The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Empire State Building

frightful vistas

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On this day in 1931, the Empire State Building opened for business.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Empire State Building was completed a month and half ahead of schedule, no doubt due to the influence of the “official” head of the project’s influence. A mostly ceremonial and political position, former NYS Governor Al Smith was nevertheless the boss. The real players in the construction of the icon were an investor group led by Louis G. Kaufman, Ellis P. Earle, John J. Raskob, Coleman du Pont, and Pierre S. du Pont.

John J. Raskob was the prime mover, however. Everything and everybody else on the project were just political window dressing or finance.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Empire State Building was designed by William F. Lamb, of the architectural firm Shreve, Lamb and Harmon. The actual construction of the thing was accomplished under the oversight of the Starrett Brothers and Eken, Paul and William and James Farley’s General Builders Supply Corporation handled material delivery and deployment. John W. Bowser was the construction superintendent of the project, and structural engineer for the building was a fellow named Homer G. Balcom.

The plan for the Empire State Building was presented to the public on January 8, 1930. The entire operation, which included demolishing the old Waldorf Astoria which stood on the site, was accomplished in 16 months. The actual erection of the Empire State began in March of 1930.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just the facts; the Empire State Building rises 1,860 steps from the first to the 102nd floor, and it’s said to weigh 365,000 short tons (331,122 t). It encloses an internal volume of 37,000,000 cubic feet, and its exterior is covered in 200,000 cubic feet of limestone and granite. Construction of the tower incorporated ten million bricks, 370 short tons of steel, 1,172 miles of elevator cable and 2,000,000 feet of electrical wires. The building has a capacity for 20,000 tenants and 15,000 visitors. To the 102nd floor, Empire State is 1,250 ft tall, but is 1,453 feet 8 9⁄16 inches when you include its 203 ft pinnacle.

According to official records, the construction cost 7 lives, but contemporaneous socialist newspapers claimed that 42 deaths occurred during construction.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Personally speaking, I can tell you that the easiest way to say “New York City” in a photograph is to frame the Empire Stae Building into it. One of the “seven wonders of the modern world,” and for much of the twentieth century the tallest structure on earth, Empire State Building was the first of the “super talls,” although the Chrysler Building did arrive on the scene first. It’s pretty commonplace to see skyscrapers these days, but the significance of the Empire State Building to the generation that saw it rise – at the astounding pace of 4 1/2 stories a week – cannot be overstated.

For that NYC generation, who were either immigrants or the children of immigrants, the future had arrived.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When the generations of immigrants who pulsed into NYC during the high tide years of emigration – the 1850’s through the 1920’s – arrived here, what they found were a few grandiose structures like the Woolworth Building or the odd church or cathedral, but these were the exception. Manhattan had unpaved streets which pigs roamed around at night, and the building stock in NYC was squat. Tenements spread out in every direction, punctuated by occasional six to eight story industrial or office buildings.

Up until the 20th century – ship masts, industrial chimneys, Trinity Church’s steeple, and the towers of the Brooklyn Bridge formed the skyline.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For those of us who grew up in NYC, the Empire State Building was always aspirational. It represented “the City,” where we’d make our fortunes someday, escaping the humiliations and constraints of the blue collar neighborhoods we were born into. When returning from someplace else, spotting the Empire State Building was a signal that home was near.

Happy 87th Birthday, old fella.

Upcoming Tours and Events

May 12th – Exploring Long Island City – with NY Adventure Club.

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?

Tickets and more details

May 17th – Port Newark Boat Tour – with Working Harbor Committee.

For an exciting adventure, go behind the scenes of the bustling Port of NY & NJ on our Hidden Harbor Tour® of Port Newark! Get an insider’s view of the 3rd largest port in the nation, where container ships dock and unload their goods from around the world. See how the working harbor really works and learn about what all those ships and tugs do. See giant container terminals, oil docks, dry dock repair, and more! Tickets and more details here.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


Written by Mitch Waxman

May 1, 2018 at 11:00 am

land adjacent

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Reinauer’s Matthew Tibbets Tug, Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned, one is taking a short break – hence the singular image which greets you above. Back soon with new stuff.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 13, 2015 at 11:00 am

supercilious and sneering

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Sunset at my beloved Creek, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Around a week ago, my pal Gil Lopez was conducting a meeting of Newtown Creek Alliance’s Green Infrastructure Work Group over at the HarborLab location at the Vernon street end in LIC. Green Infrastructure, for those of you not in the loop, is a concept which seeks to use natural processes rather than mechanical ones (known as gray infrastructure) to handle issues such as flooding around waterways. Sometimes this “G.I.” manifests as bioswales, which are elaborately constructed tree pits that function as storm water retention tanks, in other cases it might mean using petroleum eating fungus organisms to clean up a brown field.

Pretty exciting stuff, actually, and the government types REALLY like it as it’s much cheaper to implement than gray infrastructure – which usually takes the form of sewer plants and expensive cut and cover projects like bending weirs.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The event was well attended, I saw Jan Mun and Jason Sinopoli, whose NCA project involving fungal or mycoremediation at the ExxonMobil 400 Kingsland Avenue site in Greenpoint I had photographed a while back. Dorothy Morehead from CB2 was there as well, and Gil Lopez is one of the founders of the Smiling Hogshead Ranch – a community garden recently opened on MTA property over on Skillman Avenue. Lynne Serpe from the Green Party, and Erik Baard from HarborLab, as well as a bunch of people I had never met before.

We discussed a few things, and since I had brought my tripod – decided to squeeze out a few sunset exposures.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One is really going to miss the view from Newtown Creek, when the real estate industrial complex achieves their goal of stealing the sky and a shield wall of luxury condos is completed. The Green Infrastructure stuff is going to be increasingly important in coming decades, as we stack as many people as possible into LIC and North Brooklyn. Imagine what’s going to my beloved Creek every morning when all of these multitudes flush their toilets and bathe. Hopefully, we can imagine a solution, using nature to combat our ill conceived nurture.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

June 7th, 2015
13 Steps Around Dutch Kills Walking Tour
with Newtown Creek Alliance, click here for details and tickets.

June 11th, 2015
MADE IN BROOKLYN Hidden Harbor Boat Tour
with Working Harbor Committee, click here for details and tickets.

June 13th, 2015
The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour
with Atlas Obscura, click here for details and tickets.

June 20th, 2015
Kill Van Kull Walking Tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, click here for details and tickets.

frescoed halls

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Another one from the archives.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A couple of friends of mine were getting married, and threw some big fancy “do” at a hotel over on Park Avenue. As always I had a camera with me. A clear night, the venerable Empire State Building was lit up all pretty, and the rest is pixels on a page. My friends still seem quite taken with each other, by the way.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

December 27, 2013 at 7:30 am

forced economies

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Today, we pass through a crossroad.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the things I find endlessly fascinating about Western Queens is the juxtapose between at least three different urban planning schemes and where they overlie each other. Of course, the term Urban Planning is seldom found prior to the 20th century, so modern bias interferes with understanding the why’s of where. Also, everything has been so extensively built and rebuilt over the years…

The oldest one wasn’t really planned, rather its where the colonials and farmers of Newtown laid down roads like Greenpoint Avenue or Thomson Avenue, which were literally means to an end- a way to move from point a to point b which took into account and diverted around natural features like hills and streams.

Overlaid on these atavist lanes is an industrial era grid, Skillman and Borden Avenues comes to mind. Hold overs from the locomotive city of the late 19th century- which favored long arcs and subtly graded streets wide enough to carry a street car or in some cases a full on steam locomotive.

Dross 20th century engineering was applied to the most modern layer, such as where Queens Blvd. originates at Thomson Avenue or where Greenpoint Avenue transmogrifies into Roosevelt Avenue at its intersection with Queens Blvd. The modern layer was designed to carry the automotive and mass transit city forward and which is pictured in the shot above. The latter two are definitively hostile to pedestrian activity, but the way.

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 5, 2013 at 8:40 am

decreasing confidence

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Today’s post is about enormous things hidden in the mist.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Wandering around during a recent spate of gray skies, your humble narrator found himself staring at the familiar geometries of Whale Creek at the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant. Still, rainy days lend a surreal quality to the Newtown Creek and its tributaries. Alongside the futurist architecture and ongoing construction of the great sewer mill, it is impossible for one such as myself not to record such otherworldly scenery.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It is a strange compulsion, recording everything one might see. Some tell me that I hide behind the camera, comfortably isolated from interaction with others- which is always a painful and embarrassing experience fraught with unknown possibility and consequence. Thing is, look at the things which I see.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Deep regret exists in me that so many experiences over the years were not recorded in the manner that I employ these days. Places, people, experiences relegated to hazy memory and the dimness of time. Without a photo of some thing or event as evidence, how can you honestly say it happened?

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Want to see something cool? June 2013 Walking Tours-

The Poison Cauldron Saturday, June 15, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets now on sale.

Kill Van Kull– Saturday, June 22, 2013
Staten Island walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Working Harbor Committee, tickets now on sale.

The Insalubrious Valley Saturday, June 29, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Newtown Creek Alliance, tickets now on sale.

deeds and aspect

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“follow” me on Twitter at @newtownpentacle

– photos by Mitch Waxman

For this Maritime Sunday, check out the show (visible from the infinities of Brooklyn) which was playing out on the East River last Friday.

What you’re seeing are two Moran Tugs- The Doris Moran and the James Turecamo- towing a floating dry dock past midtown. The Caddell company’s gargantuan… dare I say cyclopean… equipment is an amazing maritime structure. A floating dry dock will submerge itself, whereupon a boat will be floated into position over it, and the structure will rise up and capture the vessel. The dry dock will fully resurface and lift the ship into the air, allowing repairs and maintenance to be performed.

– photos by Mitch Waxman

Here’s a shot of a tug undergoing repair on another one of Cadell’s drydocks at the Kill Van Kull.

Upcoming tours:

The Insalubrious Valley– Saturday, May 25, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets now on sale.

The Poison Cauldron- Saturday, June 15, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets on sale soon.

Kill Van Kull- Saturday, June 22, 2013
Staten Island walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Working Harbor Committee, tickets now on sale.

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