The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Demolition

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Holy smokes, the FreshDirect building is toast!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just at the point where one traditionally turns back towards HQ and begins the journey from the LIC Dutch Kills “zone,” I suddenly stopped in my tracks at the realization that I could see the sky. The gigantic building with yellow painted corrugated steel walls that used to house the FreshDirect operation here in LIC has been demolished. Tectonic!

This was a HUGE footprint building, five or six stories tall, with both refrigerated and shelf stable warehousing as well as several food preparation workshops. There were interior driveways large enough for multiple semi tractor trailers to reverse into, and smaller loading bays that could handle about ten or so of the FreshDirect local delivery trucks at the same time. Gone.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just as an aside for the thousands of people who have interrupted me while photographing over the years to ask “why are you taking pictures of that” while looking at me suspiciously and asking if I like hummus, this is exactly the reason. Creating some sort of record of what was there prior to it being replaced by something new. The “new” thing will have all sorts of government and corporate effort attached to it whose singular goal is the obfuscation of the site’s history. Ask the people in Queens Plaza if they know about the chemical factory, or lead foundry, which used to occupy the site of their shiny new condominium building. That’s the FreshDirect facility pictured above, as seen from a few blocks east.

A big part of the mission here at Newtown Pentacle is to create a record of this era of transition and rapid change in Western Queens for posterity which is independently held and not beholden to the political or business order. Whatever goes up on the site of that FreshDirect building… well… what used to be there?

Glad you asked.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The big historic factory here was owned by the American Druggist Syndicate, who made pharmaceuticals – so essentially a chemical plant. There were a couple of varnish factories as well, so petrochemical processing. Then a few of the smaller lots were occupied by metal working and refining companies involved mostly in iron working, so that means heavy metals and coal retort residues. The statement above comes from a cursory scan of a 1919 fire insurance map in my possession. Did the 20th century bring in plastics? Garbage handling? Good questions.

Right behind the FreshDirect lot is a set of tracks used by the LIRR which have been liberally doused with rodenticides and herbicides over the centuries, and the soil they sit on hosts lakes of PCB’S, PAH’S and other electrical insulating oils beneath the surface which has bled out of their trackside equipment. Newtown Creek itself is about 2,000 feet away from the Borden Avenue sidewalk pictured in the first shot of this post.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next couple of weeks at the start of the week of Monday, March 16th. My plan is to continue doing my solo photo walks around LIC and the Newtown Creek in the dead of night as long as that’s feasible. If you continue to see regular updates as we move into April and beyond, that means everything is kosher as far as health and well being. If the blog stops updating, it means that things have gone badly for a humble narrator.

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Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at for $30.

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The Third Street Bridge over the Gowanus Canal, and some demolition type action, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Unlike the other Gowanus Bridges which have been featured this last week, there’s only one shot of the Third Street span in today’s post. I got these whilst standing in the Whole Foods Supermarket parking lot, one misty day, and unfortunately for the bridge -I was a bit distracted by a whole other show that was being performed on the far bank.


The Third Street Bridge is a double-leaf Scherzer rolling lift bascule, supporting Third Street over the Gowanus Canal in the Borough of Brooklyn. It supports two vehicular traffic lanes, each approximately 16 feet wide, and two sidewalks, each six feet wide.

Initially constructed around 1905, the bridge was comprehensively rehabilitated in 1986. This included new mechanical and electrical equipment, and a partial structural rehabilitation.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The former Burns Brothers Coal pockets, an iconic feature for area natives, were in the process of being carelessly demolished. I say careless based on both the amount of material which was splashing into the water and the utter lack of dust mitigation. The latter is curable by setting up a hose and lawn sprinkler, but that might add a few bucks onto the contractors bill, so… “Pardonmeforasking” did a great post which includes shots of the former industrial site, when it was still there, which is linked to below.


Barely days after the demolition of the iconic silos at Carroll Street on the shores of the Gowanus Canal, comes news that the Burns Brothers coal pockets are in the process of being torn down. The photo above was taken yesterday by my friend Eymund Diegel. By today, Friday, the concrete silos opposite Whole Foods at 6th Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenue will be history.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Regardless of the sloppy manner, the work being performed was quite dramatic. Whole Foods customers were actually dismounting their bicycles, if you can believe such a thing. They stopped, used their phones to record the process, shook their heads and remounted their bikes. Most rode away in the direction of Park Slope, on the sidewalk, eschewing the use of the bike lanes. The impression I gathered was that the majority had to attempt to complete other high minded and or self satisfying chores, after accomplishing their grocery shopping.


Coal pockets were used to move and store the coal from barges on the canal to wagons and, later, trucks for delivery. The eight pockets closest to the water were built be- tween 1915 and 1924, and by 1938 there were 10 more. These 40- and 50-foot tall structures are no longer used today but remain as relics of the canal’s crucial transportation role.

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There’s a Newtown Creek walking tour, and a Magic Lantern show, coming up.

Saturday, June 7th, 13 Steps around Dutch Kills with Atlas Obscura.
Click here for tickets and more info.

Wednesday, June 11th, Newtown Creek Magic Lantern Show with Brooklyn Brainery.
Click here for tickets and more info.

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 6, 2014 at 11:00 am

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Holy smokes! Two enormous lots, formerly bisected by an abandoned railway line sweeping across the entire lot, found between the Dutch Kills tributary of the Newtown Creek and 30th street to the west and east and between Borden and Hunters Point Avenues to the south and north, have been entirely razed. The Hunters Point Avenue side, until recently, held the plant of “National Envelope” and the other has been vacant for quite some time.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This must be the first time in almost a hundred years that this point of view has been available from Borden Avenue, a wide open vista showing the Degnon Terminal- or at least the survivors of it- that stretches all the way to Queens Plaza. Incidentally, the dust that this project is kicking out is massive, and the day these shots were obtained- was heading in a westerly direction toward the recently repopulated neighborhood of Hunters Point commonly referred to as Long Island City.

Upon observing this, I made it a point to stay upwind of the dust plume.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m told that the next incarnation of this site along Dutch Kills will be a Federal Express shipping center, which will be enormous if the entire footprint of this site is used. That’s going to be a LOT of trucks coming and going through this ancient neighborhood and Western Queens in general.

Let’s hope that the century old bridges on Borden and Hunters Point Avenue can handle the additional load.

Wonder how the large shipments of bulk freight coming from the airports will travel here, or how the hundreds of local delivery Fed-Ex trucks will get to Manhattan, and North Brooklyn, and Eastern Queens- by which routes they will travel, and through whose neighborhoods?

ALSO, this Friday, as in tonight:

My own attempt at presenting a cogent narrative and historical journey “up the creek” is up coming as well-

Your humble narrator will be narrating humbly on Friday, February 24th at 7:30 P.M. for the“Ridgewood Democratic Club, 60-70 Putnam Avenue, Ridgewood, NY 11385 as the “Newtown Creek Magic Lantern Show” is presented to their esteemed group. The club hosts a public meeting, with guests and neighbors welcome, and say that refreshments will be served.

The “Magic Lantern Show” is actually a slideshow, packed with informative text and graphics, wherein we approach and explore the entire Newtown Creek. Every tributary, bridge, and significant spot are examined and illustrated with photography. This virtual tour will be augmented by personal observation and recollection by yours truly, with a question and answer period following.

For those of you who might have seen it last year, the presentation has been streamlined, augmented with new views, and updated with some of the emerging stories about Newtown Creek which have been exclusively reported on at this- your Newtown Pentacle.

For more information, please contact me here.

What: Newtown Creek Magic Lantern Show

When: Friday, February 24th at 7:30 P.M.

Where: Ridgewood Democratic Club, 60-70 Putnam Avenue, Ridgewood, NY 11385

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