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burying dust

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Ferry rides never get old, man.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Wednesday last, one spent the late afternoon riding around on a couple of the NYC Ferry system’s routes. My desire was to freshen up my recollections for this Saturday’s tour, which will play out on the Soundview route. To get from “A” to “M,” the Astoria line was accessed at Hallet’s Cove nearby the NYCHA Astoria houses. This particular line’s terminal stop is at the location above, then it stops at the east side of Roosevelt Island beneath the Queensboro Bridge, LIC North nearby Anable Basin, 34th street in the City, a new stop at the Brooklyn Navy Yard has just been added, and then it proceeds to Pier 11/Wall Street in Lower Manhattan. If you time it right, and I did, a free transfer is available to the Soundview line which carries you up to the Bronx.

There’s all sorts of amenity and inducement onboard to encourage the comfort of riders, but for me, the NYC Ferry is a cheap way to offer my camera a weapons platform for remote deployments. Pictured above are the Roosevelt Island Bridge and a section fo the Big Allis power plant in Queens’ Ravenswood section.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The view from the Brooklyn Navy Yard is offered above.

As of right now, it doesn’t look like the sort of boat tours which I’ve normally offered and or participated in during the last ten summers will be possible. The popularity of the NYC Ferry during the summer months has seen the service reserving or leasing every single boat in NY Harbor to buttress their own fleet, and its “taken the air out” of the rental boat market. There’s still plenty of higher end vessels you can hire, but they are either too large and expensively risky – Circleline, for instance – or are floating catering halls which are far too slow and costly. There’s also a few vessels which are just out of my price range, or would necessitate ticket prices that are stratospheric.

It’s funny, actually. What my friends and I have been advocating for over the last decade (and change) has come to pass. New Yorkers are once again embracing their waterways, and using maritime transit to get around. There’s no shortage of “normal people” advocating for waterfront access these days, not just us “harbor rats,” and there’s so many people paddling around in kayaks and canoes that it’s actually become quite crowded in certain parts of the harbor. Imagine that.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Here’s something I’ve learned over the last decade, take it for what it’s worth.

In the world of “tours,” you’ve got a couple of basic delineations; vehicle tours, site tours, walking tours. My pals at Turnstile Tours, who essentially have a franchise at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, offer the very definition of “site tours.” The folks who do the Grand Central Station tours also do “site tours,” or the extremely successful Empire State Building operation. That’s when you’ve got exclusive access to a particular place. Walking tours, which I offer regularly during the summer months, follow a particular route that expresses a certain narrative or story. Vehicle tours take a variety of forms, from the bus operations that feed off the tourist trade in Manhattan to CircleLine or even the sort of boat tours which I usually offer during the summer months that go to some out of the way but interesting place like Port Newark or Newtown Creek.

Then, there’s the “subway tour,” which take advantage of preexisting transit infrastructure to cover a large distance quickly. The NYC Ferry tour I’m conducting tomorrow, links below, will follow the model of a subway tour. If it works out, and so far there’s been quite a lot of interest in this one, I’m planning on doing more of them on the less travelled routes. The Rockaway line, for instance, is far too popular to even consider doing one during the summer months.

There’s just so much to see and talk about on the Soundview and Astoria lines, it boggles the mind.


Upcoming Tours and Events

June 15th – Exploring the East River,

From General Slocum Disaster to Abandoned Islands – with NY Adventure Club.

June 15th is one of those days in NYC history. In 1904, more than a thousand people boarded a boat in lower Manhattan, heading for a church picnic on Long Island — only 321 of them would return. This is the story of the General Slocum disaster, and how New York Harbor, the ferry industry, and a community were forever altered.

Join New York Adventure Club for a two-part aquatic adventure as we explore the General Slocum disaster, and historic sights and stories along the East River, all by NYC Ferry.

Tickets and more details
here.


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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

June 14, 2019 at 1:30 pm

mental cast

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A few more odds and ends today.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One is still attempting to dig himself out of a self created content hole; wherein a combination of weather, personal ennui, and “busy doing other stuff” factors have seen me record a historic low number of images in the month of March. I’m working on a couple of follow up books to the “In the Shadows at Newtown Creek” volume, as well as trying to figure out a tour schedule for the summer months. I’m behind on every possible schedule you can name, as a note.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shots in today’s post are actually from February, which were captured on a NYC Ferry ride. Today’s post is a placeholder, offered in place of a “regular” posting which would might offer some proverbial meat on the bone.

Hopefully, by next week I’ll be all current and caught up on my backlog. I currently have a few hundred raw file photos that I haven’t even looked at yet on my hard drive, so once I slog through that…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There really isn’t enough coffee to drink these days…


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On the boat.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned yesterday, I took a ride on the new Soundview line of the NYC Ferry recently in pursuance of scouting out a tour which I’m going to conduct along its route. Soundview is a long ride by the standards of the new Ferry system, some 46 minutes. It takes you north from Pier 11 Wall Street along the eastern shoreline of Manhattan with stops at 34th street and then at 90th street. Its path carries you along the rather familiar sights of the great bridges section of the East River (Brooklyn to Queensborough) and then proceeds into the River’s west channel between Roosevelt Island and Manhattan.

Pictured above is a tug towing an empty fuel barge southwards along the waterway. How do I know it’s empty? Look at how high the barge is riding in the water… that’s how.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The west channel of the East River is preferred for the passage of larger ships and maritime industrial traffic for a couple of reasons, most notably the absence of height restrictions due to the Roosevelt Island Bridge and the “no wake” zone around the Big Allis power plant in Queens’ Ravenswood section. The Soundview ferry uses this channel to proceed northwards, passing by notable Upper East Side landmarks like Rockefeller University in the East 60’s.

That’s another huge articulated tug and fuel barge in the shot above, operated by the Reinauer company. Articulated means that there are cabling connections which allow the Captain of the tug to operate the two entities as a single vessel. There is also a large cutout notch in the bow of the barge which the tug nestles into.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last stop in Manhattan is at East 90th street, whereupon the ferry route heads across the East River to the east channel, and heads into Hells Gate. Those of you with a historical mindset might already have an inkling of what this tour will be talking about, but let’s just say that a little bit more than a century ago on a nice morning in mid June, a large group of people boarded a boat just north of Wall Street at Peck Slip, and more or less followed this route. Things did not go as planned for them, and bad things happened. Very, very bad things.

More tomorrow, at your Newtown Pentacle.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 26, 2019 at 1:30 pm

mingled fear

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Roosevelt Island and Bigfoot, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just the other day I came across a web page offering advice under the headline “So you want to become a Bigfoot hunter?” which discussed the sort of equipment needed for the job and laid out the wilderness survival skills which you’d be obliged to cultivate. I have a lot of the gear, but I’d probably die of fear and exposure within 48 hours out in the woods. The region of Brooklyn I grew up in was part of “Flatlands” which is next door to “Flatbush.” Not a lot of conifer forests, nor mountains, and the wildest animal was a guy named Larry who lived over on Clarendon Road. Nature wants to kill and eat me, I believe, so I stay in the place where humanity has had nature held tightly by the throat for centuries and where we routinely kick it in the balls just to remind it who’s boss – the City of Greater New York.

Saying that, I got to join a group of urban planners recently on a walk that started at Hallets Cove in Astoria and terminated at the new Cornell University Campus on Roosevelt Island.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the new Bloomberg Center pictured above, on the Cornell Campus. They’re still building over there, but what’s gone up so far looks a great deal like either the HQ of Star Trek’s Federation or the 31st century base used by the Legion of Super Heroes in DC Comics. It’s actually quite pleasing, visually, and I’m just being snarky about it. Go check it out, it’s worth the lookie loo.

As far as the Bigfoot Hunter gear, the recommendations included all sorts of camera and audio recording equipment which I’ve got. There were flashlights (got them too) and fancy hiking shoes (a-yup) on the list, and all kinds of camping gear which I suppose you’d need if you were foolish enough to say “Hey, I’ve got a perfectly good house with locking doors which I’m going to leave behind and go sleep alone in the woods where there are hungry animals and biting insects” while in pursuit of North American megafauna.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Thing about NYC that sucks is a complete lack of Sasquatch. Well, I don’t know “for sure” if there aren’t any, but last time I checked the ethnic breakdown offered by the United States Census Bureau for Astoria, there were zero Sasquatch mentioned. It’s possible that they registered as “Native American” or something, but I think that a family of Bigfoot living off Ditmars in a third floor Astoria walk up would elicit some special mention.

What I’m saying is that I’d love to be a professional Bigfoot Hunter, but the commute would really suck. I mean, seriously, what train would you take to get to Washington State, the “A” or something?


Upcoming Tours and Events

June 9th – Exploring Long Island City – with NY Adventure Club.

Long Island City is a tale of two cities; one filled with glittering water-front skyscrapers and manicured parks, and the other, a highly active ground transportation & distribution zone vital to the New York economy — which will prevail?

Tickets and more details
here.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

May 30, 2018 at 11:00 am

excite attention

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It’s National Bologna Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For many reasons, a humble narrator has found himself at Hallets Cove along the Astoria waterfront in recent weeks. Partially, this recent focus was related to a humble narrator being invited to write a guest blog for the NYC Ferry service’s new Astoria stop (check it out here), but didn’t go “super granular” with it in my usual manner. Something I learned while writing my old Brownstoner Queens column was sometimes you need to approach a story, and a more general audience, with a different voice than you normally would (the NYC Ferry is operated by the Hornblower company, under the auspices of the NYC EDC, in case you’re wondering). 

The other reason I’ve been down at Hallets Cove a lot in recent weeks has been to actually use the Ferry to get to and from work, as the MTA has seemingly deduced that nobody in Queens needs to get to and from Manhattan on the weekends. Luckily, my destination for conducting boat tours is Pier 11, which is one of the terminal stops for the ferry, so problem solved.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The kids of Queens never disappoint, as evinced by these phalluses recently scratched into the sand at Hallets Cove. There’s actually a lot of fine detail to appreciate in these, from the spurts to the hairy sacks. Good show.

As a note, I know of just three sandy beaches along the East River, Hallets Cove being one.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The future site of a floating “Eco Dock” as my pals from the Waterfront Alliance call it, one has long been fascinated by the muddy flats underlying a discarded pier found at the entrance to the NYCHA Astoria Houses on what is historically known as Lawrence Point, but which has been rechristened as “Astoria Point” by real estate interests and elected officialdom alike.

This sort of marshy area is immensely important to the ecology of the waters surrounding NYC, as my pals from Riverkeeper will tell you, and you don’t see very much of it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a derelict pier overflying those muddy flats, which as mentioned, will be replaced with an eco dock. My understanding is that the pier was installed to support a radio station’s broadcast tower, specifically WLIB, back in 1953. Further, I’m told that the radio station abandoned this location in 1967, and that the structure has been feral ever since.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If you haven’t tried out the new ferry service leaving from Astoria yet, I recommend it for nothing other than seeing the sights. The route carries you along the east channel of the East River, which transits between the Ravenswood section of Long Island City and Roosevelt Island. You’ve got some pretty incredible stuff along the route, including both the Roosevelt Island Lift bridge and the amazing Queensboro bridge, and the Big Allis power plant is on display as well.

This particular ferry service makes an amended series of stops as compared to the longer tenanted East River route, stopping first at Roosevelt Island, then the northern ferry stop at Hunters Point, 34th street and then Pier 11/Wall Street in Manhattan. Im personally really looking forward to the upcoming Soundview route, opening in 2018, which will go to the southeastern Bronx – which is the unknown country for one such as myself.

Check the Astoria ferry out, what else have you got to do?


Upcoming Tours and events

Exploring Long Island City, from Luxury Waterfront to Abandoned Factories Walking Tour,
with NY Adventure Club – Sunday, November 12th, 2:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Long Island City is a tale of two cities; one filled with glittering water-front skyscrapers and manicured parks, and the other, a highly active ground transportation & distribution zone vital to the New York economy — which will prevail? With Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 24, 2017 at 11:00 am

wide remark

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It’s National Cheese Souflee Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So far, I’ve never tired of seeing the old Koscisuzcko Bridge from the roadway of the new one, but then again its only been around three weeks that the thing has been open. One is curious as to the reactions all of y’all have had at the sight of the new span, how it’s been working out for you so far, all that sort of thing. I’m on the Stakeholders Advisory Committee, so if there’s something specific or pithy you’d want me to bring to officialdom, let me know and I’ll pass it on to the powers that be.

Today’s first two shots were captured from behind the windshield of a car, in case you’re wondering. What I was doing in an automobile, of all things, is something which I’ll tell you about in a future post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The driver of the car I was in is one of my neighbors from back here in Astoria, if you’re curious, but I had engaged his services in the context of his being a professional and TLC licensed driver. Again, I’ll tell you why I needed a ride at a later date. Our path didn’t just include a crossing of the Koscisuzcko Bridge, but also involved a trip into the City as well. That’s the Roosevelt Island Tram hurtling over the Queensboro Bridge, pictured above. Very exciting.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A couple of weeks ago, I conducted a Newtown Creek tour for a group of European college students, and my pals at Sims Metal Management were gracious enough to allow the group to visit the Newtown Creek Pier facility maintained by the recycling company. Sims has a contract with DSNY to handle the “MGP” or “metal, plastic, glass” recyclable trash we put out on the curb, and they were engaged in the process of collecting it from the white packer trucks maintained by the agency for the task. The stuff ultimately gets barged out to another Sims facility, where it’s sorted.


Upcoming Tours and events

Newtown Creek Alliance Boat tour, May 21st.

Visit the Newtown Creek on a two hour boat tour with NCA historian Mitch Waxman and NCA Project Manager Will Elkins, made possible with a grant from the Hudson River Foundation – details and tix here.


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Visiting with an old friend, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

“Back in the day,” as it were, a humble narrator used to spend an awful lot of time on the Queensboro Bridge. When the 2009 Centennial Celebrations occurred, I was actually a deputy parade marshall, which the City rewarded me for with a medal. We got to close the bridge’s lower level for a few hours, and there were marching bands and a bevy of elected officials were present – including Michael Bloomberg himself. The very first posts at this – your Newtown Pentacle – discussed the event in some detail.

In recent years, as I’ve become more and more focused on Newtown Creek and its upland properties, my walks across mighty Queensboro have decreased in frequency and a recent realization that I hadn’t actually walked the span in more than a year prompted me to start kicking my feet forward and lurch roughly forward towards Manhattan. Unfortunately, this meant I was heading onto that loathsome island and leaving the intricate geometries of Queens behind for a spell.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For those of you who haven’t taken one of NYC’s best walks, the pedestrian and bicycle lane of the Queensboro is accessed at Queens Plaza near Crescent Street. It’s not a hard walk in the least, but it does offer some fairly decent “cardio” for half of it. The long sloping ascent from Queens Plaza to the tower set into Roosevelt Island carries you hundreds of feet from the ground, and despite the gradual nature of it – you will find your heart rate increasing steadily.

Bicycles will be whizzing by at fairly high rates of speed, so be mindful of your surroundings if you decide to undertake the stroll. If you bring your camera, you will be glad you did, as the views from up on high are spectacular.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Apparently, the incline is severely felt by bicyclists, as I’ve observed them standing on the pedals and struggling against it several times. Many will dismount and walk their bikes. The “whizzing by” mentioned above occurs once they surmount the paramount of the bridge and the descending incline allows them to gain velocity quickly.

My favorite time of day for Queensboro, visually speaking, is the middle to late afternoon. The light is spectacular during that time of day, and the intricate cantilever gears of the great bridge are evenly illuminated.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking north along the East River, you’ll notice a series of steel structures which carry the Roosevelt Island Tram from Manhattan’s 2nd Avenue to the island. The tram is another one of my favorite destinations, incidentally, as it allows for a birds eye perspective on the Queensboro Bridge and the waterway it spans. One of “my walks” involves crossing the bridge, catching the tram, and then perambulating back to Astoria via the Roosevelt Island Bridge which carries pedestrian and vehicular traffic to Queens.

I’ll often stop off and hang out with my pal Judy Berdy at Roosevelt Island Historical Society when exiting the tram – which is located in a historic kiosk nearby the Tram’s landing point. You can’t miss it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Midpoint on the bridge, one always turns back and considers avoiding going to Manhattan altogether and returning to the poisoned loam of western Queens. In the instance of this particular journey, however, a humble narrator was set to meet up with friends in the City so I kept moving in a westerly direction.

I catch a lot of shade for the contempt with which Manhattan is discussed here. I actually used to live in the City for more than a decade, on Broadway at 100th street. Best move I’ve ever made was listening to Our Lady of the Pentacle when she announced that her desire was to move our HQ to Astoria. Back when I was a Manhattanite, my M.O. was “cocooning” – leaving the apartment only to go back and forth to work. There was no “community” to draw one out, and a vast depersonalization was experienced in the daily round. Whatever there once was that made the City an attractive place to live – night life, for instance – is long gone.

The City is a ruin, exploited and picked over and destroyed by the Real Estate Industrial Complex, and there is little fun to be had there anymore. Brooklyn and Queens are “where it’s at” these days – at least for one such as myself.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 18, 2015 at 1:00 pm

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