The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘East Williamsburgh

lined with sorrow

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of my little phrases, that I bandy about as if I know what I’m talking about, is “Newtown Creek is where the Industrial Revolution actually happened”.

Ruminating on this, literally this morning, I started putting this post together, picking a random and unremarked spot along Newtown Creek (which I had ok photos of, naturally) and shining a light on it. The semi modern history of this spot, an auto impound lot which was a “Gaseteria” facility more recently than it was the Ditmas Oil Terminal, which lies along the English Kills tributary of the Newtown Creek isn’t that hard to find out.

Child’s play, if the child happens to be 40 and change years old, and refers to himself constantly as your “humble narrator”, that is.

from nyc.gov

During the early nineteenth century, the portion of present-day Brooklyn between the village of Williamsburgh and New town Creek was a rural farm area dotted by small settlements. Beginning in the second decade of the nineteenth century, at the time the ferries to Manhattan were initiated, the Williamsburgh and Jamaica Plank Road was established on the route of the present-day Metropolitan Avenue.

Around the same time, the Newtown and Bushwick Turnpike, also known as the North Road to Newtown, was built on the present-day Meeker Avenue. The turnpike crossed Newtown Creek at a site where a ferry had operated since the late 1600s; in 1836 a toll bridge was built which came to be known as the “Penny Bridge” after the fee charged to pedestrians. Bushwick Avenue, which connected with Humboldt Street, was an important north-south route.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This part of the English Kills canal follows the grid of the surrounding Brooklyn streets and looks nothing like the vernal wonderland of salt marsh and game laden grasses described by the Dutch and so carefully mapped by the English. This is the work of 19th century engineers, who were trying to put nature right, imposing right angles and impossible angles upon the water. It’s not too far from the intersection of Metropolitan and Grand Avenues in East Williamsburg.

It’s also pretty close to where the Bushwick Chemical Works of M. Kalbfleisch & Sons once stood, if it’s not the actual spot.

from “A history of American manufactures from 1608 to 1860” via google books

The Bushwick Chemical Works—M. Kalbfleisch & Sons,

Situated in the Eastern District of Brooklyn, a few miles from New York, are among the most important and extensive Chemical manufactories in the United States. The Works are composed of numerous buildings of various sizes, the largest being from one hundred and sixty to two hundred feet in length, and from sixty to seventy feet in width. Among them is a Glass House and Pottery, in which are made all the Retorts and Bottles used in manufacturing and packing the Acids and other products of the Chemical Department. The whole group of structures, with their extended walls, spacious roofs, and lofty chimneys, covers an area of over five acres, and presents an imposing appearance even at a distance. The interior appointments and equipments are of a character corresponding with the extent of the buildings. One of the chambers, for manufacturing Sulphuric Acid, is two hundred and seventeen feet long by fifty feet wide, no doubt the largest in existence, and is a model in every particular. Among the noticeable objects that attract the attention of visitors, are three Platina Stills, imported from France, at a cost of about fifteen thousand dollars each.

The products of these Works include a great number of those articles recognized as standards in the commerce of the world. Of Sulphuric Acid they have a capacity for producing three hundred thousand pounds weekly, and of Muriatic Acid, about three hundred and fifty carboys weekly.

Besides these, they manufacture Aquafortis, Muriate of Tin, Strong Ox. Muriate Tin, Soda Ash, Aqua Ammonia, Tin Chrystals, Nitrate of Iron, Sulphate of Zinc, and other officinal chemicals. The firm employ constantly from seventy to eighty workmen, for whom they have provided comfortable dwellings in the vicinity of the Works. The Office and Salesrooms are in the City of New York, at the corner of Fulton and Cliff streets.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Like the precursor of Phelps Dodge over on the Queens side of the Creek (which was known first as Nichols and then as General Chemical) M. Kalbfleisch & Sons manufactured the wonder chemical of the early 19th century- sulfuric acid.

The chemical itself had been around in one form or another for centuries, but its manufacture was the provence of jewelers and alchemists, and its manufacture was a particularly ugly process and produced limited quantities of the stuff. It required large glass or earthenware vessels to distill, which were prone to breakage, which is bad when acid is involved.

One would either burn sulfur and saltpeter along with sodium nitrate and combine the ashes with water, or distill the stuff from a mixture of ferric sulfate and silica. The former mixture is also known as Brimstone, and the latter as Oil of Vitriol to esotericists.

from America’s Successful Men of Affairs , An Encyclopedia of Contemporaneous Biography via google books

MARTIN KALBFLEISCH, chemist, a native of Flushing, Netherlands, born Feb. 8, 1804, died in Brooklyn, N. Y., Feb. 12, 1873. In 1822, the youth sailed to the island of Sumatra, but finding that the Asiatic cholera was raging there, he promptly returned with his ship to Antwerp Thence he went to Havre, France, and spent four years in commercial enterprise. In 1826, he came to the United States with small means but splendid pluck.

In New York city, hard work as a clerk and chemist brought him a little money and, in 1835, he started a manufactory of colors and chemicals in Harlem. After several changes of location, the business, which had prospered under his energetic management, was finally moved to Metropolitan Avenue in Brooklyn.

The works now occupy eleven acres of ground on Newtown creek.

Mr. Kalbfleisch was a man of clear head, strong common sense and ability. He served in various public offices in Brooklyn and was elected Mayor in 1861. In 1862, his fellow citizens sent him to Congress and in 1867 and 1871 again made him Mayor.

Later, they offered him the nomination for Governor of the State on the same ticket with Horace Greeley.

In 1854, he was married to Elizabeth Harvey. Eleven children were born to them: Elizabeth W., wife of Robert Robinson; Frederick W. Kalbfleisch; Helen M., wife of Rodney Thursby; Edward L. G., Charles H., Albert M., and Franklin H. Kalbfleisch; Josephine M. L., wife of Robert S. Fleet; Isabella G., wife of James E. Weaver; and John and George Kalbfleisch.

He retired from business in 1868 in favor of his sons, who thereupon organized the firm of Martin Kalbfleisch’s Sons, which controlled the business until 1886.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The sulfuric acid part of the industrial revolution started when a fellow in Great Britain named Roebuck figured out that he could produce the stuff by the pound, and then the ton, using an innovative series of lead tanks to distill the acid. The method spread and evolved, and even today, sulfuric acid accounts for nearly 40% of total U.S. chemical industry volume output.

Manufacture of sulfuric acid has advanced considerably, of course, since the days of M. Kalbfleisch & Sons. The company itself seems to have suffered a premature decline, due to mismanagement (and I’ve found hints of some sort of Standard Oil interference with it as well but nothing I could back up). The fellow who got the property in receivership was a manufacturer of electrical glass, the sort of material you see on high tension wire connections.

Who can guess, all there is, that might be buried down there?

from A history of the city of Brooklyn, By Henry Reed Stiles via google books

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sweet forgetfulness

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

While wandering about the Newtown Creek, it is easy to lose faith that wholesomeness exists anywhere, and one’s thoughts turn toward the apocalyptic. Floating sewage, volatile organic chemicals, and sometimes even oil envenomate the water. Languid waves lick at and nourish shorelines whose concretized holdings of mud and soil are deeply riven with heavy metals and certain ashy residues which hint at a faded industrial grandeur, and the very air you breath is a poisonous fume.

Yet, somehow, against every possible chance, nature endures in this place.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the mythologies about the Newtown Creek is that it is some sort of dead zone, destroyed and irrevocably altered by man.

While some of this is true, Dutch Kills for instance used to run all the way to Queens Plaza (ever notice the smell down in the subway station? That’s Dutch Kills, which still follows it’s ancient course through brick lined subterranean sewers, and oozes through the masonry walls of the subway. I know the specific smell of Dutch Kills, and the odor in the station is definitely it) and Maspeth Creek flowed halfway to Flushing when the Dutch found it.

The thing is, while the bird in these shots is beautiful, most of the life found in the Newtown Creek is not as esthetically pleasing.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just the other day, a stalwart member of the Long Island City Boathouse described observing oyster colonies, obviously rendered unfit for consumption by the endemic pollution of the waterway, growing wild in English Kills. I’ve personally observed Eel fry as far back as Maspeth Creek, several higher species of the icthyan order, jellyfish. The radical LaGuardia Community College biologist Dr. Sarah Durand is in the process of collecting evidences of zooplankton and other invertebrate populations in the water column. There’s also a Heron which is known to reveal it’s wisdom, close to the Grand Street Bridge, to those wise enough to ask it the right questions.

Who can guess all there is, that might be hidden down there?

May 21st

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

The show must go on, as they say, yet your humble narrator is of heavy heart in announcing the Newtown Creek tour of May 21st, 2011- which is offered for your consideration by the Working Harbor Committee.

It is not the task of course, which tempers the normal ebullience experienced when an opportunity to share the wonders of the Newtown Creek with a group of enthusiasts from the comfort and safety of a modern vessel like the MV American Princess (which is outfitted with all the amenities one would expect to find during a harbor trip in a tourist Mecca such as New York City), crosses my path.

It is not that unnatural and uncontrollable timorousness which plagues me when I am asked to speak before “this group of pale enthusiasts” or “that gang of antiquarians”. Revealing and sharing the history of this amazing place is one the things I revel in, and brings me close to understanding what joy must be like.

from workingharbor.com

Visit Beautiful Newtown Creek Saturday, May 21, 2011

On MV American Princess, Boat departs from Pier 17, South Street Seaport, Manhattan NYC, 10am – 1pm

Souvenir Tour Brochure with historical information and vintage maps. Narration by experienced historical and environmental guest speakers. Complimentary soft drinks will be served. Come aboard for an intense Newtown Creek exploration! Our comfortable charter boat will travel the length of Newtown Creek. The tour will pause at many interesting locations for narration and discussion. Guest narrators will cover historical, environmental, and conservation issues. Large comfortable vessel with indoor & outdoor seating. Cruise runs rain or shine. Price: $60

To purchase tickets click here

or contact Tour Chairman Mitch Waxman: waxmanstudio(AT)gmail.com

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is where the Industrial Revolution happened, and this trip will transverse and offer certain observations about the Newtown Creek’s present form and usage, and reveal a potentially bright future which this neglected ribbon of water- which provides the currently undefended border of Brooklyn and Queens- were it to be revitalized and renewed, might offer the future.

After boarding at South Street seaport, Working Harbor’s maritime experts will discuss the waterfront of Brooklyn as we pass beneath the Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan Bridge, and finally passing under the Willamsburg Bridge. Our vessel will smoothly move past the neighborhoods of Dumbo, Williamsburg, and Greenpoint in Brooklyn, and offer spectacular views of Manhattan. This entire trip will be a photographer’s delight, incidentally, offering spectacular and unreal urban panoramas.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

At Long Island City, your humble narrator will presume to expose you to a short history of the Newtown Creek, and offer an identity to some of the enigmatic structures arrayed around the troubled industrial waterway.

Luckily for all concerned, there are other speakers who will relieve the crowd from my droning prattle, maritime experts and environmentalists included. Around Newtown Creek Alliance headquarters, there is some buzz amongst the staff about which one of the heavyweight orators will be onboard.

Soft drinks, one to a customer, will be complimentary as well.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The American Princess will proceed past the titan Newtown Creek Waste Water Treatment Plant, the malign Dutch Kills, the cyclopean SimsMetal dock, the brutal symmetry of the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge, through the agglutinated heart of the Greenpoint Oil Spill, past the severed Penny Bridge at Meeker Avenue, and beyond the emerald devastations of Calvary Cemetery.

Then, we’re going to take a moment to remember our fallen friend… for just a moment.

I’m hesitant to mention this… as this is not what this trip is meant to be about, this is not a memorial event… but Bernie Ente is and will be so profoundly missed by many of us who will be conducting this tour, of which he is the originator and founder of… it would be in bad taste if a moment of silence to remember him, in this place which he expended so much of his attentions revealing and teaching and guiding about, were not offered. More on this in a later posting, but as the initial line says “the show must go on”, and that is exactly what Bernie would have us do.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The course will continue, past the middle point of the Newtown Creek, and will plunge past the Maspeth Plank road, past the Phelps Dodge site and the Kosciusko Bridge. At the branching of the Newtown Creek which exists at the confluence of the East Branch and English Kills, we will witness the remains of the Maspeth Plank Road and approach the wicked end of the navigable section of the Newtown Creek itself and approach one the hydra like tributaries which spread languishing tendrils of rotting bulkheads and unused yet prime industrial waterfront locations all across Brooklyn and Queens.

This is not the world you know.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Witness the startling elegance of the Grand Street Bridge, a century old swing bridge connecting Brooklyn and Queens, which signals the entrance to English Kills has been reached. Industrial heartland, this is a grossly contaminated section of the waterway which has- of course- been designated as a Federal Superfund site. Seeing the Newtown Creek in this state, this bizarre half life which is neither tick nor tock- industrial nor residential, is a fairly short term proposition.

Vast changes are coming which will literally alter the very landscape.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Kosciusko Bridge replacement, and the enormous new populations and residential conversion in progress and expected in Hunters Point South and Greenpoint, and the EPA conducting the initial stages of Superfund remediation (which will involve dredging and vast public works projects conducted by hundreds of contractors) will all be happening in roughly the same timeframe. Ten years from now, it will hard to recognize the place, and twenty more will render it a stranger to those who know it today.

In the English Kills, you will become transfixed by a waterfront frozen in some other century, and witness the extant vitality of those economies of heavy industry which build, and drain, and recycle, and dispose of. You don’t get Manhattan without a Newtown Creek, after all.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

We will proceed into the depths of English Kills near the Third Ward in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Our journey will cross the navigable sections of the Newtown Creek and begin it’s return journey to the Shining City of Manhattan and the South Street Seaport, leaving Greenpoint and Long Island City behind.

The plan for the return narration includes a full description and explanation of the Superfund situation by representatives of the Newtown Creek Alliance, and a return to Manhattan’s South Street Seaport. Personally, I’ll be at the bow during this part of the trip, as the photographic possibilities of moving languidly along the Creek with the sun behind us and illuminating both the creek lands and the Shining City as we smoothly speed across the East River beyond will be awe inspiring.

You haven’t experienced the Newtown Creek until you’ve sailed down it, and such a trip will disabuse you of viewing it with anything but wonder afterward. Simply, what is offered is a new perspective on the City of New York, one that less than 10% of New Yorkers have ever even heard of.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Once again…

from workingharbor.com

Visit Beautiful Newtown Creek Saturday, May 21, 2011

On MV American Princess, Boat departs from Pier 17, South Street Seaport, Manhattan NYC, 10am – 1pm

Souvenir Tour Brochure with historical information and vintage maps. Narration by experienced historical and environmental guest speakers. Complimentary soft drinks will be served. Come aboard for an intense Newtown Creek exploration! Our comfortable charter boat will travel the length of Newtown Creek. The tour will pause at many interesting locations for narration and discussion. Guest narrators will cover historical, environmental, and conservation issues. Large comfortable vessel with indoor & outdoor seating. Cruise runs rain or shine. Price: $60

To purchase tickets click here

or contact Tour Chairman Mitch Waxman: waxmanstudio(AT)gmail.com

Gods Gift to Pain

with 8 comments

Please click through to Flickr and the larger incarnations of the above shot- it’s composed of 7 photos stitched together. Thats 7 fifteen megapixel shots and its HUGE – photo by Mitch Waxman

That extinction of hope called the Newtown Creek enjoys a series of canalized industrial waterways which act as tributaries to its main course. In the past we have visited Dutch Kills, Whale Creek, Maspeth Creek… today, it’s time for a visit to the vicious end of it all.

note: This post violates a number of the rules followed by this, your Newtown Pentacle, regarding rail tracks and probable trespass of private property… yet my hypocrisy knows no bounds. Realize, however, that I was with learned company- individuals overly familiar with this area, its mores, and the rail schedules. Do not come here, especially by yourself- for reasons later explained in this very post!

Welcome to the poison heartlands of New York City, where foul ichors flow freely, and English Kills bubbles in the afternoon sun.

from wikipedia

Newtown Creek is a 3.5 mi (6 km) estuary that forms part of the border between the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens, in New York City, New York, United States. It derives its name from New Town (Nieuwe Stad), which was the name for the Dutch and British settlement in what is now Elmhurst, Queens. Channelization made it one of the most heavily used bodies of water in the Port of New York and New Jersey and thus one of the most polluted industrial sites in America, containing years of discarded toxins, an estimated 30 million gallons of spilled oil, and raw sewage from New York City’s sewer system. Newtown Creek was proposed as a potential Superfund site in September 2009.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is as bad as it gets, one of the few places along the Creek where exposure to the water is life threatening in the short term.

Sure, if you fall off the Grand Avenue Bridge, you’re going to experience broad spectrum antibiotics administered intravenously over the course of a week or two in the hospital- but this stuff is pure dragon blood.

Nauseous miasmas were luckily carried away by stiff breezes, but several times- your humble narrator felt one of his spells coming on.

from newtowncreekalliance.org

Up until the latter part of the 20th Century, industries along the creek had free reign over the disposal of unwanted byproducts. With little-to-no government regulation or knowledge of impacts on human health and the environment, it made business sense to pollute the creek. The legacy of this history today is a 17 million gallon underground oil spill caused by Standard Oil’s progeny companies—7 million gallons more than the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989, copper contamination of the Phelps Dodge superfund site, bubbling from the creek bed in the English Kill reach due to increases of hydrogen sulfide and a lack of dissolved oxygen, and creekbeds coated with of old tires, car frames, seats and loose paper. Nearly the entire creek had the sheen and smell of petroleum, with the bed and banks slicked black.

There is no natural freshwater flow into the creek as the historic tributaries were covered over. Flow exclusively consists of contaminated stormwater runoff, carrying trash from numerous bridges, unsewered and wholly paved streets and industrial sites, waste transfer stations, and combined sewer overflows (CSOs) from the city’s sewer system. Moreover, severely toxic groundwater seeps through the bed and banks of the creek. Every year Newtown Creek receives 14,000 million gallons of combined sewage overflow, a mixture of rainwater runoff, raw domestic sewage, and industrial wastewater that overwhelms treatment plants every time it rains. There are also discharges from numerous permitted and unpermitted pollution sources. The creek is mostly stagnant, meaning all the pollutants that have entered the creek over the past two centuries have never left. The creek is also home to a federal Superfund site, several State Superfund sites and numerous brownfields that have not yet secured the attention of regulators.

All is not lost, however. Recently, life is returning to the creek. You can find blue crabs at the mouth, fish swim in its waters, and waterfowl are prevalent. Wetland plants are taking over the abandoned bulkheads and sediment piles and school children are growing oysters, which serve as natural water filters. The Newtown Creek Alliance is actively fighting to help life return to the creek by decreasing pollution and increasing the wetlands along the creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The sickly vegetation, everything, was pulsing with “the colour”. Neither black nor white nor gray, but somehow “shiny”, this alien colour – like something out of space- permeates and identifies the creeklands. Nothing moved, but seemed instead to sway against the wind instead of with it.

from bklyn-genealogy-info.com

In 1655, Director Stuyvesant being absent on an expedition against the Swedes on the Delaware, a horde of armed Indians landed at New Amsterdam, and began to break into houses for plunder. Driven back by the soldiers and armed citizens, they fell upon the unprotected Dutch farmers in the vicinity, many of whom were slain and others taken into captivity. The troubles experienced from the savages were now so alarming as to require the residents of Mespat Kills to concentrate for mutual safety. They, therefore, formed a village on “Smith’s Island,” at the English Kills. The Hon. Nicasius De Sille, who had a patent for the island, had the direction of the new settlement, and called it Aernhem after his native place.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Dead things were observed in the filth, amongst other unidentifiable shapes and eyeless tubiforms that slithered and flopped and listened from the littoral mud. A vague sense of being watched affected my guides and I, and the loneliness of our location created a sense of certain misgivings which was both real and profound. Nevertheless, I continued my incessant photography, trying to make the best of limited access.

from The Eastern District of Brooklyn By Eugene L. Armbruster, via google books

BEYOND THE NEWTOWN CREEK

In the olden times the lands on both sides of Newtown Creek were most intimately connected. County lines were unknown, the creeks were dividing lines between the several plantations, for the reason that lands near a creek were taken up in preference to others, and the creeks were used in place of roads to transport the produce of the farms to the river, and thus it was made possible to reach the fort on Manhattan Island.

The territory along the Newtown Creek, as far as “Old Calvary Cemetery” and along the East River to a point about where the river is now crossed by the Queensboro bridge and following the line of the bridge past the plaza, was known as Dutch Kills. On the other side of Old Calvary was a settlement of men from New England and, therefore, named English Kills. The Dutch Kills and the English Kills, as well as the rest of the out-plantations along the East River, were settlements politically independent of each other and subject only to the Director-General and Council at Manhattan Island, but became some time later parts of the town of Newtown.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This place, the very end of English Kills in East Williamsburgh, is non navigable and well beyond the containment boom that is observable from the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge. It hosts a rather large CSO (combined sewer outlet), and is crossed by a rail bridge which connects the massive Waste Management operation to infinite Brooklyn on one side and Queens on the other. The wooden structures which are so pleasingly posed, in their relict decay, are the remains of a former rail bridge which served the same purpose as the modern bridge.

The desk chair above is anybody’s guess.

from habitatmap.org

Combined Sewer Outfall – Newtown Creek 015

  • Address Johnson Ave., Brooklyn, NY
  • Neighborhood Newtown Creek
  • Owner/Occupant NYC DEP
  • Location Details Combined Sewer Overflow Outfall NC-015:
  • discharges 344.4M gallons per year into English Kills
  • Tier 2 outfall
  • Ranked 20 out of over 400 in terms of volume
  • located at Johnson Ave

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shores were littered with death and disposal, and I spotted this sad little duck perched out on one of the rail structures. It didn’t seem to be moving very much, and its posture suggested sickness.

The City of New York has plans for this area. Check out page 29 of this PDF

DEP proposes to construct a 9 million gallon CSO storage facility to improve water quality by reducing the CSO discharged into the English Kills during rain storms when the CSO exceeds the capacity of the combined sewers. When this occurs, the CSO would be bypassed to the storage facility.  At the end of the rain event the CSO would flow by gravity or be pumped back to the sewer system to be conveyed to the Newtown Creek Water Pollution Control Plant (WPCP) for treatment.  This system was recommended by the Newtown Creek Water Quality Facility Planning Project (WQFP), a study that was part of the Citywide Combined Sewer Overflow abatement program.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Here’s a close up of the duck, which is what I was shooting when my companions and I heard a series of voices and shuffling from the overgrown border of one of the warehouses that abuts the English Kills. Haste was made for a more advantageous position, as we were downhill and the water was at our backs. Strange gutterals were heard emanating from somewhere back in the forbidden brush, a sound almost reminiscent of a dog or bear attempting to speak as a man might- an imitation of speech rather than true use of language.

from epa.gov

Various sediment and surface water samples have been taken along the creek. Pesticides, metals, PCBs, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are potentially harmful contaminants that can easily evaporate into the air, have been detected at the creek.

In the early 1990s, New York State declared that Newtown Creek was not meeting water quality standards under the Clean Water Act.  Since then, a number of government sponsored cleanups of the creek have taken place. The New York City Department of Environmental Protection has sampled sediment and surface water at a number of locations along the creek since 1980.  In 2009, EPA will further sample the sediment throughout the length of Newtown Creek and its tributaries.  The samples will be analyzed for a wide range of industrial contaminants.  EPA will use the data collected to define the nature of the environmental problems associated with Newtown Creek as a whole.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

2 men, whose macabre appearance and bizarre style of dress took me aback, emerged from down this trail. Something odd was happening back there, and it was decided that discretion was the best part of valor, and we prepared to exit. Allowing the two men to gain some distance from us (I did not photograph them, out of cowardice) I swung my camera back toward the water and the Waste Management fenceline just as music began to play somewhere back in this wood of suspicion and horror.

from wikipedia

Waste Management, Inc. (NYSE: WM) is a waste management, comprehensive waste, and environmental services company in North America. The company is headquartered in Suite 4000 at the First City Tower in Downtown Houston, Texas, in the United States.

The company’s network includes 367 collection operations, 355 transfer stations, 273 active landfill disposal sites, 16 waste-to-energy plants, 134 recycling plants, 111 beneficial-use landfill gas projects and 6 independent power production plants. Waste Management offers environmental services to nearly 20 million residential, industrial, municipal and commercial customers in the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico. With 21,000 collection and transfer vehicles, the company has the largest trucking fleet in the waste industry. Together with its competitor Republic Services, Inc, the two handle more than half of all garbage collection in the United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I shot this photo figuring it to be the end of this post, but that’s when I noticed it…

from wikipedia

The eastern half of East Williamsburg, roughly bounded by the Newtown Creek East and by the BQE and Flushing Avenue on the North and South, is mostly zoned for industry with some residential housing mixed among the warehouses and factories. The section is currently referred to by the city as the East Williamsburg Industrial Park (EWIP), or formally the East Williamsburg In-Place Industrial Park (EWIPIP)[8]. The western boundary runs approximately along Kinsgland Ave, then Morgan Avenue and then just East of Bushwick Avenue.

The EWIP is one of eight In-Place Industrial Parks in New York City and is managed by the East Williamsburg Valley Industrial Development Corporation (EWVIDCO), a company founded in 1982 with the goal of revitalizing East Williamsburg by attracting new businesses, providing business assistance to existing firms and grow overall job opportunities in the neighborhood

Historically, this neighboorhood was not part of the Village of Williamsburgh. In the late 1800s the region east of Smith Street (now Humboldt Street), west of the Newtown Creek, south of Meeker Avenue (now the BQE service road)), and north of Metropolitan Avenue was the 18th ward of the City of Brooklyn[10]. The north part of the EWIP is served by the Greenpoint Post Office and is considered by some to be part of Greenpoint. The portion of the EWIP to the South of Metropolitan Avenue was historically part of Bushwick and is still referred by many as being in Bushwick.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I really have no idea what this is about, and I have read every crackpot theory that has ever been concocted. It very well could just be “ironic” hipster graffiti. I really don’t know, but it’s here at the end of English Kills, where at least two VERY odd characters are camped out. The things I noticed about these two fellows, you see, was this…

Two skinny white guys, late 40’s- early 50’s. Gray hair, both of them. They walked kind of stiff, and they had the colour on them. They lived back there, was my impression. A lot of “down on their luck” people live in these kinds of places- that’s not odd. What was odd- every item of clothing they were wearing still had price tags on them, and their shoes weren’t placed on their feet correctly- one of them had the left foot in the right shoe and so on. It was as if they weren’t used to wearing the clothing of men- or at least the men of this era.

from wikipedia

While it is generally accepted that some homeless people in large cities do indeed make use of accessible, abandoned underground structures for shelter, urban legends persist that make stronger assertions. These include claims that ‘mole people’ have formed small, ordered societies similar to tribes, numbering up to hundreds living underground year-round. It has also been suggested that they have developed their own cultural traits and even have electricity by illegal hook-up. The subject has attracted some attention from sociologists but is a highly controversial subject due to a lack of evidence.

Jennifer Toth’s 1993 book The Mole People: Life In The Tunnels Beneath New York City, [1] written while she was an intern at the Los Angeles Times, is allegedly a true account of travels in the tunnels and interviews with tunnel dwellers. The book helped canonize the image of the mole people as an ordered society living literally under people’s feet, reminiscent of the Morlocks of science fiction writer H.G. Wells.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As the sign at English Kills says, the one with the little pitchfork in the lower left hand corner:

“In Gods Blessed Darkness Rambo Harnesses Light as Gods Gift to Pain”.

Bigskybrooklyn got some shots of the place during the defoliated winter, which shows a shack back there- check them out.

from nyc.gov

New York City has an estimated 3,306 unsheltered individuals according to HOPE 2008-a ratio of 1 unsheltered homeless individual to 2,485* of the general city population. San Francisco has a 1 in 269 ratio; followed by Seattle with 1 in 295; Miami-Dade County with 1 in 1,741; and Chicago with 1 in 1,798.

There were an estimated 1,263 unsheltered individuals in Manhattan; 279 in the Bronx; 336 in Brooklyn; 135 in Queens; and 152 in Staten Island for a total of 2,165 on the surface (meaning streets and parks). There were 1,141 unsheltered individuals in the subways. Additionally, the Single Adult Shelter Census showed a decline by 19 percent from 8,687 in 2005 to 6,998 in 2008.

opiate peace

with one comment

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is not a dead place, this Creek which forms the currently undefended border between much of Brooklyn and Queens, despite wholly inaccurate statements to the contrary recently presented by major publications. To begin with, there is the teeming human infestation, whose population is in the millions. Additionally- migratory birds, invertebrate and vertebrate water fauna, and an enormous hidden population of higher mammals lurk amongst the canalized shorelines of the Newtown Creek.

from the nytimes.com– an article that gets a lot of things completely wrong, which is surprising for the times, and seems to be shilling against “Big Oil”

People don’t often think of urban creeks as biodiverse waterways, but Newtown Creek was once a rich tidal estuary popular among hunters and fishermen. Starting in the 1870s, however, Standard Oil and other refineries began spilling or dumping excess fuels and toxic chemicals into the water or onto the soil, slowly poisoning the ecosystem.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Famously and recently, a Dolphin’s appearance near the Pulaski Bridge excited the neighboring communities, but such extravagances of nature would have a difficult time at Newtown Creek. There are ocean going and brackish water fish that get swept into the Creek by the East River’s irresistible tidal cycles, which actually drown in the oxygen poor water, but I’ve observed other things swimming in its shallow depths. Weird squamous things that defy description, burrowers and soft bodied tunnelers which thrive in the putrid muds that line its soft bottom. Perhaps, when the federal EPA superfund work begins, studies of these uncommented organisms will commence.

Hey, not everything that lives is beautiful, but against all the odds- life is tenacious and nature will find a way to get by.

from epa.gov

Newtown Creek is a part of the New York – New Jersey Harbor Estuary that forms the northernmost border between the New York City boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens. In the mid 1800s, the area adjacent to the 3.8 mile Newtown Creek was one of the busiest hubs of industrial activity in New York City.  More than 50 refineries were located along its banks, including oil refineries, petrochemical plants, fertilizer and glue factories, sawmills, and lumber and coal yards.  The creek was crowded with commercial vessels, including large boats bringing in raw materials and fuel and taking out oil, chemicals and metals.  In addition to the industrial pollution that resulted from all of this activity, the city began dumping raw sewage directly into the water in 1856.  During World War II, the creek was one of the busiest ports in the nation. Currently, factories and facilities still operate along the creek. Various contaminated sites along the creek have contributed to the contamination at Newtown Creek.  Today, as a result of its industrial history, including countless spills, Newtown Creek is one of the nation’s most polluted waterways.

Various sediment and surface water samples have been taken along the creek. Pesticides, metals, PCBs, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are potentially harmful contaminants that can easily evaporate into the air, have been detected at the creek.

In the early 1990s, New York State declared that Newtown Creek was not meeting water quality standards under the Clean Water Act.  Since then, a number of government sponsored cleanups of the creek have taken place. The New York City Department of Environmental Protection has sampled sediment and surface water at a number of locations along the creek since 1980.  In 2009, EPA will further sample the sediment throughout the length of Newtown Creek and its tributaries.  The samples will be analyzed for a wide range of industrial contaminants.  EPA will use the data collected to define the nature of the environmental problems associated with Newtown Creek as a whole.

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