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dorsal incisions

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High toe drama continues.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s actually amazing how quickly a relatively small chunk of the old anatomy malfunctioning can shut down the entire operation. The drama with the smashed toe continues apace here at HQ. My pal Hank the elevator guy dropped off some sort of orthotic walking boot he had in his house, a medical device which actually caused me more pain than it solved, and Our Lady of the Pentacle is all over the place with concern. The digit does look like a makeup test for a zombie movie, so there’s that. Before you ask, I’m being really careful about infection, and keeping the foot iced and elevated. Luckily, I historically heal pretty quick and there’s that whole pile of books and television shows which I’ve been saving for the eventuality of a broken bone.

I’m probably finally going to watch Battleship Galactica this week. If the drama continues, I’ll reread the Powerbroker. Funny that no one has made a Robert Moses porno called “The Powerborker,” though. Would give a whole new meaning to “bridge and tunnel crowd.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One way or another, I’m going to conduct the infrastructure creek tour tonight, as I’m likely going to have medical bills to pay due to this injury and… well… I am made of leather and iron and pain is an old pal of mine. I consider dealing with painful injuries while going about my day to day as training for some future situation in which I’m a refugee. It’s like going to the gym, but in anticipation of a civil war rather than needing to look good at the beach next summer.

The good news is that parts of my big toe are starting to look like normal skin again, the swelling is going down, and my toenail hasn’t fallen off yet. The bad news is that the spot where the giant flower trough impacted the digit is still oozing blood, but that’s where the swelling forced the serum to the surface in the form of blood blisters. When your day starts with “hey, the blood blister is smaller today,” you’re winning.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve already caught up on “The Walking Dead” which continues to kind of suck. I can recommend “Rick and Morty,” and a youtube channel called “Crypt Tv” which has a series of horror shorts that sport absolutely top notch monster makeup. A friend lent me his copy of “The Ungovernable City,” which is about John Lindsay’s turn as NYC Mayor, that I plan on devouring this week as well. Might be the right moment to drop the hammer on reading Mike Wallace’s “Gotham 2” as well.

My big problem right now is serving the dog lunch, and keeping Zuzu the dog from stepping on my big toe as she skitters around her newly full food bowl.

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Come on a tour!

With Atlas ObscuraInfrastructure Creek AT NIGHT! My favorite walking tour to conduct, and in a group limited to just twelve people! October 29th, 7-9 p.m.

Click here for more information and tickets!

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.

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 29, 2019 at 2:00 pm

perceptibly when

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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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black coat

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Back in session.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The good news about my recent two week break is that it allowed an interval in which a humble narrator could really drill down and focus in on how lousy a human being I am. Lots of 3 a.m. staring into the bathroom mirror, accompanied by vast introspection and self loathing, has been accomplished.

Unfortunately I didn’t get much done, in terms of getting “out” and doing my “thing” for a variety of reasons. A few Newtown Creek oriented meetings were attended, however. Notably, I was at one with some high ranking DEP officials at the sewer plant in Greenpoint, where presentations on the final stages of construction of that mammoth facility were offered (I also went to the Bronx Zoo, but that’s a different story).

It seems the Nature Walk phases two and three, which will create a corridor between Kingsland Avenue and the current entrance to the NCWWTP Nature Walk on Paidge, are slightly delayed but funded.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The DEP reported to the Newtown Creek Monitoring Committee – which I’m a member of – that “NCMC” (as it’s called), will continue to exist throughout these final stages of Nature Walk construction and that DEP has renewed the contract for our technical advisor and community liaison – a wonderful and quite clever guy named Steve Fleischacker. This is great news. The DEP then moved on to report on the “Waste to Energy” project they’re doing with National Grid.

The “Waste to Energy” thing, in a nutshell, boils down to DSNY collecting organic (food waste) garbage then delivering it to a waste management facility over at the tripartite border of Greenpoint, Ridgewood, and Bushwick for processing into a “macerated slurry.” This slurry will then be trucked over to the sewer plant, where one eighth of the total capacity of the sewer plant has been committed to the production of methane gas – which the National Grid people will incorporate into their system and then sell to their customers.

Of course, that’s when the lying started, but if you walk out of a meeting with DEP and they haven’t fibbed at least once – then you know something is really wrong. DEP claims that there will only be six truck trips a day between the Waste Management facility and their own, but didn’t count the DSNY truck trips through Greenpoint. When I asked them to define “truck,” they all started leaning in and whispering to each other, and finally admitted that by “truck” they’re mean a semi tractor trailer pulling a massive 50,000 plus gallon tank through mostly residential streets.

That’s for Month one of the “waste to energy” project, by month twelve, they anticipate doubling the number of truck trips. They also haven’t done the math on months thirteen to twenty four yet.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

NYC DEP, which manages both the sweet (drinking) and tainted (sewerage) water systems for the megalopolis, is the very definition of the “permanent government.” There’s a hidden world of “lifers” and bureaucrats who actually run the agency, but the commissioner levels of management are directly tied to the political vagaries of NYC. In the last ten years, I’ve seen four executive teams come and go. They all make promises and commitments to the community, but when a new political order is decided on at City Hall and the Mayor moves someone new into the job – they are not obliged to honor the commitments of their forbears.

The DEP officials assured me that as long as the current Mayoral administration is in place, their promises are exactly that. For what DEP’s promises are worth and the realities of a “politics first” approach to municipal management, and an interesting look at the expediencies of City Hall – I suggest a read of this recent whistleblower NY Times article describing the “Water Tunnel #3” scandal.

Also, tour season is upon us again, so if you want to actually get a read on how repellant a human being I am in person – click the link below and come out to Greenpoint next Saturday for “Obscura Day.”

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April 16th, Obscura Day 2016
“Creek to Creek Industrial Greenpoint Walking Tour” with Mitch Waxman and Geoff Cobb.

Join Newtown Creek Alliance historian Mitch Waxman and Greenpoint historian and author Geoff Cobb for a three-hour exploration of the coastline of Greenpoint. Click here for more info and ticketing.

horrors and marvels

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My beloved Creek, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pictured above, Newtown Creek.

This is a section I refer to as DUGABO, or Down Under the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge Onramp. On the left side of the shot is the Allocco family’s aggregates recycling yard in Greenpoint, on the right is the SimsMetal recycling facility in Long Island City’s Blissville section. Today’s post will be taking us eastwards from DUGABO into oil country.

Technically speaking – all of the Brooklyn side of the Newtown Creek, from the Pulaski Bridge east to Meeker Avenue was once oil country, home to a series of Standard Oil (SOCONY) refineries and distribution facilities. The industry’s footprint in the area began to shrink as early as the 1950’s, and refining on the Creek literally stopped in the middle 1960’s.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Literally “DUGABO,” the Greenpoint side on the left shows the tanks of Metro Fuel, a bio fuel company which actually performs some refinery operations in the modern day. On the Queens side, you’ll notice the Tidewater building. Tidewater was a pipeline company that challenged Standard Oil’s monopoly on shipping petroleum using the railroads. Tidewater was destroyed and taken over by Standard. The Standard Oil company then bankrupted the railroads by switching its nationwide distribution system over to pipelines rather than rail cars – despite having spent a couple of decades trying to convince Congress and everyone else that pipelines were inherently unsafe and uneconomical to operate.

You’ve really got to love John D. Rockefeller.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A bit further east, you’ll notice the tanks of the BP Amoco yard nearby Apollo Street in Greenpoint, which sit on part of the footprint of the Locust Hill refinery.

This is roughly the dead bang center of the Greenpoint Oil Spill, the second largest such event in American History. The BP Amoco yard is a distribution hub, with its product brought in from refineries in New Jersey and beyond by articulated Tug and fuel barge combinations like the Crystal Cutler, which is pictured above. The digester eggs of the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant are visible in the shot above as well, as is Manhattan’s iconic Empire State Building.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A bit further back, that’s Meeker Avenue’s street end on the left or Brooklyn side, and Blissville’s Calvary Cemetery is just out of frame on the right. The former site of Penny Bridge, which looms large in the memory of long time residents of both boroughs, would have been right about the center of the Newtown Creek. Penny Bridge, of course, was replaced in 1939 by Robert Moses. Moses had to work around some pretty big land owners when building it.

On the right hand – or Queens side of the photo – that brick building is part of the former Queens County Oil Works of Standard Oil. The Petroleum facility in Blissville is actually a bit older than Standard, believe it or not. That’s where Abraham Gesner erected the first large scale petroleum refinery in the United States, the North American Kerosene Gas Light company, which imparted to “coal oil” the brand name Kerosene.

When Standard Oil bought Gesner’s operation, the company made the brand name “Kerosene” so ubiquitous that it became an American colloquialism, and it defined the product in the same way that Xerox or Kleenex define photocopies or facial tissue.

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Upcoming Tours –

September 20th, 2015
Glittering Realms Walking Tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, click here for details and tickets

afterward gave

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More photos from an ice choked Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The scene, as witnessed in DUGABO – Down Under the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge Onramp, along Newtown Creek’s so called Marion Reach. Vast sheets of ice, carried by the languid tidal action of the Creek, headed towards the East River. These shots were captured during the brief warmup on Sunday last, and let me tell something that photos cannot convey – the smell was… even by Newtown Creek standards… incredible.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a combined sewer outfall on the Queens side, right where those ripples you see in the shot above are emanating from. With melt water feeding the system, it was releasing a month’s worth of frozen stink. The smell of raw sewage is unique, and has no odiferous analogue. Like the smell of death, you instantly recoil from it, and the best way to describe it is to compare it to the taste sensation enjoyed when licking a 9 volt battery’s contact leads.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

These piles are on the Brooklyn side, nearby the Metro bio fuel plant on Kingsland Avenue. Speaking of oil, I heard back from the NYS DEC about the flowing oil I reported and described in yesterday’s post nearby the Pulaski Bridge. They believe the material observed was actually creosote oil being released from the wooden “Dolphins” which protect the bridge from allision with maritime traffic.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Tugboat Ireland seems to have taken up a somewhat permanent residence on Newtown Creek, and was tied up at the Tidewater building. My understanding is that the former petroleum facility is now owned by the Broadway Stages company, and is being used for theatrical productions as an industrial set. Perhaps the Broadway Stages people bought Ireland as well? If so, that’s some expensive window dressing.

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