The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Staten Island’ Category

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.


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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.

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presiding demon

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Bringing the thunder…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned, tomorrow night I’m going to be co-narrating the Working Harbor Committee Newark Bay tour with my pal Gordon Cooper. Now, Newark Bay is WHC’s signature tour, and the people who have handled the narration in the past – WHC’s Capt. John Doswell, Ed Kelly of the Maritime Association, Lucy Ambrosino of Port Authority – lets just say that they’ve set a pretty high standard for this narration on this particular caper.

Tugboat Alley and the 3rd largest Port in the United States is quite a subject to write a tour of.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Saying that, I’ve been on this particular tour literally dozens of times and have always paid close attention. I’ve also got a whole bunch of historical information which hasn’t been offered in the past, and I’m hoping to add something to the narrative if such a thing is possible. The good news is that the weather promises to be on my side tomorrow, and a beautiful NYC summer day and evening is forecast.

This should be glorious, and for my part – I’m planning on being in rare form tomorrow night.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Port Elizabeth Newark is gob smacking in its scale, history, importance to our regional economy, and in its ongoing maritime operations. Our boat will be leaving from Pier 11 in Lower Manahattan, crossing the anchorage channel, transversing the Kill Van Kull, and then visiting the literal prototype for all modern container terminals. We will be proceeding north into Newark Bay – the confluence of the Hackensack and Passaic rivers – and then exiting back through the Kill Van Kull and heading over to the Statue of Liberty for sunset.

Hey, what better place are you going to get your selfie than at the Statue of Liberty?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The trip will be two hours long, and I’m truly excited to invite you lords and ladies to come along. Ticketing link is below – come with? If you do, bring your cameras, as the Workign Harbor Committe’s Port Elizabeth Newark tour is a not to be missed and quite spectacular experience.

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.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

June 29, 2016 at 12:00 pm

gateway temple

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Bayonne Bridge progress, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Bayonne Bridge spans the Kill Van Kull waterway, connecting Staten Island with Bayonne, New Jersey. The fourth largest steel arch bridge upon the earth, it was designed by Othmar Amman.

Bayonne Bridge’s origins were commemorated in this 2010 post. The Bayonne Bridge, and the Frederick E Bouchard tug, were discussed in this 2012 post. Also back in 2012, I walked over the original Bayonne Bridge for the last time. In August of last year, I gathered the shots featured in this 2015 post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A new class of cargo ships, the Panamax, will soon become standard for global trade. These gargantua have necessitated the widening of the Panama Canal, and will be too large to fit under the Bayonne Bridge in its original configuration at high tide. Given that Port Elizabeth Newark is found just beyond the Bayonne Bridge, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has been forced to take steps.

Very expensive steps.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A seperate project is underway to increase the draught of NY Harbor’s Ambrose Channel and Kill Van Kull to fifty feet instead of forty via dredging, but the roadway of the Bayonne Bridge is being replaced by a new one which will be high enough to accommodate the new class of cargo ships.

–  photo by Mitch Waxman

In the shot above, you can see the project is well underway. The shots in today’s post were captured from the waters of the Kill Van Kull in May of 2016, btw. The new roadway is quite a bit higher than the original, and the older one is slated to be demolished.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Unlike the Kosciuszko Bridge at Newtown Creek (which is being fully replaced), the project engineers have decided to retain the original steel arch structure and approaches to the span. Also, unlike the Kosciuszko project, I have no special access or knowledge of the project beyond some water access.

I can tell you that certain harbor and shipping industry magnates I know favored demolishing the span entirely, reasoning that another class of mega cargo ships is inevitable, and that access to Newark Bay is paramount for the economy of the Northeastern United States. Right now, Port Elizabeth Newark is the second largest port facility in the USA’s part of North America. Bayonne Bridge provides a critical vehicular path to Staten Island and Brooklyn via the Verrazano Bridge for the trade items which arrive there.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

From a purely esthetic point of view, the composition and positioning of the new roadway is pretty “fugly.” Amman is turning in his grave, I’m sure.

Upcoming Events and Tours

Saturday, June 4, 11:00 a.m. -1:30 p.m. –
DUPBO: Down Under the Pulaski Bridge Onramp,
with Brooklyn Brainery. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 1, 2016 at 11:00 am

along with

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I like a good door, me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One could bore you endlessly with the metaphorical and philosophical significance of doors. They keep you in, or keep you out, in their simplest function. A lot of the doors in today’s post are simply gone, such as the one pictured above which used to found in Queens Plaza along Jackson Avenue.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Hunterspoint Steel literally left their building in Queens well more than a decade ago, but their portal and signage nevertheless remained. Found just east of the Dutch Kills Tributary of Newtown Creek and Hunters Point Avenue Bridge, the old factory building has become home to a plumbing supply company in recent years – but their sign typography is nowhere near as cool as Hunterspoint Steel’s was. They also replaced the old yellow door with some modern piece of “store bought.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over in Brooklyn, at the Greenpoint Terminal Market, this second story number once connected with another building. That building burned away in the largest fire since 911, which – luckily enough – made lots of room available for the development of luxury condos on its lot.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In lower Manhattan’s Alphabet City, there’s a church which celebrates the Hispanic Mozarabic Rite of the Western Orthodox Catholic tradition. No, really. I did a whole post on this church back in August of 2012.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over on… Staten Island… there’s a bar on Richmond Terrace where you’ll find the front door always open, and within there’s a phone booth. If it looks familiar, that’s because it’s where Madonna called Danny Aiello from in the “Papa don’t preach” music video back in the 1980’s.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In Queens, over in Ridgewood, there’s a pretty ancient set of doors you can walk through at the Onderdonk House. If you’re tall, you might want to duck down a bit while walking through, as our colonial ancestors didn’t necessarily possess the same stature which we assign to them.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In Queens’s Woodside, along Broadway, there’s a church which is fairly well vouchsafed against Vampires. Of course, Woodside doesn’t have too much of an infestation – nosferatu wise. For a good chance of encountering Vampires, you’d want to go to Red Hook (under the Gowanus Expressway is a good bet). As a note, Vampires avoid this particular corner anyway, as there’s a Sikh temple on the opposite corner.

You don’t screw around with the Sikhs.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There aren’t that many burial grounds in Lower Manhattan, but you can bet that when you do find one it will be vouchsafed by stout iron doors. Whether it’s to keep the Wall Street types from robbing the graves, or to keep the dead from exacting vengeance upon the living – who cares, it’s Manhattan.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Hidden doors are my favorites, of course. In Brooklyn’s Greenwood Cemetery, there’s hundreds of hidden doors designed to both protect and control the tomb legions.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My favorite doors are actually the elaborate bronze portal covers you’ll find adorning the Mausolea at one of the four Calvary Cemeteries here in Western Queens. Just look at that example above. Woof.

Upcoming Events and Tours

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 23, 2016 at 11:00 am

squamous aspiration

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Constantly disappointing, and complaining, that’s me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Winter boredom is anathema to one such as myself. The cold and dark, the thirty five pounds of insulation, the constant flux between the dry and cold air of the out of doors contrasted with the high temperature and humidity found within. The constancy of a drippy nose. Bah.

It’s always been a bit of a mystery to me why some feel the need to jack the heat up to the mid 80’s inside of structures, knowing full well that inhabitants and visitors will be wearing clothing appropriate for the out of doors. The worst culprit on this front seems to be the subway system, where you’ll step off of a station platform whose atmospheric temperature is commensurate with the freezing of water and suddenly find yourself in a hurtling metal box whose ambient air mass is heated to something approaching that of an afternoon in July. Add in the sniffling, coughing, and dripping orifices of the mob…

Well, I’ve often opined that what this City needs is a good plague – and I’m fairly certain that one will eventually start on a Subway in Queens during middle January. Don’t touch that subway pole, if you can help it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Ultimately, one is awaiting a particularly personal moment which occurs every year, when a humble narrator’s boredom grows so intense that he has little choice but to brave the cold and head back outside. At this juncture, however, the moment hasn’t arrived, and one has been spending his time reading about the Second Empire period of French history, Otto Von Bismarck, and researching the chemicals which the seething cauldrons of industry produce that are classified as petroleum or coal distillates. One does a lot of reading during this time of the year.

I’ve also read up a bit on Kazakhstan, the Crimean Tartars, and the Deccan Plain on the Indian subcontinent. Briefly, I also looked into the Chicago stock yards and the post civil war meat packing industry as well as the suffragettes of 19th century Brooklyn Heights. I continue to study the rise and fall of the Roman Catholic empire in New York City, which is fascinating. Also reiterated will be the fact that if you enjoy gelatin based desserts – never, ever, inquire too deeply as to what gelatin actually is nor how it is produced for you will never, ever, eat it afterwards. Jello brand gelatin was invented by Peter Cooper in a glue factory on Newtown Creek in the 19th century, which is all you really need to know about it. Isenglass is also soul chilling.

Sexy stuff, I know, but the so called “fin de siècle” of the late 19th and early 20th centuries are when the foundations of our modern civilization were laid down and it remains a certain benchmark from a cultural point of view. Labor unions, representative government (both socialist and capitalist), industrial warfare – all of it was imagined up back then. It’s also when the environment surrounding us began to die off due to anthropogenic reasons. The dominoes were lined up, quite unconsciously, back then for the end of our world.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

“Fin de siècle” is a French expression which gained popularity in the first decade of the 20th century, a part of the run up to the Great War, which indicated that the “end of the cycle” or “end of an age” was apparent. It’s part of a phenomena known as millennial fatalism, wherein a culture believes that the “end of the world” nears. It’s difficult to not think that our culture may have reached its breaking point, given what we see on the nightly news. The fatalism and general horror which the various news organizations pump into our heads is, of course, not accidental. Don’t forget that most of the news gathering and dissemination companies are owned and operated by defense contractors.

I’ve always been an optimist, however. What other choice have you got, ultimately? Winter will come and go, and then… flowers and puppies. That’s the way that the wheel of the year spins, after all.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

January 11, 2016 at 11:00 am

marine things

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R.I.P John Skelson.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another member of “Team Bernie” has left us, this time it’s photographer John Skelson. John was a life long Staten Islander who spent a lot of his time on the North Shore along the Kill Van Kull photographing passing ships. Working Harbor Committee alumni, John produced shots for the WHC blog’s Friday feature – Ship Spotting with Skelson. Ship Spotting got John noticed by the NY Times and others, and happily I can report that during his final years he enjoyed a certain notoriety in maritime circles. He’s survived by his wife, Phyllis Featherstone.

That’s John Skelson pictured above, at his office on the Kill Van Kull, just a few months before he died.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week, in his honor, a few of us met up at Skelson’s office to collect a few shots and reminisce. Will Van Dorp from tugster.com showed up onboard the NY Media Boat. Afterwards, we retired to Liedy’s Shore Inn, drank a beer or two, and then headed back to other parts of the archipelago.

You people have no idea how connected all of us are to each other, out there on the edge of the water.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Team Bernie, as mentioned above, was the collection of harbor rats, rail enthusiasts, and antiquarians whom photographer Bernie Ente included on his adventures. Bernie went first, cancer. John Doswell went next, cancer. Skelson just died, cancer.

And you people wonder why I’m so obsessed with what’s lurking in the water. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

John Skelson was a good and kind man, as were Bernie Ente and John Doswell. He, and they, are dearly missed. The collective knowledge which died with them, which will be lost to time, is irreplaceable. Bernie, also a photographer left behind a wife and daughter, who are doing fine last I heard. Capt. Doswell’s wife Jeanne is still one of the operative and moving gears which allows Working Harbor Committee to continue.

And you people wonder why I blog every day, and kiss Our Lady of the Pentacle every chance I get.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s the worst part of growing older – just at that moment when you’ve got yourself figured out, know what and who you actually are – that’s when it comes. All the wasted time and emotional tumult, all the troubles and tribulations, just at the point when you’ve “figured your shit out” is when it all ends. That’s when all that’s left are clothes, papers and possessions, and someone you love finds themselves alone. There’s some truth to the concept that the person that suffers least is the one who died. Saying that, cancer.

And you people wonder why I’m the guy with the sign boards in Times Square that say “the end is nigh.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is Skelson’s Office. The tracks of the Staten Island Railroad are still there, at the corner of Richmond Terrace and Bard Avenue, between the gas station parking lot and the water. A general call is going out to the maritime community to refer to it as such. For those of you interested in photographing the show along the Kill Van Kull, Skelson’s Office is available for new tenants. Bring a zoom lens, and dress warm. Get there early, stay there late. NY Harbor never disappoints.

And you people wonder why I talk about legacy and “passing it on” so much. 

Also, on a completely different note:

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Want to get involved in the future of the Montauk Cutoff? A “visioning meeting” will be taking place tonight (December 2nd) at LIC’s Nomad Cycle (47-10 Austell Pl, Queens, NY 11101), between 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. There will be snacks!

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

December 2, 2015 at 11:00 am

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