The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Gowanus Bay

unusually worried

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It’s National Raspberry Cream Pie Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is how it all works, this municipal recycling business.

Pictured is the Sims Metal facility in Sunset Park Brooklyn. Department of Sanitation performs its collection task using packer trucks – which work curbside pickup routes, essentially – and then they head over to a transfer station of either terrestrial or marine nature. On their way in to the transfer station, they drive over a scale and are weighed.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Once the trucks get past the scale, they wait their turn to “tip” or deposit the cargo they’ve collected.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is done in a fairly orderly fashion, with a Sims Metal employee directing the DSNY operator to a certain spot where the driver activates the mechanisms within the truck which push the garbage out. My understanding is that the hidden internal machinery is driven by steel cables which tension pulls a plate forward from the back of the hopper, and that’s (plus the angled hopper for a gravity assist) what pushes the load out.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If the material was collected from Boroughs other than Brooklyn, it’s brought in by tug and barge from one of the other Sims facilities like the one found at Newtown Creek in Long Island City. According to one of the Sims people I met, they said a barge carries the equivalent of a hundred garbage trucks worth of recyclables all at once.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Once DSNY has handed off the recyclable waste, a bull dozer like unit moves it into a drop shaft which in turn feeds it into the highly automated processing room.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s optical equipment that sorts plastics and glass by type, as well as fairly esoteric bits of kit which feature magnetic or electrical flux fields which capture the metals like steel cans and aluminum foil.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shapes and sizes of these moving conveyor belts also figure into the sorting and handling typology of waste.

I was told that a lot of this technology has been adapted from the agricultural industry – Big Agra, as it’s known – and that the biggest “players” in this sector are German and Dutch manufacturers.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Once this mingled pile of waste products has been separated out into distinct types (including separating the different forms of plastic) they’ll be bundled up and be prepared for shipment.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Plastics and glass are fairly worthless, it should be noted. Low oil prices over the last decade or so has caused the price of chemical feedstock for plastic manufacturers to plummet, as said material is a byproduct of petroleum refining and manufacture. That makes it cheaper to make new plastic than it would be to recycle old plastic. Glass recycling carries a pretty high energy cost, in terms of making it molten, so it’s mainly used a crushed up fill material in concrete and asphalt. That’s why some roads and sidewalks appear to shimmer in the sun.

Paper pulp is quite valuable, and VERY recyclable. So is metal, especially aluminum and copper. That’s based on the expense of producing new pulp, or refining mined ore. Sims Metal Management is a global corporation, and participates in a commodities market for these recyclable materials, which it sells (hopefully) at a profit internationally.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The DSNY trucks, meanwhile, having emptied their cargo into the Sunset Park facility, follow a certain path back out.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It carries them onto a second scale, just like the one they encountered when entering Sims. The differential tonnage between the weighings is what Sims bills New York City for their services.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Presumptively, this truck will head back to wherever it’s stationed to take on fuel and new crew, and head back out to perform more collection duties. Additional presumption would offer that it would likely end its next shift right back here at Sims Metal.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Well… as I said at the top of the post – this is the way it all works. Also, let’s all try to use less stuff that we can only use one time before throwing it away. Can you just imagine what all of this costs?


Upcoming Tours and events

The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance – Saturday August 5th, 11 a.m. – 1;30 p.m.

Century old movable bridges, the remains of a 19th century highway between Brooklyn and Queens, and explore two of the lesser known tributaries of the troubled Newtown Creek watershed. For the vulgarly curious, Conrad Wissell’s Dead Animal and Night Soil wharf will be seen and described, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

Brooklyn Waterfront Boat Tour, with Working Harbor Committee – Saturday August 12th, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.

Explore the coastline of Brooklyn from Newtown Creek to Sunset Park, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman, Andrew Gustafson of Turnstile Tours, and Gordon Cooper of Working Harbor Committee on the narrating about Brooklyn’s industrial past and rapidly changing present. details here.

The Poison Cauldron of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance – Sunday August 13th, 11 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Explore the hellish waste transfer and petroleum districts of North Brooklyn on this daring walk towards the doomed Kosciuszko Bridge, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

Two Newtown Creek Boat Tours, with Newtown Creek Alliance and Open House NY – Wednesday August 16th, 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.

The neighborhoods surrounding Newtown Creek are home to the densest collection of these garbage facilities anywhere in the city and collectively, the waste transfer stations around and along Newtown Creek handle almost 40% of the waste that moves through New York. Join Newtown Creek Alliance’s Mitch Waxman and Willis Elkins  to learn about the ongoing efforts to address the environmental burden that this “clustering” has caused. details here.

DUPBO Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with NYCH20 – Thursday August 24th, 7 p.m. – 9 p.m.

Explore Greenpoint and Hunters Point, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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Written by Mitch Waxman

August 1, 2017 at 11:00 am

decisive steps

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It’s National Hot Fudge Sundae Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Despite the known presence of a tribe of Vampires lurking in the steel rafters of the Red Hook section’s Gowanus Expressway, the elevated span offers a welcoming respite from the radiate energies of the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself to a humble narrator as well as the revenants – and given the high temperature and humidity levels last week – one was willing to take his chances with the bloodsuckers in pursuance of a bit of shade. This corridor in South Brooklyn is hellacious to drive through, and is also a bit of an adventure whilst on foot.

It’s the “House of Moses” after all.

from wikipedia

Robert Moses (December 18, 1888 – July 29, 1981) was a public official who worked mainly in the New York metropolitan area. Known as the “master builder” of mid-20th century New York City, Long Island, Rockland County, and Westchester County, he is sometimes compared to Baron Haussmann of Second Empire Paris, and was one of the most polarizing figures in the history of urban development in the United States. His decisions favoring highways over public transit helped create the modern suburbs of Long Island and influenced a generation of engineers, architects, and urban planners who spread his philosophies across the nation despite not training in those professions. Moses would call himself a “coordinator” and was referred to in the media as a “master builder”.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One’s plan was a simple one. Attendance at an event in Sunset Park was on the menu, and a convoluted trip using the subway from Point A in Queens’ Astoria to Point R in Brooklyn’s Red Hook was instituted. From Smith/9th street, I had a distance of about a mile to cover on foot, during which one encountered a series of challenging pedestrian obstacles which made me wish I had called a cab. My plan was to take Hamilton Avenue over to Third Avenue, whereupon I was headed over to 28th street in Sunset Park. Simple?

Btw, that’s NYC DOT’s Hamilton Plant pictured above, they do asphalt.

from wikipedia

Asphalt concrete (commonly called asphalt, blacktop, or pavement in North America, and tarmac or bitumen macadam in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland) is a composite material commonly used to surface roads, parking lots, airports, as well as the core of embankment dams. It consists of mineral aggregate bound together with asphalt, laid in layers, and compacted. The process was refined and enhanced by Belgian inventor and U.S. immigrant Edward de Smedt.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Things got a little hairy for a scuttling narrator as the realization that there was no way to safely cross the street set in and that I was just going to have to “go with the flow” and follow whatever detours Robert Moses left behind for me. Realizing that you’re the only person moving along on foot along a busy road is a bit disconcerting. More so, the unseen eyes staring maliciously down at my gloriously blood swollen body were sensed rather than observed.

My understanding is that this tribe of Nosferatu are nowhere near as organized or aggressive as the ones found around Queens Plaza. Those are the ones who enact a nightly siege at the NY Blood Center facility in Vernon Blvd., but one remained vigilant nevertheless.

As quoted from a 2015 post at this – your Newtown Pentacle – “It is said that the vampires arrived with a grain shipment from Germany in the early 1900’s, quickly established themselves in the neighborhood, and never left.”

from wikipedia

During the 18th century, there was a frenzy of vampire sightings in Eastern Europe, with frequent stakings and grave diggings to identify and kill the potential revenants. Even government officials engaged in the hunting and staking of vampires. Despite being called the Age of Enlightenment, during which most folkloric legends were quelled, the belief in vampires increased dramatically, resulting in a mass hysteria throughout most of Europe. The panic began with an outbreak of alleged vampire attacks in East Prussia in 1721 and in the Habsburg Monarchy from 1725 to 1734, which spread to other localities. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The diversionary sidewalk path carried me away from Hamilton’s intersection with Third Avenue, and one was forced to vacate the BQE’s shadows – which sheltered both undead army and humble narrator alike from the sky born radiation. One found himself at the veritable angle between the three neighborhoods surrounding the Gowanus Canal, and proceeded along his way.

I kept a close eye on those steel rafters, however.

from wikipedia

Legends of vampires have existed for millennia; cultures such as the Mesopotamians, Hebrews, ancient Greeks, and Romans had tales of demonic entities and blood-drinking spirits which are considered precursors to modern vampires. Despite the occurrence of vampire-like creatures in these ancient civilizations, the folklore for the entity we know today as the vampire originates almost exclusively from early 18th-century Southeastern Europe, particularly Transylvania as verbal traditions of many ethnic groups of the region were recorded and published. In most cases, vampires are revenants of evil beings, suicide victims, or witches, but can also be created by a malevolent spirit possessing a corpse or by being bitten by a vampire itself. Belief in such legends became so rife that in some areas it caused mass hysteria and even public executions of people believed to be vampires.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Along my path, several gaunt and filthy humans appeared, asking me for things I might have – oddly specific amounts of currency or just random items that they noticed me carrying. Surely, these debased people were the “bled white” servitors of the vampiric powers, enjoying the brief sojourn of freedom which the daytime brings them. Shoving past them with a “harummpf” and a “good day to you madam,” one was nevertheless on a mission, which was arriving at my destination in Sunset Park on time and not quite a perspiring mess due to the uncomfortable atmospherics.

One had arrived at Third Avenue, finally.

from wikipedia

Clinical vampirism is named after the mythical vampire, and is a recognizable, although rare, clinical entity characterized by periodic compulsive blood-drinking, affinity with the dead and uncertain identity. It is hypothetically the expression of an inherited archaic myth, the act of taking blood being a ritual that gives temporary relief. From ancient times vampirists have given substance to belief in the existence of supernatural vampires. Four vampirists, including Haigh, the ‘acid-bath murderer’, are described. From childhood they cut themselves, drank their own, exogenous human or animal blood to relieve a craving, dreamed of blood-shed, associated with the dead, and had a changing identity. They were intelligent, with no family mental or social pathology. Some self-cutters are auto-vampirists; females are not likely to assault others for blood, but males are potentially dangerous. Vampirism may be a cause of unpredictable repeated assault and murder, and should be looked for in violent criminals who are self-mutilators. No specific treatment is known.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I noticed that the steel rafters of the highway were no longer quite so high relative to my position, but were instead placed far closer to the ground. At this lower height, it would be a simple thing for some glass nailed claw connected to a pale limb by creaking ligaments to swing down and scratch at my skinvelope, causing my bodily juices to spill out and make for easy consumption. The local gendarmes don’t inquire too deeply into exsanguinated corpses around these parts, I’m told, chalking the complete lack of blood up to “extreme dehydration” on official NYPD paperwork.

Yeah… there’s definitely something thirsty hereabouts… I’ll tell you!

from wikipedia

The Oxford English Dictionary dates the first appearance of the English word vampire (as vampyre) in English from 1734, in a travelogue titled Travels of Three English Gentlemen published in The Harleian Miscellany in 1745. Vampires had already been discussed in French and German literature. After Austria gained control of northern Serbia and Oltenia with the Treaty of Passarowitz in 1718, officials noted the local practice of exhuming bodies and “killing vampires”. These reports, prepared between 1725 and 1732, received widespread publicity. The English term was derived (possibly via French vampyre) from the German Vampir, in turn derived in the early 18th century from the Serbian vampir (Cyrillic: вампир).

The Serbian form has parallels in virtually all Slavic languages: Bulgarian and Macedonian вампир (vampir), Bosnian: vampir, Croatian vampir, Czech and Slovak upír, Polish wąpierz, and (perhaps East Slavic-influenced) upiór, Ukrainian упир (upyr), Russian упырь (upyr’), Belarusian упыр (upyr), from Old East Slavic упирь (upir’) (many of these languages have also borrowed forms such as “vampir/wampir” subsequently from the West; these are distinct from the original local words for the creature). The exact etymology is unclear. Among the proposed proto-Slavic forms are *ǫpyrь and *ǫpirь.

Another less widespread theory is that the Slavic languages have borrowed the word from a Turkic term for “witch” (e.g., Tatar ubyr). Czech linguist Václav Machek proposes Slovak verb “vrepiť sa” (stick to, thrust into), or its hypothetical anagram “vperiť sa” (in Czech, the archaic verb “vpeřit” means “to thrust violently”) as an etymological background, and thus translates “upír” as “someone who thrusts, bites”. An early use of the Old Russian word is in the anti-pagan treatise “Word of Saint Grigoriy” (Russian Слово святого Григория), dated variously to the 11th–13th centuries, where pagan worship of upyri is reported.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One bolted across Third Avenue, seeking safety instead of avoiding the burning gaze of the Thermonuclear Eye of God itself. For one such as myself, it is merely uncomfortable to stand in the radiation of the almighty’s gaze, but for the Vampire folk it is an existential matter. It’s why their kind prefers cold climates with long winters, when’re they can enjoy the ecstasies of freedom and the hunt both unmolested and unrestrained, like the wolf.

I’m told that one of the local South Brooklyn Vampires has recently announced a run for the local City Council seat as an independent. There’s a lot of minor candidates who feel emboldened by Donald Trump’s surprise victory to try and gain elective office who figure that if Trump could do it, why not them too? Watch out Brad Lander.

from wikipedia

Opportunism is the conscious policy and practice of taking advantage of circumstances – with little regard for principles, or with what the consequences are for others. Opportunist actions are expedient actions guided primarily by self-interested motives. The term can be applied to individual humans and living organisms, groups, organizations, styles, behaviours, and trends.

Opportunism or “opportunistic behavior” is an important concept in such fields of study as biology, transaction cost economics, game theory, ethics, psychology, sociology and politics.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Warehouse and fenceline shadows would now have to be my only shelter from the burning rays of the thermonuclear orb in the sky, and one proceeded south. Now all I had to worry about were those man things which have seemingly never been instructed in how to wear human clothing that are common in this area, the everpresent high speed and randomly directed truck traffic, and a growing crowd of disaffected and heavily tattooed young humans who were riding their bicycles clumsily on the sidewalk while texting on their iphones.

from wikipedia

The hipster subculture is stereotypically composed of youth who reside primarily in gentrifying neighborhoods. It is broadly associated with indie and alternative music, a varied non-mainstream fashion sensibility, vintage and thrift store-bought clothing, generally progressive political views, organic and artisanal foods, alternative lifestyles and snobbery. The subculture typically consists of mostly white young adults living in urban areas. It has been described as a “mutating, trans-Atlantic melting pot of styles, tastes and behavior”.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Tomorrow, I’ll show you where I was going to in Sunset Park, and why I braved the horrors of the sweating concrete bunkers of the MTA, the pedestrian hating “House of Moses,” and the Vampiric hordes of hoary Red Hook itself.

That’s Gowanus Bay above, as seen from my eventual destination in Sunset Park, which was ultimately kind of a trashy experience – but more on that subject tomorrow – at this, your Newtown Pentacle.

from wikipedia

Sunset Park is a neighborhood in the southwestern part of the New York City borough of Brooklyn. It is bounded by Park Slope, Greenwood Heights and Green-Wood Cemetery to the north, Borough Park to the east, Bay Ridge to the south, and Upper New York Bay to the west. Because it was once close to the southern boundary of the City of Brooklyn, Sunset Park is considered to be part of South Brooklyn. However, until the 1960s, the northern part of Sunset Park was considered to be part of Gowanus, and the southern part was included in Bay Ridge. The neighborhood received its own name in that decade.


Upcoming Tours and events

The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance – Saturday August 5th, 11 a.m. – 1;30 p.m.

Century old movable bridges, the remains of a 19th century highway between Brooklyn and Queens, and explore two of the lesser known tributaries of the troubled Newtown Creek watershed. For the vulgarly curious, Conrad Wissell’s Dead Animal and Night Soil wharf will be seen and described, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

Brooklyn Waterfront Boat Tour, with Working Harbor Committee – Saturday August 12th, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.

Explore the coastline of Brooklyn from Newtown Creek to Sunset Park, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman, Andrew Gustafson of Turnstile Tours, and Gordon Cooper of Working Harbor Committee on the narrating about Brooklyn’s industrial past and rapidly changing present. details here.

The Poison Cauldron of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance – Sunday August 13th, 11 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Explore the hellish waste transfer and petroleum districts of North Brooklyn on this daring walk towards the doomed Kosciuszko Bridge, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

Two Newtown Creek Boat Tours, with Newtown Creek Alliance and Open House NY – Wednesday August 16th, 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.

The neighborhoods surrounding Newtown Creek are home to the densest collection of these garbage facilities anywhere in the city and collectively, the waste transfer stations around and along Newtown Creek handle almost 40% of the waste that moves through New York. Join Newtown Creek Alliance’s Mitch Waxman and Willis Elkins  to learn about the ongoing efforts to address the environmental burden that this “clustering” has caused. details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

what would

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You wanus, I wanus, so let’s Gowanus…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week, one was onboard for the Working Harbor Committee’s tour of Gowanus Bay and part of the Gowanus Canal. My pals Joseph Alexiou and Capt. Maggie Flanagan were handling the narration, and I spent most of the trip down on the bow of the NY Waterways Ferry boat shooting. One of the many interesting tableaux encountered included the sudden appearance of DonJon Marine’s Caitlin Ann tug.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Caitlin Ann was towing a barge of recyclables, specifically metals. A 1961 vintage, 2,400 HP tug, Caitlin Ann’s story can be best explained by visiting this page at the ever reliable tugboatinformation.com.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

DonJon is a New Jersey based company, founded in 1964 by a fellow named J. Arnold Witte. In concurrence with the traditions of the towing industry, their tugs are named after family members. It isn’t limited to just the tug business either, and the company handles all sorts of hauling – including terrestrial tasks like trucking, as well as heavy maritime industrial tasks like dredging and even diving.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On our way out of Gowanus Bay, I couldn’t help but get a shot of the Abu Loujaine at the Quadrozzi Grain Terminal docks. I wrote about the Loujaine a while back, in this post from January of 2012.

Upcoming Events and Tours

Saturday, June 25, 10:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek,
with Brooklyn Brainery. Click here for more details.

Sunday, June 26, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 22, 2016 at 11:00 am

quaint fusion

with one comment

Shots from a recent boat trip to the Gowanus.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A few weeks back, I conducted the Working Harbor Committee Newtown Creek boat tour, which was followed by an excursion to the Gowanus Canal. Both boats were solidly packed with harbor enthusiasts, curious explorers who welcomed the opportunity to visit some of NY Harbor’s less well known spots. Obviously, I didn’t get any shots on the Newtown Creek tour (my curse) but since my pals Joseph Alexiou and Eymund Diegel were handling the narration on the Gowanus trip, I was able to have some #superfun for once.

Pictured above, the push boat Emerald Coast in Gowanus Bay.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

John Quadrozzi Jr. was also onboard, and he jumped onto the microphone once or twice during the voyage. Seeing as how JQJr. actually owns big giant chunks of Gowanus Bay, he had a few things to say about this and that – offering the Working Harbor audience insider insights from his unique point of view.

One of the “this’s” Mr. Quadrozzi discussed was his Grain Terminal building, and one of the “that’s” was the ship Loujaine – both pictured above.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I do like the point of view one is offered by the entrance to the Gowanus Canal, don’t forget that Gowanus Bay is kind of a separate banana from the Gowanus Canal, whose navigable entry point is found at the Hamilton Avenue Bridge.

That hulking monstrosity you’ll notice lurking above the bridge, in all its neighborhood blighting glory, is the Gowanus Expressway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Our vessel’s passage required the Hamilton Avenue Bridge to open, and while we waited for the redoubtable employees of the NYC DOT to actuate its mechanisms, I noticed this bit of former maritime industrial glory sitting on the poison shoreline. First thought that entered my head when I saw it was “this is the dreidel of the gods.” For those of you reading this who are “goyem,” a dreidel is that little Jewish spinning top thing with the Hebrew lettering on it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The HMS Liberty, observed as it passes by the SimsMetal facility and a windmill on the southern shore of Gowanus Bay. Liberty is a tugboat, as opposed to the Emerald Coast found in the first shot of today’s post – which is a push boat. Both are towing vessels, of course, and tug versus push is pretty descriptive of the different approaches to the mission which they’re engineered for.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

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

fled through

with one comment

Break time.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A single image greets you this morning, as will be the case through the Thanksgiving holiday.

A humble narrator requires a break periodically, to recharge and reinvent. Worry not, however, for pithy commentary and puckish intent returns on the Monday following Thanksgiving – the first of December.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 20, 2014 at 11:00 am

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