The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Posts Tagged ‘East River

half forgot

leave a comment »

Is there a “usual” anymore?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator is notoriously a creature of habits. If I find something enjoyable, I’ll repeat the experience over and over until it’s either no longer available or all the joy has been sucked out of it. Rinse, wash, repeat. I’m that way with certain points of views too. It’s an absolute imperative that I grab certain shots when passing the POV by, which is the case with the photo above from the Brooklyn Navy Yard perspective. You never know if “today’s iteration” is the last time you’ll see something, given how fast change occurs these days. To wit, notice how that new construction of yet another glass box residential tower is screwing up the primacy of the Empire State Building?

Additionally, whereas we’ve had wet and rainy years in the past, 2019 seems to be the year that NYC has become the Seattle of the East Coast. I’d prefer London fog to rain, myself, but I like it all atmospheric like.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned yesterday, before conducting a tour and whenever possible, I like to run the route a couple of days in advance and get my thoughts together. Accordingly, having ridden the Astoria line of the NYC Ferry to Wall Street/Pier 11, I transferred onto the Soundview line that goes north along the East River to the Bronx. After hugging the eastern coastline of Manhattan to East 90th street, the ferry heads into the Hells Gate section of the River. That’s the Triborough and Hell Gate Bridge pictured above, with Randalls/Wards Island on the left and the Shore Blvd. side of Astoria Park on the right.

I often wonder why there isn’t a ferry stop on Randalls/Wards. There’s such an abundance of playing fields and parkland there. Perhaps with future expansions of service there will be. Let’s just say that a certain someone is whispering into a few of the right ears about that one, every chance he gets.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Something you might notice, when riding the ferry, are units of the NYPD Harbor Patrol. I’ve ridden the boats with officers onboard, or seemingly at random, an NYPD vessel will shadow the Ferry along its route – as was the case last week. Obviously, this is connected to NYPD’s Homeland Security mission, an appropriately so.

That’s a SAFE “response boat medium” pictured above, which are increasingly long in the tooth vessels that first started populating the fleets of the “services” a little more than a decade ago. Every service has its own flavor of SAFE boat.

On a site maintenance note, I should be rectifying this ad banner insertion bullshit that WordPress has been inflicting on this site shortly.


“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 18, 2019 at 1:30 pm

varying antiquity

with 2 comments

And so doth Monday once more rise.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Prepping for last Saturday’s NYC Ferry tour found me riding around on a few of their boats last week, which is where I spotted the MV Hunts Point “Sludge Boat” crossing under the Williamsburg Bridge. Originally built as “East River Bridge #3” the bridge opened in 1899, a full ten years before East River Bridge #2 (Manhattan Bridge). It was built to replace the old Grand Street to Grand Street ferry operated by the company which Robert Fulton had founded. The Williamsburg Bridge was considered an eyesore when it opened, and the Municipal Art Society was founded as a response.

The Astoria line of the NYC Ferry, from which these shots were gathered, has recently added a new stop to its service, one which goes into the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Wallabout Creek was the first recorded site of European settlement on the Long Island side of the East River, in these parts. The Lenape word for the Wallabout, I’m told, was “Hemegacknock.” In 1801, shortly after the American Revolution, the newly minted Federal Government desired a ship yard along the East River. At the time, the busiest boat building center on the planet was found on the East side of Manhattan, and real estate prices for a property large enough for what the Feds wanted to occupy forced them to look towards the east. They purchased Wallabout Creek and Bay, and created the Brooklyn Navy Yard there in 1801.

By the American Civil War in the 1860’s, the BNY was employing over 6,000 people at the Wallabout.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

By World War 2, there were 10,000 employees and the Brooklyn Navy Yard hosted five miles of paved roads, 2 steel shipways to launch new vessels, six pontoon and cylindrical floats, and 4 dry docks. That ship you see above is sitting high and dry in one of the dry docks (it’s actually called a graving dock, but there you go).

Between 1937 and 1953, amongst several other large vessels; the BNY launched the Battleships Iowa, North Carolina, and Missouri. They also built the first angled deck aircraft carrier here, which was called the Antietam. After the Federal Government began contracting its ship building and servicing in NY Harbor, the Navy Yard fell on hard times. These days it’s experiencing a bit of a renaissance, and has become a corporate industrial park of sorts. The FDNY and NYC Ferry maintain bases here, and there’s also a movie studio, the country’s largest urban farm, and several warehouse operations working out of the Navy Yard. Additionally, there’s a new museum here called “Bldg 92” which preserves the history of the place, accessible from the Flushing Avenue or landward side.


“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.

burying dust

leave a comment »

Ferry rides never get old, man.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Wednesday last, one spent the late afternoon riding around on a couple of the NYC Ferry system’s routes. My desire was to freshen up my recollections for this Saturday’s tour, which will play out on the Soundview route. To get from “A” to “M,” the Astoria line was accessed at Hallet’s Cove nearby the NYCHA Astoria houses. This particular line’s terminal stop is at the location above, then it stops at the east side of Roosevelt Island beneath the Queensboro Bridge, LIC North nearby Anable Basin, 34th street in the City, a new stop at the Brooklyn Navy Yard has just been added, and then it proceeds to Pier 11/Wall Street in Lower Manhattan. If you time it right, and I did, a free transfer is available to the Soundview line which carries you up to the Bronx.

There’s all sorts of amenity and inducement onboard to encourage the comfort of riders, but for me, the NYC Ferry is a cheap way to offer my camera a weapons platform for remote deployments. Pictured above are the Roosevelt Island Bridge and a section fo the Big Allis power plant in Queens’ Ravenswood section.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The view from the Brooklyn Navy Yard is offered above.

As of right now, it doesn’t look like the sort of boat tours which I’ve normally offered and or participated in during the last ten summers will be possible. The popularity of the NYC Ferry during the summer months has seen the service reserving or leasing every single boat in NY Harbor to buttress their own fleet, and its “taken the air out” of the rental boat market. There’s still plenty of higher end vessels you can hire, but they are either too large and expensively risky – Circleline, for instance – or are floating catering halls which are far too slow and costly. There’s also a few vessels which are just out of my price range, or would necessitate ticket prices that are stratospheric.

It’s funny, actually. What my friends and I have been advocating for over the last decade (and change) has come to pass. New Yorkers are once again embracing their waterways, and using maritime transit to get around. There’s no shortage of “normal people” advocating for waterfront access these days, not just us “harbor rats,” and there’s so many people paddling around in kayaks and canoes that it’s actually become quite crowded in certain parts of the harbor. Imagine that.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Here’s something I’ve learned over the last decade, take it for what it’s worth.

In the world of “tours,” you’ve got a couple of basic delineations; vehicle tours, site tours, walking tours. My pals at Turnstile Tours, who essentially have a franchise at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, offer the very definition of “site tours.” The folks who do the Grand Central Station tours also do “site tours,” or the extremely successful Empire State Building operation. That’s when you’ve got exclusive access to a particular place. Walking tours, which I offer regularly during the summer months, follow a particular route that expresses a certain narrative or story. Vehicle tours take a variety of forms, from the bus operations that feed off the tourist trade in Manhattan to CircleLine or even the sort of boat tours which I usually offer during the summer months that go to some out of the way but interesting place like Port Newark or Newtown Creek.

Then, there’s the “subway tour,” which take advantage of preexisting transit infrastructure to cover a large distance quickly. The NYC Ferry tour I’m conducting tomorrow, links below, will follow the model of a subway tour. If it works out, and so far there’s been quite a lot of interest in this one, I’m planning on doing more of them on the less travelled routes. The Rockaway line, for instance, is far too popular to even consider doing one during the summer months.

There’s just so much to see and talk about on the Soundview and Astoria lines, it boggles the mind.


Upcoming Tours and Events

June 15th – Exploring the East River,

From General Slocum Disaster to Abandoned Islands – with NY Adventure Club.

June 15th is one of those days in NYC history. In 1904, more than a thousand people boarded a boat in lower Manhattan, heading for a church picnic on Long Island — only 321 of them would return. This is the story of the General Slocum disaster, and how New York Harbor, the ferry industry, and a community were forever altered.

Join New York Adventure Club for a two-part aquatic adventure as we explore the General Slocum disaster, and historic sights and stories along the East River, all by NYC Ferry.

Tickets and more details
here.


“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 14, 2019 at 1:30 pm

terrible movement

with one comment

A bit more on the tugboat scene.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Boy oh boy, it’s like the old days at Newtown Pentacle lately, huh? Tugboats, tugboats, tugboats… That’s a Bouchard articulated tug and barge combo motoring along under the Bronx Whitestone Bridge. This tug is heading out of the Westchester Creek inlet section of the East River and heading towards Manhattan. That’s the Throgs Neck Bridge behind the tug and Bronx Whitestone in the lower third of the shot. Both bridges were designed by the great Othmar Amman.

This is the view from the NYC Ferry’s Soundview landing, in the Bronx, btw.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A few years ago, I was seemingly obsessed with photographing tugs. Whereas I’m still drawn to the subject, and remain utterly fascinated by all things maritime industrial, there’s really only so many ways to shoot and frame a tug shot. Additionally, a few of my friends with whom I shared this fascination for towing vessels have passed away in recent years, and it feels sort of weird and not as much fun to be the “last man standing.” Used to be that shots like these would get sent around in late night emails to my little cadre of fellow enthusiasts, who would in turn send what they got that particular day to me.

Such is life, and death, in the big city – I suppose.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator is having a furiously busy week roll through the calendar as you’re reading this. Yesterday, I got to interact with some highly placed people at NYC DOT regarding the new pathways which will be introduced into Maspeth and Sunnyside by the soon to be finished Kosciuszcko Bridge bike and pedestrian path. One offered them the experiential thing, taking them for a walk around the place. Officialdom knows far more about the streets of NY than any regular person can, but generally they know these things from paper maps, politics, and spreadsheets. “Being there” in the flesh, seeing trucks parked on the broken sidewalks and crossing hazardous intersections, is a whole different thing. Last night, a friend of mine – Pat Dorfman – received the “Sunnysider of the Year” award from the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce, so I had to show up and take a pic or two of the awards ceremony. My dogs were barking by the time I got home and settled in on the couch.

As you’re reading this, I’m probably at a polyandrion in Blissville, walking an ornithological enthusiast around. Then, I’ve got a call in meeting at 4… it never ends.

Tomorrow, I’ll tell you about two events I’m doing with Newtown Creek Alliance at the end of the month – but hold the dates of April 23 and 28th for now.


“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

April 3, 2019 at 11:30 am

alive in

leave a comment »

Things that pull or push other things, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So, that NYC Ferry trip I mentioned in yesterday’s April Fools post? As it happened, a humble narrator hit a fortuitous moment in terms of river traffic when boarding that particular boat. Everywhere I pointed the lens, there seemed to be something going on. For the curious – this was the Soundview route, which I boarded at East 34th street over in the City, after taking the Astoria line from Hallets Cove to that location.

A few people have asked me (in real life or “meat space”) if I have some sort of relationship with the NYC Ferry people since I keep on mentioning them. The answer is “sort of,” since I do know a couple of people who work at Hornblower through the old NY Harbor crowd. A while back I did a blog post for NYC Ferry about what to do and see nearby their Astoria dock, an effort which I was recompensed for with a free 30 day pass on their boats. That’s pretty much the size of it, except for the taxes we all pay to the City which heavily underwrite the $2.75 fare. I’m just a fare paying passenger, and one who really enjoys getting out on the water – even if it was a particularly cold and blustery March afternoon.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Spotted this rather smallish tug at Hells Gate, towing a couple of barges of what looked like either gravel or uncooked asphalt. That’s the Wards/Randalls island combine in the background, the shoreline of which hosts a staggering amount of municipal infrastructure. The NYC DEP has a combination of wastewater and sludge dewatering facilities on the shoreline mirroring Astoria Park, there’s the Hell Gate railroad Bridge and the East River span of the Triborough Bridge complex as well. Just yesterday, I was making plans with a couple of people to spend a day on the Island(s) and get to know the place a bit better.

Used to be two islands, Randalls and Wards, but… y’know… Robert Moses.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Coming from the south/west, another tug was spotted transversing Hells Gate. That’s the Astoria Park shoreline, and you can just make out the nascent skyline of LIC’s Court Square neighborhood peeking out over the bare trees behind the bridge. I’ve been told that even with modern vessels, you have to “pick your battles” with the swift currents in this section of the river lest you end up burning up half your fuel supply fighting its ebb and flow.

One time I was sitting in Astoria Park, right alongside the Hell Gate masonry seen above, and taking pics. I started laughing while watching some rich guy in a speedboat gunning his engines against the current, but his boat was just barely holding position agains the incoming flood tide. This isn’t necessarily the case with tugs and other overpowered boats, of course, but fuel costs are what rule the roost in the shipping and towing business. How much you “spend to earn” is where an experienced versus inexperienced crew and scheduler make all the difference. Same thing is true with shipping by rail and trucks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another fuel barge and tug combination was passed, while the camera’s point of view was looking north westwards over Randalls/Wards Island towards the Little Hell Gate Bridge and the roads leading to Triborough’s toll plazas. Good timing, thought I, as a CSX train set was transiting over the elevated rail tracks connecting to Hell Gate’s East River Arch Bridge (which connect to the NY Connecting Rail Road tracks in Queens) and heading for the Bronx. I think the next stop for the CSX rig will be Owls Head yard in the Bronx, but that’s just a guess.

What do I know? 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Luckily, I had outfitted the camera with zoom lens for the trip. It’s a Sigma, the 18-300 f3.5, which provides the “all in one” functionality needed for this sort of excursion. One thing about the East River and its various tributaries and estuarial bays is that you are going to want to shoot both wide and long, sometimes flipping back and forth several times in just five minutes. Given that you’re on a boat, speedily moving through the water and with all kinds of weird particulates circulating in the air column… you want to limit the number of lens flops you do.

I can recommend the Sigma, btw. I also have and love their 18-35 f1.8.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

What was that I was just saying about zooming in?


“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

April 2, 2019 at 11:00 am

indelible mark

with one comment

Some new gear on display in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One is always hunting around on camera oriented websites for new bits of gear, lenses, gew gaws, doohickeys, and or doodads which might make my life a bit more interesting as I wander around the City of Greater New York with a camera. There’s a couple of Chinese camera sites that I keep an eye on, which are really hit and miss on the “get what you pay for” front, but recently I decided to take a chance on a manual focus lens which promised a built in series of polarizing filters that would produce an extraordinary result. This is a 65mm prime, with a decidedly small aperture (f4-11) range, but it’s optical formula and clever mechanical plan is designed to allow the user to see both above and below the surface of water bodies at the same time. It’s offered by a company I never heard of before – the Mumma Cei, Xi, & Akkuseh (MCXA) group and is manufactured by something called the Szeihaloud Cooperative. Google translate tells me that Szeihaloud means “great maker” or something, and that their glass factory is located in the dry regions of northwest China. That’s odd, normally electronics gear comes from the coastal cities of the south, but nothing ventured nothing gained. MCXA’s site claims that there’s something special in the mineralogy of the sands of the region they’re located in which lends unique qualities to their ground glass products. At least that’s what I think they’re saying… Chinese website version of English, if y’know what I’m saying…

What the heck, it was only a hundred bucks. I’m glad that I ordered the thing.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

First – MCXA’s 65mm lens, which they call the X-51, is an ergonomic nightmare. It’s got all these jangly little knobs on it for independently manipulating the eight linear polarizer filters housed within the barrel. Said barrel is plastic, and when I unwrapped my little care package from the Silk Road region the interior of the box actually had some kind of orange powdery substance which smelled vaguely of cinnamon mixed with saffron inside of it, a scent that made me a bit woozy. The lens was packed in a sealed plastic bag so that wasn’t too much of an issue. The glass itself was nice and sharp, which was surprising, once I got it past f 5.6. It’s pretty heavy, and manual focus is a chore, especially with those eight knobs arrayed around the focus ring.

The startling part was that the thing actually worked as promised, allowing me to photograph both the surface details of the waters of the East River (pictured above) and provided visual egress to that which lurks below while I was riding on a NYC Ferry last week. I look forward to putting the thing on a tripod and seeing what can be revealed at Newtown Creek.

Of course, the lens and camera were set for a daylight exposure formula, so sub surface features were darkened.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

MCXA has another bizarre lens I’m now interested in, which promises Flouroscope like qualities, allowing you to peer “under the surface” and revealing the internal structures of both animals and plants. They call it the “God Emperor of lenses,” or at least that’s what Google Translate says the series of Chinese characters on its offer page means. I tell you, the Chinese century looks like it’s going to be a lot of fun. As is my habit, new glass and other camera gear is typically acquired during the tax filing season of the early spring.

I usually like to add a new lens to my kit every April, and especially so on April the 1st.


“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

April 1, 2019 at 1:00 pm

appropriated identity

leave a comment »

Still way behind on schedule. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Not sure if I’ve shown y’all the one above before, but it’s all I’ve got for today. Bunch of birds chilling on the remains of an old radio transmitter pier nearby the Astoria Houses. My understanding is that the pier won’t be long for this world, as there’s a boat house that will be built in its stead. 

I’m going to be conducting a free walk in LIC on the 30th of March, this Saturday afternoon. The Sunnyside Yards project has roared back to life in the aftermath of the Amazon debacle, and since the Manhattan people are going to all sorts of effort to get this thing done… Click here for details on the “Skillman Corridor” walk.


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.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

March 29, 2019 at 1:00 pm

%d bloggers like this: