The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘DUGABO’ Category

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Why does everybody keep on asking me how to dispose of a human body?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s one of those questions that seems to come up in connection with Newtown Creek, for some reason, and random folks will jokingly ask a humble narrator about it at least once a week. On Tuesday, which was spent first at the Waterfront Alliance Conference on a boat in Manhattan (I was asked twice) and then speaking about the BQX project at Hunters Point Civic Association (asked once) one had to offer the same answer three times. A) The Waste Transfer people (garbage or recycling) would definitely notice it and call the cops as modern day environmental laws demand strict governance of what’s in the garbage they handle, B) if you stuck a corpse in the waters of Newtown Creek it would just stay there and be discovered – which would also result in the cops getting involved at which point “the jig is up.” In fact, not just its tributary waterways but the entire East River is a terrible choice for this sort of thing. If you threw a volleyball into the East River at Hunters Point, you’d be able to see it get pulled back and forth by the tide for days, transiting between the Williamsburg Bridge and Roosevelt Island. Eventually, it would get pulled towards Hell Gate, where it end up snagging onto the shoreline somewhere in either northern Queens or the Southern Bronx.

Hudson River or Jamaica Bay, that’s the ticket for human remains.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Back in the old neighborhood in Brooklyn, there were several members of a well known and self organizing fraternity of Italian gentlemen present who occasionally had the need to dispose of former associates. Infamous, there was a “crew” run by a guy named Roy which operated out of a bar called the Gemini Lounge on Flatbush Avenue (just off Kings Highway) and handled such matters for a certain high ranking fellow named John that lived in Howard Beach and conducted his business at the Ravenite Social Club in Manhattan. This crew’s specific line of work involved automobile theft, but they were also – allegedly – tasked with enforcing organizational discipline for the citywide organization.

Their methodology, as described in court documents, involved the usage of power tools in pursuance of dismemberment. The “pieces” were then packaged into discrete paper bags and tossed out automobile windows on the east bound Belt Parkway, or hidden in the flow of residential garbage headed to the Fountain Avenue landfill, with the idea that either the crabs would take care of the evidence for them or that the parts would be hidden in the tonnages of trash poured into pits. I can tell you that back in the 1980’s, it was not an entirely uncommon thing for “parts” to be found abandoned in the shoreline sand lots found between Fountain and Emmon Avenues in this stretch of Brooklyn. I used to ride my Apollo 3 speed bike around in this area, after school, and can report that Jamaica Bay seems to have been a choice spot for all sorts of disposal activities.

Of course, this is the era when medical waste such as used hypodermic needles still regularly washed up in the tide, so “organics” were the least of your worries.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Hudson River is the aqueous equivalent of an express train, with a fearsome current that roars towards the narrows and open ocean. Nefarious types I’ve known over the years have always indicated that their choice of “spots” for intact waterborne disposals involved a nocturnal trip to the south eastern shore of Staten Island. This is all hearsay, of course, as a humble narrator has always been too much of a “wuss” to ever involve himself with such affairs. Additionally, coming from a neighborhood which was renowned for both the benefits and negatives of the presence of these self organizing fraternities of Italian Gentlemen, the best advice I can offer to anyone is to walk out of the room when they start discussing such matters. You can’t “unknow” something, and once you’ve heard it you’re a potential witness against the speaker and could very well end up being eaten by the crabs in Jamaica Bay.

The Newtown Creek is where amateurs like serial killer Joel Rifkin would attempt to dispose of a body, making the job of the NYPD an easy one.

Three times on Tuesday, I had to repeat the screed above. Three times.


Upcoming Tours and Events

May 12th – 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.


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Minimalist Thursday? I dunno, mebbe.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shot above is from Greenpoint, showing some of the curbside slime and garbage which distinguishes the neighborhood, and I captured it on Earth Day Sunday. Dichotomous, yes. Sarcastically offered, probably. All too commonly observed, absolutely. Doesn’t anyone else just carry their litter with them until reaching a receptacle like I do? Seriously, how far do you have to walk to find a dumpster in the age of gentrification?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looks like someone was prying into one of the electrical hatches on the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge again, and observationally causing a small fire while likely trying to harvest the copper wires held therein. Happens all the time, I’m told, in the age of cash on delivery metal recycling. The Crows, which is my pet name for the metal collectors, will sweep in and grab up anything shiny on the pavement. Sometimes that includes manhole covers and the screw caps for fire hydrants.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One was waiting for a sandwich recently at the little bodega across the street from HQ back here in Astoria, and while a gentleman named Carlos was expertly manipulating the grill a humble narrator wandered about the shop with the camera in hand and snapped out a few shots for future usage. That time is now, in the case of the flowers pictured above.


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 26, 2018 at 11:00 am

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The night time is the Creek time.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, one had a City based event to photograph last week and an event in Greenpoint the same evening. At the start of the Greenpoint leg of my day, I apologized to the filmmaker whose work Newtown Creek Alliance was screening that night (as well as my colleagues) as I’d be disappearing for a few minutes while the projector was running.

I’d already seen the film, at a screening held at the Greater Astoria Historic Society last year, and I had permission from the owner of the property where we were doing the event to get down to his bulkheads – which face out on the fabulous Newtown Creek – and crack out a few shots.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A former petrochemical based lubricant mill, found next door to a modern day biofuel depot, the site I was at is in the section of the Newtown Creek which one refers to as “DUGABO” or Down Under the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge Onramp. That crazy nor’easter had blown through the day before, leaving behind a layer of now rotting snow and slush.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Next door at the biofuel company, specifically Metro Oil, an articulated tug and fuel barge were tied up and pumping material from the on shore storage tanks into the barge. On the horizon, in the shot above, is Calvary Cemetery in Blissville on the Queens side of Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking roughly northwards, that’s the Long Island Expressway behind Railroad Avenue, with the Sapphire megalith of Long Island City and all the new residential towers surrounding it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Northwest, and the Sims Metal Management facility.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

West towards the Shining City of Manhattan, past the Allocco Recycling company bulkheads.


Upcoming Tours and Events

Newtown Creekathon – hold the date for me on April 15th.

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?
Keep an eye on the NCA events page for more information.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

March 27, 2018 at 11:00 am

strange hills

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Shots from high over Greenpoint today, and a few things to do!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

At the end of last week, which was a doozy incidentally (I actually had to wear a suit and tie one night), one had a chance to head over to Greenpoint and get high. High above the ground, that is. The shot above looks east over some oil industry infrastructure towards the new Kosciuszcko Bridge from the rooftop at 520 Kingsland Avenue. Newtown Creek Alliance, the Audubon Society, and Broadway Stages have created a green roof there that these shots were captured from.

We need a lot of green roofs around the Newtown Creek, lords and ladies. That’s one of the points made over and over in the recently released visioning plan which NCA and Riverkeeper have just released.

Check out the Riverkeeper/Newtown Creek Alliance Visioning Plan,
which can be accessed at this link.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week, your Newtown Pentacle focused in on the Blissville section of LIC, but I’m hardly the only person to have fallen in love with the people and place. A fellow named a Hank Linhart has been bitten by the Blissville bug too, and produced a fantastic short film documentary about the place. I met Hank at a screening he did for the movie at the Greater Astoria Historic Society last autumn, and promised him that I’d find a spot to showcase it along the Creek.

So, what are you doing this Thursday on the 22nd of March? Want to come see a movie for free?

Film Screening: Blissville Stories

Thursday, March 22nd, 7:30pm – 520 Kingsland Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11222

Please join NCA as we host a screening of “Blissville Stories,” a documentary film about the Queens neighborhood bounded by the Newtown Creek, the Long Island Expressway, and Calvary Cemetery. We will be joined by filmmaker Hank Linhart. More info about the Blissville Stories can be found here.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This shot looks southwest, over the sewer plant towards Manhattan. The middle section of the shot isn’t out of focus, rather you’re looking through jets of methane which are produced by the plant which the NYC DEP burns off. I’ve called it Brooklyn’s invisible flame in the past.

Finally – hold the date for me on April 15th.

That grueling 13 and change mile death march through the bowels of New York City known as the “Newtown Creekathon” will be underway on that day, and I’ll be leading the charge as we hit every little corner and section of the waterway. Keep an eye on the NCA events page for more information.


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One last post in Blissville, Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Department of Homeless Services seems hell bent on sending NYC’s mot vulnerable citizens up the creek. The Newtown Creek, that is. They’ve sworn up and down that their program will be phasing out the usage of private hotels for housing people. Instead, they’re renewing contracts with hotels like the Pan Am over in Elmhurst and creating new concentrations of population all over Brooklyn and Queens, except for Park Slope and the Upper East Side for some reason or another. Those of us who live in neighborhoods like Maspeth, LIC, Astoria, or Blissville who stand up and complain about this policy will be branded racists or “NIMBY’s.” That last one stands for “Not in My Back Yard” and I’m just going to ask how the Mayor would feel if I was to start camping out in a certain somebody’s back yard on 11th street in Park Slope. I’d talk about equity and sharing the burden to him, but I’m pretty sure he’d tell me I couldn’t take up residence in his back yard. I’m positive that if I listed his back yard on Air BNB he’d be a NIMBY.

The shot above depicts the newly constructed Kosciuszcko Bridge, a mega project going on in Blissville’s back yard.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A Sunday night in early March, on Review Avenue looking up 37th street, with First Calvary Cemetery’s walls forming the eastern border of that street here in Blissville. That’s when and where the shot above was captured. I could barely find a thirty second interval that didn’t have traffic running through it to capture this shot, so I decided to just roll with it.

No wonder, as the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge which carries just over ten million vehicle trips a year is only a block away, and the Long Island Expressway with its 85,000 daily vehicle crossings is less than a half mile distant. A not insignificant proportion of these vehicles are semi and garbage trucks, heading to the waste transfer locations found along a Federal Superfund site called the Newtown Creek. At these waste transfer stations, barges and trains are required to vacate Blissville of the load carried by these trucks.

37th street is mixed use, there’s residential buildings sitting right next to factories and warehouses. The world’s largest Fortune Cookie factory is at the end of the street nearby Bradley Avenue.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The people of Blissville deal with lots of trouble and stress due to the astonishing levels of traffic, severe environmental issues which include two nearby oil spills, and the presence of a sewer plant just across the water in Greenpoint. To the west and north, in Hunters Point and Sunnsyide, the fires of gentrification burn fiercely, driving rents up all over Western Queens, and even here in Blissville. Blissville has no supermarkets, no hospitals or urgent care centers, and access to mass transit is problematic at best. The 108th pct. is in Hunters Point, about a mile and half to the west. They do have a firehouse, so at least the City does something for Blissville other than open homeless shelters in it.

The shot above looks towards the intersection of Greenpoint Avenue, Van Dam Street, and Review Avenue at the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge. That self storage joint used to be the home of the B&G Pickle factory, incidentally.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, equity, and a fair shake for all New Yorkers is the sort of contrived rhetoric offered by the political establishment of City Hall under the current Mayor. Their policy, however, always seems to indicate that the needs of Manhattan outweigh the needs of Queens. Most importantly, to me at least, remains the eventual disposition and fate of the people whom the Mayor intends to house in this already overburdened community named for Greenpoint’s Neziah Bliss.

Is Blissville an appropriate place to house the homeless? 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There are already two homeless shelters within a half mile of the proposed facility which would double if not triple the current population of Blissville. That’s one of the converted hotels pictured above, the other one is on the Sunnyside section’s side of the Long Island Expressway, behind St. Raphael’s church. Do these two shelters mean Blissville is already carrying enough “equity” or has their “fair share of burden” for the rest of the City not yet been met?

That’s a former public school, in the shot above. It was built for the independent municipality of Long Island City by its last Mayor, Patrick “Battle-Ax” Gleason. Battle-Ax Gleason said that if you built palaces for working men to send their children to, you’d never get voted out of office and you’d be loved by the voters. When he died, 5,000 school kids lined the streets of Long Island City along the route of his funeral cortège. He’s buried in First Calvary cemetery, incidentally, here in Blissville.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m expecting my phone to start ringing from 212 numbers in lower Manhattan this week, by the way, telling me to “back off.” Sorry, but no.

I’ve said this before and fear I’ll say it again – there is no “homeless problem,” rather there’s a million individual problems. By branding a vulnerable population of people whose only commonality is poverty as “the Homeless,” a demonized and stereotyped population is created. The shelter system is a jail without bars.

We are a rich and ostensibly “christian” society, and so we are both morally and legally obligated to help these folks lift themselves up. One bad day stands between all New Yorkers and homelessness. What these folks need is no different than what everybody needs – jobs, a roof, food. Jobs let them pay rent, which allows them to create a credit history, which allows them to pass out of the “system” and suffer like the rest of us.

Saying all that, and I’ll repeat myself again here – sending these people into industrial zone hotels nearby a superfund site with nearly zero access to transit, healthcare, just about everything they’ll need… that’s a human rights violation.

Mr. Mayor, this isn’t a homeless shelter you’d be creating here in Blissville, it’s a penal colony. It’s also the sort of heavy handed and deaf eared policy choices that you spent the twelve years of the Bloomberg administration complaining about.


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DUGABO, or Down Under the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge Onramp, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In yesterday’s post, we explored the darkened streets of industrial Blissville along Railroad Avenue to the west of the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge. Today, we head eastwards along this seldom examined lane. That car with the headlights on was a private security guard that was vouchsafing the various industrial locations in DUGABO, but since I was wearing my construction worker high visibility vest of invisibility over the filthy black raincoat, he just waved at me and drove away.

Under normal daylight circumstance, wherein the vest is not worn, private security would normally hassle one such as myself. “What’s you takins pickchas of” and “whose youse workins for” are the usual queries.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The concrete block fenceline to the right of the shot guards a parcel currently occupied by the NY Paving Company, who maintain a large fleet of construction vehicles therein. It’s part of the former home of the Van Iderstine rendering company, mention of which usually sends a shudder up the spine of any longtime resident of Greenpoint or Blissville. The railroad tracks on the left side of the shot are the LIRR’s Lower Montauk branch.

Van Iderstine was, and is, a rendering company (they moved to Newark about 20 years ago). Van Iderstine boils down organic material (spoiled meat, rotten eggs, butchers blood, animal bones) in pursuit of manufacturing tallow and agricultural fertilizers. The way they do it nowadays is fairly innocuous compared to the manner which the historical record talks about here in Blissville.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A private waste carting company hosts a smallish facility next door to NY Paving, one of the several waste transfer stations found along Railroad Avenue here in Blissville. There are a few street lamps on this side of the bridge, unlike the western side detailed in yesterday’s post. The good news is that it’s the “old school” sodium lamps here, rather than the bluish hued LED ones. I miss the oranges.

Van Iderstine’s had a contract with the City stipulating that if any large animal (horses, oxen, even circus elephants) were to die in the city limits, it would be sent to them for processing. Their grinders had a special rig to handle the elephants.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Until recently, Railroad Avenue terminated a few hundred feet from the spot where this shot was captured, a somewhat private road and cul de sac. That all changed when the City’s Solid Waste Management plan came into effect. The Waste Management Corporation built a facility down here to handle putrescent or black bag garbage, and then cut a new and unnamed road through the former Van Iderstine properties which connects to Review Avenue opposite First Calvary Cemetery.

The industrial scene in this section of Blissville has always been somewhat macabre, and disgusting to modern tastes. Yeast distilleries, swill milk dairies, bone blackers, slaughterhouses, neet oil manufacturers – all part of the historic story around these parts. When the petroleum people began to arrive in the late 19th century, it was considered a godsend as they were displacing the former lessees who took their stinks with them.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Also demanded by the Solid Waste Managment plan, a so called “Green Asphalt” plant was created here (as well as other places). When the City regrades or just digs out a street, the asphalt they scrape up might be brought to Blissville and recycled. They accomplish this by heating the stuff up and mixing it with fresh materials, and on humid days during the summer you can smell the scent of asphalt cooking all over Blissville, Laurel Hill, and the north side of Greenpoint.

Still better than Van Iderstine’s, longtime residents of both communities will tell you.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Waste Management has two waste transfer stations along Newtown Creek, the other is in East Williamsburg/Bushwick along the English Kills tributary of Newtown Creek. The one in Blissville is the smaller of the two, but they both accomplish the task of handling the black bag garbage collected by the Department of Sanitation. Waste Management packages the collections up in those green box cars you see in the shot above, which form up the garbage train.

Like Green Asphalt, on hot summer days, you can smell this facility from almost a mile away. I’m told that the Van Iderstine works, and the old Manhattan Adhesives company glue factory (in the Miller Building on the Brooklyn side), were worse. Lord only knows what sort of poison there is lurking in the ground.

So, Mr. Mayor, back to that homeless shelter you want to place less than a half mile from here…


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DUGABO at night, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The reliable Greenpoint Avenue Bridge is a double bascule drawbridge which spans the Newtown Creek, connecting the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn with the Blissville section of Queens. Heavily travelled, there are two access roads alongside the bridge which lead down to the aptly named Railroad Avenue. This is the latest Greenpoint Avenue, or John J. Byrne memorial, Bridge. The 1900 vintage bridge which the modern version replaced was just to the west of the modern span, sat in the footprint of the access road in the shot above, and it carried railroad tracks. There have been five Greenpoint Avenue Bridges, this is the 1987 model which is a renovated version of GPA Bridge #4. It’s 1.37 miles up the creek from the East River, and opens a few times a day to allow tugboats and oil barges egress.

The 1850’s original was called the Blissville Bridge, and it was made of wood.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Railroad Avenue is the very definition of what I often refer to as “the concrete devastations of Western Queens.” Formerly, this area was remarkable for the presence of the Tidewater Pipeline company (a Standard Oil subsidiary) and the Buckeye Pipeline. In recent years, the Broadway Stages company has been buying up property along the bulkheads in pursuance of creating TV and movie filming locations. Their desire to maintain the “real” and “gritty” side of LIC for theatrical usage has accidentally turned the company into building preservationists.

If the area looks familiar to you, you’ve likely seen it in some of the Marvel Netflix productions like “Punisher” or “Daredevil” that were filmed down here. Every cop show in NYC has done a scene hereabouts as well.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If you follow Railroad Avenue to its western terminus, you encounter the Sims Metal recycling works. Sims has been mentioned too many times to count at this – your Newtown Pentacle – so I’d ask you to just type “Sims” into the search box at upper right of this page to check them out. Suffice to say that in addition to handling all sorts of scrap metal and junk cars, Sims Metal also enjoys a municipal contract with the City of New York which sees them handling the metal/glass/paper curbside recycling program (blue and clear bags) that the Department of Sanitation operates.

If you were here during during the work week or in the daylight hours, on Railroad Avenue in Blissville, there would be dozens and dozens of heavy trucks and DSNY vehicles idling while waiting for their chance to tip out their collections at Sims. All of these trucks transit through Blissville, some come twice a day.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Blissville Yard of the Long Island Railroad is an MTA owned facility. Up until the 1990’s, there was regular passenger service along these tracks, which are known as the Lower Montauk.

Today – the name of the game on the Lower Montauk is freight, and the Blissville Yard is used to build the up the linked box cars of the garbage train, six days a week. In tomorrow’s post, I’ll show you the other side of Railroad Avenue, where the black bag or putrescent garbage goes for processing, and loading, into these green box cars.

As a note, the shots being presented in today’s post are all long exposures. Railroad Avenue literally has no street lights, and it’s only ambient glow from the industrial lots surrounding it illuminating things.

Figuring that somebody would ask, in between the tripod shots I cracked out a handheld one that accurately depicted something closer to what the naked eye can see down here at night – this one.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

These oil tanks are now part of the Broadway Stages properties portfolio, but they were once known as the Lukoil/Getty dock. The signage on the fence indicates that the pipe you see in the lower left hand corner is a now inactive valve for the Buckeye Pipeline. The building in the distance is the former Tidewater facility that juts up against the bulkheads of Newtown Creek.

Getty is one of the family of oil companies (a subsidiary of Mobil, I believe) which were initially named in the 2010 Superfund decision by the EPA. More recently, Sims Metal and the Long Island Railroad have been added to the list of “potentially responsible parties.” The City of New York itself is one of the bad guys, too.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the western side of Railroad Avenue, here in Blissville’s DUGABO (Down Under the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge Onramp), for you. Waste Transfer stations, fading oil infrastructure, movie and TV sets, no street lights or sidewalks. Tomorrow, I’ll show you the eastern side of DUGABO.

Your first thought, just like the Mayor, must be that it would be ideal to site a gargantuan homeless shelter nearby, right? What could go wrong with that idea?


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