The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Posts Tagged ‘DUKBO

unvisited mountain

with one comment

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

with one comment

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

times amidst

with one comment

Monday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A long walk continues! From Astoria to LIC’s Blissville, and then looping around and through Brooklyn’s Greenpoint section, on the 23rd of September of 2022. “Every time might be the last time…”

Scuttling along the hoary asphalt, which armors the oil choked loam of this ancient outpost of the decadent Dutch, a humble narrator suddenly realized that both altitude AND declination were warping, as he had blindly wandered onto those entirely euclidian angles which are offered by the New York State Department of Transportation via the bicycle and pedestrian pathway of the Kosciuszcko Bridge which said agency maintains.

Thoroughly modern in both function and design, the Kosciuszcko Bridge(s) nevertheless are visually pleasing to me – a barren creature, broken and bruised, bereft, bankrupt and often beleaguered – your always humble narrator. The Kosciuszcko Bridge carries, in addition to the path one scuttled atop, the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, and its teeming multitudes of automotive wanderers, high over the iridescent waveforms of an aqueous ribbon of urban neglect which is known, to modernity, as the Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The burning thermonuclear eye of God itself was descending behind New Jersey, just as the monocular of the camera was being moved into position high over the jellies and tepid currents of said waterway. One actuated the shutter button again and again while shuffling along…

It has been years since one has spoken to you, lords and ladies, in this sort of way. Colloquial verbiage and easy conversational voicing has been my intent in recent intervals. Nearing the end of all things, and the shadowy beginnings of a new chapter, one instead feels a deep desire to revisit the past. To plumb the depths.

Always have I been an outsider, attracted to things ancient and unloved.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Who can guess, thereby, all that might be buried down there – beneath the waters buoying that tugboat? What foul truth might lurk, concealed in the black mayonnaise which sits patiently along the bottom of the glacier carved ancestral valley that Newtown Creek floods and calls its bed?

The “bad water place” is what one of the Lenape words for the Newtown Creek is said to translate into English as. That, and those, who are rumored to dwell in the broken stone floor of the nearby Hells Gate section of the East River, might know other words. Perhaps, and perhaps not. I’ve likely said too much.

Let’s change the subject… how about that sports ball team hereabouts? Might this be finally the year of affirmation for our civic and mutual worth, displayed to the globe by champion status in sports ball?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The locale of the forbidden colony of New Arnheim, detested and personally destroyed by the Dutch Governor Peter Stuyvesant, is not too far away from this spot, just east and towards the Brooklyn side. So too is the forgotten Blissvillian tributary of Wolf Creek, and the overwhelming necropolis called Calvary Cemetery.

The latter hosts its own storm sewer and drainage systems, whose horrifying outflows into the Newtown Creek are not just splendiferous in coffin varnish, adipocere, and formaldehyde. The black mayonnaise underlying the waters here are rich with acrylonitrile concentrations – according to environmental scientists. Toxic, certain groupings of this type of organic chemicals are commonly referred to as “cadaverine” and “putrescine.” This and many other reasons underlie the presence of signage around this waterway adjuring the citizenry against consuming fish or crabs captured from its volume.

This outflow pipe for the cemetery is found directly below the railroad tracks in the photograph above, which are upon the former site of the Penny Bridge crossing demolished in 1939, and a former Long Island Railroad stop also called Penny Bridge which was eliminated by the MTA under mysterious circumstance in 1998. This is the part of Newtown Creek where hauntings of the Blissville Banshee were oft reported.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Horror lurks everywhere along Newtown Creek. Approximately 170,000 vehicle trips cross the Kosciuszcko daily, as reported by Governmental agencies knowledgable about such statistical data. One wonders… statistically speaking, how many times a day does a murderer cross the bridge? Figure there’s two people in every car… how many murderers are there per hundred thousand New Yorkers?

As above, so below?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One found his way back down to the poison ground, alongside First Calvary Cemetery, and its tomb legions, at the outskirts and border of both Blissville and ancient Maspeth, in Queens. The camera’s functional optics were swapped out, and a quick conversion over to the “night kit” was effected. The “daylight” zoom lenses were stored away, and my next steps considered. Into the darkness, yes, but which pathway?

Ahem… truth be told, my feet were hurting at this point so I just called a cab and headed back to HQ in Astoria. I had another busy couple of days coming up, and…

More tomorrow, 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 24, 2022 at 11:00 am

seventy steps

with one comment

Tuesday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

First off – Newtown Creek Alliance will be honoring John Lipscomb of Riverkeeper, Christine Holowacz, and… your humble narrator… this coming Thursday night (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.

Heading back towards Astoria, from a far ranging walk on the 16th of September, which saw me visiting places familiar and loved, I decided that the course northwards and towards HQ would involve 48th street, where Woodside and Sunnyside collide. To get there, I scuttled along an access road that follows the Brooklyn Queens Expressway’s connection to the Long Island Expressway.

This is a lonely path through my “happy place” borderlands of Industrial Maspeth. You needn’t fret overly about marauders, muggers, or molesters here, instead you worry about monsters. Not metaphorical ones either. If you’re going to get got by a werewolf or zombie in NYC, this is the neighborhood where that’ll happen. Vampires? Nope, that’s Queens Plaza.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Cool cars abound in the borough of Queens, but they’re given to mechanical failure, so tow trucks also must exist. Universal rule.

At the moment, since this is another one of the things people keep asking me, I’m still maintaining my every other day schedule of “part of one day out shooting and then one day back at HQ.” The length of the walks I take on one of the “out days” is based purely around whatever else I’m obliged to do that day and how the physical plant is behaving. Of late, it hasn’t been too easy to detach myself prior to about 4-5 in the afternoon, and as the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself is currently dropping down behind New Jersey sometime in the 6 o’clock hour here in NYC so I seem to be catching a lot of sunsets.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My mood is fairly serious but I’m not as anxious or stressed out as you’d imagine, as I’m driven by the exigent circumstances of the day, and I’m actually feeling quite positive. As described in the past, one of the things I do when scuttling around is think in a meditative fashion. I like to believe that all of this alone time over the last fifteen or so years has allowed me to figure some things out, about myself at least. What I can say is that I’m a very different person than I used to be.

Physically, I’m what I’d describe as “ok” but I’m still really fat and haven’t been able to drop the weight I put on during COVID, despite all the walking. Saying that, the trick left foot seems to be a little less tricky these days and despite being in my middle 50’s – four out of seven days a week I’ll walk between five and fifteen miles around this hellish industrial zone while lugging around ten pounds of camera crap with me. Rain, snow, hot, cold. That’s me. I’m still made of leather.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One looks forward to living in the Pittsburgh area. I’m thinking about augmenting my nascent car ownership with an electric pedal assist bike of some kind, which would allow me the option of parking the larger vehicle somewhere and then exploring the various neighborhoods of Pittsburgh on 2 wheels until I get a feel for the place. As mentioned in the past, I don’t think you can see or understand a place from behind the wheel of a car, as you’re moving too fast to notice things. Even a bike moves a bit too fast. Walking, that’s the trick, but until you’ve found pathways through a city it’s best to be mobile in case trouble lurks.

Perhaps I can find a pair of robot pants which would walk up and down those hills in Pittsburgh for me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Of course, there’s all sorts of stuff there that you can just walk right up to and photograph without having to shoot through a chain link fence like you do with literally everything in NYC. Pictured above is the interchange between the BQE and LIE, at the Maspeth/Sunnyside/Woodside border mentioned at the top of this post, the one whose access road I was walking along – and it’s a photo shot through a chain link fence.

This point of view is found along 48th street, at the Woodside and Sunnyside Border with the happy place of Industrial Maspeth. From here out, as I headed north, 48th street is entirely residential for several blocks. Nothing too interesting to shoot there, I’m afraid. I also don’t really like taking pictures of people’s homes, as it looks really, really suspicious and weird. Given how suspicious and weird I look as a default…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Luckily for a humble narrator, just as I got to Queens Boulevard at 48th street, the Q104 bus was pulling up and after a quick “maximum boogie” sprint across the so called “Boulevard of Death,” I was utilizing the MTA’s newish OMNY fare payment system to buy myself a ride the rest of the way back home to the rolling hills of almond eyed Astoria.

The next few days were meant to be rather “involved,” and they certainly were. More on that 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.

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 18, 2022 at 11:00 am

stayed on

with one comment

Monday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

May 4th was a pretty productive day for me. Caught a nice sunset from the Kosciuszcko Bridge, then began a fairly low key walk back to HQ in Astoria. Along the way, lots of things caught my eye.

43rd street offers a fairly “straight shot” for me to get back home, but I seem to prefer 39th street as that’s where my toes point.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

You have to get out of Blissville first, however, so a few scary and fairly deserted highway off ramp pedestrian pathways are followed on the way. It’s the deserted thing that makes them scary, incidentally.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Queens Boulevard forms a bit of a prominence, and one of my corny “dad jokes” revolves around announcing to anyone who might be accompanying me on a walk that “it’s all downhill from here” when passing under the elevated tracks of the 7 line subway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The reason 39th street is my preferred path has to do with “hole reliable,” an aperture in the fencing around Sunnyside Yards at the Harold Interlocking which seldom disappoints as far as offering opportunity to photograph trains.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On this particular evening, my timing was stellar, and I managed to get one coming from and one going to.

I never, ever tire of this particular composition. In many ways, “hole reliable” is where I learned how to capture low light photos.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A recent addition to Amtrak’s fence hole offerings allows for an unoccluded view of the “turnaround track” at Sunnyside Yards.

It’s a complicated shot, this one, given how dark it is in this corner of the yards. I had to shoot this at an unbelievably high ISO speed of 128,000.


“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

June 20, 2022 at 11:00 am

%d bloggers like this: