The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for the ‘Red Hook’ Category

beckoning vistas

with 2 comments

Wednesday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It took leaving HQ in Astoria at 5:30 in the morning, freezing my falafels off on a ferry in middle December, and then walking about a mile and a half but I managed to get to the Gowanus Canal while superfund dredging was actually happening. Pictured above is the Gowanus, as seen from the Hamilton Avenue Bridge under the Gowanus Expressway. Normal circumstance, if such a thing exists anymore, would have found me taking the G train to the elevated structure at the top of the shot – which is the Smith/9th street station. The draw bridge it overflies is the 9th street Bridge. The bucket barge and fuel barge/tug at lower left aren’t part of the dredge operations, as a note, they were there for other business.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Named to the Federal Environmental Protection Agency’s CERCLA or “Superfund” list at the same time as my beloved Newtown Creek, Gowanus Canal involves a significantly smaller geographical and simpler pollution problem to solve than Newtown Creek does. The Gowanus Canal is analogous in terms of scale and circumstance to the Long Island City tributary of Newtown Creek called Dutch Kills, in fact. Since the problem is smaller and somewhat simpler, Gowanus got to this part of the process first, whereas Newtown Creek is still several years away from dredging. Saying that, it’s a real mess down there at Gowanus, under the water.

Before you ask – it really didn’t smell that bad. The most miserable thing, odor wise, was experiencing the exhaust pouring out of the stacks of the Tugs and other equipment as they performed their tasks. You’d suddenly find yourself standing in a pall of blue diesel exhaust when the wind bent in your direction.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There were distinct units working on the various “locks” created by the street bridges crossing the Gowanus. Pictured above is the operation that was stationed between the 9th street and Union Street Bridges. Gowanus Bay narrows into the canal, and it’s crossed by seven bridges; Union Street, Carroll Street, Third Street, the New York City Subway’s Culver Viaduct (Smith 9th street station), Ninth Street, Hamilton Avenue, and the Gowanus Expressway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Dredging is something I usually see all the time, but I spend a lot of time on the water under normal circumstance. Maintenance of shipping channels in deeper water usually entails using a specialized rig with it’s own power plant that has steel “pods” which are lowered into the water and act as legs to stabilize the machine. What I saw at Gowanus were “materials handlers” with specialized grabbers on them, as pictured above.

The sediments are scooped off the bottom, the water is drained into one bucket barge, and then the solids go into another. It’s likely that the more liquid material will be decanted and then processed as wastewater or sewage would be.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the Hamilton Avenue lift bridge raising to allow a tug towing away one of those “solids” barges out of the canal. It’s called a lift bridge as the entire roadway lifts vertically to allow maritime egress.

As always – it doesn’t matter if the Tug is pushing, or pulling, or the barge is tied up “on the hip” it’s called “towing.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Same Tug, different bridge. This is the Hamilton Avenue Bridge, which you saw in the first shot from the other side. It’s a double bascule draw bridge, but the two movable sections are parallel to each other. A more traditional setup for this sort of structure would be the Pulaski Bridge at Newtown Creek, where the two bascules are in line with each other and form an arch when closed.

More tomorrow.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the beginning of the week of Monday, January 4th. My plan is to continue doing my solo photo walks around LIC and the Newtown Creek in the dead of night as long as that’s feasible. If you continue to see regular updates here, that means everything is kosher as far as health and well being. If the blog stops updating, it means that things have gone badly for a humble narrator.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

January 6, 2021 at 11:00 am

sallies abroad

with one comment

No matter where you go, there you are.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One spends a great deal of his time gazing in wonder and astonishment at the City of Greater New York, and no place moreso than Astoria here in the Borough of Queens. When I mention Astoria to people who live in other boroughs, they immediately go to the “Greek” thing, but whereas we still have a substantial Hellenic population hereabouts it ain’t the 1970’s no more. In my observation, there really isn’t a single dominant group in Astoria anymore, unless you start lumping folks together into “racial” groupings like “Latino” or “Black” or “Asian” or “European.” It’s a fairly unsophisticated way to look at people, in my opinion, using this sort of categorizing. One such as myself prefers to see people as individuals rather than as part of a cultural or socioeconomic super group, but I am famously not enamored with identity politics.

I guess it’s human nature to try and stick strangers into a tribal box, and define them by where they’re from. For the identity politics crowd, this means that they’re constantly surprised when assumptions about some stranger’s politics or lifestyle don’t turn out to be true. Identity politics are ultimately “nationalism” when you get down to it, just on a different side of the aisle from what you’d normally associate with the term. I find it dehumanizing when somebody categorizes me as “Jewish” or “a Yank,” and try not to do it myself. As I tell people constantly, it’s “way down the list” when I’m describing someone whom they like to noodle with or where their family is from.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Breaking into ever smaller groups seems to be the fashion at the moment, however, and folks do it to themselves. This sort  of fragmentation works beautifully for the political establishment, and allows them to target either the “one legged transgender Peruvians” or “three eyed second generation Lebanese home owners” vote during election season. Are you a white small business owner who fears clear blue skies since you have been selling umbrellas since 1987 on Steinway Street? A woman of color who receives too much mail? A non binary gender neutral hog butcher disturbed about the new LED street lamps? Like riding bikes? How about a shepherd in traditionally male dominated field who has become separated from one of your charges?

Don’t worry Little Bo Peep, I’ve proposed legislation in the Assembly to place a non GMO fed and cruelty free chicken specifically in your pot. Me, I’m a “big tent” kind of guy. What have we got in common, and why is it so hard to resist it when a politician insists on using our divisions to distract and work us?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Bah. Old man shakes fist at cloud, right? 

Kids these days.


Tours and Events


Canal to Coast: Reuniting the Waters Boat Tour. Only $5!
Thurs, August 30, 2018, 6:30 PM – 8:30 PM with Waterfront Alliance

Learn about the origins of Brooklyn’s Erie Basin as the Erie Canal’s ultimate destination, and its current role as a vital resource for maritime industry on this guided tour of Red Hook’s Erie Basin and the Brooklyn working waterfront, departing from and returning to New York Water Taxi’s Red Hook Dock. Tickets here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 24, 2018 at 11:00 am

fled through

with one comment

Break time.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A single image greets you this morning, as will be the case through the Thanksgiving holiday.

A humble narrator requires a break periodically, to recharge and reinvent. Worry not, however, for pithy commentary and puckish intent returns on the Monday following Thanksgiving – the first of December.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 20, 2014 at 11:00 am

approaching egress

leave a comment »

A day late and a dollar short, that’s me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sorry for today’s late and rather insubstantial update, depicting a life preserver frozen to the shoreline of Red Hook’s Erie Basin, which is somewhat metaphorical. Looking forward to the warmer weather this weekend, and your humble narrator will be everywhere along the Newtown Creek in the next few days, camera in hand.

Additionally, next week, I’ll be announcing the 2014 Newtown Creek walking tour schedule as it currently stands.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

March 7, 2014 at 4:15 pm

Posted in Brooklyn, Red Hook

Tagged with , ,

mentality and resource

leave a comment »

A humble narrator will be live in meatspace at Brooklyn Brainery tonight.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pictured is the view from the Smith 9th street station in South Brooklyn, looking down upon the fabulous Gowanus. Business has been calling me down this way all through the end of 2013 and beginning of 2014. For the moment, at least, it appears that I’m going to be a regular visitor, so a bit of curiosity about the locale has been blooming in that withered carbuncle which beats within my chest. In no way do I plan on developing the intimacy with this superfund site that one enjoys with Newtown Creek, but there are things to see down here, I tell you. A point of listening to H.P. Lovecraft’s “Horror at Red Hook” is made, and a preference will be stated for the Audiorealms produced (and Wayne June narrated) reading of the unabridged text.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I think that this is the Hamilton Avenue Bridge in an open position which we’re seeing here, but I might be wrong. Most of my experience with this part of Brooklyn involved driving over it, via the Gowanus Expressway, on my way from the Flatlands Canarsie area to either the Battery Tunnel or one of the East River bridges. I’m not looking for one of you, lords and ladies, to fill me in. It is a curse knowing too much, and the joy of discovering something new – at least to me – has become something of a rarity these days. I’m saving the entire Bronx for future usage, for instance. I did wait around for awhile to see what sort of maritime traffic had called for the opening, but nothing appeared.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of my back burner projects, the kind that never really gets started and is seldom finished, has been to track down “Lovecraft in Brooklyn.” The fellow lived here for an interval, which by all reports he did not enjoy.

The building which “Cool Air” was set in still stands on 14th street in Manhattan, and was observed in the appropriately named post “Cool Air.”

The Flatbush Dutch Reformed Church, which Mr. Lovecraft reportedly vandalized, was visited in the post “frightful pull.” I’ve even located the Suydam family tomb in Greenwood Cemetery, burial place of an antagonist from “The Horror at Red Hook itself.”

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

February 27, 2014 at 9:30 am

%d bloggers like this: