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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Before I offer a conspiracy theory in today’s post, lets instead start with a bit of NY Harbor trivia – the height of all ships doing business within the Port of New York and New Jersey is governed by the height of the Verrazano Bridge’s span, as relative to the water. All cargo, military, and cruise ships which can be anticipated to someday enter NY harbor are actually designed with the Verrazano’s height in mind.

That means, ultimately, that this last exemplar of the House of Robert Moses erected in 1964, which sets a maximum height limit of exactly 228 feet over the water (at high tide), controls the design of a good chunk of the planet’s shipping fleets (although you’d be scraping the Verrazano’s deck at 228′ so they build them a bit shorter). A somewhat contemporaneous counterpart to the Verrazano is the Puente de las Américas (Bridge of the Americas) over the Panama Canal, which also plays a major role in the design of maritime vessels, setting a height limit of 201 feet over high water for any and all vessels using the crossing. The other approach to the Port of New York and New Jersey is governed by the Goethals Bridge over the Arthur Kill, which offers 135 feet of clearance, just to be entirely anal retentive about things.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Verrazano Bridge is startlingly enormous, with a main span over the narrows stretching out for nearly a mile at 4,260 feet. Engineer Othmar Amman always liked to point out that his team had to take the curvature of the Earth itself into account when designing and placing the towers, which are off parallel to each other by 1.625 inches. When you add in the approaches on either side to the bridge, the entire thing is some 13,700 feet in length – roughly 2.6 miles. It’s now the 11th largest suspension bridge in the world, and the longest found on either American continent.

There are 143,000 miles of wire incorporated into its cables, enough to wrap around the earth’ equator 5.74 times or stretch half way to the moon. Its towers are 649.68 feet tall, making them the tallest structures outside of Manhattan in all of New York City. It carries nearly 190,000 vehicle trips a day, 69.35 million annually. The best estimates I’ve been able to find suggest that the combined steel of the bridge weighs some 1,265,000 tons.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Verrazano Bridge, due to its position and height, is affected by weather more heavily than any other span in New York Harbor. The roadway will actually sag down about a dozen feet during the summer months due to heat expansion, and the winds one encounter on the upper roadway preclude any discussion of pedestrian or bicycle paths being established. One can personally report that while driving over the thing during storms, my automobile was being rocked from side to side by heavy gusts of wind. The bridge is owned and operated by the MTA Bridges and Tunnels division, which is what Governor Nelson Rockefeller turned Robert Moses’s old Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority into.

The people at Bridges and Tunnels have a set of rules and customs governing the bridge during harsh weather conditions, which all depend on whether or not the roadways are wet or not, and whether the winds are either sustained or gusting. Speed restrictions begin to apply at 30 mph sustained winds and wet roads, while wet conditions coupled with sustained wind over 40 mph might trigger restrictions on crossings by motorcycles, mini buses, tractor trailers and other types of vehicles.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve noticed, over the years, that all of NYC’s bridges are possessed of a certain and unique to the span harmonic. Partially, it’s how the structure of the bridge interacts environmentally and also because of the sound of the vehicles running over it cause a vibration as their tires spin against the decks. To my hearing, the Verrazano makes a “wmmm-mmm-mhoooooosh-shhh” sound, but that could just be the particular interaction with the roadway of the vehicles which a humble narrator crosses the thing within, which have always been passenger cars. It’s efficacious to close your windows on the bridge no matter what, lest a torrent of air suddenly swirl into the passenger cabin, causing disarray and a tumult. I’ll leave it to musicians to tell you what key the Verazzano Bridge is in.

Like all MTA Bridges and Tunnel crossings, certain types of vehicles are forbidden. These types of vehicles (amongst others) include steam rollers, vehicles loaded with unconfined animals or poultry, wheelbarrows, and velocipedes.

Yes, they specifically mention velocipedes in the rules.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve always thought, with the born and raised in Brooklyn perspective that I am possessed by, that the bridge is actually some sort of giant shackle forcing the former City of Richmond or… Staten Island… not to secede from the City of Greater New York and join up with New Jersey instead. A mass exodus of Brooklynites, including my own parents, occurred during the late 1980’s and 90’s to Staten Island over the thing. Most of them, to quote my Dad, were “sick of this shit, and wanted to get the ‘eff out of here,” referring to the colloquialized “old neighborhood” which was “better back then.” I still don’t believe the old adage about being able to leave your door unlocked at night. Rent was a bit cheaper on Staten Island however, my parents perception of crime was far lower, and the semi suburban lifestyle encountered on Staten Island appealed to them in their retirement and dotage. They were also one step closer to Atlantic City where they liked to go on weekends away.

Staten Island is “car country,” unlike the city center neighborhood of Astoria, Queens where I now live. Mass transit (other than the ferry, I mean) exists but… you kind of need to have a car on Staten Island.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Now for the conspiracy theory: A humble narrator is an idiot, of course, and has always cherished a personal theory that Robert Moses knew something more about NYC than he was letting on. Famously, before beginning his government career, Moses wandered the countryside on foot. Robert Caro suggests that even at a young age, he was planning highways and parks. Pffft… who does that at an early age? Moses was monster hunting, obviously, and he must have found something terrifying during his wanderings. I mean… c’mon… that’s fairly obvious, right?

Why else would he have built a steel and concrete cage around New York Harbor? Would old Bob Moses really have gone out of his way to destroy the coastal wetlands, swamps, and tidal marshes (which are precisely the sort of places you’d find monsters like “Grendels Mother” lurking) of New York Harbor for no reason other than malice? After conquering the human/fish hybrids at Hells Gate with his mighty Triborough, he set about the process of creating the world’s biggest padlock here in the narrows to close the door on his monstrous gate.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Who can guess, all there is, that might be imprisoned down there beneath the 1,265,000 tons of steel? Is the arterial highway and bridge crossing system of New York City actually some sort of great barrier designed to keep slime dripping colossi in check? Is there some dark secret which will be held forever unknowable and immobile by the Verazzano Bridge?

What hidden and occult knowledge did Robert Moses take to the grave with him?


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leaden coffin

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Note: Flickr seems to be having some issues today, so if the shots in today’s post don’t appear or display “broken” image link icons, it ain’t me.

Last week, I took a new friend over to “Skelson’s office” on the Staten Island side of the Kill Van Kull. My new pal, who is a photographer that I met during the lowering of the Koscisuzcko Bridge truss during the summer, had never been to Kill Van Kull and given that she’s into shooting the same sort of maritime industrial stuff that I am…

“Skelson’s office” is a section of the Staten Island shoreline that another photographer buddy of mine named John Skelson, who has left this world, used to haunt and this was officially his “spot.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

While we were at Skelson’s Office, the usual parade of tugs and barges sailed past, including the gargantua you see in today’s shots. That’s a Jersey City based Weeks Marine maritime crane, specifically the 533. Its boom is 210 feet long and it has a lifting capacity of 500 short tons. That’s 5,392 “regular people” gross tons if you’re curious. If you click over to the Weeks site via this link, you’ll see a space shuttle dangling off of it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There were two tugs guiding the crane along the Kill Van Kull, but the big one doing the actual towing was the Katherine, pictured above. My new pal had her mouth hanging open as this unit passed by, as you don’t see this sort of thing every day.

Well, I do, but there you go.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Found some garbage lying along the shoreline, and since I had to urinate, the big red letters made for a decent enough target. Great, again? America is great, now.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The show continued along the Kill Van Kull and we spent a couple of hours hanging out and photographing the tugs and barges and container ships passing by Skelson’s Office. If you want to see this sort of thing for yourself (I mean tugs and maritime industrial goodness, not me pissing on the word “Trump”) check out the link below for the recently announced Working Harbor Committee boat tour of both Kill Van Kull and Arthur Kill on October 15th.


Upcoming Tours and events

Exploring Long Island City, from Luxury Waterfront to Abandoned Factories Walking Tour,
with NY Adventure Club – Saturday, October 7th, 1 p.m. – 3 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.

The Hidden Harbors Of  Staten Island Boat Tour,
with Working Harbor Committee – Sunday, October 15th, 2 p.m. – 4 p.m.

A very cool boat tour that visits two of the maritime industrial waterways of New York Harbor which adjoin Staten Island and Bayonne in New Jersey – The Kill Van Kull and the Arthur Kill. There will be lots of tugboats, cargo docks, and you’ll get to see multiple bridges from the water – including the brand new Goethals Bridge. I’ll be on the mike, narrating with WHC board member Gordon Cooper details here.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

September 26, 2017 at 11:00 am

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It’s National Sponge Cake Day, followed by the Night of the Living Dead, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A bit of a personal milestone is reached today, as I’ve now been amongst you all for some six hundred months. The last eighteen thousand two hundred and sixty three days have been a mixed bag, overall. Lots of boredom and pedantry, which has been punctuated by pulse pounding terror. Every now and then, one or two of the four hundred and thirty eight thousand, three hundred odd hours which I’ve experienced on this mortal coil hasn’t totally sucked. I’ve met good people, bad people, and have generally gone out of way to try and not hurt anyone who didn’t deserve it.

For all of those times when I’ve been a total asshole to someone during the roughly twenty six point three million minutes I’ve been on this planet, apologies are offered.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s lessons I’ve learned, and mistakes I’ve made which I strive not to repeat. When I was born, Lyndon Baines Johnson was President of the United States (I’ve got a certificate from the White House some where congratulating my parents on my arrival) and the Woodstock festival had just wrapped up. I clearly remember a moon landing, and the Watergate investigations being broadcast live on all three television networks.

I was a weird and lonely kid, and some things never change – even after nearly one point six billion seconds.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One is lost and deep in a “reminisce” today. Trying to remember their faces and to forget all the slings and arrows. Trying to appreciate what I’ve got, and lost, and the pageantry I’ve experienced. Overall I’ve been fairly lucky, as people of high quality who are “above my pay grade” are in my life. Also, I’m thinking about dead friends, and family.

Tonight is the Night of the Living Dead, so perhaps I’ll be seeing some of them as they try to batter in my door to feast.


Upcoming Tours and events

DUPBO Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with NYCH20 – Thursday August 24th, 7 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Explore Greenpoint and Hunters Point, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

America’s Workshop Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with Atlas Obscura – Saturday August 26th, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Explore the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek in Long Island City, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

August 23, 2017 at 12:00 pm

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It’s National Hazelnut Cake day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the tug Sea Lion in the shot above, hurtling across the Kill Van Kull with an industrial section of Bayonne, New Jersey and the skyline of Lower Manhattan providing a backdrop. One hasn’t been focusing in on the harbor all that much in recent months for one reason or another, but it’s nothing personal, rather it’s an “art” thing. There’s only so many ways to frame and shoot a passing vessel, when you really get down to it. I’ll figure out some way to make it interesting again, as I was trying to do in the shot above by shooting “wide open” and going for depth of field rather than my normal “tack sharp” narrow aperture method for maritime shots.

Sea Lion is looking pretty good, given that she sunk a few years ago off the coast of Long Island – check out NY Media Boat’s page describing that disaster.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Passing out of the Kill Van Kull, and into the Upper Bay, three McAllister tugs were observed “wrassling” a cargo ship into position for it to exit NY waters. There’s two tugs pictured above, the Eric and Bruce A. McAllister’s, and the third one was on the other side of the cargo ship.

I was onboard a NY Waterways boat hired by the Working Harbor Committee for a tour of Newark Bay, in my capacity as the group’s official photographer. These WHC trips have become quite a melancholy experience for me in the last few years, as I spend most of my time onboard reminiscing about a few buddies whom I always enjoyed hanging out or working with on these excursions that have left this mortal coil – Bernie Ente, Capt. John Doswell, and most recently John Skelson.

Absent friends… lift glasses… clink.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I didn’t observe the usual post op ritual which the WHC crew enacts this time around, heading over to a hole in the wall bar on Pearl Street for a pint to compare notes about the trip. Queens was calling, and given the intensity of my schedule during the month of May, I was of no mind to delay getting home to our Lady of the Pentacle and Zuzu the dog.

The 5 line carried me from Lower Manhattan to the 59th and Lex hub, where an R line transfer was enacted, which carried me home to the rolling hills of almond eyed Astoria.


Upcoming Tours and events

Newtown Creek Alliance and Riverkeeper Visioning, June 3rd, 1-4 p.m..

Imagine the future of Newtown Creek with Riverkeeper and NCA at the Kingsland Wildfowers Green Roof (520 Kingsland Avenue in Greenpoint) details here.

Newtown Creek Alliance History lecture with NCA historian Mitch Waxman, June 3rd, 5:00- 7:30 p.m.

An free hour long lecture and slideshow about Newtown Creek’s incredible history at the gorgeous Kingsland Wildfowers Green Roof (520 Kingsland Avenue in Greenpoint) followed by a walk around the roof and a Q&A – details here.

Green Drinks Queens LIC, June 5th, 6:00- 9:00 p.m.

Come celebrate UN World Environment Day with Green Drinks: Queens on the LIC Waterfront! This year’s theme is “Connecting People With Nature.”details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 1, 2017 at 11:00 am

primal farmyard

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Today is the day, in 1909, that Geronimo died. His real name was Goyaałé.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Owing to other obligations and piss poor weather conditions for the last couple of weeks, one hasn’t got anything new to show you for this week. Accordingly, it has been decided to instead present a few archive shots of the various branches of NYC government which make life liveable for us here in “Home Sweet Hell.”

Today, the focus is on the NYC DOT – the bewildering New York City Department of Transportation, whom, as you might discern from some of their assets pictured above, are showoffs.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

NYC DOT handles and oversees NYC’s streets, highways, 788 roadway and pedestrian bridges (both major and minor, and with 25 of them moveable), and sidewalks. DOT also does street signs, traffic signals, street lights, street resurfacing, pothole repair, parking meters, and manages municipal parking. They’re also in charge of bike lanes, regulate private bus services, and spend about $700 million bucks a year doing all this – last time I checked.

They also run that big orange boat you see in the shot above. Money well spent, no?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Of course, there’s a lot of purely mundane stuff they do. With the help of a couple of large contractors, notably Weisbach, DOT oversees the care and maintenance of those fancy new parking meter kiosks, street lights, and road paving. They also work with and augment the DSNY during snow events with plows and road salt.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 17, 2017 at 1:00 pm

bearded colleague

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Kitteh, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m taking a short break this week, and offering single images of the Internet’s favorite critter. These are all ferals, encountered in the nooks and crannies of NYC which I wander through. Have a great Thanksgiving.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 21, 2016 at 11:00 am

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

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