The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘DUGABO

unvisited mountain

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Tuesday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One last batch of photos from my penultimate boat trip down Newtown Creek greets you in today’s post.

The very first time I came back here by boat was back in 2007 or 2008, and it was a tour led by my future friend Bernie Ente with Working Harbor Committee acting as the organizer. Bernie was one of the founders of Newtown Creek Alliance, a great photographer, and he left his family and this world while still far too young in 2011.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Bernie and I had been working together for a while when he passed, doing boat and walking tours, and having adventures. My pal Mai Armstrong started hanging around with us, and we all worked on the NYC Bridge Centennial Commission with Barry and Judith Schneider, Gridlock Sam Shwartz, and the then NYC DOT Commissioner Jeanette Sadik-Khan on the City’s centennial celebrations for the Queensboro, Manhattan, Madison Avenue, and Hunters Point Avenue Bridges. Bernie almost missed the latter one, and he ended up checking himself into a hospital just a few days after it. He never checked out.

Bernie Ente introduced me to a circle of incredible people, all experts on one subject or another, and we collectively referred to ourselves as “Team Bernie” afterwards.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There was John Doswell, and Meg Black. There was John Skelson and Rich Taylor, a guy named John who works for the city and I can’t say his last name out loud in public or he’ll get in trouble with his boss, the self proclaimed “Harbor Wenches,” and Captain Maggie and…

Over at Newtown Creek Alliance, which had recently become a “proper” non profit rather than a community group, there were Katie Schmidt and the new Executive Director Kate Zidar, and my pal Penny Lee from NY City Planning. At the time, I was still on speaking terms with the Greater Astoria and Newtown Historical Societies. Those two’s a tale, I tell’s ya.

The path of education that Bernie started me on was continued by all of these people. My pal Mai Armstrong was by my side through it all.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Boat tours were always my favorite. I love telling the story of Newtown Creek and New York Harbor while bouncing along on the tide. I got to narrate on the Circle Line once with historian Dr. Kenneth Jackson (Encyclopedia of New York) onboard and at no point did he throw a chair at me or anything, so great success.

I’m quite reflective about all these people, many of whom have either retired to their dotage or passed on to their rewards.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It won’t be too long now. I’ll be living somewhere else by Christmas.

I’ve spent my entire life in NYC. Grew up in Brooklyn, lived for a while in Manhattan, and I’ve been in Astoria for just under 20 years now. Newtown Creek has been at the center of my thoughts and actions for nearly 15 years. It’s time for the next generation to pick up their lance and tilt at the windmills along my beloved Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In a first for me, I actually had to sort of leap off the boat and catch a ladder affixed to the shoreline to get back on land in Greenpoint.

One soon found himself scuttling again, across the Pulaski Bridge. As always, the camera was being waved around at the various wonders of the currently undefended border of Brooklyn and Queens.

Tomorrow, more – more MORE!


“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

November 1, 2022 at 11:00 am

tenement blocks

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Friday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As described yesterday, on the 27th of September my friend Carter Craft offered to shuttle me around Newtown Creek onboard his boat. These photos are from that excursion, which is likely my penultimate trip on the Creek. That’s the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge pictured above, and the POV looks westwards along the creek towards LIC. This spot is 1.37 miles from the East River.

The NYC DOT, whose 1987 vintage double bascule drawbridge this is, also refers to the thing as the J.J. Byrne Memorial Bridge. A former saloon singer and later a Commissioner of Public Works for Brooklyn, Byrne became Borough President in 1925, succeeding the previous BP – Joseph A. Guider – who died while in office. As to why the rather unremarkable Byrne ended up in the top spot, look no further than his Brother in Law – John H. McCooey – the political boss of Brooklyn who was known as “their man in Brooklyn, Uncle John” to the Tammany Hall players over in Manhattan. Byrne would also die in office, and just to show you how long the lines of political patronage in NYC government are – Michael Bloomberg is the Mayor who presided over adding the “J.J. Byrne” moniker to the bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

We continued eastwards along the Newtown Creek, past the spectacle of the Green Asphalt outfit filling a barge with their product. A single maritime barge carries the equivalent cargo of 38 heavy trucks. The only hope NYC has to survive the next century without filling every single street, all the time, with heavy trucking is maritime in nature. What have we done with our waterfronts, accordingly? Luxury apartment buildings and eradicating ship to shore infrastructure and industrial centers… but, alas… nothing matters and nobody cares.

Green Asphalt, and companies like it, sprung into existence after the 2010 Solid Waste Management Act was rammed into existence by the Bloomberg people. Prior, when a roadway was milled, the asphalt surfacing that was dug up out of the roadbed would be sent to landfills. Green Asphalt receives this material nowadays from the NYC DOT road crews and contractors who maintain our streets. It’s heated up using steam, and a bit of fresh material is introduced into the stuff, which is then sent back out to be reapplied to the roadbed.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

We floated past the Queens side site of the first large scale petroleum refinery in the United States – the remnants of the 1854 vintage “North American Kerosene Gas Light Company” of Abraham Gesner. Later acquired by Charles Pratt (Standard Oil Company of New York), Mobil Oil would inherit the site and operate an industrial lubricant manufacturing plant here until the second half of the 20th century.

One of the petroleum enforcement actions which ExxonMobil has had to oblige on Newtown Creek started one day in 2011 when I was tagging along on one of Riverkeeper’s patrols of Newtown Creek and when I noticed that oil was migrating out of the bulkheads in this area. That’s the day that the story of the “Blissville Seep” began. The Riverkeeper folks shortly got the “official” ball rolling with the regulatory agency – NYS Department of Environmental Conservation. ExxonMobil admitted a modern day culpability for the deeds of their long ago corporate brethren, and deployed their environmental contractors (under the supervision of NYS DEC) who are busily installing all sorts of equipment in these industrial quarters to handle the situation.

This POV is on the water side of Review Avenue, behind the line of factory and warehouse buildings – and the LIRR tracks – opposite First Calvary Cemetery.

Only oil spill I ever got to help discover, at least. This was also the beginning of my whole “Citizen Waxman” shtick.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When the project to replace the Kosciuszcko Bridge suddenly received an Andy Cuomo sized shoe up its keister, I had already been cataloguing the DUKBO section of Newtown Creek for a few years. Anything collected or written about, in this area, received that particular tag. Just as this project was kicking into gear is when what I was doing on Newtown Creek got noticed by a whole big bunch of people, including The NY Times.

That’s when Citizen Waxman was invited to join the Kosciuszcko Bridge Stakeholders Advisory Committee, and that put me right in the center of the whole rebuilding and replacement project. All of a sudden, I was in the same room as Congressmen and City Council people regularly. That’s also right about when I started working for Atlas Obscura and others, doing Newtown Creek walking and vehicle tours nearly every weekend during the summer months for several years.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For one of these tours, my buddy Joey and I transported a bunch of wooden palettes from his job site at a haulage company to a weed choked mud hole along the creek in Maspeth. We laid the palettes down on top of the Poison Ivy and dodged the clouds of flying insects which we’d disturbed. Formerly, you had to just bust your way through thorns and vines to get down to the water. I’ve always been big on safety for people that came on my walks, so Joey and I created a plank road of palettes at the Maspeth Avenue Plank Road site. Eventually, after talking about its potential endlessly, I managed to “put something on the map.” Today – people actually come here as a destination, and they hang out by the water. Artists, musicians.

To each and every one of my friends, whom I’ve convinced to do utterly illogical and over the top things with me over the years along the creek… thank you. This is why.

The Plank Road has since received historic signage, and Newtown Creek Alliance has undertaken a stewardship program at the place. The ground has received some landscaping as well. It’s a site which will also be preserved through the superfund process, which is another feather I can point to in my cap.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My pal Carter turned the boat into English Kills, which is technically a tributary, but it seems like it’s just the bitter end of Newtown Creek.

This is one of the most environmentally damaged sections of the waterway, as a note. Also – “Kills” is ye olde Dutch for Creek. This spot is about 3 miles back from the East River, and it’s right at the turn out from the main channel. The Grand Street Bridge is nearby, and in accordance with my zone system acronyms – this area is tagged with DUGSBO, or Down Under the Grand Street Bridge Onramp.

More next week, at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


“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

October 28, 2022 at 11:00 am

devilish anxiety

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Thursday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As described in yesterday’s post, on the 27th of September one was provided with a uniquely wonderful offer by my friend, Carter Craft. Carter owns a boat, and he offered to take me out for an afternoon’s navigation upon the absolutely lugubrious Newtown Creek.

We got lucky, with perfect autumn weather. That’s what the Pulaski Bridge looks like from below. Over the years, everything that’s I’ve written about that’s in the vicinity of this bridge, on either side of the creek – Brooklyn or Queens – has been tagged with the acronym DUPBO – short for “Down Under the Pulaski Bridge Onramp.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For the first 10 years or so of the time I’ve been hanging around Newtown Creek, boat excursions and tours were pretty frequent. With either Working Harbor Committee, or Newtown Creek Alliance or sometimes both – we’d hire out ferry boats to conduct public or private facing tours of the waterway. Working Harbor’s mission includes “educating the public about the harbor” and NCA’s is “reveal, restore, revitalize,” so bringing people here was a significant action for us. We’d also partner up with Open House NY and others to do boat tours.

When NYC Ferry came along about 8 years ago, they began hiring all the available ferry boats in NY Harbor to handle their success on the Rockaway line, and what that meant to us was that the only boats still available were luxurious party and dinner vessels, which were way out of the price range that any of the non profits could support. Ticket prices would have had to have been north of $100, just to cover costs of the boat itself.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This hasn’t really been a terrible thing, necessarily, as my pal Will Elkins from NCA is a leading member of the North Brooklyn Boat Club and has been organizing paddling trips up the Creek for years. There’s a couple of giant row boats in their inventory, and plenty of kayaks. This provided for a more relaxed form of narration, and a slower pace.

Then COVID came along, and thereby it’s been nearly three years since I’ve been out on the waters of my beloved Newtown Creek. When my pal Carter Craft contacted me, and said “I can’t let Mitch Waxman leave New York without taking him out on Newtown Creek,” one jumped at the chance to do so.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Every time might be the last time. In this case, it’s my penultimate trip on the Creek. If you’re along the waterway this Saturday afternoon and you see a historic Fireboat passing by, wave at me. I’ll be the one in the filthy black raincoat waving a camera around. That’ll be the last one.

As of Sunday, I’ll be closing the cover on this part of my life. I’ve decided to keep on publishing here for a bit, just to maintain my own sanity. Things are so hectic at the moment, as I prepare to move to another state, that I find myself having to check with my phone to see what day it is. Writing these posts is the singular “non chaotic” activity I’ve got at the moment, so…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge. Every post that’s been published here since 2009 involving this bridge or the terrain surrounding it has been tagged with “DUGABO” or Down Under the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge Onramp.

The logic behind the DUPBO or DUGABO or DUKBO thing has always been to break the creek up into regions. The waterway is 3.8 miles end to end, with a large tributary called Dutch Kills branching off of it, and the surrounding territory and street grid is so byzantine and obtuse that it made sense to create “zones” just to stay organized around the “landmark” bridges.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s what it looks like under the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge. You’re looking towards the Queens side there, in LIC’s Blissville, where Railroad Avenue is found. We navigated on, which I’ll describe in subsequent postings.

More coming…


“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

October 27, 2022 at 11:00 am

voyages incalculable

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Friday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator was accomplishing a longish scuttle on the 23rd of September, one which saw me perambulating from the rolling hills of almond eyed Astoria in Queens towards the concrete devastations of the lugubrious Newtown Creek and the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn. Pictured above is the view from mid span on the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge.

“Every time might be the last time.” That’s my mantra at the moment, and thereby I’m trying to visit everywhere one last time.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

At the poetically named “Unnamed Canal” along Newtown Creek, I spotted the tug Miss Madeline struggling a barge against an incoming tide flooding in from the East River. There’s a bit of laminar or horizontal tidal movement in this section of Newtown Creek, whereas in other areas – notable the tributaries like Dutch Kills and Maspeth Creek, where tidal action is discernible only in a strictly vertical form.

Everybody tells me that I’ll be coming back to NYC within two years. This is extremely unlikely. If things go badly for me in Pittsburgh, Our Lady of the Pentacle and myself will just move on to the next place, or the one after that. I’m sure that there will be occasional visits here for work or extended family events, but my residence will be elsewhere.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Hey, it’s the New York City Department of Environmental Protections’ Newtown Creek Resource Recovery and Wastewater Treatment Facility pictured above. Can you imagine being the person who answers the phones there? Due to my influence, everybody associated with the various Newtown Creek community groups have just started using “the sewer plant in Greenpoint” instead. Give DEP five years and they’ll have probably inserted the first stanza of “T’was the night before Christmas” into the place’s name by then. Jeez.

My next destination was the Newtown Creek Nature Walk, which was funded under the NYC Charter requirement known as “1% for art.” The stipulation commands NYC to commit one percent of the budget of any new municipal construction project to either public open space or to a work of public art. Phase 2 & 3 of this Nature Walk was a project which a humble narrator was deeply involved with, as a member of the community oversight “Newtown Creek Monitoring Committee” or NCMC. I ended up putting in a lot of hours for this one.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

From Phase 1 of the Nature Walk, one observed Miss Madeline still struggling against the physics of the tidal cycle. They had maneuvered out of Unnamed Canal and into Whale Creek, as pictured above.

The hour was beginning to grow late, and my desire was to find myself somewhere else, with an interesting and elevated point of view, when the descent of the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself behind New Jersey occurred in about 60 or so minutes.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One leaned into it, and began quickly scuttling eastwards, past the largest source of greenhouse gas in the borough of Brooklyn, pictured above and found at the Department of Environmental Protection property known as “the sewer plant in Brooklyn.” Those four pipes are burning off the methane produced by the sewer plant. The venturi jet burner is tuned up to produce a clear flame, and you need to look for the heat distortion emanating from the things to visualize the horror of it all.

DEP has been working with the National Grid outfit for nearly a decade to work out a “waste to energy” program which would harvest the greenhouse gas, and will often talk about this project in public in a manner suggesting that it’s up and running, but in reality not a single visible screw has been turned yet and it’s kind of a scandal waiting to explode and embarrass them.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Every time might be the last time…

You may have noticed that I’m centering that scaffold clad chimney in a few of my shots lately. It’s all that remains of Van Iderstine, the ghastly fat rendering company who’s redolent presence defined the Queens side of the Greenpoint Avenue for nearly a hundred years. It’s being taken down and demolished currently, which feels like a quite appropriate thing for me to witness, as regarding my own situation. The edifices of the past and all that.

More next week, at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


“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

October 21, 2022 at 11:00 am

local dangers

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Thursday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

First off – Newtown Creek Alliance will be honoring John Lipscomb of Riverkeeper, Christine Holowacz, and… your humble narrator… tonight, (the 20th) at the annual “Tidal Toast” fundraising event. Ticketing information can be found here, and the tax deductible donation of your ticket money will help to fund NCA’s ongoing mission to Reveal, Restore, and Revitalize Newtown Creek. NCA has been at the center of my public life over the last 15 years, and I hope you can make it. This is officially my finale, in terms of public facing events, and the end of this chapter of my life.

On the 23rd of September, a humble narrator set out for what ended up being an extremely long walk. Upon leaving HQ, a black cat with yellow eyes skated past me. Such an occurrence is always indicative of a good photo day coming. You have to learn how to listen to Queens, I always say, and recognize her omens.

The late model pick up truck pictured above was the first cool thing that she showed me. I’m going to miss Queens, but I don’t think she’ll miss me. I don’t think anyone in NYC is actually going to miss “me,” rather they’ll miss the idea of me. I think, on the other hand, that there will be a lot of people happy to see me go.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My next stop was at “hole reliable” at Sunnyside Yards, which lived up to the name I’ve assigned it. Hole Reliable is a surveyor’s aperture cut out of the plate steel fencing over the Harold Interlocking.

Wonders, I tell you, wonders.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My pathway continued on, south to Greenpoint Avenue and then into Blissville, which carried me over the Long Island Expressway.

Why do I think no one will miss me, and why some will be happy to see me go? Experience. It’s the way of NYC. When somebody leaves the megalopolis, or dies here, there’s a lot of hugging and handshaking for a little while but then life goes on. As far as the “happy to see me go” people, I’m either in their way right now, or perceived as a wizened scold whose knowledge of past events and the circumstances is inconvenient to the current dialectic on offer.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Down Under the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge Onramp, in Long Island City’s Blissville section, that’s where my next stop was. Railroad Avenue, specifically. I call it DUGABO.

Melancholy actually rules my roost at the moment. On the one hand, ebullient excitement for all of the challenges and opportunities that relocating to a different part of the country offers is undeniable. Conversely, I’m leaving behind everything I know and everything I’ve ever known. It’s manic and depressing – all at the same time.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a reason that they named this particular street in Long Island City “Railroad Avenue.” During my travels on Amtrak last year, one of the realizations I enjoyed was the one that stated “Everywhere you go, there’s a Railroad Avenue.” Really. I found one along Lake Champlain in Burlington, Vermont, of all places.

I’ve been forced to craft a little speech in order to save time. It starts off with “Not to get all Doctor Who here, but we’re all different people at different times of our lives…” Deep thoughts have accompanied the underway diving expedition of ridding myself of the material detritus of a lifetime in preparation for this move. Over all, I like to think that I’ve done some good, in this most recent version of myself.

The trash bags in front of HQ have included yearbooks from schools that some early variant of me attended, the toys and tools acquired over a half century by several of the “me’s”, and clothing worn by a younger man which no longer fits.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Saying all that, a humble narrator is currently exhausted. A thousand thousand small but important details are being maintained in active thought, and a never ending landslide of physical task work, that I’ve scheduled around garbage pickup days, is underway at HQ.

There’s no way that NYC is going to let me go without an attempt at slamming some kind of whammy at me on the way out – that’s my governing terror. One of the reasons I’m so exhausted is that I have my radar on at full power every time I leave HQ just to buy a bagel.

More tomorrow.


“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.

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