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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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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.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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

unseeing eyes

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Roosevelt Island, in today’s Newtown Pentacle.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The path of penitence and perdition once led inexorably to Welfare Island, where Nellie Bly spent ten days in a mad house. Here in the Ravenswood section of Queens, the mad cries of a thousand lunatics once carried across the East River from a nearby East River island, which was once known as Blackwells and later as Roosevelt. A prisoner created cacophony of hammers striking rocks provided a rhythm for the screamers, as did the sound of the work mills operated by mission orphanages and municipal poor houses.

Today, one can merely walk, drive, or bike over the Roosevelt Island Bridge, eschewing any of the water borne transportation options once offered exclusively by Policemen and NYS mental health officials.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My purpose in visiting the island is discussed over at my Brownstoner column today, although the subject of that post is not the only reason that a humble narrator journeyed here. Paranoid wonderings about the true nature of those little metal and or plastic cuffs on the ends of shoe laces notwithstanding (they are called Aglets, by the way, and their purpose is sinister), one had elected to visit the fairly new FDR Four Freedoms Park. As my walking tour schedule and obligations for 2014 have been fulfilled – my weekends are mine to do with as I wish once more so off a humble narrator shambled.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Perambulation to and onto Roosevelt Island, due to the multiple inborn flaws and infirmities (as caused by degenerate behavior, an atavist outlook, and or certain weaknesses of character and constitution that can be described as constituting a disease process) which afflict one’s constitution, was quickly achieved but soon degenerated into a weak gait which might only be called a “scuttle.” The long periods of physical inactivity, brought on by a recent spate of storms and unstopping rain, seem to have sapped ones endurance and stamina. Perhaps, local honey would help.

Accordingly, a thoughtfully placed wall was leaned upon, and the shot above was captured. That’s Big Allis across the river, over in Ravenswood.

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general tension

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Note: I received a few corrections from Judy Berdy of the Roosevelt Island Historical Society on this post after it was published, special thanks for her generosity in sharing with us her vast knowledge. Please visit the link above for more on R.I.H.S.

My original statements, when “slashed” will be followed by corrections in red.

As always, when I get something wrong, corrections and additions are welcomed.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Somehow, the Roosevelt Island Bridge has never been examined by this, your Newtown Pentacle.

An omission, but to be fair the tiny span is a bit overshadowed by it’s spectacular neighbors (Queensboro, Triborough, and Hellgate) and half hidden behind a power plant. Not content to leaving her standing at the edge of the ballroom any longer, lets invite her to the dance.

from nyc.gov

The Roosevelt Island Bridge is a tower drive, vertical lift, movable bridge across the East Channel of the East River between the borough of Queens and Roosevelt Island, New York City. The span length is 418 feet. It was known as the Welfare Island Bridge when it was first opened to traffic in 1955. The bridge is the only means of vehicular access to Roosevelt Island. Prior to construction, the bridge carried two 17-foot lanes of vehicular traffic and a 6-foot sidewalk. The bridge is used by both pedestrians and vehicles with increased volume during rush hours. The Queens approach begins at the intersection of Vernon Boulevard and 36th Avenue.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Blackwell’s Island, later known as Welfare Island, was where you went when they “sent you up the river”.

both a regular commenter and R.I.H.S. disagree with me on “up the river” saying that it indicated Sing Sing prison and the river in question is the Hudson. Alternatively, I’ve got multiple references in the post revolutionary to civil war era that refers to Blackwell’s in this context.  

The New York City government had a well established series of poor houses, prisons, and mental institutions here. Access to the island was strictly by boat until 21 years after the Queensboro bridge was erected in 1909, and an elevator system was built to carry trucks and other motor vehicles from its heights down to the Island in 1930  about 1916.

R.I.H.S. says: The Ferry Operated Until 1957 From 78 St And The FDR Drive.

This proved inadequate.

from nycroads.com

Initially, access to Welfare Island had been through a series of ferries from Manhattan and Queens. In 1930, a four-cab elevator service began between the lower deck of the Queensboro (59th Street) Bridge and the island. The service, which had served 230,000 cars per year by the early 1950’s, provided the only public connection to Welfare Island.

The increasing traffic needs to and from Welfare Island, as well as growing congestion on the Queensboro Bridge, prompted the New York City Department of Public Works to propose a new vertical-lift crossing between Queens and Welfare Island. After initial resistance from the New York City Council, which doubted that the $6.5 million span would carry enough traffic to justify its cost, construction of the Roosevelt Island Bridge (then named the Welfare Island Bridge) began on March 17, 1952.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Hopelessly overcrowded and causing delays on Mighty Queensboro, the Depression era elevator system needed to be augmented.

Accordingly the City constructed the Welfare Island Bridge in 1955 to provide additional access. The elevator system on Queensboro stuck around for a few more years, but was eventually done away with around 1970.

Construction on the Welfare Island Bridge began in 1951.

from wikipedia

Roosevelt Island, known as Welfare Island from 1921 to 1973, and before that Blackwell’s Island, is a narrow island in the East River of New York City. It lies between the island of Manhattan to its west and the borough of Queens to its east. Running from Manhattan’s East 46th to East 85th streets, it is about two miles (3 km) long, with a maximum width of 800 feet (240 m), and a total area of 147 acres (0.59 km2). The island is part of the Borough of Manhattan (New York County). Together with Mill Rock, Roosevelt Island constitutes Manhattan’s Census Tract 238, which has a land area of 0.279 sq mi (0.72 km2). and had a population of 9,520 in 2000 according to the US Census. The Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation estimated its population was about 12,000 in 2007.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Well known for excess and abuse, the institutional system on Welfare Island came crashing down in the years following the second world war, and was largely abandoned by the 1960’s, when the Manhattan establishment sought better uses for Welfare Island. There was a “branding” issue to be solved, of course, as “Welfare Island” was synonymous with “Mad House” and or “Prison” for several generations of New Yorkers.

R.I.H.S. says: Blackwell’s Island name was changed to Welfare Island in 1921. Welfare to roosevelt in 1973. The bad reputation came in the late 1800’s to 1920’s thereby changing name to Welfare Island.

In 1973, they decided to call it Roosevelt Island instead.

from freeclassicaudiobooks.com

In 1887 Nellie Bly, one of the first female newspaper writers, and a young reporter who would soon go on to make a career for herself as an investigative journalist and stunt reporter, had herself committed to the Blackwell’s Island Insane Asylum in New York. Her purpose was to discover what life was like for those who had been deemed insane. She was surprised to discover the depth of mistreatment of the patients. Partially as a result of her reporting, more money was allocated to the asylum and reforms were put into place.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Like the nearby Pulaski Bridge over Newtown Creek, which was erected in the same era, Frederick H. Zurmuhlen of the Dept. of Public Works oversaw the design and construction of the Welfare Island Bridge. One of the unsung men who built the modern city, Zurmuhlen served under three mayors.

The Welfare Island Bridge opened, officially, on May 18, 1955.

from wikipedia

Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation was created by New York State in 1984 to manage development and operations of Roosevelt Island. Before RIOC there existed other state agencies which ran the island’s day-to-day operations such as the Welfare Island Development Corporation and later the Roosevelt Island Development Corporation. The first RIOC Board and President were appointed by the Governor in 1986.

The New York State Urban Development Corporation (UDC) operated New York City’s Welfare Island, as Roosevelt Island was previously known, prior to RIOC. Development of the island was based on the principles of urban “new communities” under President Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” programs of the 1960s and early 1970s, and development of the “new” community there was authorized by the 99-year ground lease and accompanying General Development Plan (GDP) agreed upon by New York City and New York State in 1969. The NY State GDP, which has been amended from time to time, provides for the development of housing, shops and community facilities for a mixed-income, handicap-accessible residential neighborhood.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Of course, over on the Queens coast, the bridge has another overwhelming neighbor, the Ravenswood Power Plant- known to longtime New Yorkers simply as “Big Allis”.

for more on Big Allis check out this Newtown Pentacle posting from June of 2009-

Big Allis is not in the Land of the Lost… or how I learned to stop worrying and love Ravenswood #3

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Welfare Island Bridge, known to modernity as the Roosevelt Island Bridge, has recently undergone a refurbishment and makeover. Much was made of the cosmetic improvements to the span, but the reality of the investment was a determination that in case of a seismic event- which the City of New York is long overdue for- the Bridge would suffer catastrophic damage.

A massive earthquake is one of the unspoken horrors which the City government has been quietly planning for, something which the Mayor’s office would be applauded for were it more widely known. A tip of the hat goes out to the municipal engineers and planners for both their discretion and the secretive work which they have been performing.

A highly technical description of NYC’s earthquake risk factors, prepared in 1998 by the NY State DOT, can be accessed here.

from wikipedia

Big Allis, formally known as Ravenswood No. 3, is a giant electric power generator originally commissioned by Consolidated Edison Company (ConEd) and built by the Allis-Chalmers Corporation in 1965. Currently owned by Transcanada Corp., it is located on 36th Avenue and Vernon Boulevard in western Queens, New York.

During 1963, Allis-Chalmers announced that ConEd had ordered the “world’s first MILLION-KILOWATT unit…big enough to serve 3,000,000 people.” This sheer scale helped the plant become popularly known as “Big Allis”.

At the time of its installation, it was the world’s largest steam energy generating facility. It is located on the Ravenswood site, consisting of Units 1, 2, 3 and 4, as well as several small Gas Turbines (GTs), and an oil depot. The site overall produces about 2,500 MW, or approximately 20% of New York City’s current energy needs. The current installed capacity of Big Allis is around 980 MW.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Roosevelt Island Bridge makes landfall on the Long Island at Vernon Avenue and 36th street, incidentally.

Written by Mitch Waxman

January 24, 2012 at 12:15 am

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