The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Construction’ Category

worldly affairs

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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

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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

intact copy

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A short aside on the Arthur Kill, and a look at the Goethals Bridge project.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For the last few days, I’ve been describing a day trip to South East Brooklyn, which we’ll return to later on, but for today’s post I want to show you what’s going on at the veritable edge of NYC on the western end of… Staten Island… at the Arthur Kill waterway. That’s the Goethals Bridge construction project you’re looking at, which is another one of the three mega projects involving bridges going on in NYC at the moment.

I was actually “at work” when these shots were captured, conducting a corporate boat excursion for a group that wanted to “see something different” than what you normally get on a harbor cruise. They were all eating lunch on another deck as we passed by the Goethals so I grabbed my camera and got busy.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m nowhere near as familiar with Goethals as I am with the Kosciuszcko Bridge over my beloved Newtown Creek,  of course, but I can tell you that the span overflying the water is 672 feet long. With its approaches, which connect Elizabeth, New Jersey (and the NJ Turnpike) to… Staten Island… the structure is actually some 7,109 feet long. It’s 62 feet wide, 135 feet over the Arthur Kill, and carries about 80,000 vehicles a day.

Goethals opened in June of 1928, and along with the nearby Outerbridge Crossing, was the inaugural project for a newly created organization known to modernity as the Port Authority of New and New Jersey.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Like several of the depression era bridges in NYC, Goethals has been deemed as being insufficient for the amount of traffic it carries, and it has developed some structural issues over the last century. Port Authority is building a replacement bridge, which will be a cable stay type span. It’s going to be wider, have modern traffic lanes, and incorporate both bicycle and pedestrian access into its design. It’s also meant to be a “smart bridge” which will utilize active sensor technologies to monitor traffic and structural integrity.

The PANYNJ has also left room in their designs for future modifications to the span like adding a rapid transit line. The blue bridge you see just north east of the Goethals is a railroad lift bridge which connects New Jersey’s CSX rail lines to the New York Container Terminal port facility on the… Staten Island… side. It’s called the “Arthur Kill Vertical Lift Railroad Bridge,” for the curious.

The part of… Staten Island… where all this is happening is called “Howland Hook.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the Elizabeth, New Jersey side, where the Goethals connects to New Jersey’s “Chemical Coast.” It’s called that for the enormous presence of the petroleum industry in Elizabeth. This area was formerly the property of the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey.

SOCONJ retained the corporate branding of the Standard Oil trust after the Sherman anti trust act was invoked by President Teddy Roosevelt back in 1911. That branding was “S.O.,” which over the course of the 20th century first became “ESSO” and then later became “EXXON.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The new Goethals Bridge is meant to be ready for use in 2018, at which point the PANYNJ will begin the demolition project to get rid of the original. The 1928 steel truss cantilever bridge was designed by a fellow named John Alexander Low Waddell, who also designed the nearby Outerbridge Crossing. As a note, Outerbridge Crossing is not called that due to it being the furthest out bridge, as colloquially believed. It’s named for a a guy named Eugenius Harvey Outerbridge, and I’m friends with his grandson Tom.

The Goethals Bridge(s) is named for General George Washington Goethals, superviser of construction for the Panama Canal, and first consulting engineer of the Port Authority of New and New Jersey.

The PANYNJ has a neat website set up for the project which includes live construction webcams, check it out here.

Upcoming Events and Tours

Saturday, July 23, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
Calvary Cemetery Walking tour,
with Brooklyn Brainery. Click here for more details.

Tuesday, July 26, 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. –
Glittering Realms Walking tour,
with NYC H2O. Click here for more details.

Wednesday, July 27, 1st trip – 4:50 p.m. 2nd trip – 6:50 p.m. –
2 Newtown Creek Boat Tours,
with Open House NY. Click here for more details.

Saturday, July 30, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
DUPBO 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.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

accordingly determined

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Queens Plaza, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Wowzers. It’s no secret that I’m concerned about the “population loading” of Western Queens which has been and is currently underway. From an urbanist point of view, there’s really no reason “why” you shouldn’t cram as many people onto every square inch of city center as you can, and Queens Plaza is – in fact – pretty close to the center of all things. Just ask the powers that be, they’ll rattle off how many subway and bus lines there are, and throw in the East River Ferry as well. They won’t mention hospitals, or the fact that LIC can’t seem to build enough schools to meet its current demands, nor the costs of expanded Police, Fire, and Sanitation units.

What are you gonna do, fight City Hall?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There seems to be a burst of construction activity going on at the moment over on Jackson Avenue between Court Square and Queens Plaza – these shots are from late on a Saturday morning about a week ago, incidentally. The construction guys had closed down Jackson to one lane, as they were moving in a tower crane and other equipment. To say that traffic was snarled…

Actually, automotive traffic is another thing that the powers that be generally neglect to mention when discussing this very modern corridor of some brave new world which is being built down here.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The buildings at the far end of the shot above are closer to Court Square and the Citigroup Megalith, which has suddenly begun to seem a lot less out of place or wildly out of scale with the surrounding neighborhood. My guess is that all of the people who will be moving in here soon are meant to take the 7 train to work.

The 7 express is, of course and by the MTA’s own admission, at capacity as of right now. The riders of the 7 routinely describe overcrowded conditions, and complaints about having to allow several Manhattan bound trains to pass before they can even find a spot to squeeze into have been heard from as far away as Sunnyside and Jackson Heights.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

To me, it stands to reason that the next waves of development should consider the creation of exurb commercial centers, outside of Manhattan. That would allow for job locations to radiate away from the titular center of the City, to the east and north. An office complex in Jamaica, or maybe Forest Hills? They’re served by several train lines as well. This Manhattancentric development model is really going to end up hurting us, but what do I know? I just live here.

Pretty soon, there’s going to be a gigantic number of people in Long Island City, all flushing their toilets at the same time every morning. Guess where all that sewage is going to end up? The 1939 vintage Bowery Bay sewage treatment plant in Astoria, that’s where. If there’s too much of the smelly stuff in the pipes under the street, like when it’s raining, it’ll go into Newtown Creek.

Upcoming Events and Tours

Thursday, June 30, 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. –
Port Elizabeth Newark Boat Tour,
with Working Harbor Committee. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 27, 2016 at 11:30 am

came from without

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You can tell from the way this song is, Astoria Queens rules.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The quotation above is from the Murphys Law song “A day in the life” which pretty much sums up life around these parts. Pictured above is the assortment of safety equipment which my upstairs neighbor Mario keeps at the ready for situations which might present trip hazards.

My landlord recently received notice from the City that his sidewalk concrete required replacement, and his crew of noise makers got busy demolishing the old pavement and replacing it with fresher stuff. Mario got busy with the cones and barriers after they left, in the hope that he could divert the footsteps of the neighbors.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Spotted this fellow on 43rd street at the borders of Sunnside and Astoria recently. He was a delivery guy, and in the frames not presented above, was draining a can of “cerveza.” The presence of someone who was likely Mexican or Ecuadorian in front of a wall with the LIC skyline behind him made me think of Donald Trump for some reason. Something about luxury towers, and a wall.

As a note – like the villain from Harry Potter, if you stop saying Donald Trump’s name, he’ll lose his powers.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The fellow pictured above was grifting on Astoria’s Broadway recently, claiming that he had tripped and gotten hurt on a sidewalk grate in front of one of the multitudes of “nail and pedi” shops hereabouts. Since the “nail and pedi” shops are part of the same Asian slave labor industry as the local massage parlors – rub and tugs, as they’re known – the grifter knew that the owners would pay him off in cash. The cops in the shot above realized this too, of course, and the kabuki show of Queens just continues.

Someday, a real rain will fall, but Astoria Queens does – indeed – rule.

Upcoming Events and Tours

Saturday, May 21st at 3:30 p.m. –
A Return to The Poison Cauldron of the Newtown Creek,
with Atlas Obscura, in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Click here for more details.

Thursday, May 26th at 6 p.m. –
Brooklyn Waterfront: Past & Present Boat Tour,
with Working Harbor Committee. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 18, 2016 at 11:00 am

contracted chill

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Nothing like an adventure, MTA style.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recent endeavor found me leaving HQ just after the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself had begun its journey across the sky. A humble narrator’s intention was to have been out and about for a couple of hours in the pre dawn part of the day, but one overslept and left the house just as dawn arrived. My eventual destination was in lower Manhattan, and my plan was to be mid span on the Queensboro Bridge when dawn occurred, but as mentioned – I rolled over and kept on sleeping rather than springing out of bed when the alarm sounded at four in the morning. It wasn’t until about 5:30 that I stumbled out into the staggering realities of Astoria.

A brief scuttle across Northern Blvd. and the Sunnyside Yards ensued, and bored with the idea of walking across Queensboro at this point, it was elected that I would catch the most photogenic of all NYC’s Subway lines – the 7 – at 33rd street and cruise into the shadowed corridors of midtown Manhattan.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The “international express” as it’s known, arrived in the station accompanied by announcements that due to construction there was no Manhattan bound service at 33rd street. Having set aside literally five hours for the walk, I figured I’d just play along and see where the MTA wanted to take me.

As a note, with the exception of the F line, on the weekend of the 5th and 6th of March – there was “no way to get there from here” without playing the game laid out by the MTA.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The 7 carried me to the 61st Woodside stop, where Manhattan bound service could be accessed. Off in the distance, at what must have been the 69th street station, there were crews of laborers and what seemed like a crane busily at work. The normal “Manhattan bound” side was entirely subsumed by their activity.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The 7 train, with its multitudinous delays and seemingly constant construction, has spawned a bit of activism. My pal Melissa Orlando, and others, formed first a Facebook group called “The 7 Train Blues,” and have since begun the formation of an organization called “Access Queens” with the intention of acting as advocates for the ridership community along this “international express” traveling between Flushing and Manhattan’s west side.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the subject of the 7 train, my immediate response is to discuss its immense photogeneity.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It is virtually impossible to point a camera at the 7 and not get something interesting. Maybe it’s the low lying nature of Western Queens, with the elevated tracks running at rooftop level… can’t say. After running through the MTA’s perverse hoops, a humble narrator found himself in the Shining City, and what was encountered at my destination will be discussed in a post presented next week at this – your Newtown Pentacle.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

wholesome pursuits

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Checking in on the Kosciuszko Bridge project, in Today’s Post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Several progress reports have been offered on the NYS DOT’s Kosciuszko Bridge replacement project. I seem to be the only person In New York paying any attention to the project, and there’s been a series of prior posts on the bridge presented at this – your Newtown Pentacle – chronicling 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 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.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

At the end of 2015, I got to visit the work site in Brooklyn with the DOT folks, as described in this post, and this one. I also walked the Queens side back in December. Today’s post contains images from the last weekend of February in 2016, and takes a look at the Queens side, at the border of Blissville and West Maspeth.

In the first shot, I’m exiting an arch at 43rd street which leads to Laurel Hill Blvd., which leads to the spot shown in the second. If these shots look similar to the ones which have been embedded into prior posts, btw, it is quite intentional.

Construction equipment is everywhere at this point. Part of the Kosciuszko Bridge replacement project involves the redesign of the cloverleaf exchange with the Long Island Expressway, and since the bridge plus it’s approaches involve an astounding 2.1 miles of structure – this is one of the biggest capital projects in NYC that’s happened in my lifetime, and certainly a huge moment in the history of my beloved Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The odd spiral walkway over the highway which allows pedestrian and bicycle access (and which is surprisingly well used) is going to be rebuilt as a part of the project as well.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Down on Laurel Hill Blvd., heading south towards Review Avenue and Newtown Creek. Calvary Cemetery is on the right, or west, side of the street. The red brick approach structures on the left are going to be demolished when traffic is rerouted onto the new span.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking east along 54th avenue, which has been closed to traffic.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking south along Laurel Hill Blvd., towards Brooklyn and Newtown Creek, at 54th road.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Poking the lens through a hole in the fence under the current Kosciuszko Bridge, at what used to be the NYPD’s towing impound lot for Queens, but is now the staging area and offices of the DOT. .

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over on “used to be 43rd street,” and looking in a southwestern direction, you can see the new bridge’s roadway rising alongside the 1939 model.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking west towards Manhattan and Calvary Cemetery at 55th avenue.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There was a lot of activity underway while these shots were captured, with construction workers and union guys moving heavy equipment around and doing all sorts of stuff. Welding, moving cranes about, working with concrete – that sort of thing.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Closer to the Newtown Creek, and looking over the former site of the Phelps Dodge company – a multi acre property deemed too toxic to be used as a parking lot for trucks. An early chemical factory – Nichols, later General Chemical, predated the Phelps Dodge copper refining operation which was once here.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A better view of the Queens side ramp under construction.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking across the Newtown Creek to Brooklyn, where the roadway ramp is nearly finished and the concrete towers which the cable stays that will support the span over the water will be tied up to are practically complete.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Back on Review Avenue/56th road, looking south towards Brooklyn.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Same spot, but looking north towards Sunnyside and Astoria from Review Avenue/56th road.

As a note – this stretch of road, which begins at Borden Avenue – is Review Avenue until the K Bridge, then it becomes 56th road until meeting 56th street whereupon it becomes Rust Street, which it remains until its terminus at Flushing Avenue.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Whatever you want to call it, the engineers of the NYS DOT have spanned the street with a new roadway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The DOT plan focused attention on the Brooklyn side first, given how densely packed that section of DUKBO was, and how much more work that entailed. The Queens side, which has a lot more “elbow room” was always meant to be handled several months behind it on their schedule.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking back east, from the intersection of Laurel Hill Blvd. and Review Avenue, at the border of LIC’s Blissville and West Maspeth (or Berlin) in Queens’s DUKBO at the fabulous Newtown Creek.

The term “House of Moses” keeps on going through my head whenever I think about this project, incidentally. Every living New Yorker lives in the house that Robert Moses built, after all, and a big chunk of his early work is getting replaced. Luckily, I’m there to get shots of the show.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

March 4, 2016 at 11:00 am

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