The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘EPA

growing ferocity

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

As your humble narrator scuttles in palsied manner across the concrete devastations of the Newtown Creek watershed, observations have revealed that a sizable number of Federal employees are now employed and extant upon the water. Early phases of the process which these EPA contractors and supervisory staff are carrying out, they seek an answer to the burning question long offered at this- your Newtown Pentacle, “Who can guess, all there is, that might be buried down there?”.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Ignorant, and vulnerable to the pernicious rumormongering of area wags, your humble narrator has been attending and has in fact joined the “Newtown Creek CAG” in order to receive reports and breaking news about the progress of these Federal teams sent by the Environmental Protection Agency to examine the morass, stare into the abyss, and perform the field measurements of conditions upon and indeed within the Newtown Creek.

The CAG is intended to serve as a point of interaction between the agency and present community concerns, reactions, and requests or complaints arising from the community to the agency. Additionally, it will attempt to distribute and disseminate information which the EPA desires the public to know and or consider.

To that end, the EPA has made available these two documents:

US EPA’s presentation at the May 21 CAG meeting.

US EPA technical assistance in a nutshell, with details about Technical Assistance Grants (TAG) and the Technical Assistance Services for Communities (TASC) program.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Discussion at recent meetings have discussed the concerns of area businesses who have been experiencing difficulty with bank financing, queries about the methodology of epidemiological and health studies to be conducted in surrounding stakeholder communities, and a timeline was presented for the various phases of their mission. A series of laboratory tests, performed upon samples gathered from literally thousands of individual “sites”, are underway.

All summer, you will see these little workboats on the Creek, whose crews will be collecting, sampling, and recording data about the Newtown Creek.


June 16th, 2012- Newtown Creek Alliance Dutch Kills walk

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Newtown Creek Alliance has asked that, in my official capacity as group historian, a tour be conducted on the 16th of June- a Saturday. This walk will follow the Dutch Kills tributary, and will include a couple of guest speakers from the Alliance itself, which will provide welcome relief for tour goers from listening to me rattle on about Michael Degnon, Patrick “Battle Ax” Gleason, and a bunch of bridges that no one has ever heard of.

for June 16th tickets, click here for the Newtown Creek Alliance ticketing page

June 23rd, 2012- Atlas Obscura Thirteen Steps around Dutch Kills walk

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Additionally- the “Obscura Day” Thirteen Steps around Dutch Kills tour proved that the efficacy and charms of the Newtown Creek’s least known tributary, with its myriad points of interest, could cause a large group to overlook my various inadequacies and failings. The folks at Atlas Obscura, which is a fantastic website worthy of your attentions (btw), have asked me to repeat the tour on the 23rd of June- also a Saturday.

for June 23rd tickets, click here for the Atlas Obscura ticketing page

June 30th, 2012- Working Harbor Committee Kill Van Kull walk

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My various interests out on the sixth borough, NY Harbor, have brought me into association with the Working Harbor Committee. A member of the group’s Steering Committee- I also serve as the “official” group photographer, am chairman and principal narrator of their annual Newtown Creek Boat Tour, and occasionally speak on the microphone during other tours (mainly the Brooklyn one). This year, the group has branched out into terrestrial explorations to compliment the intense and extant schedule of boat tours, and I’m going to be leading a Kill Van Kull walking tour that should be a lot of fun.

The Kill Van Kull, or tugboat alley as its known to we harbor rats, is a tidal strait that defines the border of Staten Island and New Jersey. A busy and highly industrialized waterfront, Working Harbor’s popular “Hidden Harbor – Newark Bay” boat tours provide water access to the Kill, but what is it like on the landward side?

Starting at the St. George Staten Island Ferry terminal, join WHC Steering Committee member Mitch Waxman for a walk up the Kill Van Kull via Staten Islands Richmond Terrace. You’ll encounter unrivaled views of the maritime traffic on the Kill itself, as well as the hidden past of the maritime communities which line it’s shores. Surprising and historic neighborhoods, an abandoned railway, and tales of prohibition era bootleggers await.

The tour will start at 11, sharp, and you must be on (at least) the 10:30 AM Staten Island Ferry to meet the group at St. George. Again, plan for transportation changes and unexpected weirdness to be revealed to you at

For June 30th tickets, click here for the Working Harbor Committee ticketing page

Superfund me

with one comment

– photo by Mitch Waxman

LO, BEHOLD, and TREMBLE… for the Newtown Pentacle is back in session…

Over several of the last few years, agents and officials of the Federal Government have conducted a strange and secretive investigation into certain conditions within and around the ancient New York waterway called the Newtown Creek.

The public first learned of it in 2009, when a vast series of public meetings and pronouncements were offered by agents of the Environmental Protection Agency which confirmed and introduced the news that the ancient corridor of industry and forbidden history called the Newtown Creek was being considered for inclusion on the Federal Superfund list.

This listing would bestow extraordinary powers over the waterway, and ultimate authority, to the Federal Government. Effectively, the 3.8 mile long border of Brooklyn and Queens with its enormous number of crumbling bulkheads, worm eaten piers, and supposedly empty warehouses are now the responsibility of the G-Men. Uninquiring souls let the occurrence pass as one of the major developments in a spasmodic war on environmental pollution and the toxic legacy of the industrial revolution.


Release date: 09/27/2010

Contact Information: John Senn (212) 637-3667,

(New York, N.Y.) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today added Newtown Creek in New York City to its Superfund National Priorities List of the country’s most hazardous waste sites. The final listing will allow EPA to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the creek to determine what remedial actions need to be implemented. Various sediment and surface water samples have been taken along the creek. Potentially harmful contaminants such as pesticides, metals and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) have been detected in Newtown Creek along with volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs are potentially harmful contaminants that can easily evaporate into the air.

“The toxic pollution in Newtown Creek is more than a century in the making. EPA is placing Newtown Creek on the Superfund list to ensure the creek receives a thorough cleanup,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck. “Newtown Creek is a key urban waterway, which provides recreational and economic resources to many communities. Throughout the investigation and cleanup, we will work closely with the communities along the creek to achieve a revitalization of this heavily-contaminated urban waterway.”

EPA proposed Newtown Creek be added to the Superfund NPL list in September 2009. EPA received and considered public comments on its proposal before making its final decision.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On Monday the 27th of September in this year of 2010, the EPA announced the Superfund listing of Newtown Creek would be moving forward.

Interesting coincidences abound for this date:

The first Ford Model T rolled off the assembly line in 1908 in Detroit,  Einstein had his E=MC2 formula published for the first time in 1905, Crete fell to the Turks in 1669, and the Jesuits were granted a Papal charter in 1540. The Warren Commission released its report on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1964, the Ottoman Siege of Vienna began in 1529, the Taliban captured Kabul in 1996, and Thomas Nast was born in 1840.

It is also 110 years and 19 days after this report appeared in the NY Times, and some 122 years and 11 days since this report appeared in the same publication.

also from

EPA had previously responded to requests by members of Congress to evaluate specific sites along Newtown Creek by publishing a September 2007 report that contained a review of past and ongoing work being conducted to address the Greenpoint oil spill as well as recommendations regarding future work to assist with the spill response. The state of New York referred the site to EPA due to the complex nature of the contamination in the creek. EPA’s Superfund study and cleanup are expected to focus on the sediments in the creek and on identifying and addressing sources of pollution that continue to contribute to the contamination.

Newtown Creek is part of the core area of the New York-New Jersey Harbor Estuary, which has been designated by EPA as an “estuary of national significance.” Despite the ongoing pollution problems, some residents currently use the creek for recreational purposes such as kayaking, while others eat the fish they catch from the creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

According to statements rendered by Government representatives, the actual work on the remediation project is not scheduled to begin in earnest for several months (if not years), as a period of further study and evaluation of the endemic situation before the final formulation of their plans to ferret out and eradicate all that there is which may be buried down there.

The government plans on removing hundreds of metric tons of the sediment which lines the bottom of the Newtown Creek. Privileged to have been included on the conference call during which EPA announced their decision to the third estate, your humble narrator queried EPA personnel as to the methodology of its removal (terrestrial industries versus maritime) and whether they had determined a probable destination for the contaminant laced material they intend to dredge out.

Both questions seemed to have been unexpected, and they reported that answers will be readily uncovered when the final action plan is unveiled sometime in the near future.

additionally, from

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 industrial facilities 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. Some factories and facilities still operate along it, and various adjacent contaminated sites have contributed to its contamination. Today, as a result of its industrial history, including countless spills, Newtown Creek is badly polluted.

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 early 2009, EPA sampled the sediment throughout the length of Newtown Creek and its tributaries. EPA will review existing information about Newtown Creek to develop a plan for further investigation.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The professional press also on the call seemed more interested in the Gowanus Canal, how the Mayor felt about the announcement, and grew fixated on the cost of the cleanup effort. EPA clearly spelt out that its budgeting process has barely begun, and they can neither supply a final cost estimate or time table at this early date. This is actually the logical course, as the secrets of the Newtown Creek must- as always- bubble up and reveal themselves to those who stare deeply into its occluded depths.

And, in their own time, all the poisons in the mud will leach out.

and also, from

EPA conducted an Expanded Site Investigation (ESI) of Newtown Creek in 2009 as part of the Hazard Ranking System scoring process for NPL listing under Superfund. Based on the ESI, which was focused on Newtown Creek itself and not its tributaries, EPA concluded that metals, volatile organic compounds, and semi-volatile organic compounds (including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and polychlorinated biphenyls) were present in Creek sediments at elevated concentrations. The variety and distribution of the detected contaminants suggests that they originated from a variety of sources. Previous environmental investigations of Newtown Creek, or specific portions of the Creek, also disclosed that sediments in Newtown Creek are contaminated by a wide variety of hazardous substances. Environmental investigations of upland parcels adjacent to or nearby the Creek have disclosed contamination of those parcels by hazardous substances similar to hazardous substances found in sediments in Newtown Creek.

Linkage, and it’s Exploding Whale day

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Some really great stuff has come through the inbox this week, here’s some to check out

Ms. Heather, over at NYShitty

posted an amazing video of 2 Greenpointers attempting to report an oil slick floating down the Newtown Creek to the DEP and receiving brusque treatment in return for their efforts. Funny thing for the DEP operator, who forgot the call center maxim of “you don’t know who you’re talking to, so be polite”, is that the 2 Greenpointers were Laura Hoffman and Christine Holowicz.

This is the public part of who Christine is:

Christine Holowacz immigrated to the United States from Poland in 1972. She became involved in environmental issues in the Greenpoint community during the 1980s. President of the Greenpoint Property Owners since 1989, Christine devotes much of her time to issues concerning senior citizen homeowners. She is also the Church of St. Cecilia political and housing coordinator. Christine served on the Greenpoint Community Board #1’s 197a Committee as well as its Rezoning and Kosciusko Bridge upgrade Task Forces. She initiated the first meeting in the successful fight against the proposed Key Span/Con Edison power plant in Greenpoint, leading to the founding of GWAPP, which she co-chairs. She is currently part of the Greenpoint Coalition, St Nicholas Preservation and the Greenpoint Williamsburg Waterfront Task Force, and is the Community Liaison at the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment plant for the Newntown Creek Monitor Committee (NCMC). Christine received the Woman of the Millennium and the Carmine “Dusty” De Chair Community awards from the Seneca Club, (2001 & 2002) for her work with GWAPP and a Citation in 2002 from the Borough President for her work in the Polish Community. She holds a BA in Economics and Accounting from Brooklyn College.

Laura is a member of the Newtown Creek Alliance, Greenpoint Waterfront Association for Planning and Parks, and did a great profile on her in 2007- which can be accessed here.

I know these two ladies from Newtown Creek Alliance meetings and they are formidable women. I actually feel bad for the DEP operator.

The EPA page

to watch for news and community coordinator for the Superfund Newtown Creek drama can be found here. Its the beginning of something very large, which will take decades, and will cost hundreds of millions of dollars. A river of federal money will wash out the creek, and all the poisons in the mud will be hatched out, or so say the G-Men. Every community along the Creek will be irrevocably altered by this process. The dragon of “Progress” is awakening again.


just posted a cool “slice” of Little Neck, click here

Just over the weekend, I mentioned the Moore Jackson Cemetery, in the “More on the White Lady of Astoria” post. I was sent a link to, which did a great workup on the place just yesterday- the 11th of November. Check it out here.


Queenscrap posted a great article…

on the efforts our friends at the Greater Astoria Historical Society are undertaking to preserve a piece of Queens history

from Queenscrap

Meeting to preserve the millstones


The Greater Astoria Historical Society and the community of Long Island City/Astoria, are concerned about the safety of the historic millstones located at Queens Plaza.

Hidden in plain site, the two millstones, some say, date from the 1600’s and are the oldest European artifacts in Queens. The city’s recent stewardship has not been very good. Photos over time show significant wear and tear to their fabric. Recently, a multimillion-dollar renovation at the Plaza has dropped them from view and construction debris litters the site.

The New York Daily News covered the issue:

Ancient millstones grist for historians

$43M Queens Plaza face-lift hits the fast lane

Colonial-era millstones in danger at Queens Plaza construction site, preservationists peeved

We ask the city to support the community’s heritage by:

  • Making the millstones available to the community by moving them from the hazards of a construction site to an exhibit space at the Greater Astoria Historical Society (or another location within the local neighborhood) where they will be not only safe, and on display, but accessible to the public along with an exhibit outlining their history.
  • Making the millstones available to historians and scholars to conduct research (during the period while they are out of the ground), and to support efforts to make them official New York City Designated Landmarks.
  • Open the millstones’ permanent installation process by selecting a location that will not only ensure their preservation within the community with an installation that will be marked with appropriate signage.

The Greater Astoria Historical Society, which not only has assumed the mantel as a watchdog over the LIC–Astoria community’s heritage, but has taken a very active role in their preservation, is calling for all interested parties, from the city planning, civics, preservation experts, and, most importantly, the general public, to come to a meeting at the Greater Astoria Historical Society, 4th Floor, 35–20 Broadway, LIC, at 6:30 PM on Wednesday, November 18, 2009.

All opinions and suggestions are welcome. Go to for additional information and pictures. Questions? Call 718–278–0700 or email

Now for the Exploding Whale.

Click here for the youtube link to the video, you’ve seen it before, but today’s the anniversary.

from wikipedia

On November 12, 1970, a 14 m (45 ft 11 in), eight-ton sperm whale died as a result of beaching itself near Florence, Oregon. All Oregon beaches are under the jurisdiction of the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, but responsibility for disposing of the carcass fell upon a sister agency, the Oregon Highway Division (now known as the Oregon Department of Transportation, or ODOT). After consulting with officials from the United States Navy, they decided that it would be best to remove the whale as they would remove a boulder. They thought burying the whale would be ineffective, as it would soon be uncovered, and believed the dynamite would disintegrate the whale into pieces small enough for scavengers to clear up.

Thus, half a ton of dynamite was applied to the carcass. The engineer in charge of the operation, George Thornton, stated his fear that one set of charges might not be enough, and more might be needed. (Thornton later explained that he was chosen to remove the whale because the district engineer, Dale Allen, had gone hunting).

The resulting explosion was caught on film by cameraman Doug Brazil for a story reported by news reporter Paul Linnman of KATU-TV in Portland, Oregon. In his voiceover, Linnman alliteratively joked that “land-lubber newsmen” became “land-blubber newsmen … for the blast blasted blubber beyond all believable bounds.” The explosion caused large pieces of blubber to land near buildings and in parking lots some distance away from the beach, one of which caused severe damage to a parked car. Only some of the whale was disintegrated; most of it remained on the beach for the Oregon Highway Division workers to clear away.

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