The Newtown Pentacle

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Scenes from a short trip up a long Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As you may have heard, a body of water called the Newtown Creek provides a visual indicator of the currently undefended border of Brooklyn and Queens for several miles leading back from the East River. An industrial waterway with a troubled past and increasingly bright future, there are several bridges which span its polluted depths, and one of them is the JJ Byrne or Greenpoint Avenue Bridge. It connects the Blissville section of Long Island City in Queens with the Greenpoint neighborhood of Brooklyn.

A draw bridge, it is currently receiving a bit of spit and polish.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Great enjoyment is experienced in presenting and narrating the story of Newtown Creek to the curious, most recently while onboard a NY Water Taxi whose use was donated for the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance’s “City of Water Day” festival, but it really gets in the way of taking photos, which is my one regret.

We see a LOT of cool stuff from the water.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Luckily, Lisa Garrison of the Hudson River Fund agreed to come on board as a speaker, and handing her the microphone allowed me to skulk away and grab my camera for an interval. When she started describing several of the cool projects she’s been curating around Newtown Creek (including some of NCA’s tour programming last year, in the name of disclosure), your humble narrator veritably flung himself forward in contemplation of shooting these bridge painting guys at work.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Bridge maintenance is another one of those hidden occupations most people don’t know exists, and you seldom get to see what’s going on except from the water. My pals at the North Brooklyn Boat Club see this sort of thing all the time, as they intrepidly ply the troubled waterway in kayak and canoe.

Me, I like boats with motors that stand up and away from the water, but that’s me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

According to documentation found here and there on the vast interwebs, this project is meant to conclude in September. The bridge is administered by the NYC DOT, was built in 1987, and is 1.3 miles from Newtown Creek’s junction with the East River. This also explains why the bridge has smelled like spray paint lately.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Want to see something cool? Summer 2013 Walking Tours-

Glittering Realms Saturday, August 3rd, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets now on sale.

Kill Van Kull Saturday, August 10, 2013
Staten Island walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Working Harbor Committee, tickets now on sale.

13 Steps around Dutch Kills Saturday, August 17, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Newtown Creek Alliance, tickets now on sale.

tireless and continuing

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“follow” me on Twitter at @newtownpentacle

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Missives regarding the Newtown Creek reach my desk all the time, mostly describing activist causes and far reaching governmental plans, but a particular message from the United States Coast Guard seemed to be the sort of thing which will likely affect the communities (on both sides and upon the water) which are nearby the troubled waterway so I decided to share it with you.

The Greenpoint Avenue Bridge is going to receiving attention, this summer, from NYC DOT bridge painting crews.


The Commander, First Coast Guard District, has issued a temporary deviation from the regulation governing the operation of the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge across Newtown Creek, mile 1.3, at New York City, New York. The deviation is necessary to facilitate bridge painting operations. Under this temporary deviation, the bridge may remain in the closed position for various times up to six days at a time during a four month period.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

From the sound of it, the main inconvenience will be felt by the maritime community, as the bridge repair will render the drawbridge static for as long as six days at a pop between May and September.

For drivers, and this is an incredibly busy span, one suspects that there will be traffic tie ups and lane closures but this is conjecture based solely on the behavioral and occupational patterns exhibited and displayed by DOT crews and their contractors on other projects around the City.

One suspects that the four day windows when the draw bridge is open for “business as usual” shall also witness a higher than normal number of bridge openings, which is good for me, of course as lots and lots of tugboats will be lined up along the Creek.

also from

The bridge owner, New York City Department of Transportation, requested multiple six day closure periods between May 1, 2013 and September 30, 2013, to facilitate bridge painting operation at the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge. Each six day closure period will be followed with four days of normal bridge operations. The exact time and dates of each six day closure period will be announced in the Local Notice to Mariners and also with a Broadcast Notice to Mariners at least two weeks in advance of each closure period. This temporary deviation will be in effect from May 1, 2013 through September 30, 2013.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

C’est la vie, life in the big city, and what can you do about it anyway?

Such maintenance is a necessary inconvenience to keep the structure from rotting away into a corroded heap. The waters of the Newtown Creek, just like the East River, are brackish. Salt is the natural enemy of steel and no one wishes to see a traffic mess like the one created by the 1987 rebuild of the bridge occur anytime soon.

Additionally, although I imagine that the Public Art Commission will approve the continued usage of “Aluminum Green” paints for the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge, I would suggest that using “Pulaski Red” all the way back to the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge would visually unite and “Brand” the Bridges of Newtown Creek.


The first bridge on this site, a drawbridge known as the Blissville, was built in the 1850’s. It was succeeded by three other bridges before a new one was completed in March 1900 at a cost of $58,519. That bridge received extensive repairs after a fire in 1919 damaged parts of the center pier fender, the southerly abutment, and the superstructure. Until that time, the bridge had also carried tracks of the Long Island Rail Road. The current bridge was built in 1987.

Also: Upcoming Tours!

13 Steps around Dutch Kills Saturday, May 4, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets now on sale.

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 on sale soon.

Hidden Harbor: Newtown Creek tour with Mitch Waxman – Sunday, May 26,2013
Boat tour presented by the Working Harbor Committee,
Limited seating available, order advance tickets now. Group rates available.

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