The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Greenpoint Avenue Bridge’ Category

austere patriarch

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Tuesday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On October 29th, my friends at the John J Harvey Fireboat (1931Fireboat.org) made good on an offer to take me and about 50 friends out for one last Newtown Creek tour. I drove into the City, and boarded the Harvey there. There was a scary moment where one of the electrical systems onboard was malfunctioning, and we almost had to turn back to dock, but the onboard engineers managed to fix it and we arrived at our second passenger pickup point in Long Island City’s Blissville section only a half hour late.

This was my last, and final, time on the waters of Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I had to arrange with the NYC DOT to open the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge for us, which is always kind of thrilling.

There was a fun and congenial atmosphere onboard. I wasn’t doing a narration for this trip, instead, I was drifting around from group to group and saying my goodbyes. Some people got advice, others were chided, and still others were patted on the back.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

We headed eastwards on the Fireboat. I tried my level best not to be hiding behind the camera during the event, and to be “present.” I wanted to drink it all in, one last time.

…my beloved creek…


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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 blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 29, 2022 at 11:00 am

noxious heap

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Tuesday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Continuing with the sights witnessed along a longish scuttle on October 8th, a humble narrator found himself crossing the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge and heading towards Brooklyn’s Greenpoint section.

That’s my beloved Newtown Creek in the shot above. About 1.3 miles back from the East River.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Kingsland Avenue is in the process of being redesigned in response to the opening of Phase 3 of the Newtown Creek Nature Walk at the sewer plant, which has brought lots and lots of pedestrian and bike traffic to the former entirely industrial street. As always seems to be the case these days, NYC DOT’s traffic engineers has managed to imagine up the worst possible design, and implemented it in a piecemeal and inconsistently thought out fashion.

Somebody else’s problem now. I’m done fighting City Hall.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

At the Nature Walk, which hugs the water facing side of the Sewer Plant, the Pulaski Bridge opening for a passing tug was observed.

Somebody recognized me, and I was having a conversation with them while climbing on a fence. They were clearly afraid that I was going to fall in the water while doing so, but there you are.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The next section of my walk involved attaining the Pulaski Bridge’s pedestrian path. Which carried me back out of Brooklyn and into Queens’ Long Island City section.

One briefly considered hopping on the subway, but it was a beautiful day and I just kept on scuttling.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One headed eastwards on Jackson Avenue, heading towards Astoria.

“Every time might be the last time.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Queens Plaza has become absolutely unrecognizable at this point. The few remaining industrial buildings and warehouses which survived the reconstruction of the area have finally been consumed by the real estate frenzy.

Tomorrow – something a bit different, at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


“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 blurb.com for $30.

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Friday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As described yesterday, on the 27th of September my friend Carter Craft offered to shuttle me around Newtown Creek onboard his boat. These photos are from that excursion, which is likely my penultimate trip on the Creek. That’s the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge pictured above, and the POV looks westwards along the creek towards LIC. This spot is 1.37 miles from the East River.

The NYC DOT, whose 1987 vintage double bascule drawbridge this is, also refers to the thing as the J.J. Byrne Memorial Bridge. A former saloon singer and later a Commissioner of Public Works for Brooklyn, Byrne became Borough President in 1925, succeeding the previous BP – Joseph A. Guider – who died while in office. As to why the rather unremarkable Byrne ended up in the top spot, look no further than his Brother in Law – John H. McCooey – the political boss of Brooklyn who was known as “their man in Brooklyn, Uncle John” to the Tammany Hall players over in Manhattan. Byrne would also die in office, and just to show you how long the lines of political patronage in NYC government are – Michael Bloomberg is the Mayor who presided over adding the “J.J. Byrne” moniker to the bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

We continued eastwards along the Newtown Creek, past the spectacle of the Green Asphalt outfit filling a barge with their product. A single maritime barge carries the equivalent cargo of 38 heavy trucks. The only hope NYC has to survive the next century without filling every single street, all the time, with heavy trucking is maritime in nature. What have we done with our waterfronts, accordingly? Luxury apartment buildings and eradicating ship to shore infrastructure and industrial centers… but, alas… nothing matters and nobody cares.

Green Asphalt, and companies like it, sprung into existence after the 2010 Solid Waste Management Act was rammed into existence by the Bloomberg people. Prior, when a roadway was milled, the asphalt surfacing that was dug up out of the roadbed would be sent to landfills. Green Asphalt receives this material nowadays from the NYC DOT road crews and contractors who maintain our streets. It’s heated up using steam, and a bit of fresh material is introduced into the stuff, which is then sent back out to be reapplied to the roadbed.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

We floated past the Queens side site of the first large scale petroleum refinery in the United States – the remnants of the 1854 vintage “North American Kerosene Gas Light Company” of Abraham Gesner. Later acquired by Charles Pratt (Standard Oil Company of New York), Mobil Oil would inherit the site and operate an industrial lubricant manufacturing plant here until the second half of the 20th century.

One of the petroleum enforcement actions which ExxonMobil has had to oblige on Newtown Creek started one day in 2011 when I was tagging along on one of Riverkeeper’s patrols of Newtown Creek and when I noticed that oil was migrating out of the bulkheads in this area. That’s the day that the story of the “Blissville Seep” began. The Riverkeeper folks shortly got the “official” ball rolling with the regulatory agency – NYS Department of Environmental Conservation. ExxonMobil admitted a modern day culpability for the deeds of their long ago corporate brethren, and deployed their environmental contractors (under the supervision of NYS DEC) who are busily installing all sorts of equipment in these industrial quarters to handle the situation.

This POV is on the water side of Review Avenue, behind the line of factory and warehouse buildings – and the LIRR tracks – opposite First Calvary Cemetery.

Only oil spill I ever got to help discover, at least. This was also the beginning of my whole “Citizen Waxman” shtick.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When the project to replace the Kosciuszcko Bridge suddenly received an Andy Cuomo sized shoe up its keister, I had already been cataloguing the DUKBO section of Newtown Creek for a few years. Anything collected or written about, in this area, received that particular tag. Just as this project was kicking into gear is when what I was doing on Newtown Creek got noticed by a whole big bunch of people, including The NY Times.

That’s when Citizen Waxman was invited to join the Kosciuszcko Bridge Stakeholders Advisory Committee, and that put me right in the center of the whole rebuilding and replacement project. All of a sudden, I was in the same room as Congressmen and City Council people regularly. That’s also right about when I started working for Atlas Obscura and others, doing Newtown Creek walking and vehicle tours nearly every weekend during the summer months for several years.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For one of these tours, my buddy Joey and I transported a bunch of wooden palettes from his job site at a haulage company to a weed choked mud hole along the creek in Maspeth. We laid the palettes down on top of the Poison Ivy and dodged the clouds of flying insects which we’d disturbed. Formerly, you had to just bust your way through thorns and vines to get down to the water. I’ve always been big on safety for people that came on my walks, so Joey and I created a plank road of palettes at the Maspeth Avenue Plank Road site. Eventually, after talking about its potential endlessly, I managed to “put something on the map.” Today – people actually come here as a destination, and they hang out by the water. Artists, musicians.

To each and every one of my friends, whom I’ve convinced to do utterly illogical and over the top things with me over the years along the creek… thank you. This is why.

The Plank Road has since received historic signage, and Newtown Creek Alliance has undertaken a stewardship program at the place. The ground has received some landscaping as well. It’s a site which will also be preserved through the superfund process, which is another feather I can point to in my cap.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My pal Carter turned the boat into English Kills, which is technically a tributary, but it seems like it’s just the bitter end of Newtown Creek.

This is one of the most environmentally damaged sections of the waterway, as a note. Also – “Kills” is ye olde Dutch for Creek. This spot is about 3 miles back from the East River, and it’s right at the turn out from the main channel. The Grand Street Bridge is nearby, and in accordance with my zone system acronyms – this area is tagged with DUGSBO, or Down Under the Grand Street Bridge Onramp.

More next week, at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


“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 blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 28, 2022 at 11:00 am

devilish anxiety

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Thursday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As described in yesterday’s post, on the 27th of September one was provided with a uniquely wonderful offer by my friend, Carter Craft. Carter owns a boat, and he offered to take me out for an afternoon’s navigation upon the absolutely lugubrious Newtown Creek.

We got lucky, with perfect autumn weather. That’s what the Pulaski Bridge looks like from below. Over the years, everything that’s I’ve written about that’s in the vicinity of this bridge, on either side of the creek – Brooklyn or Queens – has been tagged with the acronym DUPBO – short for “Down Under the Pulaski Bridge Onramp.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For the first 10 years or so of the time I’ve been hanging around Newtown Creek, boat excursions and tours were pretty frequent. With either Working Harbor Committee, or Newtown Creek Alliance or sometimes both – we’d hire out ferry boats to conduct public or private facing tours of the waterway. Working Harbor’s mission includes “educating the public about the harbor” and NCA’s is “reveal, restore, revitalize,” so bringing people here was a significant action for us. We’d also partner up with Open House NY and others to do boat tours.

When NYC Ferry came along about 8 years ago, they began hiring all the available ferry boats in NY Harbor to handle their success on the Rockaway line, and what that meant to us was that the only boats still available were luxurious party and dinner vessels, which were way out of the price range that any of the non profits could support. Ticket prices would have had to have been north of $100, just to cover costs of the boat itself.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This hasn’t really been a terrible thing, necessarily, as my pal Will Elkins from NCA is a leading member of the North Brooklyn Boat Club and has been organizing paddling trips up the Creek for years. There’s a couple of giant row boats in their inventory, and plenty of kayaks. This provided for a more relaxed form of narration, and a slower pace.

Then COVID came along, and thereby it’s been nearly three years since I’ve been out on the waters of my beloved Newtown Creek. When my pal Carter Craft contacted me, and said “I can’t let Mitch Waxman leave New York without taking him out on Newtown Creek,” one jumped at the chance to do so.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Every time might be the last time. In this case, it’s my penultimate trip on the Creek. If you’re along the waterway this Saturday afternoon and you see a historic Fireboat passing by, wave at me. I’ll be the one in the filthy black raincoat waving a camera around. That’ll be the last one.

As of Sunday, I’ll be closing the cover on this part of my life. I’ve decided to keep on publishing here for a bit, just to maintain my own sanity. Things are so hectic at the moment, as I prepare to move to another state, that I find myself having to check with my phone to see what day it is. Writing these posts is the singular “non chaotic” activity I’ve got at the moment, so…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge. Every post that’s been published here since 2009 involving this bridge or the terrain surrounding it has been tagged with “DUGABO” or Down Under the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge Onramp.

The logic behind the DUPBO or DUGABO or DUKBO thing has always been to break the creek up into regions. The waterway is 3.8 miles end to end, with a large tributary called Dutch Kills branching off of it, and the surrounding territory and street grid is so byzantine and obtuse that it made sense to create “zones” just to stay organized around the “landmark” bridges.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s what it looks like under the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge. You’re looking towards the Queens side there, in LIC’s Blissville, where Railroad Avenue is found. We navigated on, which I’ll describe in subsequent postings.

More coming…


“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 blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 27, 2022 at 11:00 am

voyages incalculable

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Friday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator was accomplishing a longish scuttle on the 23rd of September, one which saw me perambulating from the rolling hills of almond eyed Astoria in Queens towards the concrete devastations of the lugubrious Newtown Creek and the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn. Pictured above is the view from mid span on the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge.

“Every time might be the last time.” That’s my mantra at the moment, and thereby I’m trying to visit everywhere one last time.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

At the poetically named “Unnamed Canal” along Newtown Creek, I spotted the tug Miss Madeline struggling a barge against an incoming tide flooding in from the East River. There’s a bit of laminar or horizontal tidal movement in this section of Newtown Creek, whereas in other areas – notable the tributaries like Dutch Kills and Maspeth Creek, where tidal action is discernible only in a strictly vertical form.

Everybody tells me that I’ll be coming back to NYC within two years. This is extremely unlikely. If things go badly for me in Pittsburgh, Our Lady of the Pentacle and myself will just move on to the next place, or the one after that. I’m sure that there will be occasional visits here for work or extended family events, but my residence will be elsewhere.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Hey, it’s the New York City Department of Environmental Protections’ Newtown Creek Resource Recovery and Wastewater Treatment Facility pictured above. Can you imagine being the person who answers the phones there? Due to my influence, everybody associated with the various Newtown Creek community groups have just started using “the sewer plant in Greenpoint” instead. Give DEP five years and they’ll have probably inserted the first stanza of “T’was the night before Christmas” into the place’s name by then. Jeez.

My next destination was the Newtown Creek Nature Walk, which was funded under the NYC Charter requirement known as “1% for art.” The stipulation commands NYC to commit one percent of the budget of any new municipal construction project to either public open space or to a work of public art. Phase 2 & 3 of this Nature Walk was a project which a humble narrator was deeply involved with, as a member of the community oversight “Newtown Creek Monitoring Committee” or NCMC. I ended up putting in a lot of hours for this one.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

From Phase 1 of the Nature Walk, one observed Miss Madeline still struggling against the physics of the tidal cycle. They had maneuvered out of Unnamed Canal and into Whale Creek, as pictured above.

The hour was beginning to grow late, and my desire was to find myself somewhere else, with an interesting and elevated point of view, when the descent of the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself behind New Jersey occurred in about 60 or so minutes.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One leaned into it, and began quickly scuttling eastwards, past the largest source of greenhouse gas in the borough of Brooklyn, pictured above and found at the Department of Environmental Protection property known as “the sewer plant in Brooklyn.” Those four pipes are burning off the methane produced by the sewer plant. The venturi jet burner is tuned up to produce a clear flame, and you need to look for the heat distortion emanating from the things to visualize the horror of it all.

DEP has been working with the National Grid outfit for nearly a decade to work out a “waste to energy” program which would harvest the greenhouse gas, and will often talk about this project in public in a manner suggesting that it’s up and running, but in reality not a single visible screw has been turned yet and it’s kind of a scandal waiting to explode and embarrass them.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Every time might be the last time…

You may have noticed that I’m centering that scaffold clad chimney in a few of my shots lately. It’s all that remains of Van Iderstine, the ghastly fat rendering company who’s redolent presence defined the Queens side of the Greenpoint Avenue for nearly a hundred years. It’s being taken down and demolished currently, which feels like a quite appropriate thing for me to witness, as regarding my own situation. The edifices of the past and all that.

More next week, at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


“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 blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 21, 2022 at 11:00 am

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