The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for the ‘Construction’ Category

nitrous cellar

with 4 comments

It’s National Whipped Cream Day, here in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Hudson Yards is the biggest construction project going on in Manhattan at the moment. Literally creating a new neighborhood out of a decked over rail yard, this project is what inspired the Dope from Park Slope – Mayor de Blasio – to call for the decking over of the Sunnyside Yards back in Queens. Were the Mayor savvy about… well, anything other than seemingly spending his time staring in the bathroom mirror and telling himself that he’s a progressive rather than the neoliberal that he actually is… construction and engineering, he’d realize that the conditions at Hudson Yards are conducive to such an endeavor and those in Queens are not.

The Big Little Mayor doesn’t realize that the tracks at Sunnyside Yards crisscross each other and are unevenly spaced, and that the ones at Hudson Yards are regular and parallel. Parallel allows you to insert steel columns between them, whereas crisscross doesn’t. There’s also logistical issues with creating a deck supported by those columns which is roughly one or two square blocks as opposed to an 183 square acre one. Also, Manhattan has hospital beds to spare, Penn Station and Herald Square are nearby, and they don’t have to worry about where their sewage will go (Newtown Creek WWTP, in Greenpoint, if you’re curious). There will be a surfeit of places to shop for food, but there’s always Fresh Direct (located along the Newtown Creek in LIC, if you’re curious).

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The comparison between Hudson Yards and Sunnyside Yards is apt, in my mind at least, just in case you think I’m being obtuse or provocative. This is the other end of the Pennsylavnia Railroad’s urban rail system which the company installed in NYC during the early 20th century. The same buildout which saw the East River and Hudson River tunnels constructed, and that built the original Penn Station, built the Sunnyside Yards. The passenger trains you’ll notice spending their day in between rush hours at Sunnyside Yards are the same ones later visible at Hudson Yards. Sunnyside Yard is a “coach yard” which indicates it was designed for storage of rolling stock in between peak hours.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As the schedule at Penn demands, the trains which you see above at Hudson Yard are called into the tunnels underlying the west side of midtown Manhattan and brought over to the tracks where they’ll take on their customers and head for Eastern Long Island. For all of my lifetime, the Hudson Yards represented a giant hole in the west side of Manhattan. The Bloomberg administration initiated this investment and construction process, in accordance with the vow Michael Bloomberg made to “change the skyline of Manhattan” when he took office. I’m actually all for this one, but I don’t live here so my opinion really doesn’t matter.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The idea behind this project is a “game changer” for what has come to be referred to as “midtown west” by the powers that be. I’ve heard idle chatter about the Javitz Center being replaced sometime in the near future, and certain ideas which seem to make sense on that subject include building a grand hotel on the footprint of the Javitz which rises to skyscraper heights, and which would include a mutiple story convention center at its footprint/base that isn’t a craphole (the Javitz Center is absolutely and undoubtedly a failed institution, a cesspool of municpal corruption, and absolutely a craphole with leaky Windows that doesn’t just lose money for the City and State – it hemorrhages it).

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This shot is looking north along the newly constructed buildings and deck. As far as I’m privy to, the deck isn’t meant to cover the still visible section of the train yard, but I might be wrong about that. The Real Estate Shit Flies are more than ambitious, credit is easily available to them, and borrowing it is at a historic level of cheap right now.

The only thing that holds back modern engineering is money.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The burning thermonuclear eye of God itself was beginning to enter that daily arc which carries its emanations behind New Jersey, but I was still uncomfortably early for my assignation in Hells Kitchen. Regardless, as Gene Hackman’s Lex Luthor admonished constantly in the Superman 2 film – “North, Ms. Tessmacher, north!”.

Crossing the West Side Highway, or West Street if you must – one last look at the Hudson Yards mega project was called for, and I began scuttling along the river side of the street. One was fairly sure that I’d taken my last photo, but boy was I wrong – as you’ll discover tomorrow at this – your Newtown Pentacle.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As a note – the shots in today’s post were captured from the latest section of the High Line, in case you want to go check out progress on the Hudson Yards mega project for yourself.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

January 5, 2017 at 11:00 am

dread aperture

with one comment

There’s so many of us, at least for a couple of hours each day.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Scuttling down Skillman Avenue and approaching Queens Plaza, one was reminded of a conversation recently enjoyed with a locally deployed NYPD Commander about the unique nature of this area. For a couple of hours, each morning and evening, this is theoretically one of the most densely populated places on the planet, but the individual members of this population blob are seldom in the neighborhood for longer than a few minutes and they are in vehicular motion (however stunted) the whole time.

To put it simply, the multitudes moving through western Queens during the rush hours, on their way to work or home to other places – traveling by car, bus, subway, railroad, bicycle, or autogyro perhaps – create a statistically irrelevant but nonetheless astounding jump in the “persons per square foot” or population density of LIC. Thing is, lots of people elected to suffer a long commute when they moved to Eastern Queens, or Nassau and Suffolk counties.

Lots of time to read, I guess.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Statistical relevance is part of how planning decisions are made. It big math – “quant” stuff, actually, and beyond my understanding. The theory behind the relevance of statistical information is summed up by that quote from Josef Stalin that a single death is a tragedy whereas a million deaths are a statistic. A lot of policy decisions revolve around, or at least they’re supposed to, the greatest good for the greatest number.

“Greatest number” inherently means that someone gets left out, which translates as “not statistically relevant.” Planning of public works in recent decades has strived to expand and include traditionally marginalized groups, most notably folks with health related mobility issues – thanks to the ADA or Americans with Disabilities Act. A lot of public spaces and City buildings out there were formally denied to people in wheelchairs, since the era in which most of these public buildings were erected, the disabled population wasn’t considered as being “statistically relevant.”

Access to mass, affordable, and reliable transit – which parallels what’s available to “abled” people – still remains a problem, I’m told.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Statistical relevance, I’m informed, is a big part of the algorithm under which the 311 service of NYC was designed to operate. One person from Blissville complaining to 311 about a cat in a tree is low priority and statistically irrelevant, but the City will send somebody out when they can. Twenty people from the same block call 311 about the cat? Help is on the way a lot faster, as the problem is now far more mathematically relevant and the City will send out Superman to investigate and mitigate.

Make me wonder what would happen if everybody who was commuting through Queens Plaza on any given day suddenly called 311 to complain about something.

Then again, I wonder why it is that everyone doesn’t vote on Election Day.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

engulfed in

with 4 comments

Stealing the Sky, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week, one was headed for Queens Plaza and accordingly marched down Jackson Avenue. The startling rapidity of construction going on in the area claws at my sanity, as in nearly half a century spent in NYC, I’ve never met anyone who said “Man, I really want to live in Queens Plaza.” Queens Plaza? Really?

The shot above is from about a week ago, specifically the morning of the 19th of November in 2016.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shot above is from June of 2015, and represents approximately the same point of view as the one above – although I was a little further west on Jackson Avenue than I was in the 2016 shot, and the N train is crossing the POV. LIC is one of the few spots in NYC these days where you can produce a “now and then” shot that only covers a 17 month interval.

Woof!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The two furthest buildings are going up on the site of the former West Chemical factory, which is classified as a NYS Brownfield Opportunity Area – meaning there’s a bunch of “yuck” in the ground left over from the age of industry. According to various sources, this construction you’re looking at – in Queens Plaza – will bring something like 1,800 apartments online in the next couple of years, and represents more than a million square feet of development. That’s a lot of toilets flushing into the decrepit Bowery Bay sewer plant, which overflows into Newtown Creek.

Stealing the sky, indeed.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 29, 2016 at 11:00 am

abominations and blasphemies

with 2 comments

Fight.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Gaze upon the Newtown Creek. Currently an EPA Superfund site. Is it going to be one for long? Will there be an EPA this time next year? Would this be a good place, instead, to site a black and gold casino? I’ve been considering the Trump victory, and its implications. I’ve been reading a bunch of stuff written by people like myself, who thought the Presidential Election would be a logical slam dunk in favor of the more qualified candidate. All of us “lefties” have had to admit that we were wrong in our assumptions that our fellow Americans would actually vote in their own economic and cultural interest.

C’Est la Vie. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Early thoughts on the “new normal” involve trying to take advantage of it, which is the American Way. Should Mr. Trump make good on his promise to build a wall across the narrow part of the North American Continent, rebar and Portland Cement futures look like they’ll be a promising investment. Also, I’m planning on finding out who the leading players in immigration law are, and whether or not they are publicly traded companies.

It’s the EPA thing that we’re all talking about on the Creek, I would mention.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s going to be a very interesting few years, I think.

Mainly, because the Republican Congress is likely going to eat the new President for lunch. Those are shark infested waters down in the District. Let’s face it though, all that Donald Trump actually wants to do stand in front of the cameras while cutting the ribbon on all the “bridges to nowhere” and crony projects they’re going to be building.

The game just continues. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Personally, and as I’ve often opined – National Politics is way above my pay grade. I’ve got other, more decidedly local problems to worry about.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has been on a Newtown Creek vacation for the last month, and it’s time for me to get back on the job.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

suddenly lost

leave a comment »

Getting high in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week, one of the environmental projects underwritten by GCEF (the Greenpoint Community Environmental Fund) opened to the public at Brooklyn’s 520 Kingsland Avenue, alongside that loathsome exemplar of municipal neglect known as the Newtown Creek. In this case, the project is a green roof installed on top of a movie studio, specifically one of the production facilities owned and operated by the Broadway Stages company which is partially housed in a series of formerly industrial locations around Greenpoint and Long Island City. Broadway Stages has been buying up a LOT of property along the Creek in recent years.

Well, I guess the location is still industrial, it’s just a different kind of industry – entertainment rather than petrochemical. At any rate, 520 Kingsland Avenue is a few stories above the flood plain and whilst up there and on site, I got busy with the camera. You’ve seen this point of view before, incidentally – in a 2016 post where I told you about Brooklyn’s invisible flame back in June.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Can’t really talk about it quite yet, but let’s just say I’ll be able to take you up there in a couple of weeks on a couple of free tours. I’ll supply the link as soon as it’s public. The green roof at 520 Kingsland was designed with butterflies, of all things, in mind. Saying that it’s a pretty interesting space with neat little walkways weaving through plantings, and there are incredible views of the surrounding industrial zone to check out.

That’s part of Metro Fuel’s truck fleet in the shot above, for the curious.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The real stunners, amongst the many points of view available from 520 Kingsland Avenue, are the ones in which the shining city of Manhattan provides the backdrop. This sort of urban pornography is possible due to two reasons: one is that the Greenpoint Landing Project is just kicking into gear, so the POV isn’t blocked by forty story residential palaces yet; the other is that the surrounding area is all 19th century landfill which is both low lying and quite flat.

This POV is looking due west from the 520 Kingsland Avenue rooftop, incidentally.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Northwest POV, gazing across the lugubrious Newtown Creek in the direction of Long Island City’s Hunters Point section.

In the distance, you’ll notice the red and white banded smokestacks of the “Big Allis” power plant at 36th avenue in the Ravenswood section. The Citi building megalith, that sapphire dagger jammed in the heart of the place at Jackson Avenue’s intersection with Thomson Avenue, used to be the only large scale building in the area.

 

As an aside, a few years ago some group of urban planners/art fucks from Pratt University proposed Big Allis’s red and white stripes to me as a branding element for the western Queens waterfront. I had to inform them how we residents regarded the presence of an enormous power plant operating along our waterfront that serves Manhattan’s needs, and that it wasn’t exactly a popular symbol, locally speaking.

 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The singularity of the Citi megalith has, of course, changed. The pace of real estate development in the last few years has been frenetic in LIC, as evinced in the shots above and below. Sometimes, in order to really take it all in, you need to leave Queens entirely – just to gain some perspective.

Funnily enough, this is what I usually say about Manhattan – the best part of “the City” is being outside of it and witnessing the shield wall of buildings from without. An inhuman scale landscape like Manhattan’s can’t be properly observed while you’re within the oppressive shadows of its canyon walls.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That white truss structure at center of the shot is the Long Island Expressway, which rises over Newtown Creek’s Dutch Kills tributary from its beginnings at the Queens Midtown Tunnel. Dutch Kills intersects with the main body of Newtown Creek about 3/4 of a mile back from the East River, and heads inland for the better part of a mile. The LIE traffic up on that truss bridge is flowing 106 feet over the water. The far right hand side of the shot above shows the construction going on at the intersection of Jackson Avenue and Queens Plaza, on the former West Chemicals Company site. Moving left, the rest of the construction is occurring along Jackson Avenue at Purves, Dutch Kills Street, and so on.

All of it is high end residential, incidentally, except for that squamous curvy faced one directly to the left of the orange one. That’s an office building which the NYC Dept. of Health has based itself in nearby Queens Plaza.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of my little adages, which I gleefully relate on my walking tours of the area, is a facet of NYS law – it dictates that if you were about to buy a home which is known to be “haunted by a ghost” by the current owner and or the surrounding community – the haunting needs to be disclosed before closing the sales contract.

If you’re buying a property that used to be a chemical factory, or a copper refinery, or some other heavy industrial pursuit that rendered the site a “brownfield” – you are under no obligation to disclose the environmental history to a buyer, however.

When you meet newer residents of LIC’s Tower Town or Brooklyn’s Greenpoint, and mention a nearby Federal Superfund site defined as “Newtown Creek” – they say “What’s that?”

Upcoming tours and events:


“First Calvary Cemetery” walking tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, Saturday, October 8th from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Click here for tickets.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

worldly affairs

with 2 comments

More adventures with the new lens, the Sigma 50-100 f1.8.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned in prior posts, I recently acquired a new lens which I’ve been running around the City and using profusely in the hope of learning its ways. This is one of those posts where I pull back the curtain and talk about how, exactly, I shoot the photos which have populated the better than 2,000 posts published at this – your Newtown Pentacle.

The shot above was captured recently at the Brooklyn Navy Yard and well after dark. It was captured hand held with the lens wide open at f1.8, and the camera set to 1/50th of a second and the ISO sensitivity at 6400. Needless to say, it was quite dark, and that I was in the Navy Yard legally. That’s the actual color of the light, incidentally. The new lens is a real performer in this kind of setting, and there’s enough “brains” chipped into it that I was able to use it on autofocus rather than manual setting despite the low light. Those “army sniper” body posture techniques which I’ve mentioned in the past really come in handy when you’re trying to shoot something at under 1/100th of a second shutter speed. One of those “sniper techniques” is to squeeze the trigger after exhaling, for instance, as your body is steadier when in between breaths than during.

In my experience, 1/50th is the absolute lower limit for steadying handheld shots, which is due to my age and particular physiology. Younger and steadier people might be able to pull off 1/30th, but that’s right around where your pulse begins to interfere with the capture process and you’ve entered tripod territory.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Sigma 50-100 performs admirably in daylight as well, the shot above depicting a train in Queens Plaza was captured at ISO 400, f5.6, and at 1/640th of a second. Color rendition from Sigma’s art series lens family is always a bit oversaturated and garish, which – as I’ve said in the past is something I quite like – but I do find myself dialing the saturation back a bit when developing the daylight shots I gather with it.

The Sigma is HEAVY, weighing in at almost four pounds, incidentally. It’s quite a workout lugging the thing around for the 3-4 hour photowalk sessions I normally engage in, and for the first couple of weeks I was carrying it around with me my “carry arm” was quite sore when I arrived back home. While discussing the weight of the thing with my pal “Mumbly Joe the Union Insulator” at the local pub here in Astoria, who carries a massive tool kit around with him, he proferred that whenever you add a new tool to your kit it always feels like you’ve added a cinder block to your bag, but eventually you get used to it. At least that’s what I think he said, like I said – Mumbly Joe.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This somewhat sad shot of a Barbie brand bicycle lying astride the rocky shoreline of Hells Gate, in Astoria, was captured at 1/320th of a second shutter speed, at f5.6, and at ISO 200. It was also shot with the Sigma, and there’s a gnarly set of circumstances herein to capture – due to those bright white tires and the super saturated magentas of the bike coupled with the reflective translucency of the water. There’s a bunch of different exposure parameters at work in that photo, which form the compromises of the exposure triangle presented above.

Upcoming tours and events:


“The Untold History of the Newtown Creek (aka Insalubrious Valley)” walking tour
with New York Adventure Club, Saturday, October 1st from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Click here for tickets.


“First Calvary Cemetery” walking tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, Saturday, October 8th from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Click here for tickets.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 27, 2016 at 11:00 am

leaping shadows

with 2 comments

Lets talk about the Kosciuszcko Bridge, huh?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Since the big bridge over Newtown Creek’s 77th birthday is coming up – August 23rd for the vulgarly curious – one decided to walk over and through Calvary Cemetery into West Maspeth the other day and check out the latest progress which the NYS DOT and their contractors are making on replacing it. The Kosciuszcko Bridge replacement project is humming along.

As a note, this post represents no special access or anything, just some specialized knowledge about Newtown Creek and the points of view thereupon which I am privy to. If there’s an angle of view on the Creek I don’t know about by this point, I will buy you a drink for showing it to me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As is my habit, one has been keeping a running tally of posts about the project.

To start – this 2012 post tells you everything you could want to know about Robert Moses, Fiorella LaGuardia, and the origins of the 1939 model Kosciuszko Bridge. Just before construction started, I swept through both the Brooklyn and Queens sides of Newtown Creek in the area I call “DUKBO” – Down Under the Kosciuszko Bridge Onramp. Here’s a 2014 post, and another, showing what things used to look like on the Brooklyn side, and one dating back to 2010, and from 2012 discussing the Queens side – this. Construction started, and this 2014 post offers a look at things. There’s shots from the water of Newtown Creek, in this June 2015 post, and in this September 2015 post, which shows the bridge support towers rising. Additionally, this post from March of 2016 detailed the action on the Queens side. Most recently, here’s one from May of 2016, and one from June of the same year.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The roadway which will be the easterly BQE section leading out of Queens is now largely in place. There’s still a bunch of work going on up there, presumptively it involves the sort of rebar work observed in the May 2016 post linked to above.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shape of the cable stay section of the new bridge is beginning to form up as well.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The steel sections are prefabricated and shipped to the job site via flat bed truck, where they’re then hoisted up and attached to the towers and cables.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking down 56th road from Blissville into Maspeth. The area in the left hand side of the shot used to be an NYPD tow yard, which was a great example of NYC’s macabre sense of humor. NYPD tow pounds are typically in places which you can’t reach without a car, and since they’ve just taken your car…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking north towards Sunnyside from 56th road. You can really discern the difference in height between the 1939 and modern bridges in the shot above. Apparently, part of the traffic engineering underlying the new bridge project is to eliminate the steep incline from the approaches.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking south towards Brooklyn, while still on 56th road. The property fence line I’m shooting over is the former home of the Phelps Dodge refinery, which is said to be a particularly toxic hot spot.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A bit closer to the water, on another part of the former Phelps Dodge properties which isn’t quite so “hot,” pollution wise. This is the parking lot of a wholesaler catering to the restaurant trade.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The cable stay span of the new bridge is growing steadily towards Brooklyn in the shot above. To me, it looks like it’s going to be connected to the Brooklyn side ramp fairly soon.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A close up on the ramp, and you can see the itty bitty construction guys at work right on the edge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Same perspective, but wide angle. That’s the Newtown Creek flowing below, and we are looking west towards Manhattan. Again, notice the height differential between the two spans.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking south again, this time from Maspeth’s 43rd street. The contractors have a lot of their equipment and prefabricated materials staged out here.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Back on 43rd street, but this time from the very edge of the project site, looking south along the spine of the BQE.

There you are.

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.

Wednesday, August 24, 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. –
Port Newark Boat Tour,
with Working Harbor Committee. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

%d bloggers like this: