The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘Whale Creek’ Category

smiling dromedary

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

My long walk around a short creek continued, and the Newtown Creek Nature walk allowed me an easy path through Brooklyn’s Greenpoint section. Pictured above is one of the lesser known tributaries of Newtown Creek – Whale Creek – and that’s a NYC DEP “Sludge Boat” docked along it.

Sludge Boats transport the processed/treatment sewer solids from the 12 sewer plants to the 13th one on Randall’s/Wards Island where it’s dewatered in centrifuges.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Kingsland Avenue hugs the fences of the sewer plants, and it’s also where Newtown Creek Alliance HQ is found (520 Kingsland).

It’s a pretty crappy experience on foot, have to say.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Those cylinders are exhaust pipes for the sewer plant, which burn off the methane produced by the treatment process, directly into the atmosphere. That makes the Department of Environmental Protection the single largest and most constant source of greenhouse gases in the entire Borough of Brooklyn.

Remember that when Eric Adams mandates that you need to spend $100,000 to convert your house over to electric from whatever you use to heat and cook in it right now.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Kingsland Avenue carried my carcass to Greenpoint Avenue and it’s eponymous bridge. This shot is looking east along Newtown Creek. Brooklyn is on the right, Queens on the left.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Things were getting pretty surreal, sky wise. Everything was painted in saturated radiates as the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself descended into whatever the hell might be on the other side of New Jersey.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My very productive day wasn’t over yet, I’d mention.

Cannot tell you how many times this exact same route has disappointed. Part of the reason I walk it so often are days like the 12th of April.

Back next week with more wonders, at this – your Newtown Pentacle.

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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 for $30.

stupendous spectacle

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If you smell something, say something.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In January, the new DEP Sludge Boat Hunts Point was described in this Newtown pentacle posting.

The boat’s arrival was the first part of a complicated story, and the next chapter will involve some heavy equipment arriving on the Newtown Creek in around two weeks time. According to official sources, an oft rescheduled interval of municipal dredging will begin the week of March 17th, with the intention of opening a navigational channel for the new sludge boats from the East River, all the way back to Whale Creek at the sewer plant.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Concerns about odor and disposition of the materials removed from Newtown Creek have been largely dismissed by the mid level DEP personnel running the operation, although community groups like the Newtown Creek Monitoring Committee (this is one of the ones I’m “with”) have asked pointed questions and demanded that odor control procedures be put in place. The municipal contractor will be DonJon towing, and they will be equipped with some sort of foam based system to cover the Black Mayonnaise sediment when it’s deposited in a barge – should it begin to afflict the residential properties on either side of the Creek with a smell or odor issue.

DEP will be releasing a document next week, for “community outreach,” as it were. The word from on high is that 311 is primed to deal with odor complaints – so if you live in LIC or Greenpoint – If you smell something, say something and call 311 to complain. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Disturbingly, our commonly held employees at DEP do not wish to detail what will happen to the materials removed from the waterway. There was some discussion about the different end destinations for it – they considered several industrial facilities practiced in the handling and disposal of toxic sludge – but there has been stony silence in response to queries about the details of the plan.

How will the material be handled, upon Newtown Creek and beyond? Will it receive primary treatment in Greenpoint or in Queens or somewhere else? If it’s going to be along the Creek that the DonJon barges are emptied and cleaned, where will that happen? How will the material be transported out of the area – by truck, barge, or rail?

Our employees in municipal government have let us know that it’s really none of our business.

This is an important issue, as when EPA begins its dredging operation for the Superfund cleanup, they will likely look at the process which DEP created for this far smaller dredging effort. More to come on this one, Lords and Ladies.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

March 6, 2014 at 12:33 pm

Hidden Harbor Tours: Newtown Creek tour with Mitch Waxman

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

On Sunday -the 26th of May- the Working Harbor Committee is producing and offering a boat tour of the Newtown Creek for any interested parties to attend. A special emphasis on the waterway’s storied history and maritime legacy will be made.

I’m going to be doing the history part, speaking in my capacity as the Newtown Creek Alliance Historian, and am tasked with highlighting the various points of interest encountered along the route. Anticipated to be some three hours in length, this boat tour will be delving some three miles inland, proceeding to the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge crossing English Kills in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Maritime History of Newtown Creek is one largely forgotten in these decadent times, but even now an odd tugboat and barge might be spied making their way down the waterway on any given day. Property owners were considered to have been blessed by some of the finest industrial bulkheads in the world a mere century ago, yet many of the businesses based along the Creek today ignore this invaluable resource, allowing their waterfront property to decay and decline.

Nevertheless, a staggering amount of maritime traffic is still observed here, and towing companies such as Reinauer, K-Sea, DonJon, and Poling and Cutler are regular visitors.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Vast operations will be witnessed by those onboard, many of which are involved in the scrap metal and recyclables trade. Responsible for an enormous amount of cross harbor shipping, companies such as SimsMetal are heavily reliant on the maritime trades for their economic success.

Not all that long ago, Newtown Creek carried a greater tonnage of cargo than the entire Mississippi River.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An active and thriving industrial zone in the center of New York City, from the water one can truly grasp the sheer scale of Newtown Creek’s busy waterfront. Normally hidden by high fences and obscured by street facing structures, the intensity of the Newtown Creek is laid bare before the admiring gaze of first time visitor and veteran urban explorer alike.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A tributary of the estuarine East River, Newtown Creek extends some 3.8 miles from its junction with the more familiar waterway, and provides demarcation for the currently undefended border of much of Brooklyn and Queens. Named to the Federal Superfund list, the Creek suffers from a history of environmental degradation and municipal neglect.

An era of great change is upon the Newtown Creek, and this trip will be one of your last chances to see it in its current form.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

We will see four moveable bridges, and this year will be your last chance to see the static Kosciuszko Bridge as the NYS DOT has indicated that construction on its replacement will begin as early as the Fall of 2013.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Along it’s banks, great fortunes have risen.

Amongst others- Peter Cooper (BO Railroad, Canton Iron, and Cooper Union), Charles Pratt (Astral Oil, and Pratt University), and ultimately John D. Rockefeller (Standard Oil)– all grew richer than the dreams of avarice in this place. Alongside them, the darkest mills of the industrial revolution- rendering plants, yeast distilleries, bone blackers, and acid factories provided tens of thousands of jobs to the immigrant populations of Brooklyn and Queens. Today- National Grid, BP, Amoco, ExxonMobil, and a host of other multinational companies still maintain an enormous investment in this valuable industrial canal.

Upcoming tour: Hidden Harbor Tours: Newtown Creek tour with Mitch Waxman.

On May 26th, Mitch shares his unique point of view and deep understanding of the past, present and future conditions of the Newtown Creek as the narrator and expedition leader for this years’ Hidden Harbor Tours: Newtown Creek tour with Mitch Waxman.

Our NY Water Taxi leaves from South Street Seaport at 10 a.m. (sharp) for a three hour tour of the Newtown Creek. From the East River we’ll move into the Newtown Creek where we’ll explore explore vast amounts of maritime infrastructure, see many movable bridges and discover the very heart of the Hidden Harbor.

Limited seating available, get your tickets today.

Tickets $59, trip leaves Pier 17 at South Street Seaport at 10a.m. sharp.

We will be traveling in a comfortable NY Water Taxi vessel with indoor and outdoor seating. There will be refreshments and snacks available for purchase at the bar.

Other upcoming tours:

Parks and Petroleum- Sunday, May 12, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Newtown Creek Alliance, tickets now on sale.

The Insalubrious Valley– Saturday, May 25, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets now on sale.

for a full listing and schedule of tours and events, click here

Things to do…

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– graphic from

What are you kidding, as if I wouldn’t be drawn to this like a lemming?

Can’t tell you how many emails I received this week asking if I’d be attending this event. Nate Kensinger and Sarah Nelson Wright are friends, and I think I’ve met Laura Chipley a couple of times as well. This is such a neat idea, and it will be playing out at the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant Nature Walk on Paidge Avenue in Greenpoint.

“The Newtown Creek Armada will be open 1-4pm on Saturday and Sunday this weekend, weather permitting.”

They’ve even posted a sample video from their testing period here.



The Newtown Creek Armada is an art installation that invites the public to explore the past, present and future of a contaminated New York City waterway. The Newtown Creek, a Superfund site bordering Brooklyn and Queens, is one of the most polluted bodies of water in the United States. Visitors to The Armada will pilot a fleet of artist-made, miniature, remote-controlled boats along the surface of the Newtown Creek while documenting the hidden world of its waters using waterproof cameras and microphones.

– graphic from

Your humble narrator will not be able to attend this week’s Forgotten NY tour, unfortunately, as I’ll be conducting a Newtown Creek Tour for a group of students from Cornell. Why not spend some time with the intrepid duo of Kevin Walsh and Richard Melnick, who will be marching through DUMBO?

“Meet outside York Street IND station on Jay Street near York, DUMBO, 12 noon, Sunday, September 9th.
Beginning in the late 1990s, the dark, Belgian-blocked streets between the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges, commonly known asDUMBO, or “Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass” were transformed into a vibrant neighborhood with pricey condominiums, delis, hardware stores, pizzerias, and even gourmet chocolatiers.”

Check back on or for developing tour details.

Fee: $15.00 to GAHS members, $20.00 non-members (rain date Sept 16

RSVP to or

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Finally, the Working Harbor Committee is conducting a fundraiser at Pier 66 Maritime, West 26th Street & Hudson River, New York City on Wednesday the 12th of September (6 pm to 8:30 pm). All proceeds from the event will assist the Working Harbor Committee in fulfilling its mission to educate residents, visitors and youth on the vitality and importance of our working harbor and help fund its educational programs to introduce youth to opportunities in the maritime world.

The Special Honoree of the party will be Andrew Genn- Sr. Vice President, Ports & Transportation, New York City Economic Development Corporation. The award will be presented by Helena Durst, President of New York Water Taxi and Circle Line Downtown.

This will be a party, not a boat ride, it should be mentioned. A great opportunity to meet some of the movers and shakers on New York Harbor, let your hair down and have a drink or two, and it benefits a great non profit operation. Click here for tickets.

final destinations

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This is tomorrow, as in Sunday the 22nd. Seriously- you can count the number of seats left with one hand. If you haven’t got your tickets yet, today is probably your last chance.

Many people know about the environmental issues facing Newtown Creek, but did you know that the Creek was once the busiest waterway in North America, carrying more industrial tonnage than the entire Mississippi River?

You’ll learn much more when Working Harbor Committee’s maritime historians and harbor experts
put it all in context during a Hidden Harbor Tours: Newtown Creek Exploration.

The heart of industrial New York, Newtown Creek was home port to hundreds of tugboats (one of which is the historic WO Decker). It was also an international destination for oceangoing ships and a vast intermodal shipping and manufacturing hub that employed hundreds of thousands of people. Forming the border of Brooklyn and Queens for nearly three miles, five great cities grew rich along the Newtown Creek’s bulkheads — Greenpoint, Willamsburg, Bushwick, Long Island City and Manhattan itself. The waterway is still a vital part of the harbor and the Working Harbor Committee (WHC) is proud to present this tour as part of the celebration of their tenth anniversary year.

Mitch Waxman, a member of WHC’s steering committee and the group’s official photographer, also serves with the Newtown Creek Alliance as its group Historian. In addition to working on WHC’s boat tours of the Creek, Mitch offers a regular lineup of popular walking tours, and presents a series of well-attended slideshows for political, governmental, antiquarian, historical and school groups. His website – – chronicles his adventures along the Newtown Creek and in the greater Working Harbor.

He was recently profiled in the NY Times Metro section, check out the article here.

Upcoming tour: Hidden Harbor Tours: Newtown Creek Exploration.

On July 22nd, Mitch shares his unique point of view and deep understanding of the past, present and future conditions of the Newtown Creek as the narrator and expedition leader for this years Hidden Harbor Tours: Newtown Creek exploration.

Our NY Water Taxi leaves from South Street Seaport at 11 a.m. (sharp) on a three hour tour of the Newtown Creek. From the East River we’ll move into the Newtown Creek where we’ll explore explore vast amounts of maritime infrastructure, see many movable bridges and discover the very heart of the Hidden Harbor.

Limited seating available, get your tickets today.

Tickets $50, trip leaves Pier 17 at
South Street Seaport at 11a.m. sharp.

We will be traveling in a comfortable NY Water Taxi vessel with indoor and outdoor seating. There will be refreshments and snacks available for purchase at the bar.

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