The Newtown Pentacle

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Grand Street Bridge

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A “reblog” from September of 2009.

Grand Street – North East – photo by Mitch Waxman

Gaze upon the coils of the dragon and despair.

Scuttling like some Kafkaesque cliche’– away from those tremulous revelations manifested just up the street in DUMABO– at the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge over the English Kills- around soiled patches of broken pavement and across a sandy substrate of glittering and powderized glass- between towering fencelines whose attendant armies of guardian birds voicing their mocking cry of “Ia, IA” or “tekeli-li” – the Grand Street Bridge is suddenly risen above the Newtown Creek’s miasmic banks- and your humble narrator falls unabashedly to the tainted ground before it. This is a standing stone, an ancient artifact, and like the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge– an urban talisman of those days when the Tiger came to the Newtown Pentacle.

from nyc.gov

Grand Street is a two-lane local City street in Queens and Kings Counties. Grand Street runs northeast and extends from the Brooklyn Queens Expressway in Brooklyn to Queens Boulevard in Queens. The road is known as Grand Street west of the bridge and Grand Avenue east of the bridge. The bridge is located between Gardner Avenue in Brooklyn and 47th Street in Queens. The Grand Street Bridge is a 69.2m long swing type bridge with a steel truss superstructure. The general appearance of the bridge remains the same as when it was opened in 1903. The bridge provides a channel with a horizontal clearance of 17.7m and a vertical clearance, in the closed position, of 3.0m at MHW and 4.6m at MLW. The bridge structure carries a two-lane two-way vehicular roadway with sidewalks on either side. The roadway width on the bridge is 6.0m and the sidewalks are 1.8m wide. The height restriction is 4.1m. The approach roadways are wider than the bridge roadway. For example, the width of Grand Avenue at the east approach to the bridge (near 47th Street) is 15.11m.
The first bridge on this site, opened in 1875, quickly became dilapidated due to improper maintenance. Its replacement, opened in 1890, was declared by the War Department in 1898 to be “an obstruction to navigation.” Following a thorough study, a plan was adopted in 1899 to improve the bridge and its approaches. The current bridge was opened on February 5, 1903 at a cost of $174,937.

Grand Street is a two-lane local City street in Queens and Kings Counties. Grand Street runs northeast and extends from the Brooklyn Queens Expressway in Brooklyn to Queens Boulevard in Queens. The road is known as Grand Street west of the bridge and Grand Avenue east of the bridge. The bridge is located between Gardner Avenue in Brooklyn and 47th Street in Queens. The Grand Street Bridge is a 69.2m long swing type bridge with a steel truss superstructure. The general appearance of the bridge remains the same as when it was opened in 1903. The bridge provides a channel with a horizontal clearance of 17.7m and a vertical clearance, in the closed position, of 3.0m at MHW and 4.6m at MLW. The bridge structure carries a two-lane two-way vehicular roadway with sidewalks on either side. The roadway width on the bridge is 6.0m and the sidewalks are 1.8m wide. The height restriction is 4.1m. The approach roadways are wider than the bridge roadway. For example, the width of Grand Avenue at the east approach to the bridge (near 47th Street) is 15.11m.

The first bridge on this site, opened in 1875, quickly became dilapidated due to improper maintenance. Its replacement, opened in 1890, was declared by the War Department in 1898 to be “an obstruction to navigation.” Following a thorough study, a plan was adopted in 1899 to improve the bridge and its approaches. The current bridge was opened on February 5, 1903 at a cost of $174,937.

from nyc.gov

dot

Grand Street – North East – photo by Mitch Waxman

This dragon is a hungry consumer of life, and a dangerous crossing for pedestrian, bicyclist, and vehicles. The approaches are wider than the roadbeds on the crossing, accidents are frequent occurrences, and I’ve known people that have been horrifically injured here. The walkway is roughly hewn.

A NYTimes.com article from 1895 discusses the necessity of building this bridge, at the urging of the War Dept. of the United States.

Grand Street – North – photo by Mitch Waxman

This bridge and the area surrounding it have sucked its victims into that blackened and iridescent ichor lining the malodorous basins that these disease choked waters of the Newtown Creek swirl about in. Shudder at the fate of a priest, who ran afoul of those things which may lurk here even still.

“…victim was a tall, heavily built man, who, from papers found in his pockets, is supposed to be the Rev. Leonard Syczek, a Polish priest of the Roman Catholic Church.”- in this NYTimes.com article from 1896.

Grand Street – North – photo by Mitch Waxman

Despite the unfriendly and barren environment, poisoned with an exotic blending of the chemist’s art, a surprising variety of tenacious life persists here. Many fish and marine invertebrates find themselves trapped in the Newtown Creek due to tidal actions on the East River (which adjoins the Creek at Hunter’s Point). The anoxic condition of the water drowns these unfortunate creatures, and the sewage born bacteria prospering into the waterway soon ruins the meat even for scavengers.

Indignities have been heaped upon the Newtown Creek for centuries. Check out this NYTimes.com article from 1896, which sounds eerily like something you might read in one of their modern articles on the place.

Grand Street Bridge – Span, down – photo by Mitch Waxman

Life here, unless it is very bold– or driven to desperation by hunger- remains well hidden in daylight. Testifying to the presence of nocturnal predation, early morning observations reveal bloody patches of fur and feather, and characteristic drag marks etched in the sooty dust that typifies the area. Skeletons of rats abound, collected in middens revealed only by roadwork or the effects of construction projects.

A particular family of cat, whose ancestry has painted them calico- with a predominately white coat, pink nose, and golden eyes- is often observed along the Newtown Creek. What advantage such partial albinism would lend- from a darwinian perspective- can only hint at unguessable implications about an unknowable subterrene world which exists in the untold layers of civilization that the ignorant modern city is built upon. There still may be vaults down there, cellars erected in the time of the Dutch decadence, which have been sealed up since before the Civil War- an eternal night, encased in a slithering and blind world of dripping stone arches.

from wikipedia

A swing bridge is a movable bridge that has as its primary structural support a vertical locating pin and support ring at or near to its center, about which the turning span can then pivot horizontally as shown in the animated illustration below. Small swing bridges as found over canals may be pivoted only at one end, opening as would a gate, but require substantial underground structure to support the pivot.

In its closed position, a swing bridge carrying a road over a river or canal, for example, allows road traffic to cross. When a water vessel needs to pass the bridge, road traffic is stopped (usually by traffic signals and barriers), and then motors rotate the bridge approximately 90 degrees horizontally about its pivot point.

Grand Street Bridge – Span, down – photo by Mitch Waxman

As is well known by those who have sought the esoteric lore of past generations, the race of Cats will be-and have always been- the guardians over Mankind upon this Earth. Their moonlight parades, which enforce and magnify the domination of mankind over those hordes of vermin which attempt the destruction and consumption of our every industry are dreamlike to some, and a nightmare to others.

Good arguments have been made that the agricultural revolution could not have happened without the presence of Cats living amongst mankind and their efforts at stemming the rodent and insect tide. No agricultural revolution, there’s no Kings– nor Queens. Thereby, Brooklyn and Queens ultimately owe their existence to Cats. It is my fervent hope that someday, in the lands and waterways of Newtown, that no man shall kill a Cat.

Some technical data on the Grand Street Bridge, from city-data.com

Structure Number: 224039,  Location: OVER NEWTOWN CREEK (Lat: 40.716500,  Lng: -73.922672),  Route carried “on” structure: City street ,  Year Built: 1901,  Year Reconstructed: 1973,  Status: Open,  Structure Length: 7.01m (23.00ft),  Average Daily Traffic: 9,154 (year 2005),  Truck Traffic: 6%,  Average Future Daily Traffic: 12,816 (year 2025),  Design Load: HS 20,  Features Intersected: NEWTOWN CREEK,  Facility Carried by Structure: GRAND STREET

Minimum Vertical Clearance: 4.41m (14.47ft),  Kilometerpoint: 0.000,  Lanes on structure: 2,  Owner: City or Municipal Highway Agency,  Approaching Roadway Width: 15.2m (49.9ft),  Navigation Control: Yes ( Vertical Clearance: 2.7m (8.9ft), Horizontal Clearance: 27.7m (90.9ft)),  Material/Design: Steel,  Design/Construction: Movable – Swing,  Number Of Spans In Main Unit: 2,  Length of Maximum Span: 34.4m (112.9ft),  Curb or Sidewalk Widths: Left: 1.7m (5.6ft),  Right: 1.7m (5.6ft),  Curb-To-Curb Width: 5.9m (19.4ft),  Out-to-Out Width: 6.8m (22.3ft)

Condition: Deck: Satisfactory,  Superstructure: Fair,  Substructure: Satisfactory,  Channel: Good,  Operating Rating: 37.2 metric tons,  Method Used To Determine Operating Rating: Load Factor (LF),  Inventory Rating: 25.4 metric tons,  Method Used To Determine Inventory Rating: Load Factor (LF),  Structural Evaluation: Somewhat better than minimum adequacy,  Deck Geometry: High priority of replacement,  Waterway Adequacy: Somewhat better than minimum adequacy,  Approach Roadway Alignment: Somewhat better than minimum adequacy,  Length Of Structure Improvement: 7.01m (23.00ft),  Designated Inspection Frequency: Every 24 months,  Critical Feature Inspection Frequency: Every 24 months,  Underwater Inspection Frequency: Every 60 months,  Inspection Date: September 2007,  Critical Feature Inspection Date: September 2007,  Underwater Inspection Date: September 2007,  Bridge Improvement Cost: $1,268,000,  Roadway Improvement Cost: $758,000,  Total Project Cost: $2,026,000 ( Estimate for 2007),  Deck Structure Type: Open Grating

Grand Street Bridge- North East – photo by Mitch Waxman

From Brooklyn, looking to Queens. At some uncommented spot in the middle of the bridge, reality alters, and Grand Street transmogrifies into that ancient lane called Grand Avenue. Rolling through centuried Maspeth, and after an interruption at Queens Blvd., Grand Avenue becomes Broadway and continues on through ruby lipped Astoria on its way to the East River and past the horrors of Hallet’s Cove. This pathway has been in use, in one form or another, since the first Europeans- and they learned it from the Mespat.

I’ve mentioned this article before, but here’s another NYTimes.com article, from 1894, which talks about the consumption of even more human life here at the Grand Street Bridge- “…told a story which, if true, shows that that section of the city is a dangerous place at night and throws light on a number of mysterious things that have recently occurred in that vicinity.”

Grand Street Bridge – Span, down – photo by Mitch Waxman

from ANNUAL REPORT OF THB CHIEF OF ENGINEERS, UNITED STATES ARMY, TO THE SECRETARY OF WAR, FOR THE YEAR 1889 IN FOUR PARTS. PART I., courtesy google books.

The bed of the creek in the area worked over was variable below the plane of 18 feet mean low water; near the bar it was composed of sand, or sand and clay mixed, but as the bridge was approached it grew harder like hardpan, and had large bowlders embedded in it. The range of the tides in the creek is about 4£ feet, but the bed of the creek has no natural slope. The creek is the receptacle for all the refuse from the sewers, factories, and slaughter-houses of the east of Brooklyn; constant deposits are therefore forming in it, especially at the upper end, from these causes and from the caving in of the unprotected banks, which consist of marsh mud. To remedy this difficulty, annual dredging will be needed until the banks are protected by bulkheads throughout their whole length. The commerce of the creek is so large that this improvement should be pushed at least 3 mile.s up from the mouth as soon as possible, so that vessels drawing 20 to 23 feet may pass in and out of the creek with full cargoes at or near low water.

Grand Street Bridge – Span, down – photo by Mitch Waxman

The building of this bridge was a Tammany project, check out this City Club book describing Mayor Low’s Administration in New York at Google Books.

On August 7th, 1900, Commissioner Shea signed a contract for the building of a draw bridge to replace an old bridge over Newtown Creek, at Grand Street, between Brooklyn and Queens. The engineers’ preliminary estimate of the cost was $173,379-90, and the final estimate $166,819.69. The old bridge was closed to traffic on August 27th, 1900, and the new bridge was to be completed by October 2ist, 1901, or in three hundred working days.

Although the traffic over Newtown Creek is very great, and the new bridge was urgently needed, the bridge was not opened to traffic until December 26th, 1902, or in four hundred and thirty-six working days, and was accepted by the city on February 5th, 1903. The total cost was 8172,323.43, including a bill for $5,503.74 for extra work, which was finally allowed in April, 1903. The contractor presented a bill for twice that amount, but Commissioner Lindenthal settled for the sum mentioned as the amount of the legitimate claim against the city.

The causes of this long delay under Mr. Shea’s administration are given in a detailed report handed in to Commissioner Lindenthal by Edward De Voe Tompkins on July 9th, 1902. From the time the bridge was started and until March roth, 1902, Mr. Tompkins was assistant engineer under the orders of a superior, also an assistant engineer. On that date Commissioner Lindenthal placed Mr. Tompkins in charge of the construction of the bridge. Mr. Tompkins gives the causes of delay as follows :—

On August 13th, 1900, the contractor was ordered to begin work. In September, 1900, the contractor removed “the old bridge in a very ” slow, objectionable and ridiculous way. When the engineer remonstrated he was answered with profanity. The contractor refused to ” furnish the engineer with necessary supplies, assistance, rowboat, etc. ” The contractor instead of devoting all his efforts to the construction ” of the bridge, used the site of the work for fitting out two derrick ‘ boats, and building two pile driver leaders and placing same on scows ” to be used on other contracts.

” The department’s original contract drawings of masonry were ” full of errors and practically worthless. This caused considerable ” delay and complications, the contractor being also to blame.”

Grand Street Bridge- Span, South East – photo by Mitch Waxman

The bridge that the 1903 model replaced was built by the King Bridge Company.

from kingbridgeco.com
(they have an image of an extinct Newtown Creek crossing, the Vernon Avenue Bridge, by the by)

As early as 1874, the King Bridge Company was selected to build the Grand Street Bridge in Eastern Brooklyn across Newtown Creek. This was a drawbridge built for $18,200 and was in service for fifteen years but suffered from poor maintenance. The company bid on its replacement in 1888 but lost out to a local contractor. However, the company did display one of its New York moveable bridges in its catalogues of the 1880s. This was a 168-foot wrought iron high-truss swing bridge on Manhattan Avenue in the Greenport section of Brooklyn. This bridge also has long since disappeared.

Grand Street Bridge- Span, North – photo by Mitch Waxman

from “Queens Borough, New York City, 1910-1920; the borough of homes and industry, a descriptive and illustrated book setting forth its wonderful growth and development in commerce, industry and homes during the past ten years … a prediction of even greater growth during the next ten years … and a statement of its many advantages, attractions and possibilities as a section wherein to live, to work and to succeed” at Archive.org

Some further idea of the immense commerce of this waterway can be obtained from the figures compiled by the Department of Plant and Structures of New York City, which show that during the year 1918, 59,389 boats passed through the Vernon Avenue Bridge, 56,735 passed through the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge, 27,000 through the Meeker Street Bridge and 5,007 through the Grand Street Bridge.

Steamers schooners and unrigged vessels are the principal freight carriers. Their drafts range from 5^ to 20 feet; 2 to 19 feet; 2 to 18 feet respectively. Some steamers of still larger draft lighter in their cargoes.

Among the larger plants on the Queens shore of Newtown Creek are the National Sugar Refining Company, Nichols Copper Company, National Enameling and Stamping Company, General Chemical Company, Standard Oil Refineries. American Agricultural Chemical Company, and the Wrigley Chewing Gum Company.

Grand Street Bridge- Span, Bridge House – photo by Mitch Waxman

from bklyn-genealogy-info.com

1882- James McFADDEN, of 312 Maujer street, while working in REYNOLD’s coal yard, near Grand street bridge, was caught between a coal cart and some lumber yesterday afternoon, causing a lacerated wound of left thigh.  He was attended by Assistant Surgeon CURRAN and taken to St. Catharine’s Hospital.

also in 1882- Lack Of Humanity

A Coroner’s Jury Censures Street Car Passengers and Exonerates the Driver At an inquest held yesterday afternoon by Coroner PARKER on the body of Henry SCHUMACKER, the jury brought in the following verdict:

“We find that the said Henry SCHUMACKER came to his death on the 18th inst from shock due to fracture of the left leg caused by being run over by a car of the Grand Street & Newtown Railroad Company on Wednesday, November 16. And we, the jury, are of the opinion that he fell or was thrown out accidentally from his wagon and exonerate the driver of the car from all blame, but severely censure three passengers who were on the front platform of the car for lack of common humanity displayed on that occasion, and we recommend that lights be placed on Grand Street Bridge for the protection of the public.”

The “lack of humanity” was displayed by the passengers refusing to assist the injured man.

Grand Street Bridge- Span, North, Newtown Creek – photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking north and west, the vast panorama of the western side of the Newtown Creek with its Manhattan Skyline backdrop. One of the few places near ground level that you can see this sort of vista.

Newtown Pentacle has visited this spot, briefly, in the past- in “That’s Just Grand“, much of who’s content is expanded upon in this post.

Grand Street Bridge- Span, South, Newtown Creek – photo by Mitch Waxman

from a 2002 NYTimes.com article which discusses the history and future of this structure

“The city’s Department of Transportation has made what seems like a small request concerning this forsaken three-mile-long waterway separating Queens from Brooklyn. It wants to turn the Grand Street swing bridge, one of the dozen that cross the creek, into a fixed structure.”

Grand Street Bridge- Span, South from Newtown Creek – photo by Mitch Waxman

check out an 1899 NYTimes.com article which describes the area that the Grand Street Bridge was built into as “White’s Dock”.

Grand Street Bridge- Span, Up – photo by Mitch Waxman

from fultonhistory.com

Check out a scan of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle in 1899 for an editorial take on what was really going on with the whole “condemned by the war dept. thing”.

note:
If institutional memory was not absent from modern statecraft, we would say- the 1890’s- of course there was bad press about anything having to do with Brooklyn. The consolidated City was just 1 year old, Tammany was vying for control of not just NY State– but reaching for the Congress in Washington as well. There was a power struggle between Manhattan and Brooklyn for patronage and control over the limitless budget pooled from the taxes of Greater New York.

Grand Street Bridge- Span, down, Newtown Creek – photo by Mitch Waxman

All about the site of the Grand Street Bridge, this crippled dragon found along the lamentable Newtown Creek, history seems to be tenanted by violent and deadly events. Newtownicans seem drawn to this stage during moments of crisis-

as is evidenced in this brutal NYTimes.com article from 1885.

And in this one from 1894.

Grand Street Bridge- Span, Up – photo by Mitch Waxman

A little Newtown texture from HISTORY OF QUEENS COUNTY with illustrations, Portraits & Sketches of Prominent Families and Individuals. New York: W.W. Munsell & Co.; 1882. pp. 329-408. at bklyn-genealogy-info.com

The Alsop Family.- Among the early settlers of New town were the Alsop family. Writers on English sur names inform us that this family derives its name from the village of Alsop, in Derbyshire. Richard Alsop, the progenitor of the Newtown family, was induced to locate here by his uncle, Thomas Wandell. Mr. Wandell, according to reminiscences in the Alsop family, had been a major in Cromwell’s army; but, having some dispute with the “protector,” was obliged to flee for safety, first to Holland and thence to America. Some doubts of this may he entertained, for Mr. Wandell was living at Mespat Kills in 1648, which was prior to the execution of King Charles, and when Cromwell enjoyed but a subordinate command in the parliamentary army. Mr. Wandell married the widow of William Herrick, whose plantation on Newtown Creek he bought in 1659. This was originally patented to Richard Brutnell. To this he afterward added fifty acres for which Richard Colfax had obtained a patent in 1652. On this property, since composing the Alsop farm, Mr. Wandell resided.

He was one of the jury in 1665 for the trial of Ralph Hall and his wife for witchcraft (the only trial for witchery in this colony), and shared the honor of acquitting the accused. Some years later he visited England, and it is supposed that on his return he brought with him his sister’s son, Richard Alsop, whom he made his heir. Mr. Wandell died in 1691 and was buried on the hill occupied by the Alsop cemetery. Many years later the silver plate of his coffin was discovered in digging a new grave.

Grand Street Bridge- Span, West – photo by Mitch Waxman

A little more Newtown texture from HISTORY OF QUEENS COUNTY with illustrations, Portraits & Sketches of Prominent Families and Individuals. New York: W.W. Munsell & Co.; 1882. pp. 329-408. at bklyn-genealogy-info.com

Newtown in the winter of 1778 presented an unusually animated appearance. General Washington was expected to make an attack upon New York, and for the better preservation and safety of the shipping Sir Henry Clinton ordered all vessels not in the service of the government to be removed to Newtown Creek. A large number of British troops were also barracked here. There were the seventeenth regiment of light dragoons, the Maryland loyalists, the royal Highlanders, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Sterling, who had seen long and arduous service in America during the French and Indian war; the royal artillery, with their cannon and horses; and the thirty-third regiment, Lord Cornwallis. During this period the farmers were subjected to many severe burdens. They were required to furnish from year to year, for the use of the army, the greater portion of their hay, straw, rye, corn, oats and provisions, under pain of being imprisoned and having their crops confiscated. The commissary weighed or measured the produce, and then rendered payment according to the prices fixed by the king’s commissioners. If the seller demanded more it was at the risk of losing the whole. The private soldiers were billeted in the houses of the Whig families. The family was generally allowed one fireplace.

Robberies were frequent, and Newtown became a prey to depredation, alarm and cruelty. The civil courts were suspended, and martial law prevailed through seven long years. It was a happy day for Newtown when news arrived that Great Britain had virtually acknowledged our independence, and when her patriotic sons were permitted to return from a tedious exile.

Grand Street Bridge- Span, South – photo by Mitch Waxman

One last bit of Newtown texture from HISTORY OF QUEENS COUNTY with illustrations, Portraits & Sketches of Prominent Families and Individuals. New York: W.W. Munsell & Co.; 1882. pp. 329-408. at bklyn-genealogy-info.com

The fertility of the Newtown lands early attracted the attention of colonists, among the first of whom was Hans Hansen, who obtained a plantation of some 400 acres at the head of Newtown Creek. Richard Brutnell, a native of Bradford, England, was at the entrance of the creek, and on the opposite side was found the plantation of Tymen Jansen, who had been a ship carpenter in the employ of the West India Company. These were the only occupants at the time Mr. Doughty with his friends came to take possession of his grant. He made preparations to begin a settlement, and in less than a year a number of families were comfortably settled here. Mr. Doughty officiated as pastor, and affairs were tending prosperously when the breaking out of a war with the Indians gave a sudden and fatal check to the settlement. This war had been brought about upon a frivolous pretense of injuries received from the natives, resulting in a horrid butchery of some sleeping indians. Inflamed to the utmost, they with fire-brand and scalping-knife desolated the country around New Amsterdam, devoting property to destruction and the inhabitants to a cruel death. The savages broke in upon the settlement at Mespat and some of the settlers fell victims to their fury.

The remainder sought safety in flight, while the flame was applied to their dwellings, which with their contents were reduced to ashes. At length a peace was concluded. Thereupon some of the settlers returned to their ruined habitations. As a better day seemed dawning, several residents without the lines of the Mespat patent took occasion to secure government title for their lands. July 3d 1643 Burger Joris, Richard Brutnell, and Tymen Jansen took out their “ground briefs” or deeds.

Grand Street Bridge- Span, detail, Queens side – photo by Mitch Waxman

a 1908 map of the neighborhood from digitalgallery.nypl.org

Plate 16: [Bounded by Newton C... Digital ID: 1517373. New York Public Library

Grand Street Bridge- Span, North and West – photo by Mitch Waxman

from wikipedia

Grand Street is a street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York City, United States. The Grand Street (BMT Canarsie Line) subway station serves the corner of Grand Street and Bushwick Avenue. Crossing English Kills into Queens, Grand Street becomes Grand Avenue, continuing through Maspeth where it is a main shopping street, to Elmhurst. Its northern end is at Queens Boulevard. Broadway continues the thoroughfare north and west.

History

In the 19th century, before the construction of the Williamsburg Bridge, the Grand Street Ferry connected Grand Street, Brooklyn to Grand Street, Manhattan. The Grand Street Line was a streetcar line along the road.

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 9, 2016 at 11:00 am

haunted steep

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At the Maspeth Plank Road, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the same morning walk described yesterday, wherein one was heading over to East Williamsburg from Astoria to conduct a walking tour of My Beloved Creek, I found myself at the Maspeth Plank Road.

Whenever possible, an attempt to scout the day’s intended route is enacted, to ensure against any of the little surprises which are known to pop up in the neighborhoods surrounding Newtown Creek. Bridge closures, road work, chemical spills – you know, the usual.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I ran into this family of Canada Geese, whom I’ve been noticing all over the Creek for the last few weeks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Not too much I can tell you about this specie, other than that like swans – you don’t want to get too close to them. Geese can be mean tempered and vast physical cowardice notwithstanding, who wants to get pecked?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The gaggle seemed to take some umbrage at their unwanted portraiture, it seemed, and they headed back to the loathsome ripples of that cataract of urban neglect known as the Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My decision to scout the route was actually quite fortuitous, as the Grand Street Bridge was closed. The NYC DOT was conducting some sort of repair job here, something about fixing the deck plating on the pedestrian walkways so that it could accommodate bicycle traffic. This, of course, directs vehicular flow onto the sidewalks and directly into the path of pedestrians, but priorities are priorities for City Hall.

NYC MUST REPLACE ALL SURFACE ROADS AND PEDESTRIAN PATHS WITH BIKE LANES, AT ALL COST, INCLUDING SACRIFICE AND TORTURE.

Also, AFFORDABLE HOUSING.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

July 12th, 2015
Glittering Realms Walking Tour
with Newtown Creek Alliance, click here for details and tickets.

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 26, 2015 at 11:00 am

peculiar erudition

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Neither Tea nor Tiger…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After Richard Croker and the Tammany crew in Manhattan managed to beg, borrow, and steal enough support and patronage in Albany and around the independent municipalities which they successfully consolidated into the City of Greater New York in 1898, they had bills to pay. Tammany paid its way by handing out open ended municipal contracts, and in 1903, one them was called the Grand Street Bridge. The slogans bandied about by the local politicians who were not playing ball with the Manhattan crowd was “Keep the Tiger out of Queens,” or “Neither Tea nor Tiger.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In the run up to the consolidation, which was decided by a special election, a banner hung nearby this spot which admonished that were the Tammany crowd to gain control of Queens and Brooklyn they would create a wasteland of noxious industries, cemeteries, and trash heaps here. Back then, it was called Whites Dock, and the swampy wetlands were described as being thick with fish and mussels as late as the 1880’s.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The first bridge here, a wooden drawbridge was erected in 1875, followed by a second wood bridge erected in 1890. The modern day Grand Street Bridge over Newtown Creek was opened in 1903, was built by the King Bridge Co. and is a swing bridge. A swing bridge is s structure that pivots 90 degrees on a mechanical turntable, allowing maritime traffic egress by opening an aperture. Grand Street Bridge is the frontline, the DMZ, of the currently undefended border of Brooklyn and Queens.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Want to see something cool? Summer 2013 Walking Tours-

Kill Van Kull Saturday, August 10, 2013
Staten Island walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Working Harbor Committee, tickets now on sale.

13 Steps around Dutch Kills Saturday, August 17, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Newtown Creek Alliance, tickets now on sale.

shallow mud

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Notice: the November 9th Magic Lantern Show with Atlas Obscura is cancelled for now. We hope to reschedule for sometime during the winter. Observatory, where the event is scheduled to take place, has been damaged by Hurricane Sandy and flooding.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Hank the Elevator Guy and I next proceeded to the Grand Street Bridge in our survey of the Newtown Creek watershed, post Hurricane Sandy. Reports during the storm itself described the area as impassible, and knowing that the low lying areas around Metropolitan and Flushing Avenues are normally prone to flooding, it was with no small amount of trepidation that we approached DUGSBO.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the Brooklyn side of the Grand Street Bridge, there was evidence of washouts and sedimentation from the banks, and a pile of rubble and even a wooden staircase was piled up against the fence which separates the street from the bulkheads of Newtown Creek’s East Branch.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Additionally, the fire hydrant at the foot of the bridge was painted with muck and mire, indicating that the water overflowing the banks rose to at least its height. This is startling, as it is close to 15 feet over the normal waterline. However, given the presence of the enormous CSO back on Metropolitan Avenue, it would reasonable to assume that the surge rose from two directions here, one traveling eastward along the Creek from the East River, and another rising from the multiple vaults underlying Metropolitan.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Clearly affected by the flooding, this low lying yard which houses a school bus company was hard at work. Most of the buses had their engine hoods open, and mechanics were seen tinkering with the machinery therein. Additionally, there were people inside the buses working with cloths and mops. Another one of the subjects which I’ll likely be called to task for in the future by political wonks and area wags, one only hopes that an enormous amount of bleach will be expended by these laborers, before children are allowed onto these buses when schools open next week.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It should be noted, and admitted to you lords and ladies, that your humble narrator is embroiled by controversy and derision these days. Unsought but uncomfortably accepted notoriety has brought no small amount of joy to me, but there is a dark side to this as well. My notably unpleasant personality and aberrant disobedience to social norms, it would seem, is best taken in small doses. Fair enough, one must always remain and function as an outsider, for this is where I belong.

protecting shade

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Much to the chagrin of Our Lady of the Pentacle, an awful lot of time is devoted to “mah research”, and the recent largesse displayed by the NYC Municipal Records folks in allowing online access to their startling photographic collections has consumed an awful lot of my time.

Of particular interest to me, of course, are the historic shots of Newtown Creek and the surrounding communities at various moments in time. Today’s offering is a comparison of modern conditions with historic ones, which in the shots above and below- portray the venerable Grand Street Bridge in both eras from dissimilar but roughly analogous points of view.

My shot is closer to Queens, with the 1903 one below hugging the Bosserts lumber yard on the Brooklyn side.

Here’s the Grand Street bridge in 1903, when it was brand new courtesy NYC Dept. Of Records

Cool, huh?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Metropolitan Avenue Bridge, formerly known as Masters Bridge, from English Kills looking west in modernity, and the precursor of the modern span being constructed in 1904 below (also looking west).

DUMABO in 1904, courtesy NYC Dept. Of Records

Also cool, no?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Meeker Avenue Bridge is what it was called when it opened in 1939, and it was renamed as the Kosciuszko Bridge in 1940. My shot is from the middle of the Newtown Creek, while the historic view below is right next to the Phelps Dodge bulkheads on the Queens side.

Here’s the thing in 1939, courtesy NYC Dept. Of Records

– photo by Arthur J. Foley

____________________________________________________________________________

Click for details on Mitch Waxman’s
Upcoming walking and boat tours of Newtown Creek

July 8th, 2012- Atlas Obscura Walking Tour- The Insalubrious Valley
(note: there are just a few tickets left for this one)

for July 8th tickets, click here for the Atlas Obscura ticketing page

July 22nd, 2012- Working Harbor Committee Newtown Creek Boat Tour

obscure and cryptical

with one comment

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another “Now and then” posting for you today, Lords and Ladies of Newtown, and today it’s arguably my favorite of all the bridges of Newtown Creek- the atavist Grand Street Bridge spanning the currently undefended border of Brooklyn and Queens. The shot above is from the water, as recreating the 1910 era shot below (from the bulkheads of the eastern brooklyn side) would require probable trespass- which in our modern day age of the Terror War might subject one to legal penalties such as exsanguination or some time spent in “the boot“.

– photo from Engineering magazine, Volume 38, 1910- courtesy google books

While it does seem true that the Grand Street Bridge has changed little in the intervening century, the primary difference between then and now is that it doesn’t function as a swing bridge very often these days. The stalwart engineers and mechanics of the DOT do open it for maintenance periodically, but the City has petitioned the Coast Guard to abandon such actions due to lack of industrial need and expense of operation.

For a prior posting which will tell you literally EVERYTHING about the Grand Street Bridge and environs- an area I call DUGSBO- Down Under the Grand Street Bridge Onramp- click here

Also:

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An NCA event, which I for one am pretty stoked about:

April NCA meeting hosts Dr. Eric Sanderson

Thursday, April 26, 2012 at 6pm


Ridgewood Democratic Club, 
6070 Putnam Avenue, 
Ridgewood, NY 11385

In addition to important updates from our members – in particular the Bioremedition Workgroup has been very busy! – we will be hosting a special presentation on the “Historical Ecology of Newtown Creek”.

Dr. Eric Sanderson, senior conservation ecologist at the Wildlife Conservation Society and author of “Mannahatta: A Natural History of New York City” (Abrams, 2009), will describe recent studies of the historical ecology of Newtown Creek, describing the original wetlands, creek channels, topography and vegetation of the area. He will show a series of 18th and 19th century maps of the watershed of the creek and discuss the process of synthesizing them into an integrated ecological picture that can be used to inform and inspire natural restoration and cultural appreciation of the Newtown Creek watershed. This work is part of the Welikia Project (welikia.org), an investigation into the historical ecology of the five boroughs of New York City and surrounding waters. The Welikia Project on Newtown Creek is funded by The NYCEF Newtown Creek Fund of the Hudson River Foundation.

And this Saturday,

Obscura Day 2012, Thirteen Steps around Dutch Kills

Saturday April 28th, 10 a.m.

Your humble narrator will be narrating humbly at this year’s Obscura Day event on April 28th, leading a walking tour of Dutch Kills. There are a few tickets left, so grab them while you can.

“Found less than one mile from the East River, Dutch Kills is home to four movable (and one fixed span) bridges, including one of only two retractible bridges remaining in New York City. Dutch Kills is considered to be the central artery of industrial Long Island City and is ringed with enormous factory buildings, titan rail yards — it’s where the industrial revolution actually happened. Bring your camera, as the tour will be revealing an incredible landscape along this section of the troubled Newtown Creek Watershed.”

For tickets and full details, click here :

obscuraday.com/events/thirteen-steps-dutch-kills-newtown-creek-exploration

thickening twilight

with one comment

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sickened by weariness and a youth misspent, your humble narrator nevertheless has been tormenting himself lately with regret and guilty nonsense. “Not working hard enough” is omnipresent in my mind these days, and accordingly, the length and depth of my wanderings through the Creeklands have expanded. A lack of physical exercise is deadly to a poor specimen like myself, something which is difficult during the winter months due to that certain allergy to cold which has manifested – and which has become amplified- in recent years.

It’s amazing the ways that your body changes as you grow older, sometimes it seems as if there’s some feeble alien creature within that is pushing and tearing a path to the outside world through your very flesh.

from hplovecraft.com

Y’ha-nthlei was not destroyed when the upper-earth men shot death into the sea. It was hurt, but not destroyed. The Deep Ones could never be destroyed, even though the palaeogean magic of the forgotten Old Ones might sometimes check them. For the present they would rest; but some day, if they remembered, they would rise again for the tribute Great Cthulhu craved. It would be a city greater than Innsmouth next time.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Carrying forth, however, is something compelled rather than desired. My team of doctors has advised me of decaying homeostasis, entropic processes, and general decline. Their suggestions are to step up, exert more effort, and seek even greater frequency for these long walks while avoiding the pleasures and poisons of the west. Luckily, the ancient pathways and avenues which surround and inform that nearby slick of languid infamy known as the Newtown Creek supply ample locations to inspect, never failing to intimate some hidden meaning or vaguely shadowed terror.

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

from hplovecraft.com

“The nethermost caverns,” wrote the mad Arab, “are not for the fathoming of eyes that see; for their marvels are strange and terrific. Cursed the ground where dead thoughts live new and oddly bodied, and evil the mind that is held by no head. Wisely did Ibn Schacabao say, that happy is the tomb where no wizard hath lain, and happy the town at night whose wizards are all ashes. For it is of old rumour that the soul of the devil-bought hastes not from his charnel clay, but fats and instructs the very worm that gnaws; till out of corruption horrid life springs, and the dull scavengers of earth wax crafty to vex it and swell monstrous to plague it. Great holes secretly are digged where earth’s pores ought to suffice, and things have learnt to walk that ought to crawl.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Paranoid wonderings, lunatic ideations, unnameable desires- all haunt me during the seemingly aimless steps. Delusions of self importance, hubris, and vast ennui are my only companions on these often cobbled streets. A discarded landscape with a lost history, this is a place given to the dead, the diseased, the barren… a perfect home for one such as myself. There seems to be a current in the air, a taste of anxiety on the tip of my tongue which is all pervasive, and it feels as if something is about to happen.

Ahh… I’m all effed up.

from hplovecraft.com

I do not recall distinctly when it began, but it was months ago. The general tension was horrible. To a season of political and social upheaval was added a strange and brooding apprehension of hideous physical danger; a danger widespread and all-embracing, such a danger as may be imagined only in the most terrible phantasms of the night. I recall that the people went about with pale and worried faces, and whispered warnings and prophecies which no one dared consciously repeat or acknowledge to himself that he had heard. A sense of monstrous guilt was upon the land, and out of the abysses between the stars swept chill currents that made men shiver in dark and lonely places. There was a daemoniac alteration in the sequence of the seasons—the autumn heat lingered fearsomely, and everyone felt that the world and perhaps the universe had passed from the control of known gods or forces to that of gods or forces which were unknown.

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