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Posts Tagged ‘East River

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It’s National French Toast Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I was on my way to the ferry one recent morning, but had to make a quick stop nearby Queens Plaza. Lotsa running around, me. The light bouncing around in Queens Plaza caught my eye, however.

That’s the Rosenwasser Bros. factory at the right hand side of the shot, all illuminated by one of the shiny mirror box condo towers being built in Queens Plaza. It’s Orchard street, by the way, corner of Jackson Avenue. The Rosenwassers were magnates in the rag trade who started out – like many Jewish garment tycoons – in the shirtwaist industry of Lower Manhattan. Running what 21st century eyes would process as a sweatshop, they accumulated enough money to set up a large industrial combine in Queens shortly after the Queensboro bridge opened in 1909, and enjoyed several military as well as civilian contracts. By 1913, they were an established and well known Queensican company run by its President, Morris Rosenwasser, which offered baseball cleats (sold under Babe Ruth branding) and scouting equipment to retailers.

At its height in 1918, the Rosenwasser Company employed some 2,500 people. During the First World War, the firm enjoyed several valuable contracts with the Federal Government. The factory in Queens Plaza turned out an average of 6,000 pairs of shoes a day, 15,000 pairs of leggings, and an undetermined number of canvas gas masks, rucksacks, and other commodities for the war department. A so called “open shop,” the Rosenwassers were prime movers in a case (Rosenwasser Bros. Inc. v. Pepper et al, NYS Supreme Court October 1918) which defined the rights and limitations of organized labor during wartime for a generation.

Who knew?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Welfare Island Bridge opened, officially, on May 18, 1955. We know it as the Roosevelt Island Bridge.

Like the nearby Pulaski Bridge over Newtown Creek, which was erected in the same era, Frederick H. Zurmuhlen of the Dept. of Public Works oversaw the design and construction of the Welfare Island Bridge. One of the unsung men who built the modern city, Zurmuhlen served under three mayors and one Robert Moses.

The Welfare Island Bridge, known to modernity as the Roosevelt Island Bridge, has recently undergone a refurbishment and makeover. Much was made of the cosmetic improvements to the span, but the reality of the investment was a determination that in case of a seismic event – which the City of New York is long overdue for – the Bridge would suffer catastrophic damage. A massive earthquake is one of the unspoken horrors which the City government had been quietly planning for during the twelve year tenure of Michael Bloomberg, something which that Mayor’s office would be applauded for were it more widely known. A tip of the hat goes out to the municipal engineers and planners for both their discretion and the secretive work which they had been performing. Of course, that sort of thing went out the window when the Dope From Park Slope showed up.

As far as the current Mayor… he’s busy trying to build “affordable” waterfront housing that starts at $3,700 for a one bedroom. A highly technical description of NYC’s earthquake risk factors, as prepared and offered in 1998 by the NY State DOT, can be accessed here.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

These shots were captured from the NYC Ferry’s Astoria line, which is one of the few things that I consider the current Mayor as having done well in his first term. Of course, I can tell you that I’d been hearing about this expansion of the East River Ferry service in harbor circles for years, and can quietly point you at certain employees of the NYCEDC who handed the current Mayor a finished plan for him to put his name on the day he got into office, but regardless – if you haven’t ridden the new ferry from Astoria yet, what are you waiting for? You paid for it, you might as well use it. The experience is pretty cool, and it’s only $2.75.

Pictured above is a section of the Big Allis power plant, with the sapphire megalith of LIC peeking through some of its works. Big Allis supplies about 16% of NYC’s electricity, and was the first million kilowatt generating facility in the entire country. Built at the behest of Consolidated Edison, Big Allis (aka Ravenswood Number Three) first went online in 1965. Upon activation, the
dynamos of Big Allis were reduced to slag by the heat issuing from within its massive, natural gas driven turbines. Six months later, a rebuilt system managed to withstand a full hour and twenty seven minutes of these cosmic forces before it too went out of commission for a further four months. The problem was diagnosed by experts and teams of engineers being caused by a malfunctioning bearing which was producing concatenation and vibrations.

Did you know that Big Allis was originally meant to be a nuclear plant?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the Queensboro Bridge, pictured above, looking back along the shoreline of Queens at the border of Hunters Point and Ravenswood. The borders between these areas are always hazy, and are often the subject of debate amongst those with an appreciation for times past and things forgotten. I’ve coined the term “angle” to describe these blended neighborhoods; Blissville and West Maspeth, Woodside and Sunnyside, Astoria and Elmhurst etc. In the case of Blissville and Maspeth, the Koscisuzcko Bridge sits on the exact border between the two… but where does Woodside start and Sunnyside end? Even worse, where does Winfield fit into the puzzle? Angles, I tell you, angles.

At least along the East River, things are fairly simple – Astoria, Ravenswood, Hunters Point – from north to south.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

You’ve got a lot of “sub zones” as well in those East River neighborhoods in Queens, the Astoria Ferry Line leaves from Lawrence or Astoria Point at Hallets Cove, and the “north side” ferry dock pictured in LIC above is found alongside future superfund site Anable Basin. A hundred years ago, the area where all of those shiny new residential towers pictured above sit in modernity was once the property of the Standard Oil Company and hosted a pretty large parcel of petroleum oriented equipment, chemical and paint factories, and one or two large oil canning operations.

There was also the Ward and Co. Oil and Lard mill back there, which is one of those late 19th and early 20th century industrial operations whose occupation and business… well… common usage would describe it as “Dickensian.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s always difficult to do justice to the East River.

The bridges, the history… it’s a maritime corridor in which so much happened that it’s often hard to believe. In many ways, it’s where American capitalism “figured itself out.” In the 18th and early 19th centuries, it’s where the slave ships were built over on the Manhattan side. It’s where the financial powers which would become “Wall Street” began issuing the credit documents and bills of laiding recognized by the European colonial powers, where the first modern steel hulled and steam powered ships were built, and where profiting from the “five black arts” were perfected and practiced.


Upcoming Tours and events

Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour, with Atlas Obscura – Sunday, December 10th, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Explore NYC history, hidden inside sculptural monuments and mafioso grave sites, as you take in iconic city views on this walking tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


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avian menace

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It’s National Vinegar Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just a single shot today, depicting a series of CSX locomotive engines which were observed hauling a freight train over the Hell Gate bridge recently. Busy today with developing the shots from Halloween in Astoria, which I hope to be able to show you tomorrow at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


Upcoming Tours and events

Exploring Long Island City, from Luxury Waterfront to Abandoned Factories Walking Tour,
with NY Adventure Club – Sunday, November 12th, 2:30 p.m. – 4:30 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.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 1, 2017 at 1:00 pm

excite attention

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It’s National Bologna Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For many reasons, a humble narrator has found himself at Hallets Cove along the Astoria waterfront in recent weeks. Partially, this recent focus was related to a humble narrator being invited to write a guest blog for the NYC Ferry service’s new Astoria stop (check it out here), but didn’t go “super granular” with it in my usual manner. Something I learned while writing my old Brownstoner Queens column was sometimes you need to approach a story, and a more general audience, with a different voice than you normally would (the NYC Ferry is operated by the Hornblower company, under the auspices of the NYC EDC, in case you’re wondering). 

The other reason I’ve been down at Hallets Cove a lot in recent weeks has been to actually use the Ferry to get to and from work, as the MTA has seemingly deduced that nobody in Queens needs to get to and from Manhattan on the weekends. Luckily, my destination for conducting boat tours is Pier 11, which is one of the terminal stops for the ferry, so problem solved.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The kids of Queens never disappoint, as evinced by these phalluses recently scratched into the sand at Hallets Cove. There’s actually a lot of fine detail to appreciate in these, from the spurts to the hairy sacks. Good show.

As a note, I know of just three sandy beaches along the East River, Hallets Cove being one.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The future site of a floating “Eco Dock” as my pals from the Waterfront Alliance call it, one has long been fascinated by the muddy flats underlying a discarded pier found at the entrance to the NYCHA Astoria Houses on what is historically known as Lawrence Point, but which has been rechristened as “Astoria Point” by real estate interests and elected officialdom alike.

This sort of marshy area is immensely important to the ecology of the waters surrounding NYC, as my pals from Riverkeeper will tell you, and you don’t see very much of it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a derelict pier overflying those muddy flats, which as mentioned, will be replaced with an eco dock. My understanding is that the pier was installed to support a radio station’s broadcast tower, specifically WLIB, back in 1953. Further, I’m told that the radio station abandoned this location in 1967, and that the structure has been feral ever since.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If you haven’t tried out the new ferry service leaving from Astoria yet, I recommend it for nothing other than seeing the sights. The route carries you along the east channel of the East River, which transits between the Ravenswood section of Long Island City and Roosevelt Island. You’ve got some pretty incredible stuff along the route, including both the Roosevelt Island Lift bridge and the amazing Queensboro bridge, and the Big Allis power plant is on display as well.

This particular ferry service makes an amended series of stops as compared to the longer tenanted East River route, stopping first at Roosevelt Island, then the northern ferry stop at Hunters Point, 34th street and then Pier 11/Wall Street in Manhattan. Im personally really looking forward to the upcoming Soundview route, opening in 2018, which will go to the southeastern Bronx – which is the unknown country for one such as myself.

Check the Astoria ferry out, what else have you got to do?


Upcoming Tours and events

Exploring Long Island City, from Luxury Waterfront to Abandoned Factories Walking Tour,
with NY Adventure Club – Sunday, November 12th, 2:30 p.m. – 4:30 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

October 24, 2017 at 11:00 am

doomed intuitions

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It’s National Chocolate Cupcake Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Legend has it that on one particular evening Mose the Fireboy, who was the legendary “sachem” and hero of the Bowery B’hoys gang in 19th century NYC, heard that a sea serpent had appeared on the East River. Mose, a giant whose legends are similar to those of the gargantuan lumberjack Paul Bunyan, rowed out onto the river and plucked the leviathan from the water with his bare hands. Strangling the monster in his iron grip, Mose then skinned the great beast and brought his prize to McGurk’s Suicide Parlor – a bar formerly found on the west side of the Bowery, nearby Cooper Square at east 4th street. It’s said that the skin hung over the bar afterwards, as a totem of the mysteries of the harbor and testament to the great strength and power of Mose. Mose supposedly could extinguish blazes by clapping his hands and was known to smoke three cigars at the same time. If his horse wasn’t pulling the fire wagon fast enough, Mose would pick up the horse in one hand and the wagon in the other and carry them. Mose the fireboy was apparently quite a fellow, so much so that he was a regular character appearing in Bowery theater productions centered around “life in our town.”

The largest known specie of eel, incidentally, is the European Conger, which is known to grow to lengths of nearly ten feet and achieve body weights of up to 240 pounds. They’re native to the eastern Atlantic Ocean and tend towards the European coastline. They’re carnivorous, feeding on all sorts of deep sea critters, and have been found at depths of up to 3,840 feet. The American Eel is a relative dwarf in comparison, achieving lengths of up to 4 feet and body weights of up to 17 pounds.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The largest living crab, and largest arthropod as well, is the Japanese Spider Crab. Large specimens can spread their clawed arms out to span 18 feet, and they can weigh as much as 42 pounds. Closer to home, the American Lobster (Homarus americanus) is known to achieve weights of 44 pounds and body lengths of two feet – excluding their claws. Both are members of the Malacostraca class of crustaceans, whose ancestors first appear in the fossil record during the Cambrian age. All sorts of large marine animals are spotted in the East River from time to time – including cetaceans like Whales and Dolphins, large bony fish and living fossils like the Sturgeon, and occasionally sea turtles.

The leatherback sea turtle is the largest extant turtle and fourth largest living reptile, and can be found in nearly all of the world’s ocean waters. Leatherbacks can grow to nearly seven feet in length and achieve body weights of up to 2,000 pounds. Sea Turtle ancestry dates back to the Triassic age.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In 1895, the NY Times offered reports of a sea serpent of more than 100 feet in length moving quickly through New York Harbor about a half mile from shore. According to the testimony of one Willard P. Shaw of Wall Street, it repeatedly raised its head out of the water more than ten feet above the waves. Shaw’s story was confirmed by other witnesses.

This sounds like the sort of thing we would need Mose the Fireboy to handle.

Who can guess, all there is, that might be sloshing and swimming around down there?


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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 18, 2017 at 1:00 pm

great bridge

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It’s both National Crabmeat Day, and National Meatball day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Happy official anniversary of the first train crossing of the Hell Gate Bridge! Personally, I’m going to attend the celebratory soirée at Greater Astoria Historic Society tonight, where Dave “the Bridgeman” Frieder is going to be talking. Dave Freider is a photographer and historian who probably knows more about this subject than anyone else alive, and he was featured in a recent NY Times article on the subject as well.

I’ve been talking about the Hell Gate bridge since Newtown Pentacle started. This recent post, commemorating the day on which the steel of the bridge was finished, for instance. As an aside, here’s a post on it’s neighbor to the south, the Triborough Bridge, and one of the many where a humble narrator described ships and other vessels passing beneath it. There’s that time I spotted an experimental combat vessel at Hells Gate, described here. The esoteric history of Hells Gate was discussed in this 2010 post, and the largest explosion in human history prior to the atomic era as well as why its called “Hells Gate” was offered way back in this 2009 post, and in this one as well.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s actually because of all the rattling on I’ve done over the years about Hell Gate that the decision to largely shut up and let you look at the pictures is offered today. Of course, since I’m a “Chatty Cathy,” that doesn’t mean I’m not going to fill the dead air.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Mose the fireboy is said to have strangled a sea serpent to death at Hell Gate in the early 19th century, a creature whose skin was draped over the bar at McGurk’s Suicide Palace during the legendary era of the Bowery B’hoys.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Hell Gate Bridge is federal property, specifically Amtrak, who acquired it out of the (then) largest bankruptcy in American history. It was the Pennsylvania railroad that built the thing, which eventually merged with their arch rivals at New York Central Railroad. The combined company, Penn Central Transportation Company (and its assets like Hell Gate), also collapsed into bankruptcy (in 1970) and were federalized by Richard Nixon into Amtrak and Conrail.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This bridge is pretty much the only way off of a Long Island and onto the continent for freight rail. There’s a second and quite smaller structure called Little Hell Gate which isn’t not too far away, and that span carries rail traffic into the Bronx and from there all points north and west. On the other side of this connected track system, which is called the New York Connecting Railroad, is the Sunnyside Yard. That’s where the passenger links are, which lead to the east river tunnels, Penn Station, and the Hudson River tunnels.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Hell Gate Bridge hurtles over Astoria Park, and fills the background of much of it. It’s a rite of passage for the “utes” of Astoria to find their way up to the tracks, I’m told, and there’s a legend they propagate that there’s a phantom train which emerges along the unused fourth trackway to chase and claim the unwary.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The arches of the NY Connecting Railroad continue eastwards, and as they do, begin to intersect with residential properties. There are dozens of homes in which the back yard plots include geometries formed by these cylcopean structures.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Astoria legend also describes a homeless serial killer of children who once lurked within the bridge’s Queens side tower. As the story goes, there’s a room in there where photos of the killer’s young victims are displayed. The 114th pct will deny that such a person ever existed, but will mention the occasional “ultra violence” that happens around the bridge – like the homeless man who had his skull crushed here a couple years back.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The New York Connecting Railroad tracks continue on through Astoria, heading eastwards toward the edge of Woodside and then crossing Northern Blvd. Local community organizations sponsor the creation of murals on the street facing sections.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After 31st street, there is naked steel again, with the massive concrete structures giving way to columns and posts. There is still quite a bit of collossal concrete arch and balustrade along the route, of course.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s such a part of the Astoria landscape that seldom is it commented upon, the passing of the railroad.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Happy birthday, Hell Gate Bridge. I’ll be thinking of you at Greater Astoria Historic Society’s “do” tonight.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

March 9, 2017 at 11:00 am

abominations and blasphemies

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Fight.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Gaze upon the Newtown Creek. Currently an EPA Superfund site. Is it going to be one for long? Will there be an EPA this time next year? Would this be a good place, instead, to site a black and gold casino? I’ve been considering the Trump victory, and its implications. I’ve been reading a bunch of stuff written by people like myself, who thought the Presidential Election would be a logical slam dunk in favor of the more qualified candidate. All of us “lefties” have had to admit that we were wrong in our assumptions that our fellow Americans would actually vote in their own economic and cultural interest.

C’Est la Vie. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Early thoughts on the “new normal” involve trying to take advantage of it, which is the American Way. Should Mr. Trump make good on his promise to build a wall across the narrow part of the North American Continent, rebar and Portland Cement futures look like they’ll be a promising investment. Also, I’m planning on finding out who the leading players in immigration law are, and whether or not they are publicly traded companies.

It’s the EPA thing that we’re all talking about on the Creek, I would mention.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s going to be a very interesting few years, I think.

Mainly, because the Republican Congress is likely going to eat the new President for lunch. Those are shark infested waters down in the District. Let’s face it though, all that Donald Trump actually wants to do stand in front of the cameras while cutting the ribbon on all the “bridges to nowhere” and crony projects they’re going to be building.

The game just continues. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Personally, and as I’ve often opined – National Politics is way above my pay grade. I’ve got other, more decidedly local problems to worry about.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has been on a Newtown Creek vacation for the last month, and it’s time for me to get back on the job.


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stark madness

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so… I’m on the East River last Thursday…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A “travlin man,” your humble narrator had some business to attend to in Greenpoint last Thursday which was meant to be followed by helping out on a Working Harbor Committee excursion in the evening. The WHC trip was leaving from Lower Manhattan’s Pier 11, so the logical path was to catch the East River Ferry from Brooklyn to the City. While onboard, I spotted something fairly curious.

Is that the nose of a submarine being towed on a barge?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The tug doing the towing was the GT Lyman. As is usually the case, tugboatinformation.com has everything you’d want to know about the Lyman on display at their site. To sum up – she was built in 1968, is owned and operated by Delaware’s Gateway Towing, and can normally be found in the waters around Philadelphia.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

What Lyman was towing looks very much – to me at least – to be the front section of a submarine. Maybe I’m being crazy here, but there’s a conning tower and… that’s a submarine.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Now, I’ve taken lots of shots around NY Harbor but I’ve never taken a photo of a submarine before.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Actually, I probably have, but pictured above is what you’d normally get in a shot of a submarine.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One was kind of hoping that the Lyman was going to execute a turn into the Brooklyn Navy Yard, but it continued heading north along the East River.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

File this post under “You don’t see that every day.”

Upcoming Events and Tours

Wednesday, August 24, 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. –
Port Newark Boat Tour,
with Working Harbor Committee. Click here for more details.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

August 22, 2016 at 11:00 am

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