The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Sunset Park’ Category

unusually worried

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It’s National Raspberry Cream Pie Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is how it all works, this municipal recycling business.

Pictured is the Sims Metal facility in Sunset Park Brooklyn. Department of Sanitation performs its collection task using packer trucks – which work curbside pickup routes, essentially – and then they head over to a transfer station of either terrestrial or marine nature. On their way in to the transfer station, they drive over a scale and are weighed.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Once the trucks get past the scale, they wait their turn to “tip” or deposit the cargo they’ve collected.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is done in a fairly orderly fashion, with a Sims Metal employee directing the DSNY operator to a certain spot where the driver activates the mechanisms within the truck which push the garbage out. My understanding is that the hidden internal machinery is driven by steel cables which tension pulls a plate forward from the back of the hopper, and that’s (plus the angled hopper for a gravity assist) what pushes the load out.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If the material was collected from Boroughs other than Brooklyn, it’s brought in by tug and barge from one of the other Sims facilities like the one found at Newtown Creek in Long Island City. According to one of the Sims people I met, they said a barge carries the equivalent of a hundred garbage trucks worth of recyclables all at once.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Once DSNY has handed off the recyclable waste, a bull dozer like unit moves it into a drop shaft which in turn feeds it into the highly automated processing room.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s optical equipment that sorts plastics and glass by type, as well as fairly esoteric bits of kit which feature magnetic or electrical flux fields which capture the metals like steel cans and aluminum foil.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shapes and sizes of these moving conveyor belts also figure into the sorting and handling typology of waste.

I was told that a lot of this technology has been adapted from the agricultural industry – Big Agra, as it’s known – and that the biggest “players” in this sector are German and Dutch manufacturers.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Once this mingled pile of waste products has been separated out into distinct types (including separating the different forms of plastic) they’ll be bundled up and be prepared for shipment.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Plastics and glass are fairly worthless, it should be noted. Low oil prices over the last decade or so has caused the price of chemical feedstock for plastic manufacturers to plummet, as said material is a byproduct of petroleum refining and manufacture. That makes it cheaper to make new plastic than it would be to recycle old plastic. Glass recycling carries a pretty high energy cost, in terms of making it molten, so it’s mainly used a crushed up fill material in concrete and asphalt. That’s why some roads and sidewalks appear to shimmer in the sun.

Paper pulp is quite valuable, and VERY recyclable. So is metal, especially aluminum and copper. That’s based on the expense of producing new pulp, or refining mined ore. Sims Metal Management is a global corporation, and participates in a commodities market for these recyclable materials, which it sells (hopefully) at a profit internationally.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The DSNY trucks, meanwhile, having emptied their cargo into the Sunset Park facility, follow a certain path back out.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It carries them onto a second scale, just like the one they encountered when entering Sims. The differential tonnage between the weighings is what Sims bills New York City for their services.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Presumptively, this truck will head back to wherever it’s stationed to take on fuel and new crew, and head back out to perform more collection duties. Additional presumption would offer that it would likely end its next shift right back here at Sims Metal.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Well… as I said at the top of the post – this is the way it all works. Also, let’s all try to use less stuff that we can only use one time before throwing it away. Can you just imagine what all of this costs?


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.

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

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Written by Mitch Waxman

August 1, 2017 at 11:00 am

noxious mysteries

with one comment

It’s National Cotton Candy Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So, before all of that bridge business last week, I was telling y’all about heading over to Sunset Park to see something extraordinary. It was a strange and intricate journey getting from “Point A” in Astoria, Queens to “Point R” in Red Hook, Brooklyn. A medium sized walk then carried me under and through the “House of Moses,” on my way south to Sunset Park.

What caused one such as myself to cross the western tip of a Long Island? Garbage, of course. In this specific case, however, it was recycling and I was going to the Sims Metal Management facility found on Gowanus Bay.

from nycedc.com

Sims Metal Management is the processor of all plastic, metal, and glass collected by the Department of Sanitation and the City selected Sims to be the operator of the new city-owned recycling facility. With a $48-million investment from the City and a $46-million investment from Sims, the new facility, designed by Selldorf Architects, created approximately 80 to 85 permanent jobs. The facility was built embracing sustainable design elements, including green roofs, renewable energy generation, and on-site storm water treatment among others. In July 2010, the recycling facility won an Award for Excellence in Design from the Public Design Commission. Construction commenced in October 2010 and will be completed by December 2012. Operations commenced in 2013.

The Sims Municipal Recycling Facility is a joint project of the Department of Sanitation, the Department of Small Business Services, NYCEDC, and Sims Metal Management.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As always, when a conflict of interest occurs for a humble narrator he puts it right out there front and center – the fellow who manages this recycling operation at Sims Metal is named Tom Outerbridge. Tom is one of my board members at Newtown Creek Alliance, and a friend, so there you go. Tom had allowed me to visit and photograph the company’s operations at Newtown Creek back in 2013, as you may recall – as detailed in the posts “carefully sheltered,” “stealthy attendants,” “temperamentally unfitted,” and “untold number.” Also, before you ask, yes – Tom is the grandson of Eugenius Outerbridge, first chair of the Port Authority for whom the Outerbridge Crossing bridge is named.

Breaking things down to operational basics, the Newtown Creek operation (Sims also has facilities in the Bronx and New Jersey) is about collection and transport, whereas the Sunset Park facility handles both collection and processing.

from simsmunicipal.com

Sims Municipal Recycling (SMR) is a division of the North America Metals business unit of Sims Metal Management Limited (Sims). SMR is dedicated to meeting the recycling needs of the municipal sector. SMR has a 20 year contract (with two 10-year extensions) with the New York City Department of Sanitation (DSNY) to provide processing and marketing services for 100% of the metal, glass and plastic and approximately 50% of the paper collected in the largest curbside program in North America. SMR also services a portion of the Chicago curbside program. SMR leverages its experience and resources and the resources of its parent company, Sims, to make curbside recycling efficient and effective.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

What you’re looking at are DSNY (Department of Sanitation) recyclable collection trucks unloading at the Sunset Park facility. This is the clear and blue bag stuff – the metal, glass, plastic, and paper we all seperate out from the black bag or putrescent garbage. If it’s coming in by truck, the group I was touring the Sunset Park facility with were told by the Sims personnel, it’s likely coming directly from the collection route in Brooklyn. A few photos down, you’ll see a barge being unloaded, and that’s how they ship the stuff in from the other boroughs.

from ibio.nyc.ny.us

New York City recycles a wide variety of waste, but some materials are more likely to be recycled than others. The city has three solid waste streams: refuse, paper recycling, and metal/glass/plastic recycling. Overall, about 44 percent of recyclable material is “captured” by city recycling programs with the remainder sent to landfills, according to data from the Department of Sanitation’s 2013 Residential Waste Characterization Study. But a lot of recyclables are thrown in the wrong bins—aluminum cans, for example, tossed in with regular trash. As a result, the capture rate for each of the recyclable materials varies widely, from as low as 5 percent to as high as 75 percent. Material that ends up in the refuse stream or the wrong recycling stream is not recycled. In fact, such “contamination” makes recycling more expensive.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

While I was watching from a catwalk set up above the shop floor, DSNY trucks kept on turning up. These are called “packer trucks” incidentally. There’s an orange “bulldozer” sort of machine that will come through after the DSNY trucks disgorge which sweeps all this material into the processing side of the operation (seen in tomorrow’s post).

from wikipedia

The New York City Department of Sanitation is the largest sanitation department in the world, with 7,201 uniformed sanitation workers and supervisors, 2,041 civilian workers, 2,230 general collection trucks, 275 specialized collection trucks, 450 street sweepers, 365 salt and sand spreaders, 298 front end loaders, and 2,360 support vehicles. It handles over 12,000 tons of residential and institutional refuse and recyclables a day. It has a uniformed force of unionized sanitation workers (Local 831 USA of the Teamsters). Its regulations are compiled in Title 16 of the New York City Rules.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Everybody back in Astoria had one question, when I told them about my visit to this spot, and it involved odor. It certainly didn’t smell like a freshly mowed lawn, but given the tonnage of garbage present, it was actually surprising how well the odor had been managed. I asked one of the hard hats about odor control, and she indicated that whereas there were indeed mechanical “scrubbers” simple ventilation and convection was doing most of the work.

The facility is at the water’s edge of Gowanus Bay, which provides for significant air flow and mixing. On the landward side, it’s an industrial park, so there aren’t too many residences to affect.

from wikipedia

Sims Metal Management also recycles post-consumer materials through a 20-year recycling contract with the New York City Department of Sanitation, which became effective in January 2009. Under this contract, the company is responsible for all curb-side recycling material, including all plastic, glass and metal on behalf of the City of New York. Packer trucks owned and operated by New York City deliver recyclables as a 26 commingled product to the company’s facilities. The commingled product then is processed using a series of screens, magnets, eddy currents, optical sorters and conveyors. The recyclables are separated and sorted into ferrous and non-ferrous metals, different plastic resins, glass and residue. Then the recycled materials are shipped to US and non-US markets.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That claw thingamabob is a “materials handler” and its operator was busy unloading a barge. Given the particular calendrical date my visit occurred upon, that’s actually Queensican recyclables being unloaded, which means that my own contribution to our municipal mess was somewhere in that 3-4 story high pile.

from wikipedia

A landfill site (also known as a tip, dump, rubbish dump, garbage dump or dumping ground and historically as a midden) is a site for the disposal of waste materials by burial and the oldest form of waste treatment (although the burial part is modern; historically, refuse was just left in piles or thrown into pits). Historically, landfills have been the most common method of organized waste disposal and remain so in many places around the world.

Some landfills are also used for waste management purposes, such as the temporary storage, consolidation and transfer, or processing of waste material (sorting, treatment, or recycling). Unless they are stabilized, these areas may experience severe shaking or soil liquefaction of the ground during a large earthquake.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The materials handler operator displayed a bit of finesse in the building of this mountain of refuse, using a bit of what a pool player would call “english” to deposit the thousands of plastic bags of garbage onto the mound.

from wikipedia

The municipal solid waste industry has four components: recycling, composting, disposal, and waste-to-energy via incineration. There is no single approach that can be applied to the management of all waste streams, therefore the Environmental Protection Agency, federal agency of the United States of America, developed a hierarchy ranking strategy for municipal solid waste. The Waste Management Hierarchy is made up of four levels ordered from most preferred to least preferred methods based on their environmental soundness: Source reduction and reuse; recycling or composting; energy recovery; treatment and disposal.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The amazing part of the operation was actually in the highly automated sorting process which happens in another section of the building, and which will be described in tomorrow’s post. My pals in the carting business always tell me that it’s about tonnages, btw. How much in, how much out. They also remind me that it “has to go somewhere.”

The point of what DSNY and Sims Metal are doing is keeping that “somewhere” from being a landfill.

On a side note, it seems that “Dumpster” and “Packer” aren’t descriptive terms for the garbage trucks and waste receptacles we’ve inherited from the past, rather they’re brand names.

from wikipedia

In 1937, George Dempster invented the Dempster-Dumpster system in which wheeled waste containers were mechanically tipped into the truck. His containers were known as Dumpsters, which led to the word dumpster entering the language.

In 1938, the Garwood Load Packer revolutionized the industry when the notion of including a compactor in the truck was implemented. The first primitive compactor could double a truck’s capacity. This was made possible by use of a hydraulic press which compacted the contents of the truck periodically.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s what the Sims Metal facility in Sunset Park looks like from the water. The operational section is under that tilted roof, with the rectangular section on the far left used as offices and visitor center.

On the right is the berth which the barges are moved into, and on the left is the transfer floor shown in today’s post.

As mentioned, tomorrow, you’ll see the separation and processing room at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


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.

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

July 31, 2017 at 11:00 am

decisive steps

with one comment

It’s National Hot Fudge Sundae Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Despite the known presence of a tribe of Vampires lurking in the steel rafters of the Red Hook section’s Gowanus Expressway, the elevated span offers a welcoming respite from the radiate energies of the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself to a humble narrator as well as the revenants – and given the high temperature and humidity levels last week – one was willing to take his chances with the bloodsuckers in pursuance of a bit of shade. This corridor in South Brooklyn is hellacious to drive through, and is also a bit of an adventure whilst on foot.

It’s the “House of Moses” after all.

from wikipedia

Robert Moses (December 18, 1888 – July 29, 1981) was a public official who worked mainly in the New York metropolitan area. Known as the “master builder” of mid-20th century New York City, Long Island, Rockland County, and Westchester County, he is sometimes compared to Baron Haussmann of Second Empire Paris, and was one of the most polarizing figures in the history of urban development in the United States. His decisions favoring highways over public transit helped create the modern suburbs of Long Island and influenced a generation of engineers, architects, and urban planners who spread his philosophies across the nation despite not training in those professions. Moses would call himself a “coordinator” and was referred to in the media as a “master builder”.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One’s plan was a simple one. Attendance at an event in Sunset Park was on the menu, and a convoluted trip using the subway from Point A in Queens’ Astoria to Point R in Brooklyn’s Red Hook was instituted. From Smith/9th street, I had a distance of about a mile to cover on foot, during which one encountered a series of challenging pedestrian obstacles which made me wish I had called a cab. My plan was to take Hamilton Avenue over to Third Avenue, whereupon I was headed over to 28th street in Sunset Park. Simple?

Btw, that’s NYC DOT’s Hamilton Plant pictured above, they do asphalt.

from wikipedia

Asphalt concrete (commonly called asphalt, blacktop, or pavement in North America, and tarmac or bitumen macadam in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland) is a composite material commonly used to surface roads, parking lots, airports, as well as the core of embankment dams. It consists of mineral aggregate bound together with asphalt, laid in layers, and compacted. The process was refined and enhanced by Belgian inventor and U.S. immigrant Edward de Smedt.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Things got a little hairy for a scuttling narrator as the realization that there was no way to safely cross the street set in and that I was just going to have to “go with the flow” and follow whatever detours Robert Moses left behind for me. Realizing that you’re the only person moving along on foot along a busy road is a bit disconcerting. More so, the unseen eyes staring maliciously down at my gloriously blood swollen body were sensed rather than observed.

My understanding is that this tribe of Nosferatu are nowhere near as organized or aggressive as the ones found around Queens Plaza. Those are the ones who enact a nightly siege at the NY Blood Center facility in Vernon Blvd., but one remained vigilant nevertheless.

As quoted from a 2015 post at this – your Newtown Pentacle – “It is said that the vampires arrived with a grain shipment from Germany in the early 1900’s, quickly established themselves in the neighborhood, and never left.”

from wikipedia

During the 18th century, there was a frenzy of vampire sightings in Eastern Europe, with frequent stakings and grave diggings to identify and kill the potential revenants. Even government officials engaged in the hunting and staking of vampires. Despite being called the Age of Enlightenment, during which most folkloric legends were quelled, the belief in vampires increased dramatically, resulting in a mass hysteria throughout most of Europe. The panic began with an outbreak of alleged vampire attacks in East Prussia in 1721 and in the Habsburg Monarchy from 1725 to 1734, which spread to other localities. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The diversionary sidewalk path carried me away from Hamilton’s intersection with Third Avenue, and one was forced to vacate the BQE’s shadows – which sheltered both undead army and humble narrator alike from the sky born radiation. One found himself at the veritable angle between the three neighborhoods surrounding the Gowanus Canal, and proceeded along his way.

I kept a close eye on those steel rafters, however.

from wikipedia

Legends of vampires have existed for millennia; cultures such as the Mesopotamians, Hebrews, ancient Greeks, and Romans had tales of demonic entities and blood-drinking spirits which are considered precursors to modern vampires. Despite the occurrence of vampire-like creatures in these ancient civilizations, the folklore for the entity we know today as the vampire originates almost exclusively from early 18th-century Southeastern Europe, particularly Transylvania as verbal traditions of many ethnic groups of the region were recorded and published. In most cases, vampires are revenants of evil beings, suicide victims, or witches, but can also be created by a malevolent spirit possessing a corpse or by being bitten by a vampire itself. Belief in such legends became so rife that in some areas it caused mass hysteria and even public executions of people believed to be vampires.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Along my path, several gaunt and filthy humans appeared, asking me for things I might have – oddly specific amounts of currency or just random items that they noticed me carrying. Surely, these debased people were the “bled white” servitors of the vampiric powers, enjoying the brief sojourn of freedom which the daytime brings them. Shoving past them with a “harummpf” and a “good day to you madam,” one was nevertheless on a mission, which was arriving at my destination in Sunset Park on time and not quite a perspiring mess due to the uncomfortable atmospherics.

One had arrived at Third Avenue, finally.

from wikipedia

Clinical vampirism is named after the mythical vampire, and is a recognizable, although rare, clinical entity characterized by periodic compulsive blood-drinking, affinity with the dead and uncertain identity. It is hypothetically the expression of an inherited archaic myth, the act of taking blood being a ritual that gives temporary relief. From ancient times vampirists have given substance to belief in the existence of supernatural vampires. Four vampirists, including Haigh, the ‘acid-bath murderer’, are described. From childhood they cut themselves, drank their own, exogenous human or animal blood to relieve a craving, dreamed of blood-shed, associated with the dead, and had a changing identity. They were intelligent, with no family mental or social pathology. Some self-cutters are auto-vampirists; females are not likely to assault others for blood, but males are potentially dangerous. Vampirism may be a cause of unpredictable repeated assault and murder, and should be looked for in violent criminals who are self-mutilators. No specific treatment is known.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I noticed that the steel rafters of the highway were no longer quite so high relative to my position, but were instead placed far closer to the ground. At this lower height, it would be a simple thing for some glass nailed claw connected to a pale limb by creaking ligaments to swing down and scratch at my skinvelope, causing my bodily juices to spill out and make for easy consumption. The local gendarmes don’t inquire too deeply into exsanguinated corpses around these parts, I’m told, chalking the complete lack of blood up to “extreme dehydration” on official NYPD paperwork.

Yeah… there’s definitely something thirsty hereabouts… I’ll tell you!

from wikipedia

The Oxford English Dictionary dates the first appearance of the English word vampire (as vampyre) in English from 1734, in a travelogue titled Travels of Three English Gentlemen published in The Harleian Miscellany in 1745. Vampires had already been discussed in French and German literature. After Austria gained control of northern Serbia and Oltenia with the Treaty of Passarowitz in 1718, officials noted the local practice of exhuming bodies and “killing vampires”. These reports, prepared between 1725 and 1732, received widespread publicity. The English term was derived (possibly via French vampyre) from the German Vampir, in turn derived in the early 18th century from the Serbian vampir (Cyrillic: вампир).

The Serbian form has parallels in virtually all Slavic languages: Bulgarian and Macedonian вампир (vampir), Bosnian: vampir, Croatian vampir, Czech and Slovak upír, Polish wąpierz, and (perhaps East Slavic-influenced) upiór, Ukrainian упир (upyr), Russian упырь (upyr’), Belarusian упыр (upyr), from Old East Slavic упирь (upir’) (many of these languages have also borrowed forms such as “vampir/wampir” subsequently from the West; these are distinct from the original local words for the creature). The exact etymology is unclear. Among the proposed proto-Slavic forms are *ǫpyrь and *ǫpirь.

Another less widespread theory is that the Slavic languages have borrowed the word from a Turkic term for “witch” (e.g., Tatar ubyr). Czech linguist Václav Machek proposes Slovak verb “vrepiť sa” (stick to, thrust into), or its hypothetical anagram “vperiť sa” (in Czech, the archaic verb “vpeřit” means “to thrust violently”) as an etymological background, and thus translates “upír” as “someone who thrusts, bites”. An early use of the Old Russian word is in the anti-pagan treatise “Word of Saint Grigoriy” (Russian Слово святого Григория), dated variously to the 11th–13th centuries, where pagan worship of upyri is reported.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One bolted across Third Avenue, seeking safety instead of avoiding the burning gaze of the Thermonuclear Eye of God itself. For one such as myself, it is merely uncomfortable to stand in the radiation of the almighty’s gaze, but for the Vampire folk it is an existential matter. It’s why their kind prefers cold climates with long winters, when’re they can enjoy the ecstasies of freedom and the hunt both unmolested and unrestrained, like the wolf.

I’m told that one of the local South Brooklyn Vampires has recently announced a run for the local City Council seat as an independent. There’s a lot of minor candidates who feel emboldened by Donald Trump’s surprise victory to try and gain elective office who figure that if Trump could do it, why not them too? Watch out Brad Lander.

from wikipedia

Opportunism is the conscious policy and practice of taking advantage of circumstances – with little regard for principles, or with what the consequences are for others. Opportunist actions are expedient actions guided primarily by self-interested motives. The term can be applied to individual humans and living organisms, groups, organizations, styles, behaviours, and trends.

Opportunism or “opportunistic behavior” is an important concept in such fields of study as biology, transaction cost economics, game theory, ethics, psychology, sociology and politics.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Warehouse and fenceline shadows would now have to be my only shelter from the burning rays of the thermonuclear orb in the sky, and one proceeded south. Now all I had to worry about were those man things which have seemingly never been instructed in how to wear human clothing that are common in this area, the everpresent high speed and randomly directed truck traffic, and a growing crowd of disaffected and heavily tattooed young humans who were riding their bicycles clumsily on the sidewalk while texting on their iphones.

from wikipedia

The hipster subculture is stereotypically composed of youth who reside primarily in gentrifying neighborhoods. It is broadly associated with indie and alternative music, a varied non-mainstream fashion sensibility, vintage and thrift store-bought clothing, generally progressive political views, organic and artisanal foods, alternative lifestyles and snobbery. The subculture typically consists of mostly white young adults living in urban areas. It has been described as a “mutating, trans-Atlantic melting pot of styles, tastes and behavior”.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Tomorrow, I’ll show you where I was going to in Sunset Park, and why I braved the horrors of the sweating concrete bunkers of the MTA, the pedestrian hating “House of Moses,” and the Vampiric hordes of hoary Red Hook itself.

That’s Gowanus Bay above, as seen from my eventual destination in Sunset Park, which was ultimately kind of a trashy experience – but more on that subject tomorrow – at this, your Newtown Pentacle.

from wikipedia

Sunset Park is a neighborhood in the southwestern part of the New York City borough of Brooklyn. It is bounded by Park Slope, Greenwood Heights and Green-Wood Cemetery to the north, Borough Park to the east, Bay Ridge to the south, and Upper New York Bay to the west. Because it was once close to the southern boundary of the City of Brooklyn, Sunset Park is considered to be part of South Brooklyn. However, until the 1960s, the northern part of Sunset Park was considered to be part of Gowanus, and the southern part was included in Bay Ridge. The neighborhood received its own name in that decade.


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

stinking marsh

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It’s National Junk Food Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As the shots from my latest adventure are finally done with the developing process but I haven’t had the chance to write and research as of yet, a single shot greets you today, at this – your Newtown Pentacle. Depicting a section of Brooklyn’s Third Avenue in Sunset Park, which is likely the least pedestrian friendly section of the entire borough of Brooklyn, that’s the Gowanus Expressway on the left.


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.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

July 21, 2017 at 2:00 pm

…like a veritable mendicant

with 2 comments

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Facile and easily led, your humble narrator was nevertheless in Sunset Park recently, attempting to pry information on the enigmatic “turn of the last century merchant trader” named Gilman (whose grave I’ve been searching for at Calvary Cemetery here in the heart of our Newtown Pentacle) out of a hysterical levantine who had refused my offer of electronic correspondence. This man, a member of some dire cultic offshoot of the Hasidic movement whose disturbing interpretation of the Kabballist mysteries has rendered them outcasts in their own communities, operates from a dust choked office housed in a former industrial warehouse.

from wikipedia

As compared with other Jewish movements, Hasidic Judaism tends to focus on the role of the Rebbe as an elevated spiritual leader and intercessor, a renewed emphasis on prayer, cameraderie, and deeds of kindness, and the study of tangible mystical texts. This replaced Talmudic legalism as the main traditional activity, and offered the unlearned closeness to God through joy and fervour in daily life. It sought to add to required standards of ritual observance, while relaxing others where inspiration predominated. Its communal gatherings celebrated soulful song and storytelling as forms of mystical devotion. Each dynasty follows its own principles; thus Hasidic Judaism is not one movement, but a collection of separate individual groups with some commonality. There are approximately 30 larger Hasidic groups, and several hundred minor Hasidic groups exist. Though there is no one version of Hasidism, individual Hasidic groups often share with each other fundamental philosophy, worship styles, dress, songs, etc.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

His national inheritance was Dutch. Fleeing the inquisition during the religious wars of the 16th and 17th centuries, his forebears found themselves in Bruges, and after that noble city’s Zwin Channel silted up- Amsterdam. Staunch advocates of the Hebrew religion, this family nevertheless adopted a Dutch name- Suydam- and founded a business that imported Syriac, Greek, and Sufi religious texts to the merchant city. Their trade in Christian and Pagan scrolls and books allowed them access to ancient caches of Hebrew mysticism which had been captured, explored, and expanded upon by the Mohammedans.

from wikipedia

The Sephardim (so-called Spanish Jews) had been expelled from Spain and Portugal years earlier, but many remained in the Iberian peninsula, practising Judaism in secret (see crypto-Jews or Marranos). The newly independent Dutch provinces provided an ideal opportunity for the crypto-Jews to re-establish themselves and practise their religion openly, and they migrated, most notably to Amsterdam. Collectively, they brought trading influence to the city as they established in Amsterdam.

In 1593 these Marranos arrived in Amsterdam after having been refused admission to Middelburg and Haarlem. These Jews were important merchants and persons of great ability. They labored assiduously in the cause of the people and contributed materially to the prosperity of the country. They became strenuous supporters of the house of Orange and were in return protected by the stadholder. At this time the commerce of Holland was increasing; a period of development had arrived, particularly for Amsterdam, to which Jews had carried their goods and from which they maintained their relations with foreign lands. Thus they had connections with the Levant and with Morocco. The Emperor of Morocco had an ambassador at The Hague named Samuel Pallache (1591-1626), through whose mediation, in 1620, a commercial understanding was arrived at with the Barbary States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A branch of the family moved to New York shortly after the American Civil War, and are mentioned as living on Martense Street in an 1890 census. Near the Borough Hall, on Clinton Street, was where the family business operated from a parlor room. They provided Jewish religious and funerary goods imported from North Africa and the Ottoman empire, and were a shipping address for certain medieval copies of ancient scrolls which had been hidden away from the inquisitors when Moorish Iberia gave way to Catholic Spain. A side line for the Suydams was found in the 19th and 20th century fashion trends that demanded far eastern textiles and faux ceramics in the adornment of domestic rooms.

from wikipedia

The first Jews to come to New York arrived in what became New York City around September in 1654. They arrived on a ship from Recife, a city in what became Brazil. There were 23 Jewish men, woman, and children refugees among the passengers on the boat, whose captain was Jacques de la Motthe.

There was initial hostility and Peter Stuyvesant attempted to evict the Jews from his town. Jewish stockholders in Amsterdam prevailed on the Dutch West India Company to order the governor to let them remain. In 1655, a few Sephardic Jewish families immigrated to the city with a Torah scroll, possibly indicating the start of a private synagogue. Stuyvesant, determined to drive the Jewish settlers out of New Amsterdam, made efforts to restrict their trade, prohibited their owning property, and taxed them to pay for the town watch. In 1655, the Jews applied for a plot of land for a cemetery, but the governor denied the request, pointing out that no one had yet died. The following year the death of one of the Jews compelled him to designate “a little hook of land” beyond the town wall. This site has long since disappeared.

Stuyvesant’s recalcitrance and the extreme cold of New Amsterdam’s winters led the Sephardic Jews to depart for Amsterdam, London, or the Caribbean, where relatives were better established. By 1663, the Torah scroll had been returned to Amsterdam. In 1664 a large British fleet forced Stuyvesant to surrender without firing a shot, and all residents who remained in what was now New York were required to sign an oath of allegiance to the English crown.[1] The one Jewish name on the list was Asser Levy’s. He seems to have maintained the only Jewish presence of record in British New York until he was joined in 1680 by relatives from Amsterdam. Levy’s death on February 1, 1681/82 and burial in the old cemetery unquestionably led Sephardi Joseph Bueno de Mesquita to purchase a separate burying ground for his own family and for a growing group of Sephardim in the community.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The European part of the family was exterminated during the genocidal rampage of the last known Antichrist during the 1940’s, and the Suydams faded into Brooklyn obscurity during the 1950’s. The man I contacted, named Ari Suydam, is the last of his line. The old Dutch business records were lost, along with a cache of valuable paintings and other rare collectibles (including the legendary De Vermiis Mysteries, and a fragment of the Pnakotic Manuscripts- supposedly), whose recovery via international law and United Nations treaty is the man’s sole obsession. A significant amount of the documentation about a critical phase in the development of Long Island City was lost in a courthouse fire in 1904, including the critical location of Gilman’s Grave at Calvary.

from wikipedia

In 1939 there were some 140,000 Dutch Jews living in the Netherlands, among them some 25,000 German-Jewish refugees who had fled Germany in the 1930s (other sources claim that some 34,000 Jewish refugees entered the Netherlands between 1933 and 1940, mostly from Germany and Austria)…

…In 1945 only about 35,000 of them were still alive. The exact number of “full Jews” who survived the Holocaust is estimated to be 34,379 (of whom 8,500 were part of a mixed marriage and thus spared from deportation and possible death in the Nazi concentration camps); the number of “half Jews” who were present in the Netherlands at the end of the Second World War in 1945 is estimated to be 14,545, the number of “quarter Jews” 5,990

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Suydam, it is rumored, has a unique ledger in his possession that contains the otherwise immolated information sought. Unfortunately, a bizarre and exclusionary form of an other wise wholesome orthodoxy called Hasidism that the man adheres to will not allow him to deal with anyone who is not Jewish. When informed that I was raised Jewish, Bar Mitzvah and all, Suydam scornfully informed me that I wasn’t Jewish enough and ordered me to vacate his premise. He said that there were certain things that only Kohanim should know.

Thwarted, I left and walked out into the sunset.

from wikipedia

The kohanim formed a holy order. For the purpose of protecting them against ritual defilement, the Torah imposed on them the following rules for ritual purity, which are still maintained to a certain degree in Orthodox Judaism.

  • Kohanim are forbidden to come in contact with dead bodies, nor are they permitted to perform the customary mourning rites. They are commanded, however, to become defiled for their closest relatives: father, mother, brother, unmarried sister, child or wife.
  • A kohen is forbidden to enter any house or enclosure, or approach any spot, in which a dead body, or part of a dead body, may be found.
  • Practical examples of these prohibitions include: not entering a cemetery or attending a funeral; not being under the same roof (i.e. in a home or hospital) as a dismembered organ. The exact rules and regulations of defilement are quite complex, but a cursory rule of thumb is that they may not enter a room with a dead person or come within a few feet of the body. Proximity to the corpse of a non-Jew is less serious and may only be an issue if actual contact is established.
  • A male kohen may not marry a divorcee, a prostitute, a convert, or a dishonored woman.[14] Any kohen who enters into such a marriage loses the entitlements of his priestly status while in that marriage. The kohen is not allowed to “choose to forego his status” and marry a woman prohibited to him.
  • According to the Talmud, if a kohen marries in disregard of the above prohibitions, his marriage is still effective. Any children born of the union are legitimate and not mamzer. However, these children are termed chalal (“disqualified”) and lose their kohen status permanently.
  • The Kohen Gadol must marry a virgin.
  • During the period of the Holy Temple, kohanim were required to abstain from wine and all strong drink while performing their priestly duties.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Third Avenue is dominated by the steel of the Gowanus Expressway where it joins the Belt Parkway. Fourth Avenue and beyond seemed to be a residential angle between neighborhoods, an immigrant clime whose residents displayed neither sin pitted countenances of old world inheritance nor sullen malignancy. Many eating establishments were observed, and a tremendous amount of vehicular traffic. Second Avenue is where you’ll find the remains of the Bush Terminal, which is the second largest interior space I’ve ever experienced. The cyclopean summit is held by the Vehicle Assembly Building at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, so large that it forms its own weather system.

from wikipedia

After the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, I-278 continues into Brooklyn on the Gowanus Expressway. Immediately after the bridge, the freeway comes to an eastbound exit and westbound entrance for the Belt Parkway. After this, a full interchange serves 92nd Street at which point I-278 becomes a single-level six-lane freeway. Along this road, one of the eastbound lanes serves as a high-occupancy vehicle lane.[9] The Gowanus Expressway continues northeast into urban residential neighborhoods and reaches an eastbound interchange at Fort Hamilton Parkway and a westbound interchange at 86th Street. Turning more to the north, I-278 comes to a partial interchange at 65th Avenue, with an exit eastbound and entrance westbound. The road curves northwest at this point and comes to a directional interchange providing access to 3rd Avenue and the Belt Parkway.[3][4] The Gowanus Expressway turns northeast again at this interchange and continues along an elevated alignment through urban residential and commercial areas.[3] Along this viaduct, I-278 has interchanges with 38th Street/39th Street and the western terminus of NY 27 (Prospect Expressway). After the NY 27 interchange, the freeway widens to eight lanes and heads north, coming to an interchange with the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel approach (I-478), with the exit ramps splitting from the median of I-278. Westbound access to the tunnel is provided by the Hamilton Avenue exit.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Gilman… where is Gilman?

Written by Mitch Waxman

February 16, 2010 at 5:38 pm

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