guess that the offended person should have been offered a trigger warning that the real world had been entered, and that fishermen and hunters are amongst the most avid environmental and conservation minded folks you can find. This particular kvetch is well known to me, incidentally, so I can tell you in advance that attempting to offer a particular observation or logic conflicting with their own would have returned naught but a stony glance.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I can report that the fish, a striped bass incidentally, would likely have agreed with this very sensitive person who frequently annoys me. The blood was coming from the hook, which the angler pried out before releasing the critter back into the waters of Newtown Creek. Fish heal pretty quickly, I’m told.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator has said it before, and will say it again: “you never know what you’re going to see along the lugubrious Newtown Creek, so bring your camera.”


Upcoming Tours and events

13 Steps Around Dutch Kills Walking Tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance – July 15th, 10 a.m. – 1 p.m..

The “then and now” of Newtown Creek’s Dutch Kills tributary in LIC, once known as the “workshop of the United States.” with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

The Poison Cauldron of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with Atlas Obscura – July 22nd, 11 a.m. – 2 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.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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