The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

deemed needful

with one comment

It’s International Beer Day, on this planet.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One had received word that a recent excavation, committed in pursuance of a new tower construction project in Long Island City, had unearthed certain forbidden artifacts which had been interred back during the Borough Presidency of Curly Joe Cassidy in 1903. After his inauguration as BP, Curly Joe knew implicitly that then there are certain facts which, if disseminated to a wide audience and commonly known by the populace, might spark the dawning of a new dark age in which men would abandon all pretense of civilization and embrace their inner and atavist savage nature.

All the Borough Presidents of Queens, on the day of their inauguration, are required to read an ancient message, contained on a worm eaten scrap of parchment inscribed by William Hallet back in 1661, a document which is rumored to transmit the lore of a degenerate offshoot of the Lenape Nation and warn of the elder devils whom they both worshipped and reviled. No one but the Borough President of Queens is allowed to read this document, and they will all deny its existence. Melinda Katz won’t discuss the subject, and instead refers petitioners to the archivists at the Queens Library branch in Jamaica. For some, this hidden knowledge is too much to bear.

Why do you think Donald Manes really committed suicide back in the 1980’s?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Along the path I picked to pursue the rumor of centuried artifacts unearthed by the Real Estate Industrial Complex, one encountered further evidences of the Queens Cobbler. For several years, the single shoe phenomena has been discussed at this – your Newtown Pentacle – and the theory that these individual shoes are gruesome taunts left on the public way to torment the Detectives of the 108th and 114th precincts by a serial killer has been advanced before.

This serial killer of men and women has been assigned the cognomen “Queens Cobbler” by this publication. Just as with the parchment scroll of hidden knowledge passed through the generations of Borough Presidents, the government will deny the presence or crimes of the Queens Cobbler.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Despite this, the single shoes scattered around the neighborhoods surrounding the Newtown Creek and the buried wetlands of Sunswick Creek tell a different story. Legend has it that there’s a storage room found in an industrial section which hosts a perverse inventory of blood spattered materials, and that one of the local food carts is serving human meat souvlaki. Long Island City is a metropolis of secrets, and always has been.

The monstrous realities of what the Pennsylvania Rail Road engineers uncovered nearby the former grist mill of Burger Jorrissen a century ago – constructing the foundations of the Sunnyside Yards – while reclaiming the flood plains of the “waste meadows,” was skillfully hidden and remained a closely guarded secret amongst those who encountered “it”. That’s why – when the modern day “East Side Access” project engineers accidentally stumbled into “it” they were taken aback and convened emergency meetings in both Albany and Washington, and why progress on the transit project is so behind schedule. Why do you think security is so tight at their job site?

There are things older than mankind which might be found in Western Queens, things that were mercifully buried during the age of glaciation, before which we humans are naught but insects scratching in the dirt. There’s a reason that the Lenape preferred to avoid the “bad water place,” as they called the area.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My quest to discover the forbidden artifacts of Curly Joe Cassidy carried me across the concrete devastations towards the River of Sound (or East River if you must) and one soon found himself at the Hunters Point waterfront section in LIC, which has been rent asunder in recent decades by the actions of the Real Estate Industrial Complex and their dross amibitions.

There are things you’ll encounter hereabouts which cause one to wonder, and more than wonder, about all there is that might be hidden behind concrete wall and balustrades or lying buried in the tainted earth. One has always wondered if the chemical pollution found in the eluvial clay and sand matrix beneath the pavement is some sort of containment mechanism purposely laid down during the age of industry to tame those things which lurk in the hydraulic voids and forgotten masonry tunnels which lie beneath the streets awaiting discovery.


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 8, 2017 at 1:00 pm

walled gardens

with one comment

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

ancient mariners

with one comment

It’s National Chocolate Chip Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Eleven and a third (.35 actually) score years ago today, Alexander Hamilton and the Congress created what would become the United States Coast Guard. A humble narrator has never been one to omit offering a “happy birthday” salutation, and I don’t plan on starting now. I’ve probably had more contact with this branch of the military than any other over the years, and I can tell you – based on the sailors and officers I’ve met – the Coast Guard is staffed by some of the most dedicated and patriotic people I’ve ever met. Happy 227th Birthday!

from wikipedia

Created by Congress on 4 August 1790 at the request of Alexander Hamilton as the Revenue Marine, it is the oldest continuous seagoing service of the United States. As Secretary of the Treasury, Hamilton headed the Revenue Marine, whose original purpose was collecting customs duties in the nation’s seaports. By the 1860s, the service was known as the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service and the term Revenue Marine gradually fell into disuse.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In New York Harbor, the USCG vessels you’re most likely to see are the “SAFE” Boats which provide security to ferry and pleasure craft, as well as patrolling some of the more extant industrial and cargo port areas. They also work closely with NYPD’s harbor patrol in assisting boaters in distress. Maritime security in the age of terror is no laughing matter.

The hull colors of Coast Guard vessels indicate their missions. On the “ship” side; Black hull- aids to navigation, White hull- maritime law enforcement and other safety-at-sea missions, Red hull- icebreaking. All vessels under 65 feet in length are classified as “boats” and operate near shore and inland waterways, and are usually painted “Coast Guard Orange.”

from uscg.mil

The Coast Guard is the principal Federal agency responsible for maritime safety, security, and environmental stewardship in U.S. ports and waterways. In this capacity, the Coast Guard protects and defends more than 100,000 miles of U.S. coastline and inland waterways, and safeguards an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) encompassing 4.5 million square miles stretching from North of the Arctic Circle to South of the equator, from Puerto Rico to Guam, encompassing nine time zones – the largest EEZ in the world. As one of the five Armed Services of the United States, the Coast Guard is the only military branch within the Department of Homeland Security. In addition to its role as an Armed Service, the Coast Guard is a first responder and humanitarian service that provides aid to people in distress or impacted by natural and man-made disasters whether at sea or ashore. The Coast Guard is a member of the Intelligence Community, and is a law enforcement and regulatory agency with broad legal authorities associated with maritime transportation, hazardous materials shipping, bridge administration, oil spill response, pilotage, and vessel construction and operation.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the national conversations which we should be having, incidentally, involves the age and condition of USCG’s fleet. Most of the defense budget ends up flowing towards the “head of the spear” services like Air Force and Navy, Army and Marines. There are serious structural issues in several of the USCG’s older vessels due to age and weathering, and we need to begin the funding fleet replacement for them so as to continue their mission.

The Seneca, pictured above, is a relatively new ship for the Coast Guard – even though it was launched in 1984.


Upcoming Tours and events

We’re cancelling Saturday the 5th’s Insalubrious Valley tour due to a forecast of scattered thunderstorms with lightning expected.

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

outspread under

with one comment

It’s National Watermelon day, in these United States

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A sense of place is one of the things that I always keep in mind when I’m out shooting around Newtown Creek. Without a glimmer of the skyline, in particular a recognizable silhouette like the Empire State Building, it’s impossible to say if you’re looking at NYC or just some post industrial landscape anywhere in the great American rust belt.

Saying all that, you’ve got to be careful about how much of the frame is filled by iconic architecture like Empire State as the people who own the building zealously defend a theoretical copyright on images in which it appears. If the shot above was to appear in an advertisement, for instance, a fee would need to be negotiated with the building’s management for usage of its image. The Empire State Building is like Brad Pitt or Beyoncé.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has been thinking about the ownership of reproduction rights over something that you can’t help but have occupy a certain proportion of shots captured whilst out in public. Back when I was a full time advertising retoucher, one of the most ridiculous assignments I received was to remove any and all identifiable “brands” from a series of stock photos. These photos were going to published in a direct mail offering for a large credit card company serviced by the agency, and the client didn’t want to negotiate with the various brand owners for usage. Therefore, one spent a week or so retouching every logo and identifiable brand image out of shots of Times Square, the Ginza strip, and Picadilly Circus.

The results were bizarre, and looked like something from the second act of a zombie movie, but the client was happy and I got paid… so… victory. I guess.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Personally, since I’ve stepped behind the camera over the last decade or so, a point is made to frame my shots in such a manner as to necessitate as little retouching out of logos and brand marks as possible. As I always say to the creative types – check with the retoucher before the shoot if you want to save yourself a bunch of money.


Upcoming Tours and events

We’re cancelling Saturday the 5th’s Insalubrious Valley tour due to a forecast of scattered thunderstorms with lightning expected.

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

narrow mounting

with 4 comments

It’s National Ice Cream Sandwich Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One was hanging around Astoria at the local pub recently, and while enjoying a lovely pint of beer and carousing with the local crowd, a group of scabs were busily at work doing an installation for Time Warner Spectrum cable.

As you may or may not know, the worst company in America has been involved in a labor strike by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 3. The fellows pictured in today’s post, who are scabs, were employed by some non union shop in LIC that’s handling the conglomerate’s business while its actual employees stand up for their rights and a fairer contract.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Being the sort of arse that I am, I started playing the Dropkick Murphys cover of “which side are you on” on my phone, and let the union guys inside the bar know that a couple of scabs were undercutting organized labor as a whole outside. We all marveled as these scabs were running wires across Broadway and right through traffic, and at their complete lack of regard for the safety of passing pedestrians or bicyclists. There were no safety cones, except around their trucks. Kids and passerby were just allowed to step over their wires and under their ladders.

As a note, I’ve got no skin in the union game. Thing is, as a history minded fellow who has in particular studied the industrial past rather extensively, one of the greatest cons ever offered to Americans is that unions are somehow bad. You work an eight hour day? Get hurt on the job and receive compensation? Unemployment benefits? Have health insurance? A retirement plan or pension? You owe all of that to organized labor.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of safety, the personal rigs you’d normally see the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 3 wearing to vouchsafe themselves against falls were not anywhere to be seen, and as mentioned above the scabs thought it was just fine to allow pedestrians to walk under their ladders while they did their thing up on the utility poles.

The only interjection which one offered to them was that the DSNY collection baskets on the corners were not meant to be receptacles for their trash, and my attention to the matter caused them to scoop out the forty to fifty feet of coaxial cable which they had decided to attempt disposal of in the corner bin.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It is my distinct desire, once this strike has been settled, that our local elected officials can find a way to compel the worst company in America to do something about the hopeless tangle of wires which sway from the utility poles here in Astoria.

I like the idea of that, for aesthetic reasons alone. I’d also like to see some sort of penalty applied to Spectrum’s management which would also create a huge block of overtime pay for the men and women of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 3 to earn and collect, from the worst company in America.

Rewiring Astoria would cost Spectrum millions, I suspect.


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

August 2, 2017 at 12:00 pm

unusually worried

with 5 comments

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

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

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