The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Subway’ Category

buzzing polyhedron

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It’s National Vanilla Custard Day, in these United States. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One insists on a couple of cups of coffee in the morning, accompanied by a bit of quiet time to read the papers. I’m not one of the artisanal coffee people, as a note, as I favor the supermarket brand Folgers. I’ll actually sacrifice an hour of sleep and wake up at 4:30 in the morning to get my morning coffee time in on days when I have to leave the house early to catch a boat or something. Once upon a time, when I was a full time advertising fellow, you’d see me riding the train in the morning with one of those travel mug things, but in recent years I’ve realized that doing that sort of thing is just servicing the need for morning caffeine rather than servicing the need for some “me” and composing my thoughts time. 

This whole morning coffee ritual is critical to my day long happiness, and something I enjoy. Now, it’s up to the Internet commentariat to tell me that I’m deluding myself, and being some kind of asshole, because that’s the world in which we now live. Mind your own business, and don’t tell me what to think or do. Look in a mirror instead, and work yourself over instead. I don’t have time, nor do I want, to argue semantics. My day is busy enough by the time I finish that coffee. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When I’ve finished my coffee, I usually get down to business. There’s always shots to develop, calls to make, posts to write, schedules to keep, checks and payments from clients I need to chase down. There’s “deliverables” which I need to get out to those clients, attention to pay to the dog, trouble I need to start involving the Newtown Creek or any of the hundreds of little existential things I care about here in Queens. I’m also sort of obligated to do the social media thing a few times a day, promoting this or that event or trying to call attention to some of those aforementioned “Queens things” I care about. 

Occasionally, over the course of the day, I’ll check in on the various video games I have in my iPad and play a round or two for diversion (at the moment, that means “Boom Beach” and “Star Wars Commander”)

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sometimes I’ll knock off in the late afternoon and head over to the local pub for a pint or two of beer and chat with the neighbors to find out what they’re thinking and what they care about, and then head home to get dinner ready. Post meal, I’ll hang out with Our Lady of the Pentacle for a bit, and then I try to stick to a schedule of reading some dry text related to the history of NYC for a couple of hours. By this point, I’m dying for another cup of coffee, but resist the urge since it means that I’ll be up all night while buzzing on caffeine. I’ll usually hit the work again before drifting off to bed since – as mentioned – there’s always more of it to do. 

That’s a day in the life, for a humble narrator. What’s your life like? What do you do? Who do you spend your time with? Where do you go? Why do you go there? 


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.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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embroidered legend

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It’s National Lemon Meringue Pie Day, in these United States. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Once upon a time, the scene pictured above would have included the premises of one of Brooklyn’s largest employers, the American Manufacturing Company, but that would have been during the very late 19th and early 20th century. At the close of the 20th century, you’d have been looking at twenty two acres of abandoned and derelict factories and warehouse buildings which folks referred to as “Forgotten City” or simply the “Greenpoint Terminal Market.”

If you were here in 2006, you’d be looking at the largest fire FDNY had to deal with since the World Trade Center collapse on September 11th. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the Ditmars terminal stop for the N and W lines of the NYCTA subway system, overflown by a concretized arch which carries the NY Connecting Railroad tracks towards the Hell Gate Bridge in the Astoria section of Long Island City. Pictured is a “work train,” as the MTA is currently busy on the elevated tracks applying some of their endless series of band aids to the centuried elevated, which opened for business on July 19 in 1917. 

It’s a semantic point, incidentally, but Astoria is indeed part of Long Island City. If your zip code starts with a “111” you live in the former independent municipality of Long Island City. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s a pair of courting pigeons pictured above, high over 31st street at the Broadway stop of the N line. “Columba livia domestica” is how you’d describe these critters to the scientifically minded, but the cool kids kids just call them Pigeons. Those two above are involved in a courtship ritual, which I interrupted by taking a photo of them. Pigeons reportedly mate for life, although the fellows are known to stray when they have the opportunity. 

I’m happy to have provided these two lovebirds with a shot of their first date, for posterity and to show their grandkids. 


Upcoming Tours and events

Two Newtown Creek Boat Tours, with Newtown Creek Alliance and Open House NY – Wednesday August 16th, 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.

The neighborhoods surrounding Newtown Creek are home to the densest collection of these garbage facilities anywhere in the city and collectively, the waste transfer stations around and along Newtown Creek handle almost 40% of the waste that moves through New York. Join Newtown Creek Alliance’s Mitch Waxman and Willis Elkins  to learn about the ongoing efforts to address the environmental burden that this “clustering” has caused. details here.

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.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 15, 2017 at 11:30 am

latent idiosyncrasies 

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Whilst watching a bird eating some random drunk’s vomit here in Astoria recently, a humble narrator found himself contemplating the news of the day. One soon realized that he’d rather watch a bird feeding on puke than deep dive into another pointless conversation about the news of the day. Nazis…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One is disgusted, depressed, and despondent.  

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I just do not have anything to say. I just can’t. 


Upcoming Tours and events

Two Newtown Creek Boat Tours, with Newtown Creek Alliance and Open House NY – Wednesday August 16th, 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.

The neighborhoods surrounding Newtown Creek are home to the densest collection of these garbage facilities anywhere in the city and collectively, the waste transfer stations around and along Newtown Creek handle almost 40% of the waste that moves through New York. Join Newtown Creek Alliance’s Mitch Waxman and Willis Elkins  to learn about the ongoing efforts to address the environmental burden that this “clustering” has caused. details here.

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.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 14, 2017 at 1:00 pm

walled gardens

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It’s National Raspberries and Cream Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s almost as if the Apple corporation had designed the modern day Subway system. Interoperability between distinct devices is painful to achieve without spending a ridiculous amount of treasure and time, and legacy equipment is likely to be “bricked” every time the system software is updated. The fact that – after nearly fifty years of being run by a common management team – nobody has come up with the bright idea of creating a common operational standard between the IND and IRT lines… it boggles.

The current plans which are being offered by political operatives of all stripes as a “fix” for MTA is simply to pour more money on this trash fire of a management team so that they can continue doing things EXACTLY as they’ve been doing them for a century, rather than planning for a future state of good repair and regular service. I argue that this strategy is analogous to paying August’s rent for your drug addict brother without some sort of commitment that he enter rehab. We’re just maintaining the current dysfunction without doing anything about the core issues that cause the problem. We, the public, are the MTA’s management team’s co-dependent.

How do you change a light bulb in a ceiling lamp when you’re sitting in a chair? The MTA’s answer would likely be to appeal for funding to lower the ceiling, whereas I say that you should think about standing on the chair instead.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

IND and IRT subways are contained within the same system, but have distinct hierarchies of management and procurement. There’s also the Long Island Railroad, Metro North, NJ Transit, and PATH systems which operate in vertical silos. None of these distinct commuter railways operate in a manner which would allow interoperability or the sharing of resources between them. The only thing they share, operationally, is track gauge (the rails themselves).

Going back to the Apple analogy, which is designed to rake as much cash out of the customer as possible – “Sorry, your older iPad can’t talk to your new iPhone after that last software upgrade, unless you also buy an iWatch, so you should just buy a new iPad which won’t be able to sync with your iCloud until you buy a new MacBook and you’ll need to buy an overly expensive dongle cable to connect it to the new iPhone with.” 

You can’t get better service on the subway until we expensively modernize the… (sound familiar)? Once we install those new digital CBTC switches… That’ll fix everything… or it’ll just kick the can down the road. Just pay your brother’s rent so he has a safe space to shoot up, otherwise he’ll end up on the street…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Right now, we have to pay the rent for our junkie brother, just to keep the system rolling. What I’m proposing though, is that we need to start thinking about the NYC transit network of fifty years from now. As it currently stands, what would be rolling through the (probably flooded by sea level rise by 2067) MTA tunnels will look surprisingly like what’s there now. The MTA needs to start thinking about a long term plan, instead of just responding to this emergency or that one.

The Dope from Park Slope wants to tax millionaires, the Governor wants to tax everybody. Joe Lhota says that he needs close to a billion dollar’s worth of band aids just to keep the system running. They all want to fund a junkie, or just replace their old iPhone and hope it works better than the last model.


Upcoming Tours and events

Brooklyn Waterfront Boat Tour, with Working Harbor Committee – Saturday August 12th, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.

Explore the coastline of Brooklyn from Newtown Creek to Sunset Park, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman, Andrew Gustafson of Turnstile Tours, and Gordon Cooper of Working Harbor Committee on the narrating about Brooklyn’s industrial past and rapidly changing present. details here.

The Poison Cauldron of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance – Sunday August 13th, 11 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Explore the hellish waste transfer and petroleum districts of North Brooklyn on this daring walk towards the doomed Kosciuszko Bridge, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

Two Newtown Creek Boat Tours, with Newtown Creek Alliance and Open House NY – Wednesday August 16th, 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.

The neighborhoods surrounding Newtown Creek are home to the densest collection of these garbage facilities anywhere in the city and collectively, the waste transfer stations around and along Newtown Creek handle almost 40% of the waste that moves through New York. Join Newtown Creek Alliance’s Mitch Waxman and Willis Elkins  to learn about the ongoing efforts to address the environmental burden that this “clustering” has caused. details here.

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.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 7, 2017 at 11:15 am

unsigned letter

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It’s National Drive-Thru Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Ain’t nothing like a heat wave in NYC, huh? Regardless of tropical clime, nor distances involved, a humble narrator nevertheless surged forward into the wilds of Long Island’s western tip recently to gather photographs and experience the truculent realities of our time.

One left Point A in Astoria via the usual means, onboard the so called “R” or Broadway Local Line .

from wikipedia

The R Broadway Local is a rapid transit service in the B Division of the New York City Subway. Its route emblem, or “bullet”, is colored yellow since it uses the BMT Broadway Line in Manhattan.

The R operates local between 71st Avenue in Forest Hills, Queens and 95th Street in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn at all times except nights when it short turns at Whitehall Street–South Ferry in Lower Manhattan from Brooklyn.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Ultimately, one sought to gain access to the Crosstown or “G” line, which the MTA folks annoyingly force one to enact two transfers to get to from Point A, despite the platform’s location less than a mile and a half from my starting point (and the fact that the G used to run through the same station which I caught the R at). Accordingly, at the sweltering bunker of dripping masonry which the MTA designates as “Queens Plaza,” one debarked the R and vouchsafed a single station ride upon the “E” – or Eighth Avenue Local Line – to the Court Square station where yet another transfer was enacted to access the G.

Urine, it smelled deeply of urine, at the Court Square station.

from wikipedia

The E Eighth Avenue Local is a rapid transit service in the B Division of the New York City Subway. Its route emblem, or “bullet”, is blue since it uses the IND Eighth Avenue Line in Manhattan.

The E operates at all times between Jamaica Center–Parsons/Archer in Jamaica, Queens, and Chambers Street–World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan, running express on the IND Queens Boulevard Line in Queens (except nights when it serves all stops) and local in Manhattan. E trains also serve two local stops in eastern Queens (75th Avenue and Briarwood) on evenings and weekends.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My penultimate destination, on this particularly warm evening, was Sunset Park – which adjoins the legend choked streets of the Red Hook section of Brooklyn. One does realize, of course, that the R could have taken me all the way to this area which is called “Sunset Park,” but that would have multiplied my travel time due to a circuitous route which transverses all of Manhattan and a good chunk of Brooklyn.

The G discharged a humble narrator, vomiting me forth onto the platforms at the sky flung Smith/9th street station, high over the loathsome and shadow haunted Gowanus Canal. The Gowanus Canal smells of urine (and other things) as well, of course.

from wikipedia

The G Crosstown Local is an 11.4-mile-long (18.3 km) rapid transit service in the B Division of the New York City Subway. Its route emblem, or “bullet”, is colored light green since it uses the IND Crosstown Line.

The G operates at all times between Court Square in Long Island City, Queens and Church Avenue in Kensington, Brooklyn via the IND Crosstown and Culver lines. In Queens, it only serves two stations – Court Square and 21st Street, both in Long Island City – but previously served all stations to and from 71st Avenue in Forest Hills on the IND Queens Boulevard Line.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My plan was to pass through the “House of Moses” and under the Gowanus Expressway section of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, exploiting the shaded path which is offered by this elevated roadway, and head south towards Sunset Park. It should be mentioned, incidentally, that this is perhaps the least pedestrian friendly area in all of Brooklyn. Brobigdagnian trucks whiz about at high speed, angry motorists lurch their vehicles to and fro in frustrated bursts, and the pavement is both shadowed by the expressway above and in a delitorious state of repair.

Also, there’s vampires hiding in the rafters of the Gowanus Expressway.

from nycroads.com

The Gowanus Expressway, which serves as the southern extension of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, also connects the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel approach, the Prospect Expressway (NY 27), the Belt Parkway and the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. Although guide signs and maps refer to this segment of I-278 as the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, it is known locally as the Gowanus Expressway.

Beginning in 1939, Robert Moses oversaw construction of the Gowanus Parkway, an elevated highway placed on top of the pillars of the old 3rd Avenue BMT Elevated Line through the Sunset Park and Gowanus sections of Brooklyn. It would eventually become part of a limited-access parkway loop encircling four of the five boroughs. Since the Gowanus Parkway was to be constructed atop a pre-existing elevated facility, Moses had little trouble getting his project approved by the New York City Council.

However, the Gowanus Parkway would require more land for a wide roadway and entrance-exit ramps. This required the demolition of many homes and businesses along Third Avenue, a tightly knit block of Northern and Western European immigrants. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There are charming sights to be found along the Gowanus Canal, I should mention, lest you think I’m prejudiced against the “Superfund Sister to the South” of my beloved Newtown Creek. Abundant waste transfer and oil distribution facilities, endemic pollution, lakes of unknown chemical constitution lurking just below the streets, untreated sewage oozing out of unmarked pipes? These are all the things I love.

One has never understood the appeal of “going to the country” and vacationing amongst the rural yokels. Camping? Are you insane? I’ve got a dry bed and a door that locks here in NYC, where I get to witness a looming infrastructure crisis and unfolding environmental apocalypse whenever I want to.

from wikipedia

The Gowanus Canal is a canal in the New York City borough of Brooklyn, on the westernmost portion of Long Island. Connected to Gowanus Bay in Upper New York Bay, the canal borders the neighborhoods of Red Hook, Carroll Gardens, and Gowanus, all within South Brooklyn, to the west; Park Slope to the east; Boerum Hill and Cobble Hill to the north; and Sunset Park to the south. It is 1.8 miles (2.9 km) long. There are seven bridges over the canal, carrying Union Street, Carroll Street (a landmark), Third Street, Ninth Street, Hamilton Avenue, the Gowanus Expressway, and the IND Culver Line of the New York City Subway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s part of the Gowanus Canal, pictured above, as shot from the Hamilton Avenue Bridge and looking back north towards the Smith/9th street station which the G line disgorged me into. Used as I am to the wild expanses and geographic extent of Newtown Creek, my thoughts always turn to compactness when I’m at the Gowanus. Thing is, just like Newtown Creek and its tributaries – two of which the Gowanus would tuck neatly into – the canal interacts with ground water and flows beneath the streets via its connections with the sewer system. Just like Newtown Creek, many of the sewers connected to the Gowanus are in fact former tributary waterways which were converted and buried at the end of the 19th and start of the 20th centuries. Who can guess, all there is, that might be buried down there?

Additionally, both Gowanus Canal and Newtown Creek sport maritime industrial bulkheads along most of their length which are little more than artifacts of the Second Industrial Age, in our modern day NYC.

from nyc.gov

The Hamilton Avenue Bridge is a bascule bridge with two parallel leafs, one carrying the northbound roadway and the other carrying the southbound roadway. Most of the length of Hamilton Avenue runs below the elevated portion of the Gowanus Expressway, including the bridge. The bridge connects Smith Street and Second Avenue over the Gowanus Canal and is the first canal crossing north of the Gowanus Bay.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Regardless of musings about the wasted space, lack of public access, and utter degradation of the air, water, and soil – one had somewhere to be, and a little bit of walking was required to get there. A humble narrator put his head down, leaned into a southerly declination, and scuttled off into the clouds of auto exhaust mixing with the humid air.

The Gowanus Expressway dwelling Vampires be damned, I needed to get to Sunset Park.

from wikipedia

A vampire is a being from folklore that subsists by feeding on the life essence (generally in the form of blood) of the living. In European folklore, vampires were undead beings that often visited loved ones and caused mischief or deaths in the neighbourhoods they inhabited when they were alive. They wore shrouds and were often described as bloated and of ruddy or dark countenance, markedly different from today’s gaunt, pale vampire which dates from the early 19th century.

Vampiric entities have been recorded in most cultures; the term vampire, previously an arcane subject, was popularised in the West in the early 19th century, after an influx of vampire superstition into Western Europe from areas where vampire legends were frequent, such as the Balkans and Eastern Europe; local variants were also known by different names, such as shtriga in Albania, vrykolakas in Greece and strigoi in Romania. This increased level of vampire superstition in Europe led to mass hysteria and in some cases resulted in corpses being staked and people being accused of vampirism.


Upcoming Tours and events

The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance – Saturday August 5th, 11 a.m. – 1;30 p.m.

Century old movable bridges, the remains of a 19th century highway between Brooklyn and Queens, and explore two of the lesser known tributaries of the troubled Newtown Creek watershed. For the vulgarly curious, Conrad Wissell’s Dead Animal and Night Soil wharf will be seen and described, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

Brooklyn Waterfront Boat Tour, with Working Harbor Committee – Saturday August 12th, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.

Explore the coastline of Brooklyn from Newtown Creek to Sunset Park, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman, Andrew Gustafson of Turnstile Tours, and Gordon Cooper of Working Harbor Committee on the narrating about Brooklyn’s industrial past and rapidly changing present. details here.

The Poison Cauldron of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance – Sunday August 13th, 11 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Explore the hellish waste transfer and petroleum districts of North Brooklyn on this daring walk towards the doomed Kosciuszko Bridge, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

Two Newtown Creek Boat Tours, with Newtown Creek Alliance and Open House NY – Wednesday August 16th, 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.

The neighborhoods surrounding Newtown Creek are home to the densest collection of these garbage facilities anywhere in the city and collectively, the waste transfer stations around and along Newtown Creek handle almost 40% of the waste that moves through New York. Join Newtown Creek Alliance’s Mitch Waxman and Willis Elkins  to learn about the ongoing efforts to address the environmental burden that this “clustering” has caused. details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

glowing ember

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As the shots from my latest adventure are still deep in the developing process, a single shot greets you today, at this – your Newtown Pentacle. Depicting the IRT Flushing Line – or 7 train – approaching the Roosevelt Avenue stop in Jackson Heights, I got this one while on my way to Flushing last week. A humble narrator stands by the oft repeated assertion that the troubled 7 line is the most photogenic of all of NYC’s subway trains.


Upcoming Tours and events

The Poison Cauldron of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with Atlas Obscura – July 22nd, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m..

Explore the hellish waste transfer and petroleum districts of North Brooklyn on this daring walk towards the doomed Kosciuszko Bridge, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 20, 2017 at 12:30 pm

finest effects

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of those new “wifi kiosk” thingamabobs that have been turning up all over Queens recently flashed a bit of NYC trivia at one as a humble narrator scuttled past its screen recently, proclaiming that “15,152 forms of life have been detected on the NYC Subway.” That’s 15,151 non human critters, lords and ladies. One is positive that the vast majority of those are bacteriological, viral, or some other microscopic entity – but it does cause one to wonder… and more than wonder…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Back in January of 1905, it was discovered and reported on that a “Subterranean Dog” had taken up permanent residence at the Bleecker Street station.

  • “BELEAGUERED DOG IN A SUBWAY STATION; Animal Firmly Intrenched in a Pipe Gallery. HAS LARGE STORES OF BONES Army of Trainmen Makes Afternoon Attack, but Fails to Dislodge Determined Garrison.”

Check out a 1905 NY Times article about encountering “Subterranean Dog” here.

This one discusses the capture of the outlaw pup.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I mean… yeah… we’ve all seen, critters that the subway has carried. I can attest to dogs, cats, iguanas, snakes, rabbits, rats, mice, and all manner of birds, with critter either accompanied by a person or just out on their own for a ride. There’s probably raccoons, possums, it’s likely that all sorts of higher mammals have wandered onto a train during the last century and ended up in Hicksville, Armonk, or Bay Ridge. No doubt there’s all manner of flying insects, worms, and beetles who regularly commute as well. A while back, MTA found a dead shark onboard one of their trains.

Just last year, Gothamist reported on an N train car that was full of live crabs.

Who can guess, all there is, that might be buried down there?


Upcoming Tours and events

The Poison Cauldron of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with Atlas Obscura – July 22nd, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m..

Explore the hellish waste transfer and petroleum districts of North Brooklyn on this daring walk towards the doomed Kosciuszko Bridge, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 19, 2017 at 11:00 am

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