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DUGABO – Down Under the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge Onramp.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last night, one ventured forth with two goals; first: get a decent night shot showing as much of the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge as I could get into frame, second: try and get some equally nocturnal shots of the trains moving around on the Queens side in Blissville. While I was shooting the former, the GPA Bridge suddenly opened to allow a tug and barge through, which is how I got those light streaks in the shot above – they’re the running lights of the tug. Yay.

By the time I got to the Queens side, the railroad guys seemed to have done all the moving stuff around they needed to do for a while, but I hung around for about 45 minutes and waved the camera and tripod around at a few things.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Before you ask, this spot in DUGABO is likely not where Amazon is going to base itself. A humble narrator received several phone calls about the subject yesterday, but I’m as clueless as to that tale as everyone who is not Gubernatorial staff is. The ways of the Dark Prince of Albany are subtle, and manifest in secret. Do not try to peer too deeply at the abyss that the Dark Prince dwells within, for he may notice and fix his gaze upon you. When the Dark Prince reveals his intentions, the children will rejoice, but prior to that only lament will be theirs and ours.

Seriously, not a clue. I’m reading the papers too, that’s all I’ve got. I also have no opinion on “good or bad” yet, since I have no information at all to work with. I’ve asked around as well, and have received a universal “dunno.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On my way home, this odd little monument to workplace safety was encountered in Blissville in front of the world’s largest Fortune Cookie Bakery, a distinction which Long Island City has long enjoyed being the home of.


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A bit more Creekery, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Middle part of last week, I had to get together with some of my colleagues at Newtown Creek Alliance to discuss and strategize about a project we’re involved with over in Long Island City, and we decided to do the meeting in the early evening at the NCA offices at 520 Kingsland Avenue over in Greenpoint.

It was a misty day, with crazy dark clouds blowing through the sky, which made for nice atmospherics and a couple of times during the meeting I excused myself and headed out onto the green roof to shoot some shots.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Our topic of focus was the Montauk Cutoff project, which is a whole other story.

Me? I was fascinated by the contrast being offered by the illuminations of the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself setting to west and the restless clouds rolling through the sky.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

To the east, and looking towards the Metro Fuel facility, you could see some sort of fiery industrial process at work.

I had an urge to find a really long stick and try to toast a marshmallow.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Walking home afterwards via the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge, on the Blissville side of the Newtown Creek, I noticed that the NY & Atlantic outfit were getting busy with the whole garbage train business. Shot this through a convenient hole in the fence on the bridge, and noticed that the train set was sitting there in a static position so I quickened my pace and got down to the dangerous intersection of Review Avenue and Van Dam street as quickly as possible.

Didn’t have the time to slip on my reflective safety vest, which is kind of stupid but I’ve always been fairly lucky as far as not getting killed by trains and trucks – so far.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For some reason, whenever I seem to get into position for this sort of shot, I instantly need to pee. I’m talking dancing around, shifting weight from foot to foot like a five year old need. Didn’t have an inkling of it on the bridge, and took care of business prior to leaving the offices not fifteen minutes prior.

Biology… it affects us all. Me moreso than others.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Luckily, the NY&A folks didn’t keep me waiting too long before the signal arms came down and they advanced along the tracks of the Lower Montauk branch, exiting the Blissville Yard and heading eastwards a short distance to the Waste Management company’s transfer station found a short distance away.

WM handles the curbside black bag, or putrescent, waste collected by the Sanitation Department.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For short distance hauling, the NY&A folks use this “critter” which is a slow moving but powerful engine unit. It’s job is to move empty cars into loading position at the waste transfer station and then move the full ones back to the Blissville Yard where they’ll be coupled to other full boxes. At some indeterminate time in the late night, a “proper” locomotive engine will arrive and haul the train set away.

Our garbage goes on quite a scenic journey, through the Fresh Pond Yard and over the Hell Gate Bridge via the NY Connecting Railroad. It heads up the Hudson after visiting the Bronx, and eventually crosses over onto the continent.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

By this point, it felt as if my bladder was about to explode, but I had to get in a couple more shots.

Exigent prioritization of such matters are the razors edge of a humble narrator’s existential experience.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Luckily, the operator of the train set moved out of eyeshot shortly, and a misdemeanor or two occurred.

At least there’s now a semi clean spot on the Blissville side of the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge, albeit one that smells slightly of urine.


Upcoming Tours and Events

Monday, October 1st, 6:30 p.m. – Infrastructure Creek – with Atlas Obscura.

Join Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman as he leads an exploration of the city’s largest sewer plant, tunnels, draw and truss bridges, rail yards, and a highway that carries 32 million vehicle-trips a year over flowing water.

Tix and more details here.


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It’s a small world, after all.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sometimes it seems like all of Western Queens is a visual parable, some Hollywood set piece or theme park designed by an otherwise unmentioned truly evil brother of Walt and Roy Disney – Dick Disney. The good news is that DickDisneyland doesn’t require an admission ticket, but enter at your own risk since it was designed by a real Dick. Of course, one of my postulates states that entire City of Greater New York is composed of five theme parks. I refer to Queens as “Adventureland,” the Bronx as “Frontierland,” Brooklyn as “Tomorrowland.” The big attraction for the punters is Manhattan the “Shining City,” and there’s always “Staten Epcot” but not many people visit that one. The world of tomorrow ain’t what it used to be, I fear.

Straddling the currently undefended border between Adventureland and Tomorrowland is the Newtown Creek attraction, and I’ll trust that you’ll find it a non obsequious and intrinsically interesting section of DickDisneyland during your next family friendly vacation to New York City.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

DickDisneyland has a litter problem, unfortunately, but try to view it as the stuff that future archaeologists will make their careers on, making their academic bones while studying our historic trash middens. It’s not just about entertainment here in the Creeklands (found just next door to Tomorrowland’s Sewer Mountain ride), it’s also educational. Over in Maspeth, nearby the Haberman rail siding, there’s going to be an animatronic showpiece and theater installed soon which will depict Dick Betts and the original Maspeth colonials scalping and killing the Lenape, followed by a live action raid of the theater by actors playing Maspeatche Warriors. At the end of it, the audience will be transported to Elmhurst to find out how that whole story ending up working out.

At the Haberman theater gift shop you’ll be able to buy jarred samples of Black Mayonnaise, small quantities of Peter Cooper’s Glue, and replica oil drums with commemorative certificates indicating the time and date of your visit to the Creeklands attraction here in DickDisneyland.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Management at DickDisneyland, it should be mentioned, enforces rules upon its employees and visitors which do not apply to themselves. Were a concession manager to maintain gigantic pools of standing water on their individual lots, enormous financial repurcussions would ensue as our management teams are terrified of mosquito infestation. You can’t have visitors and resident employees of DickDisneyland getting sick, after all. That would reflect poorly on the managers, and deny them promotion to higher positions within the organization.

On the properties directly administered by the management, however… well… who watches the watchers in DickDisneyland?


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Rabbit Holes!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One was scuttling along Jackson Avenue in Hunters Point recently, and this MTA (unit 559) Street Sweeper caught my eye. Built onto a GMC 5500 HD frame, this vehicle is technically a Stewart Amos Equipment Company Mechanical Broom Street Sweeper. The invention of the first mechanical street sweeper, recorded as such, dates back to the 1840’s in Manchester, England by a notable fellow named James Whitworth. It was a horse drawn affair, with rotating brushes actuated by road wheels. A similar device was patented in the United States, in 1849, by a fellow named C.S. Bishop. Variations of theme and function saw hundreds of patents filed for this sort of technology but things settled down when the Elgin Sweeper Company and James Murphy were granted a patent in 1917. The basic form and function of street sweepers has evolved since, but the underlying technological and engineering systems of  what you see above comes from inventor and developer James Murphy. According to environmental officialdom, the best thing that you can do as far as the health of nearby waterways is to have a robust street sweeping schedule. Also, it’s MTA Bridge and Tunnels unit operated, as you can tell from its service dress and branding. The “A” in MTA is for “adventure,” I would remind.

Rabbit hole number one, accomplished.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of MTA Bridge and Tunnels, their pals at the New York State Department of Transportation are in charge of the Long Island Expressway, which feeds some thirty million vehicle trips a year into the Queens Midtown Tunnel where that street sweeper in the first shot is no doubt employed. Greenpoint Avenue is carried over the L.I.E. by a pedestrian and vehicle bridge, and that’s where the latest trophy of the Queens Cobbler (probable) serial killer was recently discovered.

This time around, it was a size 10 Nike brand high top sneaker. Nike was founded in Oregon in 1964 by two guys, originally called Blue Ribbon Sports. They rebranded with the current name and swoosh logo in 1971, and these days Nike has 74,000 global employees and the company is valued at nearly $35 billion buckaroos. Rabbit hole two, folks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There is no greater joy than finding yourself alongside that fabulous cataract of maritime industrial splendor which the happy children of Brooklyn and Queens call the “Newtown Creek” when it’s just started raining. Is it the smell of camphor and burning electrical insulation, the way that the raindrops impact the powderized glass sand on the asphalt, or the rust colored water that flows from the waste transfer stations? I love it all.

What you’re looking at up there is the theoretical street end of North Henry Street at the Unnamed Canal tributary basin of the Newtown Creek, looking north towards Queens. North Henry used to connect to the street grid of Greenpoint prior to the modernization of the sewer plant, but what I’ve always wondered about is the significance of it being called “North Henry Street.” Regular Henry Street runs from “Downtown Brooklyn” in the DUMBO zone all the way down to the Henry Street Basin in Gowanus Bay. North Henry goes from Newtown Creek, through the sewer plant (they’ve still got street signs in there), and east(ish) to Richardson Street on the Bushwick side of Greenpoint near St. Cecilia’s on the south side of Meeker Avenue. What’s the occulted connection between the North and Regular Henry Streets?

Rabbit hole, third.


Upcoming Tours and Events

June 30th – The Skillman Avenue Corridor
– with Access Queens.

Starting at the 7 train on Roosevelt Avenue, we will explore this thriving residential and busy commercial thoroughfare, discussing the issues affecting its present and future. Access Queens, 7 Train Blues, Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce, and Newtown Creek Alliance members will be your guides for this roughly two mile walk.
Skillman Avenue begins at the border of residential Sunnyside and Woodside, and ends in Long Island City at 49th avenue, following the southern border of the Sunnyside Yards for much of its path. Once known as Meadow Street, this colonial era thoroughfare transitions from the community of Sunnyside to the post industrial devastations of LIC and the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek.

Tickets and more details
here.


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Deadman’s curve and the Pratt Oil Works, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Normally, one would not be seen marching along the LIRR tracks in Blissville, but I had my reasons. It was a Sunday afternoon, anyway, meaning that the chances of there being any rail traffic at all on the Lower Montauk would be slim to none so I decided that it would be a good time to throw the dice and hope that I wouldn’t get squished by a passing locomotive. There’s plenty of places to dive out of the way, if I were able to discern an approaching train, but that’s kind of the issue – trains move pretty quickly and the physics of how sound moves around the air dam created by the engine as it’s moving seriously reduce the “early warning” time. Saying all that, I didn’t get squished, but do not recommend you chance it yourself. It is illegal trespass, after all.

Me, I was scoping out the latest wrinkle in the environmental story around the fabled Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I went to a meeting a couple of weeks ago at the NYS DEC offices in Long Island City, which discussed the “Pratt Oil Works Site” or as I’ve been referring to it for several years – “The Queens County Oil Works of Charles Pratt” or alternatively “The Blissville Seep.” ExxonMobil has taken responsibility for the site, which ultimately used to belong to its corporate parent Standard Oil, and has (under DEC guidance) begun the process of siphoning “product” out of the ground. Said product, the ExxonMobil folks said, is distinct from the liquid product which has been oozing from the Creek side bulkheads into the water. The modern day owner of the site is largely the Waste Management company, which operates a waste transfer station along Railroad Avenue that handles DSNY collections and loads up the Garbage Train. Said garbage train provides framing in the shot above. The Queens County Oil Works was in operation from 1842-1949, whereupon the property was subdivided and sold off. ExxonMobil representatives described the materials their contractor Roux will siphoning out of the ground as “Lube Oil and wax” and the petroleum product oozing into the Creek as “LNAPL” or Light Non-Aqueous Phase Liquid. LNAPL is lighter than water and floats on top of ground water.

ExxonMobil’s contractors, Roux Associates, who handle the Greenpoint Oil Spill for them directly across the Newtown Creek in Greenpoint, has been activated to handle the Blissville situation. Roux has installed 62 wells on the property, 42 of which are recovery wells and the other 20 are monitoring wells. Waste Management, separately, has several issues they’re dealing with on the site, including a high level of acidity in the soil and the presence of toxic chemicals – specifically Toluene and Chlorinated Volatile Organic Compounds. Waste Management will be aerosolizing these chemicals, meaning that they will be using a process called “SPARGing” which will release them into the open air.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

ExxonMobil representatives were cagey about the quantity of “product” in the ground, even after I confronted them about specifics. Saying that, I’m certain they know exactly what’s down there, as engineers who have installed 62 wells don’t just do so randomly and hope for the best. Waste Management claimed that their timeline for remediation of both the soil ph conditions and the presence of “chemicals of concern” would be four to eight years, whereas the ExxonMobil folks said it’s an open process and wouldn’t commit to a timeline.

Oddly enough, a review of the combined project’s boundaries corresponds neatly to the property lines of the former Queens County Oil works. Luckily for Blissville, here in Queens, subterranean oil deposits respect above ground political and property lines. If you are technically minded, or just curious enough to “get it straight from the horse’s mouth,” follow this link for the NYS DEC fact sheet.


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Kosciuszcko Bridge project in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A couple of weekends ago, I decided to take the camera out for a walk and we headed on over to the Queens side of DUKBO – Down Under the Kosciuszcko Bridge Onramp. Most of what’s going on at the work site right now, which will result in the second half of the new bridge, seems to involve foundation and structural work. Laurel Hill Blvd. is largely closed to traffic due to the construction, as you’d imagine.

The shot above looks south along Laurel Hill Blvd. towards Brooklyn.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The steel piles above are the firmament which will carry the approach ramp for the bridge, which in turn carries the Brooklyn Queens Expressway. These will be the southbound lanes, which are also meant to host the bicycle and pedestrian lane that I – for one – am pretty excited about. I’ve seen renderings of the planned bike and pedestrian section and it promises to be a photographer’s dream come true.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Documenting this project has been a long standing project of mine – this 2012 post tells you everything you could want to know about Robert Moses, Fiorella LaGuardia, and the origins of the 1939 model Kosciuszcko Bridge. Just before construction started, I swept through both the Brooklyn and Queens sides of Newtown Creek in the area I call “DUKBO” – Down Under the Kosciuszcko Bridge Onramp. Here’s a 2014 post, and another, showing what things used to look like on the Brooklyn side, and one dating back to 2010, and from 2012 discussing the Queens side – this. Construction started, and this 2014 post offers a look at things. There’s shots from the water of Newtown Creek, in this June 2015 post, and in this September 2015 post, which shows the bridge support towers rising. Additionally, this post from March of 2016 detailed the action on the Queens side. Most recently, here’s one from May of 2016, and one from June of the same year. Here’s one from August of 2016the December 2016 one, one from March of 2017 which discusses the demolition of the 1939 bridge.

Here’s a post showing what I saw during a pre opening walk through in early April of 2017, and the fanfare surrounding the opening of half of the new bridge in April of 2017, a walk through of the Brooklyn side job site in June of 2017. Here’s some night shots from early July of 2017. A series of posts focused in on the removal of the central truss of the 1939 bridge from the summer of 2017 – a timelapse, some stills, and the barging out of the truss.

Most recently, in late September of 2017, a final series of shots of the old bridge were captured in this post. Acquisition of a souvenir chunk of steel from the 1939 bridge was described in this post, and a video of the “energetic felling” of the approaches on October 1st was offered in this one. Still shots and views of the aftermath from the waters of Newtown Creek from later in the day on Oct. 1 are found in this posting, and the aftermath of the demolition as seen from Calvary Cemetery in LIC’s Blissville section in this post from October 5th. This post from December of 2017 closed out an event filled year in DUKBO, and a visit to the site at night is described in this March of 2018 post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the first section of the new bridge, which opened last year, and as seen from 43rd street in industrial Maspeth.

The NYS DOT has committed to making the currently dirt and equipment filled lots along 43rd street available to the NYC Parks Dept. for conversion to public “green space.” There’s other spots around the project which will turned into publicly accessible areas, but most will be shadowed by the onramps.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One scuttled across the Lower Montauk tracks of the Long Island Railroad to get a better view of the progress at the construction site. The land in this spot used to be the home of a company called Phelps Dodge, which acquired it from the original tenant – General Chemical. General Chemical manufactured sulphuric acid hereabouts, and Phelps Dodge incorporated the GC campus into their operations, which was mainly copper refining.

This section of the LIRR tracks used to be known as “Deadman’s curve” for all the factory workers who were struck by speeding locomotives hereabouts. It’s also the site of the Berlinville Railroad disaster, where two LIRR trains collided in 1893. Check out this contemporaneous NY Times piece for more on that.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After having crossed the tracks and a byway formerly known as “Creek Street the still forming concrete towers which will support the “cable stay” roadway of the second bridge came into view. Having followed the project so closely as the first half of the new K-Bridge went up, it’s actually pretty interesting to watch them working on it this time around, given that I know how the story plays out.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shot above, depicting the teeny tiny construction workers moving around on ladders, is included for scale. Down on the ground, these guys are HUGE, six + footers who weigh a couple of hundred pounds each and who tower over a humble narrator. On the K-Bridge site, they look like action figures.

I continued along my southern path and headed down to the bulkheads of that lugubrious cataract of urban neglect known as the Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Kosciuszcko Bridge is found 2.1 miles from the East River, and overflies the Newtown Creek. It carries the Brooklyn Queens Expressway from the border of Sunnyside/Blissville/Maspth in Queens to Greenpoint/Bushwick/Williamsburg in Brooklyn.

Newtown Creek itself is an inland tributary of the East River, and extends 3.8 miles eastward of the larger waterway. There are multiple tributaries of Newtown Creek itself which extend into Long Island City, Bushwick, and Maspeth.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Having satisfied myself with a “check in” on the bridge project, one began his trek towards home and HQ in Astoria.

Sometime during this week, I plan on heading over to Greenpoint to see what’s doing with the K-Bridge project over there. I’ll let y’all know what I find.


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Queens is mad as hell, and we’re not going to take it anymore.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

No more. The Mayor’s plan to warehouse New York City’s most vulnerable citizens in a neighborhood of warehouses, two blocks from the Newtown Creek Federal Superfund Site and one block from the Long Island Expressway – thereby creating a two to one ratio of actual residents to homeless shelter residents in the Blissville section of Long Island City – seems to have become the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back. No more. The needs of the elites of Manhattan do not outweigh the needs of Queens. No more.

On Tuesday last, Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer grilled DHS Commisioner Stephen Banks about this plan at City Hall, and community members gathered on the steps of City Hall in protest over the Mayor’s plan. Assemblymember Cathy Nolan sent her representative David Agioloro to show her support for the cause. No more.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Monday last, at Gracie Mansion, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney joined with the Blissville Civic Association to protest the Mayor’s plan at the gates of the Manhattan mansion he lives in. Western Queens’s elected officials stand in solidarity with Blissville, as does Brent O’Leary of the Hunters Point Civic Association, Senator Michael Gianaris, and your humble narrator. No more.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Next week, as a note, the NYS DEC will be presenting their findings regarding the Blissville Seep – where oil has been migrating into the waters of Newtown Creek from the Queens side bulkheads less than a mile from the Mayor’s three homeless shelter. Their informal presentation on the former Queens County Oil Works of Charles Pratt will take place on Thursday, May 24th at the NYS DEC offices on 21st street in LIC.

No more.


Upcoming Tours and Events

June 9th – Exploring Long Island City – with NY Adventure Club.

Long Island City is a tale of two cities; one filled with glittering water-front skyscrapers and manicured parks, and the other, a highly active ground transportation & distribution zone vital to the New York economy — which will prevail?

Tickets and more details
here.

May 17th – Port Newark Boat Tour – with Working Harbor Committee.

For an exciting adventure, go behind the scenes of the bustling Port of NY & NJ on our Hidden Harbor Tour® of Port Newark! Get an insider’s view of the 3rd largest port in the nation, where container ships dock and unload their goods from around the world. See how the working harbor really works and learn about what all those ships and tugs do. See giant container terminals, oil docks, dry dock repair, and more! Tickets and more details here.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

May 17, 2018 at 11:30 am

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