The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Grand Street Bridge’ Category

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It’s just Grand, ain’t it?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One is fascinated by certain pathways around Brooklyn and Queens. The combined pathway of Greenpoint and Roosevelt Avenue (Greenpoint’s East River face to Flushing) is an example. Grand Avenue/Street is another, which ultimately connects Williamsburg’s east river coastline with Astoria’s east river coast via a circuitous route that visits Bushwick, Maspeth, Elmhurst, and the north side of Jackson Heights along the way. Robert Moses introduced a few interruptions to Grand when he was widening and creating modern day Queens Blvd., but I’ve often made the case for Grand as being an immigrant superhighway leading out of Manhattan’s Lower East Side via first Fulton’s ferries and later the Williamburg Bridge.

Mr. Steinway used to operate a trolley on this route, which crossed the Newtown Creek at the 1903 iteration of the Grand Street Bridge pictured above, found some 3.1 miles from the East River. The modern day Q59 bus more or less follows this old trolley route, for the morbidly curious.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the eastern side of the Grand Street Bridge is found a wholly canalized tributary of Newtown Creek called the East Branch. The East Branch receives a lion’s share of the combined sewage flow that stains the reputation of the waterbody, due to a massive outfall found about a block away at Metropolitan Avenue. In the early days of European civilization hereabouts, this area was renowned for shellfish and game birds, and the water flowed nearly all the way to the Onderdonk House over on Flushing Avenue.

You can see the aeration system installed by the NYC DEP to oxygenate the water which they pollute with raw sewage  operating in the shot above.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Politics are politics, and depending on what point in history you’re describing, that concrete plant has either been a part of Brooklyn or Queens. Today, it straddles the currently undefended border of Brooklyn and Queens. 

The county lines, as well as the election districts, are controlled by an innocuous official named Gerry. Gerry Mander is the latest member of the Mander family to hold this position, and his relatives have found similar occupation all over the country. Gerry Mander is ultimately the reason things are the way they are.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Shot from the Brooklyn side, this shot depicts the southern side of the crane district of industrial Maspeth. That little building at the left side of the shot? That’s the DEP’s 14.5 million dollar aeration pump house, which uses electrically driven motors to expensively and constantly puff 8,100 cubic feet of pressurized air into pipes which were expensively installed in pursuance of oxygenating the water. This expense was required, because DEP has other pipes which are releasing untreated sewage into the water every time it rains, and it would be too expensive to stop doing that.

As a note, $14.5 million is what they said it would cost, I have no idea what the final number was, nor what it costs to operate the thing.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the new Koscisuzcko Bridge in the shot above, or at least the first half of it. The entire project, involving the demolition of the 1939 model K-Bridge and the creation of two new cable stay spans under the management of the NYS DOT, while keeping traffic flowing on the Brooklyn Queens Expressway is meant to cost $1.2 billion when all is said and done. This is a fairly major project, however you see it. It’s a BIG bridge, found roughly one mile west of the tiny Grand Street bridge.

The K-Bridge, with its approaches and onramps, involves about 1.1 miles of active highway. Actual construction started in 2014, and the project is on schedule for completion in 2020. Six years.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Alternatively, the NYC DOT has just announced that they will be replacing the 1903 vintage Grand Street Bridge. God only knows what this one’s going to cost. It’s 227 feet long, roughly 19 feet wide, and NYC DOT has just released an “RFP” for replacing it that anticipates demolition and construction taking seven years.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

August 10, 2018 at 11:00 am

scarcely be

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The world is an increasingly scary place, stay home.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sunday nights, and in particular the hours directly before the midnight boundary with Monday is breached, are the only time that the Newtown Creek industrial zone slows down and takes a breath. For a few hours the constant river of vehicular traffic, industrial activity, and omnipresent noise ebb. Any other day or time, and you literally would not have the thirty seconds required for some of these night shots at the Grand Street Bridge to be recorded, due to the vibrations of passing traffic shaking and cavitating the 115 old swing bridge.

The shot above looks southwards towards Brooklyn.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking roughly westward, you can see the glowing eidolon known as the new Kosciuszcko Bridge about a mile away, the crane district of Maspeth on the right, and the English Kills tributary of Newtown Creek’s intersection with the main waterway and the East Branch tributary at center and left. At the bottom of the shot, in the unnaturally green waters of the East Branch, a tepid current was pulsing out from under the bridge which was – from an olfactory point of view – obviously carrying sewage towards the main stem of the Creek.

As a note, the water is lit up at the bottom of the shot by the street lamps of the Grand Street Bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As intoned in a previous posting, concern about just how bright the light from the new Kosciuszcko Bridge is has been a subject of conversation of late – and more than once – amongst the Newtown Creek crowd. Light pollution, as it’s known, is meant to confuse the heck out of migratory birds. There’s actually initiatives at the “big” environmental groups to get Manhattan office buildings to dim their lights during certain times of the year in response. Given that Newtown Creek is part of the Atlantic flyover migratory route… well… who the hell cares – it’s Queens.

I guess we’re just going to wait and see what sort of evidentiary observations emerge regarding its effect.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Newtown Pentacle HQ is about two miles away from where the new K bridge crosses the water, and I can see this pillar of purple light punching into the clouds from there. I’ve seen reports on social media outlets proclaiming “lights in the sky” from Bushwick and Vinegar Hill and even Manhattan. Nobody in Queens can be bothered to pick up the phone and call either 311 or 911, as somebody else will do it or they just don’t want to get involved. Admittedly, these reports were offered by people who thought they were seeing UFO’s, but…

Just saying… if I don’t know what something is and it’s flying, it’s a UFO. I’d suggest an Internet rabbit hole term for you to follow, by the way, which are “USO” or “unknown submersible objects.” Seriously, google that. Hours of fun.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Personally, I’ve always gravitated towards more home grown and provable horror. Like the mugger gang that used to operate at the Brooklyn side of the bridge back in the 1910’s, using black jacks and billy clubs to induce unconsciousness in their victims. After emptying the stricken of the contents of their pockets, the gang would toss them into the creek. This is the 1903 version of the Grand Street Bridge pictured above, which the gang is associated with. This bridge replaced earlier models, as discussed in this post.

In 1896, the cops found a Catholic priest name Leonard Syczek floating in the water alongside the 1890 version of the bridge, and wearing the sort of full ceremonial vestments required for conducting a Mass. There’s a story there which has never been fully revealed to me, but I suspect some sort of exorcism related tale will emerge eventually. Or, at least I hope one will. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Due to my weird imaginings and remembered tales, a growing state of panic set in and I realized that one of my spells was coming on. Drops and spikes in cerebral dopamine levels began to occur, and suddenly I had to pee really bad. My feet grew cold, my nose flushed full with snot, and a single tear formed in my left eye bitterly.

While composure was still mine, a phone app was engaged, and a driver was dispatched to shepherd me back to a place where doors can be firmly locked and vouchsafed against the outside world. I left my shoes in the hallway that night, lest I track something in which I had picked up along the banks of the Newtown Creek on a foggy and unusually warm night in February.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 20, 2018 at 11:00 am

hitherto denied

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Happy 115th birthday, Grand Street Bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

At a cost of $174,937, the newly constructed Grand Street Bridge – spanning the fantastic Newtown Creek – officially opened on this day in 1903 (although it had already been unofficially open to traffic since December of 1902). The Grand Street Bridge connects Maspeth in Queens with East Williamsburg/Bushwick in Brooklyn, and when it was built they had horse driven traffic in mind, as well as electric streetcars or trolleys. The City of Greater New York, with its familiar five boroughs and Manhattancentric political orientation was only a few years old at this point in time. Grand Street was part of a spate of bridge building that occurred in the years following municipal consolidation, both major and minor, which allowed the newly created Borough Presidents a chance to… ahem… share the wealth with their supporters.

The 1903 model, pictured above, is the third Grand Street Bridge. There were 1875 and 1890 models as well, but the historic record describes them as being shabbily constructed and “dilapidated.” The 1903 model has stood the test of time, although it did receive a bit of work and a fresh coat of paint during a rehabilitation project back in 1973.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Grand Street is the demarcation line between the so called “East Branch” tributary and the main stem of Newtown Creek. The intersection with another tributary, English Kills, is nearby. That’s part of the East Branch, pictured above. As a note, when Grand Street crosses northwards into Queens, it becomes Grand Avenue.

My understanding is that the 1890 model Grand Street Bridge was operated by hand cranking winches. It’s also my understanding that the presence of a nearby wharfage in this area (called White’s Dock) narrowed the navigational channel significantly, and that it was pressure from various Brooklyn based merchants and manufacturing associations which drove the Federal War Department into condemning that iteration of the bridge – and Whites Dock- setting the stage for the construction of the current model and the shaping of the modern bulkheads surrounding it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

End to end, Grand Street Bridge is nearly two hundred and twenty seven feet and one half inch in length. Horizontally it’s meant to be just over thirty two feet wide, with two lanes of vehicle traffic squeezing into a very tight nineteen feet and eight inch area. There are two sidewalks which are meant to be just under six feet wide, according to the NYC DOT, but that number sort of conflicts with my perception of them. Those tight lanes of traffic mean that anything bigger than a passenger car has to wait for traffic coming from the other side to cross over the bridge before they can do the same. This creates backups on both sides of the thing.

I think the sidewalks measurement must include the box girders visible in the shot above, which is actually from below.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Grand Street Bridge is a swing bridge, which means that the whole structure sits on a mechanical palette and can rearticulate itself ninety degrees to allow maritime traffic to pass to and fro. It’s a crying shame that there aren’t any customers in the East Branch who would require the presence of barge and tug, since the City is obligated to maintain the machinery here in functional order by the orders of the United States Coast Guard.

The DOT spends a bunch of money every year doing so, and the City has been petitioning the USCG to “delist” the East Branch for navigability, and to allow them to replace the 1903 Grand Street Bridge with something more appropriate for modern traffic needs – a static and far wider truss bridge – since at least 2002. The USCG remains adamant in its position, however, that all of Newtown Creek is a “SMIA” or Significant Maritime Infrastructure Area and all of its bridges must be maintained and be “moveable” on the waterway.

This brings up the questionable status of the MTA’s rail swing bridge “DB Cabin” on the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek, but that’s another story.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The last time I checked the numbers, Grand Street Bridge carried just under ten thousand vehicle trips a day. That was in 2011, it should be mentioned, and supposedly only 7% of that traffic was defined by DOT as being “trucks.” As always, you need to learn how to speak “government” when reading things like that. They mean heavy tonnage trucks – garbage, semis, tankers – not box trucks, pickups, or delivery vans which everybody else would call “trucks.” A significant causality of traffic congestion in both Maspeth and East Williamsburg/Bushwick, the Grand Street Bridge is structurally far too narrow for modern day needs.

Modern needs include accomodating the traffic generated by the MTA’s gargantuan Grand Ave Bus Depot & Central Maintenance Facility, which is found on the Maspeth side of the bridge. The entire bus company unit serving Brooklyn crosses this bridge at least once a week for cleaning, inspection, and maintenance.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One such as myself always has his ear to the ground, or is probing away at the elected or appointed lords of the local vicinity in hope of gleaning some knowledge of their secretive plans for us all. The general impression gathered is that were there money available right now to replace the Grand Street Bridge with a newer model, construction would begin forthwith.

I’ll be sorry to see the old girl go when they find the cash, as the Grand Street Bridge is one of my favorite bridges found along the lugubrious Newtown Creek. At any rate, Happy Birthday, old lady.

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Twirling, ever twirling, that’s me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The venerable Grand Street Bridge is pictured above, as seen from the northern fork of the East Branch tributary of Newtown Creek. The East Branch doesn’t seem like much of a tributary today, terminating as it does in a supermarket parking lot (for the north fork) and at an open sewer on Metropolitan Avenue (the southern fork). Once upon a time…

As a note, one of my colleagues recently informed me that a high ranking DEP official complained to him about our common use of the term “open sewer,” and opined that modern day wastewater engineers feel that the term demeans their trade and is offensive. One point eight billion gallons of untreated sewage being released annually into Newtown Creek offends me, let alone the totality of NYC’s entire wastewater output in the harbor. Engineer that.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Trekking through industrial Maspeth for the first time in a few weeks, obvious indications that the Queens Cobbler has been busy in the first month of 2018 were apparent. For those of you new to the story, a theorized serial killer is active in the neighborhoods surrounding Newtown Creek who leaves beyond trophies of their kills on area streets. The trophy is always a single shoe, seemingly cast aside in the tidal surges of garbage and litter which abound in these parts.

Western Queens is full of dark secrets. The vampires of Queens Plaza, the thing unearthed beneath Burger Jorissen’s grist mill during the construction of the Sunnsyide Yards… Curly Joe knew the score.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the particular day these shots were captured, industrial Maspeth was busy defrosting itself. The sidewalks became slippery again as formerly gelatinous petroleum products that are regularly spilled hereabouts regained their liquid state, due to the higher atmospheric temperatures, and that odd combination of smells which the area is known for began to nebulously recombine forming a mephitic olfactory profile. The smell of fine marijuanas, roasting on open fires, was omnipresent as well, but it was late afternoon on a Saturday. If a man works hard, there’s nothing wrong with a bit of stress relief after the work day has ended, right?

It ain’t Jack Frost nipping at your nose in Industrial Maspeth, its hydrogen sulfide.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Moving inexorably south east, a humble narrator again encountered the calling card of the Queens Cobbler, displayed pretty as you please on those concretized devastations which form the flood plane for all the existential horror found in these parts. One does not allow himself to forget the rumors handed down to me by the Slavic centenarians of Maspeth, which hint at certain events in the early 1950’s that drew the attention and a deployment of certain United States Marine Corps specialized units.

As the story goes, something colossal rose from the Newtown Creek after nightfall, an abominable and mutated reptilian thing said to be capable of swallowing a horse in one gulp. Federal authorities conspired with the office of the Queens Borough President (Maurice A. FitzGerald) to keep things quiet until the Marines arrived, saying that there had been a gas leak and an explosion which required a temporary evacuation of residents and laborers. That’s how the BP explained away the artillery fire, saying it was just a gas leak. Hang around in the bars of Maspeth, or at the Clinton Diner, and you might hear a different telling of what went down at the United Enameling and Stamping Co. property on that summer night in 1950. Some that you’d ask, and certainly every Government official, will deny such an event ever happened.

Who can guess, all there is, that might be buried in the mud and sediments of the Newtown Creek?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Of course, the biggest hazard to the mammalian way of life along the Newtown Creek in Industrial Maspeth isn’t actually the possible presence of a serial killer who leaves single shoes in his wake, rumors of a giant mutated turtle called Creeky, the probable witch cult who cast off numerous artifacts in area cemeteries, or the endemic environmental pollution and ongoing release of billions of gallons of untreated sewage into the waterway every time it rains. It’s the trucks.

Pictured above is a fairly indestructible safety cone, whose purpose is the visual indication of “no go” areas for drivers, smashed flat and torn asunder by truck tires.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Later that same day… over in Ridgewood.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 22, 2018 at 11:00 am

awestruck party

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It’s Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution, in the states of California and Virginia.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Throw your hands in the air, like you just don’t care.

That’s what most of the residents of Queens do when the subject of Newtown Creek comes up. That’s Brooklyn’s problem, not ours. Then I tell them about how the decisions affecting Queens are being made by the “transplant hipsters of Brooklyn” whom they revile, and that whereas Brooklyn is going to be getting new parks and other municipal goodies out of this Superfund thing… Queens is largely being left out of the equation. That riles the north shore peeps up a bit, but they still don’t get involved. Since the people of Queens are disinterested, so is elected officialdom.

Fish, or cut bait. If neither, then get out of the way.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve always chalked it up to topography. If you’re in East Williamsburg, or Greenpoint, Newtown Creek is part of your life whenever you open your window. The Brooklyn, or south side, of the Newtown Creek hosts residential properties which are literally across the street from the bulkheads. The Queens, or north side, communities generally have a buffer zone of industrial buildings and highways separating them from the water. Newtown Creek is a half mile from residential Sunnyside.

In Queens, they complain about truck traffic, hipsters, and gentrification.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

We are at a critical juncture, Newtown Creek wise. The science from all parties involved in the cleanup is beginning to be compiled. The DEP, in particular, is about to lock itself into a quarter century long program of construction and strategic maneuvering. Around a year or so from now, the oil and gas people will be doing the same and committing to a strategic course.

Ultimately, EPA will be doing the same thing and deciding on their course of action, but given the current political crisis in the Federal Government there is no real day to day guarantee that there will be an Environmental Protection Agency which resembles the current one.

What do clean and accessible waterways mean to President Trump and Steve Bannon?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There is going to be a meeting, the latest of many, of the Newtown Creek Community Advisory Group (CAG) on the first of February. If the shot above looks good to you, and you’d like to see more of the same – don’t come. If you care about not having a billion and a half gallons of raw sewage a year spilling onto mounds of poisonous and century old industrial waste, do come. Pipe up, we need voices and perspectives from outside the echo chamber.

Details on the meeting – time, place, etc. – can be accessed at this link. We could use some Queensican bodies in the room.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shots in today’s post were gathered on the eastern side of the Newtown Creek, in Ridgewood and Maspeth. The environmental conditions in these industrial buffer zones are off the charts bad. You don’t have to look far to find dead birds, rats, all sorts of unlucky critters who innocently wandered in here. It wasn’t the Creek that killed them, it was the hundreds of heavy trucks.

As a note to Maspeth and Ridgewood residents – this is where the trucking you complain about comes from.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a vision of what the future can hold for generations unborn that we have all been working for and towards. An industrial canal which also welcomes recreational boaters. An industrial canal which was the most significant job creation engine NYC has ever seen and which can be so again. A mixed use waterway in which business and the ecology operate hand in hand.

Ever heard of the “Maspeth heat island effect”? It’s the reason why your energy bills are so high during the summer, and it’s caused by the complete lack of green space in these industrial neighborhoods, which causes temperatures hereabouts to be ten or more degrees warmer during the summer than in surrounding communities. Is that Brooklyn’s problem? What about the trucks, or the garbage trains?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This post is meant to scold, and compel. Get involved, whatever your point of view is. The political elites of our City will not care unless you care.

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Creek week continues, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As promised in yesterday’s post, a different perspective on the Creek is offered today. For the last few days, we’ve been on the DEP property in Greenpoint, and a birds eye perpective on DUGABO – Down Under the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge Onramp – was offered. In today’s post, the POV is from onboard a NY Water Taxi, and it’s the English Kills Tributary of the larger Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge, as seen from the turning basin adjoining it, looking east towards Bushwick and East Williamsburg. I call this spot DUMABO – Down Under the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge Onramp. In colonial times, this was traditionally the demarcation point between fresh and brackish water on the Creek, but back then English Kills was fed by dozens of upland streams and springs. The water bubbling up out of the earth up on the hills of Ridgewood and Bushwick are part of what drew the Germans out here, and a lot of them – like the Ulmers – were involved in the beer business.

The beer guys, who do the holy work of delivering sacrament to bars and bodegas, are still in the area but there’s mainly micro brew hipster stuff going on these days and it’s fed by the DEP’s croton water system rather than ground water. The big guys like Budweiser – pictured above – ship their product in from elsewhere. There’s a pretty big beer distributor nearby on Grand Street, whose warehouse backs up on English Kills, and that Bud Light truck is likely heading there.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Also on Brooklyn’s Grand Street is the former Charles J. King recycling company, which seems to have recently changed ownership. Luckily, the new owners continue to exploit their maritime bulkheads to ship their product out of the area, rather than truck it out. The sections of Brooklyn and Queens surrounding the eastern sector of the Newtown Creek have some of the highest concentrations of heavy truck traffic in the entire City of New York.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the NYC DOT’s Grand Street swing bridge in the shot above, a 1909 relic of the days when Tammany Hall came to Newtown Creek shortly after the consolidation of the City of Greater New York in 1898. It’s the titular ornamentation signifying the positioning of the currently undefended legal border of Brooklyn and Queens. On the Queens side of the bridge, Grand Street becomes Grand Avenue, which travels through Maspeth and several other communities. Despite a few interruptions in its path introduced by Robert Moses, Grand Avenue eventually enters Astoria and becomes 30th avenue which heads all the way down to the East River near Halletts Cove.

Of course – on the Brooklyn side – Grand Street more or less connects to the East River in Williamsburg.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Brooklyn side concrete company pictured above, called Empire Transit Mix, is sited on what was once called Furman Island. There used to be two islands found in the neighborhood of Maspeth Avenue, with the smaller one known as Mussel Island. Mussel was dredged away in the WW1 era, and its spoils were used to connect Furman Island to Brooklyn. This netted Brooklyn a bit of additional land mass and supposedly increased its legislative delegations by one seat.

Furman Island is the former home of Peter Cooper’s Glue Factory, Martin Kalbfleisch’s Acid and Chemical works, and Conrad Wissel’s Night Soil and Offal dock.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The area where the Newtown Creek widens out is referred to as “the Turning Basin” and it’s where you’ll find the National Grid company’s LNG facility, which sits on a former Manufactured Gas Plant which was operated by the Brooklyn Union Gas Company. There’s a lake of coal tar under the National Grid property, and a wall of the stuff clinging to their property in the water.

As a note, I have made multiple attempts to formally visit the National Grid site, using institutional means. Polity and smarmy conviviality have been met with a brick wall of denial of entry. Every attempt to learn what goes on there has been met with obfuscation and a cry of “Homeland Security.” It’s a “no cameras” zone, National Grid says. It’s a “Marsec 1” zone, National Grid says.

It’s visible from above, via the Kosciuszcko Bridge, and from the water, and from the street sides – say I. I’ve got long zoom lenses, as well. I’ve also got access to documentation on the place via the environmental review process, State DEC oversight, and the Superfund investigations.

One wonders what they’re hiding back in there. I’ll find out over the course of time.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of the Kosciuszcko Bridge, at the western end of the turning basin, you’ll find the 1939 span and the replacement span which the State DOT is currently working on.

These shots were captured just last week while onboard a pair of sold out Open House NY tours of the Newtown Creek which I conducted with my colleague T. Willis Elkins from Newtown Creek Alliance. My practice on these tours is to narrate the excursion – discussing the past – in from the East River to the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge, then hand the microphone over to Willis – who discusses the future.

While he’s talking, one grabs the camera and gets busy.

Upcoming Events and Tours

Sunday, August 14th, 11:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura. Click here for more details.

Sunday, August 21, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
Poison Cauldron Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura. Click here for more details.

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Grand Street Bridge

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A “reblog” from September of 2009.

Grand Street – North East – photo by Mitch Waxman

Gaze upon the coils of the dragon and despair.

Scuttling like some Kafkaesque cliche’– away from those tremulous revelations manifested just up the street in DUMABO– at the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge over the English Kills- around soiled patches of broken pavement and across a sandy substrate of glittering and powderized glass- between towering fencelines whose attendant armies of guardian birds voicing their mocking cry of “Ia, IA” or “tekeli-li” – the Grand Street Bridge is suddenly risen above the Newtown Creek’s miasmic banks- and your humble narrator falls unabashedly to the tainted ground before it. This is a standing stone, an ancient artifact, and like the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge– an urban talisman of those days when the Tiger came to the Newtown Pentacle.


Grand Street is a two-lane local City street in Queens and Kings Counties. Grand Street runs northeast and extends from the Brooklyn Queens Expressway in Brooklyn to Queens Boulevard in Queens. The road is known as Grand Street west of the bridge and Grand Avenue east of the bridge. The bridge is located between Gardner Avenue in Brooklyn and 47th Street in Queens. The Grand Street Bridge is a 69.2m long swing type bridge with a steel truss superstructure. The general appearance of the bridge remains the same as when it was opened in 1903. The bridge provides a channel with a horizontal clearance of 17.7m and a vertical clearance, in the closed position, of 3.0m at MHW and 4.6m at MLW. The bridge structure carries a two-lane two-way vehicular roadway with sidewalks on either side. The roadway width on the bridge is 6.0m and the sidewalks are 1.8m wide. The height restriction is 4.1m. The approach roadways are wider than the bridge roadway. For example, the width of Grand Avenue at the east approach to the bridge (near 47th Street) is 15.11m.
The first bridge on this site, opened in 1875, quickly became dilapidated due to improper maintenance. Its replacement, opened in 1890, was declared by the War Department in 1898 to be “an obstruction to navigation.” Following a thorough study, a plan was adopted in 1899 to improve the bridge and its approaches. The current bridge was opened on February 5, 1903 at a cost of $174,937.

Grand Street is a two-lane local City street in Queens and Kings Counties. Grand Street runs northeast and extends from the Brooklyn Queens Expressway in Brooklyn to Queens Boulevard in Queens. The road is known as Grand Street west of the bridge and Grand Avenue east of the bridge. The bridge is located between Gardner Avenue in Brooklyn and 47th Street in Queens. The Grand Street Bridge is a 69.2m long swing type bridge with a steel truss superstructure. The general appearance of the bridge remains the same as when it was opened in 1903. The bridge provides a channel with a horizontal clearance of 17.7m and a vertical clearance, in the closed position, of 3.0m at MHW and 4.6m at MLW. The bridge structure carries a two-lane two-way vehicular roadway with sidewalks on either side. The roadway width on the bridge is 6.0m and the sidewalks are 1.8m wide. The height restriction is 4.1m. The approach roadways are wider than the bridge roadway. For example, the width of Grand Avenue at the east approach to the bridge (near 47th Street) is 15.11m.

The first bridge on this site, opened in 1875, quickly became dilapidated due to improper maintenance. Its replacement, opened in 1890, was declared by the War Department in 1898 to be “an obstruction to navigation.” Following a thorough study, a plan was adopted in 1899 to improve the bridge and its approaches. The current bridge was opened on February 5, 1903 at a cost of $174,937.



Grand Street – North East – photo by Mitch Waxman

This dragon is a hungry consumer of life, and a dangerous crossing for pedestrian, bicyclist, and vehicles. The approaches are wider than the roadbeds on the crossing, accidents are frequent occurrences, and I’ve known people that have been horrifically injured here. The walkway is roughly hewn.

A article from 1895 discusses the necessity of building this bridge, at the urging of the War Dept. of the United States.

Grand Street – North – photo by Mitch Waxman

This bridge and the area surrounding it have sucked its victims into that blackened and iridescent ichor lining the malodorous basins that these disease choked waters of the Newtown Creek swirl about in. Shudder at the fate of a priest, who ran afoul of those things which may lurk here even still.

“…victim was a tall, heavily built man, who, from papers found in his pockets, is supposed to be the Rev. Leonard Syczek, a Polish priest of the Roman Catholic Church.”- in this article from 1896.

Grand Street – North – photo by Mitch Waxman

Despite the unfriendly and barren environment, poisoned with an exotic blending of the chemist’s art, a surprising variety of tenacious life persists here. Many fish and marine invertebrates find themselves trapped in the Newtown Creek due to tidal actions on the East River (which adjoins the Creek at Hunter’s Point). The anoxic condition of the water drowns these unfortunate creatures, and the sewage born bacteria prospering into the waterway soon ruins the meat even for scavengers.

Indignities have been heaped upon the Newtown Creek for centuries. Check out this article from 1896, which sounds eerily like something you might read in one of their modern articles on the place.

Grand Street Bridge – Span, down – photo by Mitch Waxman

Life here, unless it is very bold– or driven to desperation by hunger- remains well hidden in daylight. Testifying to the presence of nocturnal predation, early morning observations reveal bloody patches of fur and feather, and characteristic drag marks etched in the sooty dust that typifies the area. Skeletons of rats abound, collected in middens revealed only by roadwork or the effects of construction projects.

A particular family of cat, whose ancestry has painted them calico- with a predominately white coat, pink nose, and golden eyes- is often observed along the Newtown Creek. What advantage such partial albinism would lend- from a darwinian perspective- can only hint at unguessable implications about an unknowable subterrene world which exists in the untold layers of civilization that the ignorant modern city is built upon. There still may be vaults down there, cellars erected in the time of the Dutch decadence, which have been sealed up since before the Civil War- an eternal night, encased in a slithering and blind world of dripping stone arches.

from wikipedia

A swing bridge is a movable bridge that has as its primary structural support a vertical locating pin and support ring at or near to its center, about which the turning span can then pivot horizontally as shown in the animated illustration below. Small swing bridges as found over canals may be pivoted only at one end, opening as would a gate, but require substantial underground structure to support the pivot.

In its closed position, a swing bridge carrying a road over a river or canal, for example, allows road traffic to cross. When a water vessel needs to pass the bridge, road traffic is stopped (usually by traffic signals and barriers), and then motors rotate the bridge approximately 90 degrees horizontally about its pivot point.

Grand Street Bridge – Span, down – photo by Mitch Waxman

As is well known by those who have sought the esoteric lore of past generations, the race of Cats will be-and have always been- the guardians over Mankind upon this Earth. Their moonlight parades, which enforce and magnify the domination of mankind over those hordes of vermin which attempt the destruction and consumption of our every industry are dreamlike to some, and a nightmare to others.

Good arguments have been made that the agricultural revolution could not have happened without the presence of Cats living amongst mankind and their efforts at stemming the rodent and insect tide. No agricultural revolution, there’s no Kings– nor Queens. Thereby, Brooklyn and Queens ultimately owe their existence to Cats. It is my fervent hope that someday, in the lands and waterways of Newtown, that no man shall kill a Cat.

Some technical data on the Grand Street Bridge, from

Structure Number: 224039,  Location: OVER NEWTOWN CREEK (Lat: 40.716500,  Lng: -73.922672),  Route carried “on” structure: City street ,  Year Built: 1901,  Year Reconstructed: 1973,  Status: Open,  Structure Length: 7.01m (23.00ft),  Average Daily Traffic: 9,154 (year 2005),  Truck Traffic: 6%,  Average Future Daily Traffic: 12,816 (year 2025),  Design Load: HS 20,  Features Intersected: NEWTOWN CREEK,  Facility Carried by Structure: GRAND STREET

Minimum Vertical Clearance: 4.41m (14.47ft),  Kilometerpoint: 0.000,  Lanes on structure: 2,  Owner: City or Municipal Highway Agency,  Approaching Roadway Width: 15.2m (49.9ft),  Navigation Control: Yes ( Vertical Clearance: 2.7m (8.9ft), Horizontal Clearance: 27.7m (90.9ft)),  Material/Design: Steel,  Design/Construction: Movable – Swing,  Number Of Spans In Main Unit: 2,  Length of Maximum Span: 34.4m (112.9ft),  Curb or Sidewalk Widths: Left: 1.7m (5.6ft),  Right: 1.7m (5.6ft),  Curb-To-Curb Width: 5.9m (19.4ft),  Out-to-Out Width: 6.8m (22.3ft)

Condition: Deck: Satisfactory,  Superstructure: Fair,  Substructure: Satisfactory,  Channel: Good,  Operating Rating: 37.2 metric tons,  Method Used To Determine Operating Rating: Load Factor (LF),  Inventory Rating: 25.4 metric tons,  Method Used To Determine Inventory Rating: Load Factor (LF),  Structural Evaluation: Somewhat better than minimum adequacy,  Deck Geometry: High priority of replacement,  Waterway Adequacy: Somewhat better than minimum adequacy,  Approach Roadway Alignment: Somewhat better than minimum adequacy,  Length Of Structure Improvement: 7.01m (23.00ft),  Designated Inspection Frequency: Every 24 months,  Critical Feature Inspection Frequency: Every 24 months,  Underwater Inspection Frequency: Every 60 months,  Inspection Date: September 2007,  Critical Feature Inspection Date: September 2007,  Underwater Inspection Date: September 2007,  Bridge Improvement Cost: $1,268,000,  Roadway Improvement Cost: $758,000,  Total Project Cost: $2,026,000 ( Estimate for 2007),  Deck Structure Type: Open Grating

Grand Street Bridge- North East – photo by Mitch Waxman

From Brooklyn, looking to Queens. At some uncommented spot in the middle of the bridge, reality alters, and Grand Street transmogrifies into that ancient lane called Grand Avenue. Rolling through centuried Maspeth, and after an interruption at Queens Blvd., Grand Avenue becomes Broadway and continues on through ruby lipped Astoria on its way to the East River and past the horrors of Hallet’s Cove. This pathway has been in use, in one form or another, since the first Europeans- and they learned it from the Mespat.

I’ve mentioned this article before, but here’s another article, from 1894, which talks about the consumption of even more human life here at the Grand Street Bridge- “…told a story which, if true, shows that that section of the city is a dangerous place at night and throws light on a number of mysterious things that have recently occurred in that vicinity.”

Grand Street Bridge – Span, down – photo by Mitch Waxman


The bed of the creek in the area worked over was variable below the plane of 18 feet mean low water; near the bar it was composed of sand, or sand and clay mixed, but as the bridge was approached it grew harder like hardpan, and had large bowlders embedded in it. The range of the tides in the creek is about 4£ feet, but the bed of the creek has no natural slope. The creek is the receptacle for all the refuse from the sewers, factories, and slaughter-houses of the east of Brooklyn; constant deposits are therefore forming in it, especially at the upper end, from these causes and from the caving in of the unprotected banks, which consist of marsh mud. To remedy this difficulty, annual dredging will be needed until the banks are protected by bulkheads throughout their whole length. The commerce of the creek is so large that this improvement should be pushed at least 3 mile.s up from the mouth as soon as possible, so that vessels drawing 20 to 23 feet may pass in and out of the creek with full cargoes at or near low water.

Grand Street Bridge – Span, down – photo by Mitch Waxman

The building of this bridge was a Tammany project, check out this City Club book describing Mayor Low’s Administration in New York at Google Books.

On August 7th, 1900, Commissioner Shea signed a contract for the building of a draw bridge to replace an old bridge over Newtown Creek, at Grand Street, between Brooklyn and Queens. The engineers’ preliminary estimate of the cost was $173,379-90, and the final estimate $166,819.69. The old bridge was closed to traffic on August 27th, 1900, and the new bridge was to be completed by October 2ist, 1901, or in three hundred working days.

Although the traffic over Newtown Creek is very great, and the new bridge was urgently needed, the bridge was not opened to traffic until December 26th, 1902, or in four hundred and thirty-six working days, and was accepted by the city on February 5th, 1903. The total cost was 8172,323.43, including a bill for $5,503.74 for extra work, which was finally allowed in April, 1903. The contractor presented a bill for twice that amount, but Commissioner Lindenthal settled for the sum mentioned as the amount of the legitimate claim against the city.

The causes of this long delay under Mr. Shea’s administration are given in a detailed report handed in to Commissioner Lindenthal by Edward De Voe Tompkins on July 9th, 1902. From the time the bridge was started and until March roth, 1902, Mr. Tompkins was assistant engineer under the orders of a superior, also an assistant engineer. On that date Commissioner Lindenthal placed Mr. Tompkins in charge of the construction of the bridge. Mr. Tompkins gives the causes of delay as follows :—

On August 13th, 1900, the contractor was ordered to begin work. In September, 1900, the contractor removed “the old bridge in a very ” slow, objectionable and ridiculous way. When the engineer remonstrated he was answered with profanity. The contractor refused to ” furnish the engineer with necessary supplies, assistance, rowboat, etc. ” The contractor instead of devoting all his efforts to the construction ” of the bridge, used the site of the work for fitting out two derrick ‘ boats, and building two pile driver leaders and placing same on scows ” to be used on other contracts.

” The department’s original contract drawings of masonry were ” full of errors and practically worthless. This caused considerable ” delay and complications, the contractor being also to blame.”

Grand Street Bridge- Span, South East – photo by Mitch Waxman

The bridge that the 1903 model replaced was built by the King Bridge Company.

(they have an image of an extinct Newtown Creek crossing, the Vernon Avenue Bridge, by the by)

As early as 1874, the King Bridge Company was selected to build the Grand Street Bridge in Eastern Brooklyn across Newtown Creek. This was a drawbridge built for $18,200 and was in service for fifteen years but suffered from poor maintenance. The company bid on its replacement in 1888 but lost out to a local contractor. However, the company did display one of its New York moveable bridges in its catalogues of the 1880s. This was a 168-foot wrought iron high-truss swing bridge on Manhattan Avenue in the Greenport section of Brooklyn. This bridge also has long since disappeared.

Grand Street Bridge- Span, North – photo by Mitch Waxman

from “Queens Borough, New York City, 1910-1920; the borough of homes and industry, a descriptive and illustrated book setting forth its wonderful growth and development in commerce, industry and homes during the past ten years … a prediction of even greater growth during the next ten years … and a statement of its many advantages, attractions and possibilities as a section wherein to live, to work and to succeed” at

Some further idea of the immense commerce of this waterway can be obtained from the figures compiled by the Department of Plant and Structures of New York City, which show that during the year 1918, 59,389 boats passed through the Vernon Avenue Bridge, 56,735 passed through the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge, 27,000 through the Meeker Street Bridge and 5,007 through the Grand Street Bridge.

Steamers schooners and unrigged vessels are the principal freight carriers. Their drafts range from 5^ to 20 feet; 2 to 19 feet; 2 to 18 feet respectively. Some steamers of still larger draft lighter in their cargoes.

Among the larger plants on the Queens shore of Newtown Creek are the National Sugar Refining Company, Nichols Copper Company, National Enameling and Stamping Company, General Chemical Company, Standard Oil Refineries. American Agricultural Chemical Company, and the Wrigley Chewing Gum Company.

Grand Street Bridge- Span, Bridge House – photo by Mitch Waxman


1882- James McFADDEN, of 312 Maujer street, while working in REYNOLD’s coal yard, near Grand street bridge, was caught between a coal cart and some lumber yesterday afternoon, causing a lacerated wound of left thigh.  He was attended by Assistant Surgeon CURRAN and taken to St. Catharine’s Hospital.

also in 1882- Lack Of Humanity

A Coroner’s Jury Censures Street Car Passengers and Exonerates the Driver At an inquest held yesterday afternoon by Coroner PARKER on the body of Henry SCHUMACKER, the jury brought in the following verdict:

“We find that the said Henry SCHUMACKER came to his death on the 18th inst from shock due to fracture of the left leg caused by being run over by a car of the Grand Street & Newtown Railroad Company on Wednesday, November 16. And we, the jury, are of the opinion that he fell or was thrown out accidentally from his wagon and exonerate the driver of the car from all blame, but severely censure three passengers who were on the front platform of the car for lack of common humanity displayed on that occasion, and we recommend that lights be placed on Grand Street Bridge for the protection of the public.”

The “lack of humanity” was displayed by the passengers refusing to assist the injured man.

Grand Street Bridge- Span, North, Newtown Creek – photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking north and west, the vast panorama of the western side of the Newtown Creek with its Manhattan Skyline backdrop. One of the few places near ground level that you can see this sort of vista.

Newtown Pentacle has visited this spot, briefly, in the past- in “That’s Just Grand“, much of who’s content is expanded upon in this post.

Grand Street Bridge- Span, South, Newtown Creek – photo by Mitch Waxman

from a 2002 article which discusses the history and future of this structure

“The city’s Department of Transportation has made what seems like a small request concerning this forsaken three-mile-long waterway separating Queens from Brooklyn. It wants to turn the Grand Street swing bridge, one of the dozen that cross the creek, into a fixed structure.”

Grand Street Bridge- Span, South from Newtown Creek – photo by Mitch Waxman

check out an 1899 article which describes the area that the Grand Street Bridge was built into as “White’s Dock”.

Grand Street Bridge- Span, Up – photo by Mitch Waxman


Check out a scan of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle in 1899 for an editorial take on what was really going on with the whole “condemned by the war dept. thing”.

If institutional memory was not absent from modern statecraft, we would say- the 1890’s- of course there was bad press about anything having to do with Brooklyn. The consolidated City was just 1 year old, Tammany was vying for control of not just NY State– but reaching for the Congress in Washington as well. There was a power struggle between Manhattan and Brooklyn for patronage and control over the limitless budget pooled from the taxes of Greater New York.

Grand Street Bridge- Span, down, Newtown Creek – photo by Mitch Waxman

All about the site of the Grand Street Bridge, this crippled dragon found along the lamentable Newtown Creek, history seems to be tenanted by violent and deadly events. Newtownicans seem drawn to this stage during moments of crisis-

as is evidenced in this brutal article from 1885.

And in this one from 1894.

Grand Street Bridge- Span, Up – photo by Mitch Waxman

A little Newtown texture from HISTORY OF QUEENS COUNTY with illustrations, Portraits & Sketches of Prominent Families and Individuals. New York: W.W. Munsell & Co.; 1882. pp. 329-408. at

The Alsop Family.- Among the early settlers of New town were the Alsop family. Writers on English sur names inform us that this family derives its name from the village of Alsop, in Derbyshire. Richard Alsop, the progenitor of the Newtown family, was induced to locate here by his uncle, Thomas Wandell. Mr. Wandell, according to reminiscences in the Alsop family, had been a major in Cromwell’s army; but, having some dispute with the “protector,” was obliged to flee for safety, first to Holland and thence to America. Some doubts of this may he entertained, for Mr. Wandell was living at Mespat Kills in 1648, which was prior to the execution of King Charles, and when Cromwell enjoyed but a subordinate command in the parliamentary army. Mr. Wandell married the widow of William Herrick, whose plantation on Newtown Creek he bought in 1659. This was originally patented to Richard Brutnell. To this he afterward added fifty acres for which Richard Colfax had obtained a patent in 1652. On this property, since composing the Alsop farm, Mr. Wandell resided.

He was one of the jury in 1665 for the trial of Ralph Hall and his wife for witchcraft (the only trial for witchery in this colony), and shared the honor of acquitting the accused. Some years later he visited England, and it is supposed that on his return he brought with him his sister’s son, Richard Alsop, whom he made his heir. Mr. Wandell died in 1691 and was buried on the hill occupied by the Alsop cemetery. Many years later the silver plate of his coffin was discovered in digging a new grave.

Grand Street Bridge- Span, West – photo by Mitch Waxman

A little more Newtown texture from HISTORY OF QUEENS COUNTY with illustrations, Portraits & Sketches of Prominent Families and Individuals. New York: W.W. Munsell & Co.; 1882. pp. 329-408. at

Newtown in the winter of 1778 presented an unusually animated appearance. General Washington was expected to make an attack upon New York, and for the better preservation and safety of the shipping Sir Henry Clinton ordered all vessels not in the service of the government to be removed to Newtown Creek. A large number of British troops were also barracked here. There were the seventeenth regiment of light dragoons, the Maryland loyalists, the royal Highlanders, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Sterling, who had seen long and arduous service in America during the French and Indian war; the royal artillery, with their cannon and horses; and the thirty-third regiment, Lord Cornwallis. During this period the farmers were subjected to many severe burdens. They were required to furnish from year to year, for the use of the army, the greater portion of their hay, straw, rye, corn, oats and provisions, under pain of being imprisoned and having their crops confiscated. The commissary weighed or measured the produce, and then rendered payment according to the prices fixed by the king’s commissioners. If the seller demanded more it was at the risk of losing the whole. The private soldiers were billeted in the houses of the Whig families. The family was generally allowed one fireplace.

Robberies were frequent, and Newtown became a prey to depredation, alarm and cruelty. The civil courts were suspended, and martial law prevailed through seven long years. It was a happy day for Newtown when news arrived that Great Britain had virtually acknowledged our independence, and when her patriotic sons were permitted to return from a tedious exile.

Grand Street Bridge- Span, South – photo by Mitch Waxman

One last bit of Newtown texture from HISTORY OF QUEENS COUNTY with illustrations, Portraits & Sketches of Prominent Families and Individuals. New York: W.W. Munsell & Co.; 1882. pp. 329-408. at

The fertility of the Newtown lands early attracted the attention of colonists, among the first of whom was Hans Hansen, who obtained a plantation of some 400 acres at the head of Newtown Creek. Richard Brutnell, a native of Bradford, England, was at the entrance of the creek, and on the opposite side was found the plantation of Tymen Jansen, who had been a ship carpenter in the employ of the West India Company. These were the only occupants at the time Mr. Doughty with his friends came to take possession of his grant. He made preparations to begin a settlement, and in less than a year a number of families were comfortably settled here. Mr. Doughty officiated as pastor, and affairs were tending prosperously when the breaking out of a war with the Indians gave a sudden and fatal check to the settlement. This war had been brought about upon a frivolous pretense of injuries received from the natives, resulting in a horrid butchery of some sleeping indians. Inflamed to the utmost, they with fire-brand and scalping-knife desolated the country around New Amsterdam, devoting property to destruction and the inhabitants to a cruel death. The savages broke in upon the settlement at Mespat and some of the settlers fell victims to their fury.

The remainder sought safety in flight, while the flame was applied to their dwellings, which with their contents were reduced to ashes. At length a peace was concluded. Thereupon some of the settlers returned to their ruined habitations. As a better day seemed dawning, several residents without the lines of the Mespat patent took occasion to secure government title for their lands. July 3d 1643 Burger Joris, Richard Brutnell, and Tymen Jansen took out their “ground briefs” or deeds.

Grand Street Bridge- Span, detail, Queens side – photo by Mitch Waxman

a 1908 map of the neighborhood from

Plate 16: [Bounded by Newton C... Digital ID: 1517373. New York Public Library

Grand Street Bridge- Span, North and West – photo by Mitch Waxman

from wikipedia

Grand Street is a street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York City, United States. The Grand Street (BMT Canarsie Line) subway station serves the corner of Grand Street and Bushwick Avenue. Crossing English Kills into Queens, Grand Street becomes Grand Avenue, continuing through Maspeth where it is a main shopping street, to Elmhurst. Its northern end is at Queens Boulevard. Broadway continues the thoroughfare north and west.


In the 19th century, before the construction of the Williamsburg Bridge, the Grand Street Ferry connected Grand Street, Brooklyn to Grand Street, Manhattan. The Grand Street Line was a streetcar line along the road.

Upcoming Events and Tours

Saturday, June 25, 10:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek,
with Brooklyn Brainery. Click here for more details.

Sunday, June 26, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 9, 2016 at 11:00 am

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