The Newtown Pentacle

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haggard aspect

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I’m an idiot, but it’s kind of fun inside my head.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So, last week I was going to some “thing” in Greenpoint, and found myself walking along Meserole Avenue. At 128 Meserole, you’ll notice the 1880’s era church building which was once occupied by the Faith Gospel Church but which, since the 1950’s, has been the HQ of the Pentecostal congregation of the “Church of God.” (as a note, thanks to my pal and Greenpoint historian Geoff Cobb, who filled me in on the identity of the original tenants of 128 Meserole) What caught my eye, in truth, was the lettering on the side of the church van, which I initially read not as “Church of God of Greenpoint” but instead as “Church of, God of Greenpoint.”

This filled me with a sarcastic glee, as I began to contemplate what worship of the God of Greenpoint – or GOG – might entail. I’m sure yoga would be a part of the ceremonial liturgy, and that the priestesses would be devastatingly beautiful hipster women with full sleeve tattoos.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Mr. Cobb informed me that the original 19th century congregation housed here were evangelicals who pursued missionary activities. As mentioned above, the current occupants are Pentecostals. The building sits just outside the Greenpoint Historic District, and the reason that I had to ask Mr. Cobb for his help was that any attempt at discovering the story of the structure quickly resulted in hundreds and hundreds of Real Estate Industrial Complex web pages which reduced 128 Meserole down to mere equity valuations. From the REIC’s POV, the actual worth of any historic cultural institution’s domicile is reduced to mere money, and everything is just a commodity to be bought or sold.

The God of Greenpoint might just be Mammon. Maybe Asmodeus.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There very well might be some pagan deity who could claim the title of “God of Greenpoint,” an elder devil reviled by the Keskachauge who wanders the subterrene caverns beneath the neighborhood seeking a pathway to the surface. The ancestral Lenape culture, which the Keskachauge were a part of, acknowledged spirits both dark and light. The God of Greenpoint… could it be slithering around in deep set tidal and hydrological voids, where centuried petroleum products sit atop the water table, beneath the thick crystalline crust and elluvial underpinnings which support our concretized modernity? If GOG dwells below North Brooklyn, then where is MAGOG?

Who can guess, all there is, that could be buried down there?


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Written by Mitch Waxman

April 17, 2018 at 11:00 am

strange hills

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Shots from high over Greenpoint today, and a few things to do!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

At the end of last week, which was a doozy incidentally (I actually had to wear a suit and tie one night), one had a chance to head over to Greenpoint and get high. High above the ground, that is. The shot above looks east over some oil industry infrastructure towards the new Kosciuszcko Bridge from the rooftop at 520 Kingsland Avenue. Newtown Creek Alliance, the Audubon Society, and Broadway Stages have created a green roof there that these shots were captured from.

We need a lot of green roofs around the Newtown Creek, lords and ladies. That’s one of the points made over and over in the recently released visioning plan which NCA and Riverkeeper have just released.

Check out the Riverkeeper/Newtown Creek Alliance Visioning Plan,
which can be accessed at this link.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week, your Newtown Pentacle focused in on the Blissville section of LIC, but I’m hardly the only person to have fallen in love with the people and place. A fellow named a Hank Linhart has been bitten by the Blissville bug too, and produced a fantastic short film documentary about the place. I met Hank at a screening he did for the movie at the Greater Astoria Historic Society last autumn, and promised him that I’d find a spot to showcase it along the Creek.

So, what are you doing this Thursday on the 22nd of March? Want to come see a movie for free?

Film Screening: Blissville Stories

Thursday, March 22nd, 7:30pm – 520 Kingsland Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11222

Please join NCA as we host a screening of “Blissville Stories,” a documentary film about the Queens neighborhood bounded by the Newtown Creek, the Long Island Expressway, and Calvary Cemetery. We will be joined by filmmaker Hank Linhart. More info about the Blissville Stories can be found here.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This shot looks southwest, over the sewer plant towards Manhattan. The middle section of the shot isn’t out of focus, rather you’re looking through jets of methane which are produced by the plant which the NYC DEP burns off. I’ve called it Brooklyn’s invisible flame in the past.

Finally – hold the date for me on April 15th.

That grueling 13 and change mile death march through the bowels of New York City known as the “Newtown Creekathon” will be underway on that day, and I’ll be leading the charge as we hit every little corner and section of the waterway. Keep an eye on the NCA events page for more information.


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scarcely be

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The world is an increasingly scary place, stay home.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sunday nights, and in particular the hours directly before the midnight boundary with Monday is breached, are the only time that the Newtown Creek industrial zone slows down and takes a breath. For a few hours the constant river of vehicular traffic, industrial activity, and omnipresent noise ebb. Any other day or time, and you literally would not have the thirty seconds required for some of these night shots at the Grand Street Bridge to be recorded, due to the vibrations of passing traffic shaking and cavitating the 115 old swing bridge.

The shot above looks southwards towards Brooklyn.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking roughly westward, you can see the glowing eidolon known as the new Kosciuszcko Bridge about a mile away, the crane district of Maspeth on the right, and the English Kills tributary of Newtown Creek’s intersection with the main waterway and the East Branch tributary at center and left. At the bottom of the shot, in the unnaturally green waters of the East Branch, a tepid current was pulsing out from under the bridge which was – from an olfactory point of view – obviously carrying sewage towards the main stem of the Creek.

As a note, the water is lit up at the bottom of the shot by the street lamps of the Grand Street Bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As intoned in a previous posting, concern about just how bright the light from the new Kosciuszcko Bridge is has been a subject of conversation of late – and more than once – amongst the Newtown Creek crowd. Light pollution, as it’s known, is meant to confuse the heck out of migratory birds. There’s actually initiatives at the “big” environmental groups to get Manhattan office buildings to dim their lights during certain times of the year in response. Given that Newtown Creek is part of the Atlantic flyover migratory route… well… who the hell cares – it’s Queens.

I guess we’re just going to wait and see what sort of evidentiary observations emerge regarding its effect.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Newtown Pentacle HQ is about two miles away from where the new K bridge crosses the water, and I can see this pillar of purple light punching into the clouds from there. I’ve seen reports on social media outlets proclaiming “lights in the sky” from Bushwick and Vinegar Hill and even Manhattan. Nobody in Queens can be bothered to pick up the phone and call either 311 or 911, as somebody else will do it or they just don’t want to get involved. Admittedly, these reports were offered by people who thought they were seeing UFO’s, but…

Just saying… if I don’t know what something is and it’s flying, it’s a UFO. I’d suggest an Internet rabbit hole term for you to follow, by the way, which are “USO” or “unknown submersible objects.” Seriously, google that. Hours of fun.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Personally, I’ve always gravitated towards more home grown and provable horror. Like the mugger gang that used to operate at the Brooklyn side of the bridge back in the 1910’s, using black jacks and billy clubs to induce unconsciousness in their victims. After emptying the stricken of the contents of their pockets, the gang would toss them into the creek. This is the 1903 version of the Grand Street Bridge pictured above, which the gang is associated with. This bridge replaced earlier models, as discussed in this post.

In 1896, the cops found a Catholic priest name Leonard Syczek floating in the water alongside the 1890 version of the bridge, and wearing the sort of full ceremonial vestments required for conducting a Mass. There’s a story there which has never been fully revealed to me, but I suspect some sort of exorcism related tale will emerge eventually. Or, at least I hope one will. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Due to my weird imaginings and remembered tales, a growing state of panic set in and I realized that one of my spells was coming on. Drops and spikes in cerebral dopamine levels began to occur, and suddenly I had to pee really bad. My feet grew cold, my nose flushed full with snot, and a single tear formed in my left eye bitterly.

While composure was still mine, a phone app was engaged, and a driver was dispatched to shepherd me back to a place where doors can be firmly locked and vouchsafed against the outside world. I left my shoes in the hallway that night, lest I track something in which I had picked up along the banks of the Newtown Creek on a foggy and unusually warm night in February.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 20, 2018 at 11:00 am

so shunned

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Like sand through the hour glass, so too are the sewers of Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Finishing up the presentation of several long exposure shots gathered around a foggy Newtown Creek, on an uncharacteristically warm February night following a soaking two day rain event, today’s post finds a humble narrator at the currently undefended border of Brooklyn and Queens at the Newtown Creek tributary known as the “East Branch.” For two thirds of the walk, my colleague Will Elkins from Newtown Creek Alliance was hanging out with me, but he had to split and a humble narrator found himself in a familiar territory known as “alone.”

Sort of like that tree in the shot above, looking north down Metropolitan Avenue.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The East Branch is, to say the least, environmentally compromised. The sidewalk I was standing on is actually a walkway, slung atop a seven vaulted open sewer, the twentieth largest in terms of materials vomited into the water in the entire City of New York, called “CSO NC-083.” This pipe allows somewhere’s in the neighborhood of 586 million gallons of untreated sewage egress into this shallow industrial canal annually. You should see it during the day at low tide, I tell ya.

Across the yard is a large lumber yard whose street address is along East Williamsburgh’s Grand Street, and I literally had one foot in Brooklyn and another in Queens while recording its presence.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The streets were deserted of all but occasional vehicle traffic. Because of the fog and the absence of people in what is normally a bustling and fairly dangerous to move through traffic corridor, a real sense of “spooky” permeated the air. An occasional passerby would stumble past me, offer a nod or some throaty greeting sound, and move along shaking their heads.

What? It’s not normal to be standing on a giant sewer in an industrial zone, along a Federal Superfund site in the middle of the night, taking pictures in the dark? Sheesh.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shot above was set to a higher sensitivity in terms of aperture and sensor ISO than the others in this post, as a note. I’m sort of interested in the light gathering power offered by allowing the camera to stare for long periods of time into darkness. Unlike the high ISO shots, however, there could a Bigfoot walking through the shot and the camera wouldn’t record it unless said Sasquatch was to stand stick still for around 35-40 seconds.

I’d recommend using a flash for Bigfoot photos, anyway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I got creeped out by a carload of teenagers at one point and hid behind a mailbox before cutting through a parking lot to get to the other side of the East Branch without having to walk back into Brooklyn where they were headed. Welcome to Queens, by the way. If you head up the hill to the right, you’re going to Ridgewood, stay on Metropolitan to the left and you’re heading towards Maspeth.

Those kids were scary. Teenagers… brrr…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After cutting through my little shortcut over to Grand Avenue (it’s Grand Street in Brooklyn, Grand Avenue in Queens). The final spot I wanted to shoot from was arrived at, the 115 year old Grand Street Bridge.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 19, 2018 at 11:00 am

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Night shots from the Penny Bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the brand new Kosciuszcko Bridge in the shot above, which has recently replaced a 1939 model that was originally christened as the “New Penny Bridge.” The shot was gathered at the surviving masonry of the 1894 model Penny Bridge, aka the Meeker Avenue Street End. I’m increasingly concerned, incidentally, at how bright the decorative lighting of the new bridge is. Light pollution is a “thing,” after all.

On cloudy nights, you can spot the column of light rising from it miles away, back in Astoria.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The LED lighting the NYS DOT installed for the new bridge is weird and unnatural, which spews out artificial looking wavelengths of unbelievably saturated purples and blues bouncing all over the place. The good news about this odd ambience is that I’m able to focus in on that unmarked sewer which drains Calvary Cemetery over on the Queens side, but I wonder what the long term effects will be on critters living in the water column and on migratory birds.

When the second bridge opens and doubles the illumination, it’s going to look like a comic book around here at night.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A longer shot, both in terms of exposure and camera sensitivity, again looking towards the Queens side of the former Penny Bridge. The mirror like quality of the water isn’t due solely to the long exposure, it was positively still out. Unseasonably warm, there was virtually zero wind or breeze.

You could actually discern changes in air pressure just by paying attention to the behavior of your ear drums.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 15, 2018 at 11:00 am

hitherto denied

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Happy 115th birthday, Grand Street Bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

At a cost of $174,937, the newly constructed Grand Street Bridge – spanning the fantastic Newtown Creek – officially opened on this day in 1903 (although it had already been unofficially open to traffic since December of 1902). The Grand Street Bridge connects Maspeth in Queens with East Williamsburg/Bushwick in Brooklyn, and when it was built they had horse driven traffic in mind, as well as electric streetcars or trolleys. The City of Greater New York, with its familiar five boroughs and Manhattancentric political orientation was only a few years old at this point in time. Grand Street was part of a spate of bridge building that occurred in the years following municipal consolidation, both major and minor, which allowed the newly created Borough Presidents a chance to… ahem… share the wealth with their supporters.

The 1903 model, pictured above, is the third Grand Street Bridge. There were 1875 and 1890 models as well, but the historic record describes them as being shabbily constructed and “dilapidated.” The 1903 model has stood the test of time, although it did receive a bit of work and a fresh coat of paint during a rehabilitation project back in 1973.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Grand Street is the demarcation line between the so called “East Branch” tributary and the main stem of Newtown Creek. The intersection with another tributary, English Kills, is nearby. That’s part of the East Branch, pictured above. As a note, when Grand Street crosses northwards into Queens, it becomes Grand Avenue.

My understanding is that the 1890 model Grand Street Bridge was operated by hand cranking winches. It’s also my understanding that the presence of a nearby wharfage in this area (called White’s Dock) narrowed the navigational channel significantly, and that it was pressure from various Brooklyn based merchants and manufacturing associations which drove the Federal War Department into condemning that iteration of the bridge – and Whites Dock- setting the stage for the construction of the current model and the shaping of the modern bulkheads surrounding it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

End to end, Grand Street Bridge is nearly two hundred and twenty seven feet and one half inch in length. Horizontally it’s meant to be just over thirty two feet wide, with two lanes of vehicle traffic squeezing into a very tight nineteen feet and eight inch area. There are two sidewalks which are meant to be just under six feet wide, according to the NYC DOT, but that number sort of conflicts with my perception of them. Those tight lanes of traffic mean that anything bigger than a passenger car has to wait for traffic coming from the other side to cross over the bridge before they can do the same. This creates backups on both sides of the thing.

I think the sidewalks measurement must include the box girders visible in the shot above, which is actually from below.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Grand Street Bridge is a swing bridge, which means that the whole structure sits on a mechanical palette and can rearticulate itself ninety degrees to allow maritime traffic to pass to and fro. It’s a crying shame that there aren’t any customers in the East Branch who would require the presence of barge and tug, since the City is obligated to maintain the machinery here in functional order by the orders of the United States Coast Guard.

The DOT spends a bunch of money every year doing so, and the City has been petitioning the USCG to “delist” the East Branch for navigability, and to allow them to replace the 1903 Grand Street Bridge with something more appropriate for modern traffic needs – a static and far wider truss bridge – since at least 2002. The USCG remains adamant in its position, however, that all of Newtown Creek is a “SMIA” or Significant Maritime Infrastructure Area and all of its bridges must be maintained and be “moveable” on the waterway.

This brings up the questionable status of the MTA’s rail swing bridge “DB Cabin” on the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek, but that’s another story.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The last time I checked the numbers, Grand Street Bridge carried just under ten thousand vehicle trips a day. That was in 2011, it should be mentioned, and supposedly only 7% of that traffic was defined by DOT as being “trucks.” As always, you need to learn how to speak “government” when reading things like that. They mean heavy tonnage trucks – garbage, semis, tankers – not box trucks, pickups, or delivery vans which everybody else would call “trucks.” A significant causality of traffic congestion in both Maspeth and East Williamsburg/Bushwick, the Grand Street Bridge is structurally far too narrow for modern day needs.

Modern needs include accomodating the traffic generated by the MTA’s gargantuan Grand Ave Bus Depot & Central Maintenance Facility, which is found on the Maspeth side of the bridge. The entire bus company unit serving Brooklyn crosses this bridge at least once a week for cleaning, inspection, and maintenance.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One such as myself always has his ear to the ground, or is probing away at the elected or appointed lords of the local vicinity in hope of gleaning some knowledge of their secretive plans for us all. The general impression gathered is that were there money available right now to replace the Grand Street Bridge with a newer model, construction would begin forthwith.

I’ll be sorry to see the old girl go when they find the cash, as the Grand Street Bridge is one of my favorite bridges found along the lugubrious Newtown Creek. At any rate, Happy Birthday, old lady.


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formula filled

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My creek also puts on a show when I’ve been away from her too long.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of my practices, developed over the last decade or so, is to take a Newtown Creek break periodically and “allow my liver to return to a normal size.” I’m joking about the liver, but one does enjoy a bit of detox occasionally, and allowing the poisons I’ve accrued a chance to leach out. This is a luxury one enjoys, as he doesn’t live along Newtown Creek, others aren’t so lucky. Pictured above is roll on/ roll off garbage truck carrying a bin, spotted at a waste transfer station owned by a friend of mine which fairly straddles the border of Brooklyn and Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Marching along Metropolitan Avenue, one squealed with delight as the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge began to open. This used to be quite a frequent occurrence “back in the day.” These days there’s only one regular maritime customer back here on the English Kills tributary, which is Bayside Fuel.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The timing of the bridge opening was bizarre, occurring at precisely the time of one of the heaviest traffic intervals in this section of North Brooklyn, about 6:30 p.m.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That odd timing, however, allowed one to stand in the middle of Metropolitan Avenue without getting squished.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I believe that the tug pictured above is the Mary H., which normally handles the Bayside duty, but it’s hard to say as I didn’t get any of its markings. I did manage to focus in on the captain in his wheelhouse, however, so “win.”

As a note, the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge spans the English Kills tributary of the larger Newtown Creek at a navigational mark 3.4 miles eastwards of the East River. Metropolitan Avenue was originally created as a private toll road about 1814, and was called the Williamsburgh and Jamaica Turnpike. The owners of the toll road, and the original bridge, were two brothers whose family name was Masters. That’s why you’ll occasionally see references to the road as the “Masters Turnpike” and the “Masters Bridge” in the historical record, if like me, you stay up until 4 in the morning reading old municipal journals and reports from the Chambers of Commerce of Brooklyn or Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My conceit is to call this area of Newtown Creek surrounding the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge “DUMABO.” That’s short for “Down Under the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge,” as I believe we need to be ahead of the real estate people on these sorts of things.


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