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Archive for the ‘Fresh Kills’ Category

away ahead

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More from the Circumnavigation of Staten Island with the USACE.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As described in prior posts, one was invited to travel with the United States Army Corps of Engineers on their annual harbor inspection onboard the MCV Hayward last week. The first part of the journey left lower Manhattan and then travelled along the eastern coast of the island, which was ravaged by Hurricane Sandy back in 2012. The USACE commander – Col. Thomas Asbery – and his crew described some of their ongoing, and a few of the upcoming, projects which they are working on that are designed to vouchsafe the area in the era of climate change. The Hayward then took a northern turn onto the Arthur Kill, a busy maritime industrial tidal strait connecting Newark Bay and the Kill Van Kull with Raritan Bay to the south.

Pictured above is the Dylan Cooper, a Reinauer company owned tugboat. Reinauer, like all towing companies in NY Harbor, paint their boats in a particular fashion. The “colorway” allows for rapid identification of a vessel while it’s under way, so you can call out on the radio to it as “Reinauer tug” long before you see the IMO identification number or vessel name painted on the hull. This practice predates modern day radio transponders, which make it somewhat unnecessary, and provides for a bit of colorful panache on the water.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The western shoreline of the Arthur Kill is in the state of New Jersey (Union and Middlesex Counties), and the eastern is in NYC’s Staten Island. Arthur Kill is about ten miles long, and has also been referred to historically as the Staten Island Sound. The name “Arthur Kill” is an anglicization of the old Dutch “Achter Kill” which translates as “back channel.” Arthur Kill, geologically speaking, is defined as an “abandoned river channel,” which was carved out of the surrounding land by an ancestral pathway of the Hudson River. The New Jersey side is colloquially referred to as “the Chemical Coast.” The expensively maintained depth of the water here is between 35 and 37 feet, and the channel is an average of approximately six hundred feet wide.

The Staten Island side is largely post industrial, with a few notable exceptions. Arthur Kill is crossed by three bridges – The Outerbridge Crossing, the recently replaced Goethals, and the Arthur Kill Vertical Lift Bridge. The first two are vehicle bridges, and the latter is for railroad traffic.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the New York Container Terminal (aka Howland Hook Marine Terminal) pictured above, on the Staten Island side of the Arthur Kill. Currently being upgraded and massively expanded due to the acquisition of Proctor and Gamble’s Port Ivory, the NYCT was originally built by American Export Lines, but NYC bought the facility in 1973 and it’s leased by the City to the Port Authority. There’s a rail connection just upland from it, which allows for the transport of containers along the former North Shore railroad route originally built and operated by the Vanderbilt owned B&O railroad.

They handle some commercial cargo here, and there’s a customs facility, as well as deep freeze and refrigeration warehouses. Most of the tonnage moving through NYCT these days though are garbage containers, which are loaded from rail cars onto barges for transport off of Staten Island.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

MCV Hayward outpaced Dylan Cooper after the NYCT, and we proceeded to cross the Shooters Island reach and head towards Newark Bay. A “reach” in navigational terms is how far you can travel on a single compass heading before heading to adjust your course, if you’re curious. Arthur Kill and Kill Van Kull intersect with Newark Bay at the Shooters Island Reach. To the south, some ten miles behind us, Arthur Kill meets Raritan Bay. About a mile south of Raritan Bay is the Atlantic Ocean. Newark Bay itself is formed by the intersection of the Hackensack and Passaic Rivers.

Primeval Newark Bay was called the Newark Meadows, before the 1910 efforts by the City of Newark to carve a shipping channel through the wetlands. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey was created in 1921, and their first big project was the widening and deepening of the bay for maritime industrial purposes.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In 1927, the PANYNJ used some of the dredge tailings to fill in upland wetlands and the City of Newark took advantage of the new land to create an airport. PANYNJ took over the airport and maritime port in 1948. In 1958, a project at the Bound Brook (formerly defining the border between Elizabeth and Newark) produced enough dredge tailings for the authority to create 90 square acres of new land and the first modern container terminal in NY Harbor was established. The terminal footprint has since expanded to 350 square acres.

The age of containerized global shipping actually got its start here in 1958 when the first container ship – the Ideal-X, a converted US Navy cargo ship – was launched from Port Newark. The cargo container concept was innovated by trucking company executive Malcolm McLean and an engineer named Keith Tattinger. In 1963, the Sea Land Terminal was established at Port Elizabeth Newark, and the rest – as they say – is history.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On our way back to dock in Manhattan, just east of the St. George Terminal of the Staten Island Ferry, another United States Army Corps of Engineers vessel and its crew were hard at work. That’s the MCV Gelbart, and the crew members who are pictured standing on that rig tied up “on the hip” of the tug were busy removing flotsam and jetsam from the water. They were handling the “small stuff,” which Col. Asbery described as being mainly plastics – bottles, carrier bags, and the like. That’s what happens when you litter, lords and ladies, it ultimately ends up in the water.

Tomorrow – something completely different, and Friday’s post will ultimately be all about garbage again. You won’t believe what I got to do.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Buy a book!

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

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 2, 2019 at 11:00 am

pause and peer

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Sunset at Freshkill, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned yesterday, there were four shots a humble narrator was slavering over capturing during a recent evening visit to Freshkills – two involved a chancy encounter with wild fauna and did not happen, the shots in today’s post – however – were all ones that I desired. Sunset on… Staten Island…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As I understand it, this is the actual Fresh Kill for which the former DSNY facility and the modern Parks project takes its name. As the sun was going down, there were a bunch of ducks on the water who were doing duckish things. The piles and structure pictured above reminded me of the sort of thing you’d tow a barge into, but I might just be seeing what I want to see.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Here and there, flotsam reminds one of what this place once was used for, but this is material that likely floated in on the tide. Trust in me, of course, to waste time taking monochrome pictures of a cast off tire in the mud while a spectacular sunset is underway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For you photo geeks out there, the formula for this one was to reduce my aperture down to f22, and expose for around 2.5 seconds. That’s how you produce the frozen glassiness of the water and capture a wide range of color from the sky without causing the wind driven clouds to “drag” or the constantly moving ducks to motion blur. It’s a tripod shot, which was triggered by a remote release. If you click the image and head over to my Flickr account, there’s a few permutations on the formula which go darker and or lighter on this scene surrounding it in the album. I like this one best.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The scenics which made me long for a tripod and my sharpest lens when I visited Freshkill in August follow after this one. The equipment in the shot above is a methane monitoring well, I’m told. This is all natural light, by the way, although I was standing in absolute darkness. A long exposure, thirty seconds long, the light pollution erupting from New York City is remarkable.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is looking westwards at New Jersey, across the Arthur Kill, and the vast complex of oil refinery and distribution businesses which give the area its nickname – the “chemical coast.” It’s striking, actually, how less “lit up” this area is despite the proximity of Newark Airport and the various highways leading to and from it and the crossings into and out of Manhattan.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pictured above is the Arthur Kill Power Plant, a 1950’s era beast of an electricity generating station. My pals at habitatmap did a work up on the place a while back, check it out here. When I was reviewing the shots back at HQ, it occurred that I seemed to have shot a Pink Floyd album cover here.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After dusk settled into darkness, I realized that a repeat of the long journey was about to ensue and it was nearly 7:30 p.m. One last shot of the Manhattan skyline jutting out of the Freshkills mounds was required, however, as pictured above.

also – I’m required to state the following, regarding the access which allowed me to capture these photos – “Courtesy of the City of New York. NYC Parks and the Freshkills Park Alliance have made access available for the production of this artwork.” I’m also required to offer this link to freshkillspark.org and inform that inquiries regarding the park are best sent to freshkillspark@parks.nyc.gov

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Walking Tours-

Saturday, November 8th, Poison Cauldron
Walking Tour with Atlas Obscura, click here for tickets and more info.

Note: This is the last Newtown Creek walking tour of 2014, and probably the last time this tour will be presented in its current form due to the Kosciuszko Bridge construction project. 

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 7, 2014 at 11:00 am

incidents and sensations

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Freshkills, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My long trek across the City of Greater New York, discussed all week at this – your Newtown Pentacle – had a singular goal. It was to answer an invitation to return to Freshkills that had been tendered by officials at the NYC Parks Dept. As detailed in several early August posts (here, here, and here), the Parks people have a program which allows artists and photographers to visit the still under construction park, one which I was lucky enough to be invited to participate in.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In August, I had shown up with just my standard camera kit bag, which serves me well in most circumstances. I wished at the time that I had brought the whole kit, especially my trusty tripod. When this autumn invitation to return to the park was offered, the entire toy box was packed up for travel and the long commute from Astoria to Freshkills was gladly undertaken.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This time around, it was a bit of a private viewing. Last time I was out here, there was a group of us shooting, but this time it was just me and a chaperone from Parks who was actually the same person that invited me out (thanks again, Mariel!). She told me that the park had just been mowed, in anticipation of autumn (2,200 square acres of dry grass would be just asking for something bad to happen).

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The park itself is divided into several sections, each designed to offer different services to the community. Certain areas are being designed for sports fields and events, while others are being crafted with scenic splendors in mind. Water runs throughout the place, which is crossed by squamous concrete bridges which were designed for heavy trucks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When discussing the timing of this excursion, Mariel from Parks and I kept the setting sun in mind, as we were both keen to see what I could capture during the so called “golden hour.” Your humble narrator particularly hungered for shots of the white tail deer which have taken up residence in the park, but they are skittish and elusive critters. Best shot I got was from very far away, as presented above.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

At least the Geese had the good sense to pose for me. The structure in the background is one of many that handles the methane which the occluded reality of the place produces. Don’t forget, the park is being built atop the worlds largest man made object, the mounds of garbage generated by the totality of New York City for a good chunk of the 20th century. On the horizon is the chemical coast of New Jersey, which lies beyond the Arthur Kill.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When planning my visit, there were four shots which I desired to come home with. Two were denied me – the deer, and the bald eagles. You can’t count on critters cooperating unless you’re prepared to spend weeks on the endeavor, so I wasn’t crying into my camera bag, but I should have brought a pound of lox with which to draw in the eagle. The other two I was desirous of capturing were accomplished, and will greet you in tomorrow’s installment of this, your Newtown Pentacle.

also – I’m required to state the following, regarding the access which allowed me to capture these photos – “Courtesy of the City of New York. NYC Parks and the Freshkills Park Alliance have made access available for the production of this artwork.” I’m also required to offer this link to freshkillspark.org and inform that inquiries regarding the park are best sent to freshkillspark@parks.nyc.gov

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Walking Tours-

Saturday, November 8th, Poison Cauldron
Walking Tour with Atlas Obscura, click here for tickets and more info.

Note: This is the last Newtown Creek walking tour of 2014, and probably the last time this tour will be presented in its current form due to the Kosciuszko Bridge construction project. 

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 6, 2014 at 11:00 am

shewing much

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A last look at Fresh Kills Park, at sunset.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The burning thermonuclear eye of god itself is a fixed point in time and space, of course, and as Fresh Kills rotated out of its view, the lighting experienced at this bold experiment in environmental remediation and reclamation being conducted by the NYC Parks Dept. and the DSNY became dramatic and somewhat theatrical.

As described previously, Fresh Kills park is being constructed atop the 2,200 acre garbage dump and landfill which NYC operated between 1947 and 2001 on Staten Island. The Fresh Kills landfill is the largest man made object upon the earth, with hills (or mounds) that rise from 90 to 225 feet above surrounding terrain.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the interesting things which were observed here, there were many, was the way that water was beginning to chart its own course in the root beds of the chest high grasses which occluded the manufactured ground. There were several species of grasses growing here which, as I was informed, are all “volunteers” or self seeded. All this green blew in on the wind, apparently.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A stitched panorama from a high elevation, looking over the industrial landscape of New Jersey just beyond the Arthur Kill. I believe that’s Linden, just beyond the hill, and we are looking up the New Jersey Turnpike corridor towards Newark. If you click the image, it will bring you to progressively larger incarnations of it at Flickr, btw.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is the Fresh Kills waterway itself, a small tidal strait which breaks off of the larger and quite industrial Arthur Kill. Notice the soft edges and natural looking mud flats along the shoreline? Many of the environmentally focused people I speak to about my beloved Newtown Creek describe the end stage of the superfund process as leaving parts of the Creek (Dutch Kills and Maspeth Creek in particular) in a similar condition.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Nearly dark, but one had a few last shots that needed capturing. The pole to the left of the shot has an Osprey nest crowning it. Seeing an Osprey in NYC is a bit like spotting a unicorn, and in this shot there are three juveniles in the nest and mama is returning from the hunt. She’s a bit blurred, but this is a handheld shot at about a thirtieth of second, so I’m just happy that I was able to get a crisp focus in what was functionally total darkness.

Tomorrow, back to Queens.

also – I’m required to state the following, regarding the access which allowed me to capture these photos – “Courtesy of the City of New York. NYC Parks and the Freshkills Park Alliance have made access available for the production of this artwork.” I’m also required to offer this link to freshkillspark.org and inform that inquiries regarding the park are best sent to freshkillspark@parks.nyc.gov

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

This weekend-

Saturday, August 16th, LIC’s Modern Corridor
With Atlas Obscura, click here for tickets and more info.

Sunday, August 17th, 13 Steps Around Dutch Kills
With Brooklyn Brainery, click here for tickets and more info.

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 12, 2014 at 1:00 pm

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