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Posts Tagged ‘Gowanus Expressway

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Happy 77th Birthday, Gowanus Expressway!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Today is the day that all the children of infinite Brooklyn emerge into the streets and lanes to gambol and celebrate, reveling in a common heritage. October 1st signals to them not just the arrival of “sweater weather,” but also jogs an ancestral memory of the opening of a branch of the House of Moses in South Brooklyn along the fabled Gowanus Canal (Robert Moses, that is). They don’t celebrate the Hamilton Avenue Vampires of course, but… really… who celebrates exsanguinators on the first of October? That’s for the end of the month on Halloween.

The Vampires known to infest this section of the larger Brooklyn Queens Expressway were discussed in two posts from 2017 – “unsigned letter” and “decisive steps.” Read them and take the message of their presence to heart. We’ve got the same problem in Queens Plaza, I’m sorry to say. The City suppresses NYPD statistics on this subject.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The House of Moses landed heavily in South Brooklyn, and stole the sky. It blighted the ground and blocked the emanations of the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself from ever directly warming the pavement set squamously about the Gowanus. As above, so below – automotive traffic is everpresent and flows heavily in these parts. The exigent needs of pedestrians in the area were abrogated, ignored, and arrogantly discarded.

I seem to recall that – sometime in the late 1980’s or early 90’s – a decades long season of deferred maintenance on the elevated Gowanus Expressway resulted in a truck plunging through it to the streets below. Same thing happened in the City, over on the West Side Highway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Construction on this wonder of the Brooklyn world began in 1939, and the consequences for the neighborhood below were dire. If you lived, or worked, in the pathway chosen by Mr. Moses for his marvel… well… you couldn’t stand in the way of progress. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, and you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs. This was called “progress.”

As a note, this is why I argue about semantics with my political friends when they call themselves “progressives” in the 21st century. I usually refer them to a dictionary, because “progressive” doesn’t actually mean what they think it does. Robert Moses was a progressive.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Gowanus Expressway as viewed from the turgid water of Gowanus Bay, in the shot above. Gowanus Expressway was designed to connect the corridors of Ocean Parkway, Sunset Park, and Bay Ridge with the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel. Concurrently built, the Koscisuzcko Bridge over in North Brooklyn was meant to provide egress to extant sections of Queens, notably the new Grand Central Parkway which fed into the Triborough Bridge. Mr. Moses then made the case that it would all be wasted effort were a connecting highway not created between the structures. He called it the Brooklyn Queens Connecting Highway, which, in the years following the Second World War was widened and improved into becoming the Brooklyn Queens Expressway. The BQE was then extended a bit to the south to meet and join with the Belt Parkway, which – coincidentally – also provided an eastern connection to Triborough via the Van Wyck and Interborough Parkways to the Grand Central.

That’s the Hamilton Avenue Bridge just below the Gowanus Expressway, if you’re curious, and it was discussed in this Newtown Pentacle post from 2014.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The sections of Brooklyn found under the Gowanus Expressway, in addition to being lousy with vampires, are pretty horrible. The elevated road drips, it hums, it overshadows and overwhelms. It’s not a pleasant experience either driving or walking down here. All is shadowed by the best intentions of the exigencies of the past.

One of the less salubrious corridors of the “House of Moses,” this.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s especially horrible at night.

Anywho – Happy Birthday Gowanus Expressway, you vampire infested nightmare.


Upcoming Tours and Events

Monday, October 1st, 6:30 p.m. – Infrastructure Creek – with Atlas Obscura.

Join Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman as he leads an exploration of the city’s largest sewer plant, tunnels, draw and truss bridges, rail yards, and a highway that carries 32 million vehicle-trips a year over flowing water.

Tix and more details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 1, 2018 at 1:00 pm

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

unsigned letter

with 2 comments

It’s National Drive-Thru Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Ain’t nothing like a heat wave in NYC, huh? Regardless of tropical clime, nor distances involved, a humble narrator nevertheless surged forward into the wilds of Long Island’s western tip recently to gather photographs and experience the truculent realities of our time.

One left Point A in Astoria via the usual means, onboard the so called “R” or Broadway Local Line .

from wikipedia

The R Broadway Local is a rapid transit service in the B Division of the New York City Subway. Its route emblem, or “bullet”, is colored yellow since it uses the BMT Broadway Line in Manhattan.

The R operates local between 71st Avenue in Forest Hills, Queens and 95th Street in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn at all times except nights when it short turns at Whitehall Street–South Ferry in Lower Manhattan from Brooklyn.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Ultimately, one sought to gain access to the Crosstown or “G” line, which the MTA folks annoyingly force one to enact two transfers to get to from Point A, despite the platform’s location less than a mile and a half from my starting point (and the fact that the G used to run through the same station which I caught the R at). Accordingly, at the sweltering bunker of dripping masonry which the MTA designates as “Queens Plaza,” one debarked the R and vouchsafed a single station ride upon the “E” – or Eighth Avenue Local Line – to the Court Square station where yet another transfer was enacted to access the G.

Urine, it smelled deeply of urine, at the Court Square station.

from wikipedia

The E Eighth Avenue Local is a rapid transit service in the B Division of the New York City Subway. Its route emblem, or “bullet”, is blue since it uses the IND Eighth Avenue Line in Manhattan.

The E operates at all times between Jamaica Center–Parsons/Archer in Jamaica, Queens, and Chambers Street–World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan, running express on the IND Queens Boulevard Line in Queens (except nights when it serves all stops) and local in Manhattan. E trains also serve two local stops in eastern Queens (75th Avenue and Briarwood) on evenings and weekends.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My penultimate destination, on this particularly warm evening, was Sunset Park – which adjoins the legend choked streets of the Red Hook section of Brooklyn. One does realize, of course, that the R could have taken me all the way to this area which is called “Sunset Park,” but that would have multiplied my travel time due to a circuitous route which transverses all of Manhattan and a good chunk of Brooklyn.

The G discharged a humble narrator, vomiting me forth onto the platforms at the sky flung Smith/9th street station, high over the loathsome and shadow haunted Gowanus Canal. The Gowanus Canal smells of urine (and other things) as well, of course.

from wikipedia

The G Crosstown Local is an 11.4-mile-long (18.3 km) rapid transit service in the B Division of the New York City Subway. Its route emblem, or “bullet”, is colored light green since it uses the IND Crosstown Line.

The G operates at all times between Court Square in Long Island City, Queens and Church Avenue in Kensington, Brooklyn via the IND Crosstown and Culver lines. In Queens, it only serves two stations – Court Square and 21st Street, both in Long Island City – but previously served all stations to and from 71st Avenue in Forest Hills on the IND Queens Boulevard Line.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My plan was to pass through the “House of Moses” and under the Gowanus Expressway section of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, exploiting the shaded path which is offered by this elevated roadway, and head south towards Sunset Park. It should be mentioned, incidentally, that this is perhaps the least pedestrian friendly area in all of Brooklyn. Brobigdagnian trucks whiz about at high speed, angry motorists lurch their vehicles to and fro in frustrated bursts, and the pavement is both shadowed by the expressway above and in a delitorious state of repair.

Also, there’s vampires hiding in the rafters of the Gowanus Expressway.

from nycroads.com

The Gowanus Expressway, which serves as the southern extension of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, also connects the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel approach, the Prospect Expressway (NY 27), the Belt Parkway and the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. Although guide signs and maps refer to this segment of I-278 as the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, it is known locally as the Gowanus Expressway.

Beginning in 1939, Robert Moses oversaw construction of the Gowanus Parkway, an elevated highway placed on top of the pillars of the old 3rd Avenue BMT Elevated Line through the Sunset Park and Gowanus sections of Brooklyn. It would eventually become part of a limited-access parkway loop encircling four of the five boroughs. Since the Gowanus Parkway was to be constructed atop a pre-existing elevated facility, Moses had little trouble getting his project approved by the New York City Council.

However, the Gowanus Parkway would require more land for a wide roadway and entrance-exit ramps. This required the demolition of many homes and businesses along Third Avenue, a tightly knit block of Northern and Western European immigrants. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There are charming sights to be found along the Gowanus Canal, I should mention, lest you think I’m prejudiced against the “Superfund Sister to the South” of my beloved Newtown Creek. Abundant waste transfer and oil distribution facilities, endemic pollution, lakes of unknown chemical constitution lurking just below the streets, untreated sewage oozing out of unmarked pipes? These are all the things I love.

One has never understood the appeal of “going to the country” and vacationing amongst the rural yokels. Camping? Are you insane? I’ve got a dry bed and a door that locks here in NYC, where I get to witness a looming infrastructure crisis and unfolding environmental apocalypse whenever I want to.

from wikipedia

The Gowanus Canal is a canal in the New York City borough of Brooklyn, on the westernmost portion of Long Island. Connected to Gowanus Bay in Upper New York Bay, the canal borders the neighborhoods of Red Hook, Carroll Gardens, and Gowanus, all within South Brooklyn, to the west; Park Slope to the east; Boerum Hill and Cobble Hill to the north; and Sunset Park to the south. It is 1.8 miles (2.9 km) long. There are seven bridges over the canal, carrying Union Street, Carroll Street (a landmark), Third Street, Ninth Street, Hamilton Avenue, the Gowanus Expressway, and the IND Culver Line of the New York City Subway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s part of the Gowanus Canal, pictured above, as shot from the Hamilton Avenue Bridge and looking back north towards the Smith/9th street station which the G line disgorged me into. Used as I am to the wild expanses and geographic extent of Newtown Creek, my thoughts always turn to compactness when I’m at the Gowanus. Thing is, just like Newtown Creek and its tributaries – two of which the Gowanus would tuck neatly into – the canal interacts with ground water and flows beneath the streets via its connections with the sewer system. Just like Newtown Creek, many of the sewers connected to the Gowanus are in fact former tributary waterways which were converted and buried at the end of the 19th and start of the 20th centuries. Who can guess, all there is, that might be buried down there?

Additionally, both Gowanus Canal and Newtown Creek sport maritime industrial bulkheads along most of their length which are little more than artifacts of the Second Industrial Age, in our modern day NYC.

from nyc.gov

The Hamilton Avenue Bridge is a bascule bridge with two parallel leafs, one carrying the northbound roadway and the other carrying the southbound roadway. Most of the length of Hamilton Avenue runs below the elevated portion of the Gowanus Expressway, including the bridge. The bridge connects Smith Street and Second Avenue over the Gowanus Canal and is the first canal crossing north of the Gowanus Bay.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Regardless of musings about the wasted space, lack of public access, and utter degradation of the air, water, and soil – one had somewhere to be, and a little bit of walking was required to get there. A humble narrator put his head down, leaned into a southerly declination, and scuttled off into the clouds of auto exhaust mixing with the humid air.

The Gowanus Expressway dwelling Vampires be damned, I needed to get to Sunset Park.

from wikipedia

A vampire is a being from folklore that subsists by feeding on the life essence (generally in the form of blood) of the living. In European folklore, vampires were undead beings that often visited loved ones and caused mischief or deaths in the neighbourhoods they inhabited when they were alive. They wore shrouds and were often described as bloated and of ruddy or dark countenance, markedly different from today’s gaunt, pale vampire which dates from the early 19th century.

Vampiric entities have been recorded in most cultures; the term vampire, previously an arcane subject, was popularised in the West in the early 19th century, after an influx of vampire superstition into Western Europe from areas where vampire legends were frequent, such as the Balkans and Eastern Europe; local variants were also known by different names, such as shtriga in Albania, vrykolakas in Greece and strigoi in Romania. This increased level of vampire superstition in Europe led to mass hysteria and in some cases resulted in corpses being staked and people being accused of vampirism.


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

loftiest reward

with 4 comments

Twirling, ever twirling.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week, occasion brought me to Red Hook to work on an assignment, and in accordance with my habit – a hasty retreat to the Smith 9th street station was enacted. One does not wish to find himself in Red Hook after dark, because… y’know, vampires. Just because you think they’re a myth doesn’t mean that your bloodless corpse won’t be found floating in the Gowanus early the next morning, nor that you won’t awaken as a starving lich on some coroners table in downtown Brooklyn.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Wonders can be observed here, in Red Hook, as it’s not all Lovecraftian horror around these parts. Well… allow me to rephrase that, as the area surrounding the Gowanus Expressway is fairly antithetical to human existence – but that’s why it makes such a great home for that colony of south Brooklyn vampires which have plagued the area for better than a century. 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. Don’t be prejudiced against them, though, Vampires have to pay their tax just like everyone else. Dead or alive, no one beats the IRS.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Legend has it that the Quadrozzi company has finally evicted the squatting Nosferatu from their nearby grain terminal building, where these vampires had been firmly ensconced for better than half a century. Speculation about whether or not these displaced nocturnes have made a new home in the high flying rafters of the Gowanus Expressway (neighborhood legend suggests that they hang upside down like bats in the perennial shadows of the roadway) remains just that, although area residents offer the complaint that the local cops won’t investigate anything that even remotely sounds like an exsanguination nor answer complaints about missing dogs.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The living population of Red Hook actually miss the presence of NYC’s Five Families around these parts. Common knowledge states that the reason why the Vatican has so long tolerated the presence of the Italian Mafia is because of their track record when it comes to controlling and eliminating Vampires, which are the natural enemies of clerical and monkish populations. There are no greater Vampire killers than these racketeers, whose ranks have become sadly diminished around their former stronghold at the Gowanus.

Thanks Giuliani, thanks a whole lot.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

January 9, 2015 at 1:10 pm

in relation

leave a comment »

Down Under the Gowanus Expressway Onramp?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just a single image today, depicting the scene in South Brooklyn, in an area which might as well be called DUGEO – or Down Under the Gowanus Expressway Onramp. I’m playing catchup on the next big batch of photos, so bear with me until then lords and ladies, there’ll be some meat on your plates shortly.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

There’s a FREE Newtown Creek walking tour coming up.

Sunday, June 21st, America’s Workshop
A FREE tour, courtesy of Green Shores NYC, click here for rsvp info

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 17, 2014 at 11:00 am

leading corridor

with one comment

What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned in posts last week, a couple of trips to coastal Brooklyn popped onto my schedule. In the case of today’s post, I was in South Brooklyn at the angle found twixt Red Hook and Cobble Hill, and crossing the street beneath the extremely drippy Gowanus Expressway.

from wikipedia

After the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, I-278 continues into Brooklyn on the Gowanus Expressway. Immediately after the bridge, the freeway comes to an eastbound exit and westbound entrance for the Belt Parkway. After this, a full interchange serves 92nd Street at which point I-278 becomes a single-level six-lane freeway. Along this road, one of the eastbound lanes serves as a high-occupancy vehicle lane. The Gowanus Expressway continues northeast into urban residential neighborhoods and reaches an eastbound interchange at Fort Hamilton Parkway and a westbound interchange at 86th Street. Turning more to the north, I-278 comes to a partial interchange at 65th Street, with an exit eastbound and entrance westbound. The road curves northwest at this point and comes to a directional interchange providing access to 3rd Avenue and the Belt Parkway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A confession, seldom do I actually pay attention to the minute details when photographing an area with which I’m not overly familiar. Instead, I go for the big shot, and use my lens at its widest angles. In the street, I have a lot to worry about – traffic, criminal underclasses and malign manifestations of the street culture, and so on. Often, when I’m at my desk and examining the shot qualitatively (focus and exposure rather than composition and esthetics etc.), something will jump out at me. Notice the blue van, which I didn’t until I was back at HQ.

from nyc.gov

…standing on a street, walkway of a bridge, sidewalk, or other pedestrian passageway while using a handheld device and not otherwise asserting exclusive use by any means, including physical or verbal, is not activity that requires a permit.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So, there I stood, dirty black raincoat flapping about in the slipstream of truck and traffic and waving the camera about during a red light interval. Obviously, this registered in the mind of the driver of the blue van as suspicious activity, and he began to photograph me right back. The panopticon at work, lords and ladies, he saw something. Wonder if he said something?

from securetransit.org

Whether you’re following your regular commute route or on your way to a movie or meet up with friends, public transit is a key part of your day. You know public transit, and no one can spot something suspicious or out of place better than you.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The 1984 scenario offered by Orwell has only come partially true in 2014. The State is indeed watching, and listening. Unfortunately, its usually “Little Brother” (as Cory Doctorow coined it) who is watching. This is all good though, as what is good for the goose is literally good for the gander, and the Brooklyn way is to keep an eye on the neighborhood. On this day, under the Gowanus Expressway, there were at least two surveillance devices active and pointing at each other. Mine and his. Mine was bigger.

from wikipedia

Big Brother is a fictional character in George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. He is the enigmatic dictator of Oceania, a totalitarian state taken to its utmost logical consequence – where the ruling Party wields total power for its own sake over the inhabitants.

In the society that Orwell describes, everyone is under complete surveillance by the authorities, mainly by telescreens. The people are constantly reminded of this by the phrase “Big Brother is watching you”, which is the core “truth” of the propaganda system in this state.

Since the publication of Nineteen Eighty-Four, the term “Big Brother” has entered the lexicon as a synonym for abuse of government power, particularly in respect to civil liberties, often specifically related to mass surveillance.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 27, 2014 at 8:36 am

…like a veritable mendicant

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Facile and easily led, your humble narrator was nevertheless in Sunset Park recently, attempting to pry information on the enigmatic “turn of the last century merchant trader” named Gilman (whose grave I’ve been searching for at Calvary Cemetery here in the heart of our Newtown Pentacle) out of a hysterical levantine who had refused my offer of electronic correspondence. This man, a member of some dire cultic offshoot of the Hasidic movement whose disturbing interpretation of the Kabballist mysteries has rendered them outcasts in their own communities, operates from a dust choked office housed in a former industrial warehouse.

from wikipedia

As compared with other Jewish movements, Hasidic Judaism tends to focus on the role of the Rebbe as an elevated spiritual leader and intercessor, a renewed emphasis on prayer, cameraderie, and deeds of kindness, and the study of tangible mystical texts. This replaced Talmudic legalism as the main traditional activity, and offered the unlearned closeness to God through joy and fervour in daily life. It sought to add to required standards of ritual observance, while relaxing others where inspiration predominated. Its communal gatherings celebrated soulful song and storytelling as forms of mystical devotion. Each dynasty follows its own principles; thus Hasidic Judaism is not one movement, but a collection of separate individual groups with some commonality. There are approximately 30 larger Hasidic groups, and several hundred minor Hasidic groups exist. Though there is no one version of Hasidism, individual Hasidic groups often share with each other fundamental philosophy, worship styles, dress, songs, etc.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

His national inheritance was Dutch. Fleeing the inquisition during the religious wars of the 16th and 17th centuries, his forebears found themselves in Bruges, and after that noble city’s Zwin Channel silted up- Amsterdam. Staunch advocates of the Hebrew religion, this family nevertheless adopted a Dutch name- Suydam- and founded a business that imported Syriac, Greek, and Sufi religious texts to the merchant city. Their trade in Christian and Pagan scrolls and books allowed them access to ancient caches of Hebrew mysticism which had been captured, explored, and expanded upon by the Mohammedans.

from wikipedia

The Sephardim (so-called Spanish Jews) had been expelled from Spain and Portugal years earlier, but many remained in the Iberian peninsula, practising Judaism in secret (see crypto-Jews or Marranos). The newly independent Dutch provinces provided an ideal opportunity for the crypto-Jews to re-establish themselves and practise their religion openly, and they migrated, most notably to Amsterdam. Collectively, they brought trading influence to the city as they established in Amsterdam.

In 1593 these Marranos arrived in Amsterdam after having been refused admission to Middelburg and Haarlem. These Jews were important merchants and persons of great ability. They labored assiduously in the cause of the people and contributed materially to the prosperity of the country. They became strenuous supporters of the house of Orange and were in return protected by the stadholder. At this time the commerce of Holland was increasing; a period of development had arrived, particularly for Amsterdam, to which Jews had carried their goods and from which they maintained their relations with foreign lands. Thus they had connections with the Levant and with Morocco. The Emperor of Morocco had an ambassador at The Hague named Samuel Pallache (1591-1626), through whose mediation, in 1620, a commercial understanding was arrived at with the Barbary States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A branch of the family moved to New York shortly after the American Civil War, and are mentioned as living on Martense Street in an 1890 census. Near the Borough Hall, on Clinton Street, was where the family business operated from a parlor room. They provided Jewish religious and funerary goods imported from North Africa and the Ottoman empire, and were a shipping address for certain medieval copies of ancient scrolls which had been hidden away from the inquisitors when Moorish Iberia gave way to Catholic Spain. A side line for the Suydams was found in the 19th and 20th century fashion trends that demanded far eastern textiles and faux ceramics in the adornment of domestic rooms.

from wikipedia

The first Jews to come to New York arrived in what became New York City around September in 1654. They arrived on a ship from Recife, a city in what became Brazil. There were 23 Jewish men, woman, and children refugees among the passengers on the boat, whose captain was Jacques de la Motthe.

There was initial hostility and Peter Stuyvesant attempted to evict the Jews from his town. Jewish stockholders in Amsterdam prevailed on the Dutch West India Company to order the governor to let them remain. In 1655, a few Sephardic Jewish families immigrated to the city with a Torah scroll, possibly indicating the start of a private synagogue. Stuyvesant, determined to drive the Jewish settlers out of New Amsterdam, made efforts to restrict their trade, prohibited their owning property, and taxed them to pay for the town watch. In 1655, the Jews applied for a plot of land for a cemetery, but the governor denied the request, pointing out that no one had yet died. The following year the death of one of the Jews compelled him to designate “a little hook of land” beyond the town wall. This site has long since disappeared.

Stuyvesant’s recalcitrance and the extreme cold of New Amsterdam’s winters led the Sephardic Jews to depart for Amsterdam, London, or the Caribbean, where relatives were better established. By 1663, the Torah scroll had been returned to Amsterdam. In 1664 a large British fleet forced Stuyvesant to surrender without firing a shot, and all residents who remained in what was now New York were required to sign an oath of allegiance to the English crown.[1] The one Jewish name on the list was Asser Levy’s. He seems to have maintained the only Jewish presence of record in British New York until he was joined in 1680 by relatives from Amsterdam. Levy’s death on February 1, 1681/82 and burial in the old cemetery unquestionably led Sephardi Joseph Bueno de Mesquita to purchase a separate burying ground for his own family and for a growing group of Sephardim in the community.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The European part of the family was exterminated during the genocidal rampage of the last known Antichrist during the 1940’s, and the Suydams faded into Brooklyn obscurity during the 1950’s. The man I contacted, named Ari Suydam, is the last of his line. The old Dutch business records were lost, along with a cache of valuable paintings and other rare collectibles (including the legendary De Vermiis Mysteries, and a fragment of the Pnakotic Manuscripts- supposedly), whose recovery via international law and United Nations treaty is the man’s sole obsession. A significant amount of the documentation about a critical phase in the development of Long Island City was lost in a courthouse fire in 1904, including the critical location of Gilman’s Grave at Calvary.

from wikipedia

In 1939 there were some 140,000 Dutch Jews living in the Netherlands, among them some 25,000 German-Jewish refugees who had fled Germany in the 1930s (other sources claim that some 34,000 Jewish refugees entered the Netherlands between 1933 and 1940, mostly from Germany and Austria)…

…In 1945 only about 35,000 of them were still alive. The exact number of “full Jews” who survived the Holocaust is estimated to be 34,379 (of whom 8,500 were part of a mixed marriage and thus spared from deportation and possible death in the Nazi concentration camps); the number of “half Jews” who were present in the Netherlands at the end of the Second World War in 1945 is estimated to be 14,545, the number of “quarter Jews” 5,990

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Suydam, it is rumored, has a unique ledger in his possession that contains the otherwise immolated information sought. Unfortunately, a bizarre and exclusionary form of an other wise wholesome orthodoxy called Hasidism that the man adheres to will not allow him to deal with anyone who is not Jewish. When informed that I was raised Jewish, Bar Mitzvah and all, Suydam scornfully informed me that I wasn’t Jewish enough and ordered me to vacate his premise. He said that there were certain things that only Kohanim should know.

Thwarted, I left and walked out into the sunset.

from wikipedia

The kohanim formed a holy order. For the purpose of protecting them against ritual defilement, the Torah imposed on them the following rules for ritual purity, which are still maintained to a certain degree in Orthodox Judaism.

  • Kohanim are forbidden to come in contact with dead bodies, nor are they permitted to perform the customary mourning rites. They are commanded, however, to become defiled for their closest relatives: father, mother, brother, unmarried sister, child or wife.
  • A kohen is forbidden to enter any house or enclosure, or approach any spot, in which a dead body, or part of a dead body, may be found.
  • Practical examples of these prohibitions include: not entering a cemetery or attending a funeral; not being under the same roof (i.e. in a home or hospital) as a dismembered organ. The exact rules and regulations of defilement are quite complex, but a cursory rule of thumb is that they may not enter a room with a dead person or come within a few feet of the body. Proximity to the corpse of a non-Jew is less serious and may only be an issue if actual contact is established.
  • A male kohen may not marry a divorcee, a prostitute, a convert, or a dishonored woman.[14] Any kohen who enters into such a marriage loses the entitlements of his priestly status while in that marriage. The kohen is not allowed to “choose to forego his status” and marry a woman prohibited to him.
  • According to the Talmud, if a kohen marries in disregard of the above prohibitions, his marriage is still effective. Any children born of the union are legitimate and not mamzer. However, these children are termed chalal (“disqualified”) and lose their kohen status permanently.
  • The Kohen Gadol must marry a virgin.
  • During the period of the Holy Temple, kohanim were required to abstain from wine and all strong drink while performing their priestly duties.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Third Avenue is dominated by the steel of the Gowanus Expressway where it joins the Belt Parkway. Fourth Avenue and beyond seemed to be a residential angle between neighborhoods, an immigrant clime whose residents displayed neither sin pitted countenances of old world inheritance nor sullen malignancy. Many eating establishments were observed, and a tremendous amount of vehicular traffic. Second Avenue is where you’ll find the remains of the Bush Terminal, which is the second largest interior space I’ve ever experienced. The cyclopean summit is held by the Vehicle Assembly Building at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, so large that it forms its own weather system.

from wikipedia

After the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, I-278 continues into Brooklyn on the Gowanus Expressway. Immediately after the bridge, the freeway comes to an eastbound exit and westbound entrance for the Belt Parkway. After this, a full interchange serves 92nd Street at which point I-278 becomes a single-level six-lane freeway. Along this road, one of the eastbound lanes serves as a high-occupancy vehicle lane.[9] The Gowanus Expressway continues northeast into urban residential neighborhoods and reaches an eastbound interchange at Fort Hamilton Parkway and a westbound interchange at 86th Street. Turning more to the north, I-278 comes to a partial interchange at 65th Avenue, with an exit eastbound and entrance westbound. The road curves northwest at this point and comes to a directional interchange providing access to 3rd Avenue and the Belt Parkway.[3][4] The Gowanus Expressway turns northeast again at this interchange and continues along an elevated alignment through urban residential and commercial areas.[3] Along this viaduct, I-278 has interchanges with 38th Street/39th Street and the western terminus of NY 27 (Prospect Expressway). After the NY 27 interchange, the freeway widens to eight lanes and heads north, coming to an interchange with the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel approach (I-478), with the exit ramps splitting from the median of I-278. Westbound access to the tunnel is provided by the Hamilton Avenue exit.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Gilman… where is Gilman?

Written by Mitch Waxman

February 16, 2010 at 5:38 pm

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