The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Posts Tagged ‘DSNY

ominous potions

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Maspeth Monday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One scuttled over to the Grand Street Bridge “zone” one recent evening, an area found some 3.1 miles from the East River and straddling the lamentable Newtown Creek, to see what’s what. It was chilly, but it is – in fact – wintertime.

Eschewing a perambulatory tour of the Brooklyn side, one instead set his toes towards Industrial Maspeth, oft referred to as “my happy place.” Did I mention the cold?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One seems to recall this particular night as being a Sunday, as if the nomenclature of an individual day might matter during this dark and endless era of pandemic, sedition, and financial desperation. Frankly, I’ve lost track of how many days have passed here in the “after time” since March 13th of 2019. I could check with google to find out, but one tries to remember things rather than using technology for the basics.

Industrial Maspeth has received several new layers of graffiti paint, and more than a couple of its industrial businesses have flown the coop. The downed fence-line, pictured above, used to vouchsafe a large property that housed construction cranes and other heavy equipment. Don’t know if they went out out of business or just moved on to grayer pastures somewhere else.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Patrolling the lighting choked streets of the Newtown Creek like some sort of low rent Batman, one is constantly scanning the environment for potential threats and hazards. Recent weather events had deposited a fair amount of liquid onto the grease stained and quite concretized devastations of industrial Maspeth, which offered an extra layer of slippery hazard to my worries.

One interesting observation I can offer is that there are a large number of people who are living in RV’s and trailers and exploiting the long term parking rules of the industrial business zones nowadays. This is a trend I started noticing a couple of summers ago, but since we exited the “before time” it’s really kicked into gear.

More tomorrow.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the beginning of the week of Monday, January 18th. 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 here, 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.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


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 blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

January 18, 2021 at 1:00 pm

nitrous vault

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Friday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A few final Friday photos from the far away Gowanus greet you this morning. The shot above looks towards the Union Street Bridge from the Carroll Street Bridge.

Uncharacteristically, I’m sort of at a loss of words today. Obvious reasons, read the news. It’s not like this wasn’t obviously going to happen sooner or later.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s Carroll Street Bridge, which is one of only two retractile bridges in the entire City. The other is Borden Avenue Bridge, crossing the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek in Long Island City.

I cannot fathom the attempts on social media to rebrand the group of white supremacists who stormed the Capitol as “Antifa.” You broke it, you bought it. Assholes. When you lie down in the street with wild dogs, you get bit.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the way home, a quick stop was made to get the shot above, depicting three DSNY trucks on a ramp with the Gowanus Expressway in the background.

Good times, these.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the beginning of the week of Monday, January 4th. 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 here, 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.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


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 blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

January 8, 2021 at 2:00 pm

confined wholly

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A garbage post today.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One makes a point of photographing the things which other people do not. Partially, this stems from my fascination with the vast municipal machinery of New York City. I know a lot of people who work in the boiler room of the great hive, from executive to laborer, and what I’ve gleaned from conversation with them over the years is how complicated and byzantine the “system” is. Many have opined about the proverbial situation of “replacing the carburetor while driving down a dark highway at ninety miles an hour” they encounter at work. There’s holdover labor agreements which were arrived at prior to the Second World War, political compromises made by Mayors who have been dead for fifty years, and legal or regulatory issues which randomly arrive from Albany or Washington that can upend an otherwise smoothly functioning operation.

I’m particularly interested, on the subject of recording things few others notice, with the muni services that nobody really wants to think about that revolve around human and animal cadavers, sewage, and especially garbage.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Intricate. That’s how I’d describe the system in NYC which gathers up waste and moves it out of the City. Originally a wholly owned arm of the Dept. of Health, the Deparment of Sanitation is a “Reports directly to the Mayor Commissioner” level operation in modernity, although it’s still organized as part of the Health Dept.

As Wikipedia will tell you – 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.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As a boy in blue collar Brooklyn, the conventional wisdom passed on to a young but already humble narrator as far as success in life was to “take the civil service exam” and become a garbageman as they had a strong union with great benefits and you’d basically never be out of work. There was also a contingent who recommended becoming affiliated with the court system as a Bailiff, as a note. Almost nobody recommended becoming a Cop, but it was the 1970’s.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a private carting industry in NYC, of course, which handles commercial and restaurant waste. That side of waste handling has a decidedly checkered past, whereas the DSNY is generally considered above any reproach.

Part of the reason I’m fascinated by services like DSNY or the DEP is that people would rather not think about their personal waste stream, so they’re seldom aware of the budgets or sending practices of either agency. Anything municipal that operates in shadow is something that should very much be paid attention to, in my opinion. All of the classified stuff that NYPD gets up to involving terrorists is a subject which should receive a lot more introspection than it gets, as “black box” spending is where a lot of dirty laundry can be found.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

DSNY handles residential recycling collections, passing the material pulled off the curbs to private companies like SimsMetal, or in the case of black bag garbage – Waste Management. I’ve written a whole lot over the years about how this system operates and the intricate web of waste transfer stations and maritime industrial transport of the stuff which occurs invisibly all around us. It’s made me highly aware of my own contributions to the “flow” and quite conscious of my own culpabilities as far as destroying the planet.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As you may have guessed, this is another one of my “archive posts,” but if all goes to plan and I manage to process the shots I have cooking on my hard drive today, you’ll see some of what I saw over the last few days in tomorrow’s post at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 16, 2018 at 1:00 pm

intense interest

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A few odds and ends, in today’s post at this – your Newtown Pentacle.

There’s nothing that somebody who works for the City hates more than being photographed while pursuing their occupation, and none moreso than the NYPD. Saying that, if you’re doing a traffic stop right in front of me while I’m hanging out with my pals at the neighborhood saloon… what’s a humble narrator to do? Constitutionally speaking y’all have less of a right to privacy in the public sphere than the rest of us do because you’re wearing that blue suit and sporting the badge, and the inherent lack of privacy that all of us suffer when out in public is the constitutionally justified reason y’all can get away with hanging surveillance cameras and speed trap gizmos on lamp posts.

Big brother? Little Brother? All part of one big happy, and quite paranoid, family.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Same corner in Astoria, different day, and a DSNY garbage truck was experiencing mechanical problems. You don’t see tow trucks of the type pictured above too often… well… I do, but most don’t. I didn’t stick around too long to watch them towing the truck back to 58th street and the garage found at the angle between Woodside and Maspeth.

I had somewhere to be, people to see, politicians and officials to annoy.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Down in Hunters Point one night, as I was passing by the LIRR yard, I noticed this cool bit of kit. My surmise, based on the sort of tools that the gizmo sported in its front end, was that this was a track maintenance mechanism. It had what looked like two claws that stuck out of the front which were positioned pretty close to where the steel tracks are found.


Upcoming Tours and events

The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura – Saturday, September 23rd, 11 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Join us on the wrong side of the tracks for an exploration of the hidden industrial heartlands of Brooklyn and Queens, with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

Exploring Long Island City, from Luxury Waterfront to Abandoned Factories Walking Tour,
with NY Adventure Club – Saturday, October 7th, 1 p.m. – 3 p.m.

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? With Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 22, 2017 at 12:00 pm

unusually worried

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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

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