The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Greenpoint

disordered nerves

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Moonscape, Brooklyn.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the larger properties found along the Newtown Creek is the National Grid site. It’s a bit of black box, Nat Grid, and appropriately a high security “Marsec 1” zone. Marsec 1 is the same security level as the runway of an airport or the bulkheads at a cargo port, and that means a lot of paranoia on the part of those employed in the business of keeping the place secure. The street facing sections of Nat Grid are designed to look like a military base with double layers of fencing topped with razor wire and an obvious series of security cameras pointed at them. There’s also guards patrolling the area.

All of this is actually a good thing, as those two white tanks you see above are cryogenic storage units for “LNG” or Liquefied Natural Gas. In the past I’ve indicated that were these things to explode, it would take half of Brooklyn and Queens with them, but the Nat Grid folks have since told me that’s impossible. Were a rupture to occur, they say, it would near instantaneously freeze the surrounding air due to the extreme cold temperatures of the LNG inside and seal the breech. I don’t argue with engineers, as that’s usually an argument you will lose.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Lombardy Street is another one of those byways in the Creeklands which is entirely contained by them, and “cul de sac’d.” It starts at Kingsland Avenue a few blocks to the south, and terminates at the water’s edge of Newtown Creek. For most of its course, it defines the western border of Nat Grid’s property line.

The Nat Grid property was originally owned by Brooklyn Union Gas, a corporate entity formed in 1825 which consolidated the gas lines of the City of Brooklyn and parts of Queens under single ownership by 1895. By 1910, BUG was operating something like 2,100 miles of metered pipe and manufacturing the gas they sold at a smallish property along the Gowanus Canal in South Brooklyn. By 1928, BUG was pumping some 22 billion cubic feet of gas through their network. They needed to expand their operations, and their source of supply, so in 1929 the Gowanus plant was shuttered and they relocated their facilities to a new 115 square acre property along Newtown Creek in Greenpoint.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The BUG people built a manufactured gas plant here, which burned fuel in low oxygen furnaces called “retorts” designed to encourage the fuels to smolder rather than combust. The gases released by the retort were then separated chemically, in pursuit of the manufacture of Methane or “Natural Gas.” There were all sorts of corollary chemical compounds, some commercially desirable, that were released from the fuel. A lot of waste came along with it as well; coal tar, ammoniacal liquors, arsenic compounds. Manufacturing gas can get messy.

BUG called this site the Vandervoort Street facility, and it was designed to manufacture 200 million cubic feet of gas a day. Through corporate mergers and stock market acquisitions, BUG ended up becoming a part of the Keyspan Company, which itself was acquired by National Grid at the start of the 21st century.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Lombardy Street in eastern Greenpoint/Western Bushwick (depends how you define the areas, by whom, and when) is less than friendly to the itinerant pedestrian under the best circumstances. It’s a heavy trucking backwater, used to avoid getting hung up in traffic on nearby Meeker Avenue. The street itself is an atrocity, missing sidewalks distinguish most of its length, and the vehicle lanes which you’re forced to walk on are so chewed up that it would be quite an easy thing to snap an ankle while scuttling along it.

That’s something I can personally attest to, incidentally. Came within an inch of cracking a bone one day a couple of summers ago on Lombardy. If I wasn’t wearing my trusty Merell hiking shoe which offer ankle support…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a gas flare tower at the National Grid site which always draws my attention.

It makes a loud hissing whistle sound (hisstle?) that always pulls me to it, and then there flames… so…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve been on the Nat Grid site just once, when the company’s PR representatives consented to my multiple requests to “get me smart” about their operations. Unfortunately the visit took place in an office building way on the other side of the site and involved a slide show presentation about their clean up operations for the place.

It seems the BUG people left behind quite the mess, which is why National Grid is one of the “Potentially Responsible Parties” named by the EPA as being culpable for the Newtown Creek Superfund site.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 6, 2018 at 2:00 pm

asked solicitously

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The purple midnight sun of Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Y’know, when Governor Cuomo (or Amazon Andy, as the children of Queens now refer to the Dark Prince of Albany) announced that the new Kosciuszcko Bridge over Newtown Creek was going to receive a spiffy lighting package which would be a part of his “Harbor of Lights” concept, a humble narrator experienced misgivings. Here we are a year or so later, and during that interval I’ve described the K bridge as resembling either a modern day Greek Coffee shop here in Astoria or a Flushing massage parlor’s “Come in, were open” signage on more than one occasion. Commentary has also been offered that the light beams of this installation carry quite high into the air, and on cloudy or foggy nights the luminance from them is visible even from HQ in Astoria – which is some two and change miles away. The bridge people have told me that the LED lighting display is shut off at midnight, but wow are these things bright, and garishly colored.

It’s a purple world, after dark in DUKBO, except in the areas directly surrounding the ongoing work site. There you’ve got bright white stadium lighting staring down at the pavement from on high.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Ok, usage of the word “unnatural” is a given in any of the neighborhoods surrounding Newtown Creek, especially the industrial zones of eastern Greenpoint or Maspeth, so it’s a given. At night, it’s pretty much just you and the hundreds of feral cats who populate the shadows around these parts. There was a black cat with blue eyes in the rear wheel socket of the truck in the shot above, but you need to see the shot at full resolution and zoomed all the way in to see the eye shine and hazy outline of the critter. Click through to Flickr and zoom all the way in, if you dare. It’s the corner of Lombardy and Varick, pictured above.

Check out that glowing purple sky! Is it Raganarok, Gö́tterdämmerung, or the long prophecied Endtimes? Can you hear the piper and the drummer?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Nope, it’s just the Kosciuszcko Bridge.

When they’re done with the second phase of the project in 2020, which I’m actually pretty stoked for, the plan includes the installation of an additional LED lighting setup on that half of it. Phase 2, as it were, is pretty far along. It’s a second, more or less identical bridge, which will differ from the already open eastern one due to the addition of a bike and pedestrian pathway. If the purple radiation which stains the clouds, as seen above, is doubled…

One shrinks from answers to what that ultra concentration of violet might reveal.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 5, 2018 at 11:00 am

queerly disturbed

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Ahhh…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An interminable period, that’s how one would describe the rain situation last weekend, one which got in the way of pointing the camera at cool things at night. Most of Sunday was spent in careful observation of the outside environment and the monitoring of predictive meteorology information. A window was going to emerge on Sunday night where there would be fog but no rain, and a humble narrator would be ready to fly into action when it arrived.

I didn’t really fly, instead I left HQ and hailed a cab. The driver was told a street address, to which he replied “Really?” After affirming my destination, we set off. My timing worked out perfectly, as it was still drizzling when I got into the two ton death machine cab, and steady precipitation had stopped.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Soon; I found myself scaring feral cats, avoiding a particularly slippery patch of mud, trying not to fall into any giant puddles, and in general having a grand old time at the Newtown Creek till well after midnight. It’s spooky in the creeklands at night, with all sorts of mystery sounds emanating from inky black shadow. There’s also the whole “by yourself with no one around for blocks and blocks physical vulnerability” thing. At least it wasn’t cold, and there weren’t any wolves or teenagers roaming about seeking victims. Really, the only interaction I had with anybody else involved exchanging convivial greetings with a couple of Indian guys waiting for their trucks to be loaded at a Korean food warehouse.

The shot above depicts the street end of Meeker Avenue in Greenpoint, which regularly floods.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This whole enviromental craze is particularly annoying during the summer, as all that foliage blocks my points of view and is constantly blowing around in the wind. Seasonally devastated plant life, all withered away to brittle sticks and twigs, is better. Often have I wished that I could power wash the shorelines of Newtown Creek with herbicides… it would be historically accurate… and I’d get a better shot if the Brooklyn Queens Expressway was framed by a nice lunar landscape littered with garbage. C’est la vie, huh?

While shooting this particular photo, I heard a noise behind me, and upon spinning about to analyze my surroundings a black cat suddenly jumped between the shadows. It was just like a horror movie.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

December 4, 2018 at 11:00 am

smiling grimly

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Better late than never.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Obligations and “have to’s” notwithstanding, that nearly week long pile of rain we received here in the City that never sleeps really got in the way of my good time. Last night, one anxiously watched the forecast for the exact minute that the rain would turn to fog and shot out of the house towards the Newtown Creek with camera bag in hand. The shots in today’s post aren’t from last night, as the pixels are still drying on those, rather they’re a few that were gathered during other outings in recent weeks.

Pictured above is the perspective of lying flat on the sidewalks on Jackson Avenue, genuflecting before the inhuman thing which cannot possibly exist in the cupola of the Megalith. The intelligence which has inhabited the Sapphire tower since it rose is said to be moving to another perch, and it will be replaced by an entity which calls itself “Alexa.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Can’t tell you how many times I find myself tangled up in some industrial thingamabob or another when I’m out and about at night. Sometimes I’m just hiding from teenagers, or ghost pirates. One has several bolt holes around the Newtown Creek whose occupancy he favors for moments of existential terror.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of existential terror, these two travelers were spotted recently in Queens Plaza. They must have been Newtown Pentacle perusers, since they seem to be following the advice often offered for crossing the busy intersections of the now residential area. “Stand behind something” while waiting to cross.

Back tomorrow, on schedule and with a bit more substance.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

firmly sustained

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DUGABO – Down Under the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge Onramp.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last night, one ventured forth with two goals; first: get a decent night shot showing as much of the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge as I could get into frame, second: try and get some equally nocturnal shots of the trains moving around on the Queens side in Blissville. While I was shooting the former, the GPA Bridge suddenly opened to allow a tug and barge through, which is how I got those light streaks in the shot above – they’re the running lights of the tug. Yay.

By the time I got to the Queens side, the railroad guys seemed to have done all the moving stuff around they needed to do for a while, but I hung around for about 45 minutes and waved the camera and tripod around at a few things.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Before you ask, this spot in DUGABO is likely not where Amazon is going to base itself. A humble narrator received several phone calls about the subject yesterday, but I’m as clueless as to that tale as everyone who is not Gubernatorial staff is. The ways of the Dark Prince of Albany are subtle, and manifest in secret. Do not try to peer too deeply at the abyss that the Dark Prince dwells within, for he may notice and fix his gaze upon you. When the Dark Prince reveals his intentions, the children will rejoice, but prior to that only lament will be theirs and ours.

Seriously, not a clue. I’m reading the papers too, that’s all I’ve got. I also have no opinion on “good or bad” yet, since I have no information at all to work with. I’ve asked around as well, and have received a universal “dunno.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On my way home, this odd little monument to workplace safety was encountered in Blissville in front of the world’s largest Fortune Cookie Bakery, a distinction which Long Island City has long enjoyed being the home of.


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exceedingly gruesome

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I still need a vacation.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One spent an interval arguing with a proverbial “angry old white man keyboard warrior” type yesterday afternoon, who accused me of being a “hystrionic hipster clown.” I’ll accept clown, but hipster? I encounter this sort of fellow occasionally in real life, sometimes when I’m conducting a tour. You can always spot them; head cocked back, one eye slightly winced, sour look on the face. They showed up to see me screw up so they can then call me out on something. Usually, they will interject with some obvious thing – “you gonna mention the Long Island Railroad?” or something.

Yes, I will, when we get to that section of the tour. If they continue with the derision, I tend to bury them with a depth of knowledge that they aren’t prepared for, or introduce them to the group and hand them the microphone. Screw with the bull, you get the horns. Given my love of conflict and argument, if you come at me all aggressive like, I’m going to freaking bury you with a smile on my face as I do it. Brooklyn, that’s where I’m from.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Getting all granular about every little thing is something that I prefer not to do. I’ve never claimed to be an expert on all things – however – I do possess an enormous knowledge base which covers a lot of subjects. Subway and train people are the worst about this sort of thing, writing you off if you don’t know the model number of some twenty turn screw that the Dual Contracts era engineers had problems with. I know a lot about a lot of things, and know everything about one or two things. Given my particular interests, which generally revolve around Newtown Creek, anything that’s tangentially related to the waterway’s history is something I’ve read up on and at least tried to talk to an actual expert on the subject. That means I know far more than most “civilians” about wastewater management, trash hauling, maritime shipping, and the sociopolitical history of Brooklyn and Queens. It’s a pleasure to meet somebody who wants to share what they know about trolleys or some other esoteric subject, but the vast majority of these armchair scholars just want to hoard their knowledge.

The fellow who was being aggressive and nasty to me yesterday didn’t get the “full treatment,” which is what I call the vulgar display of my well honed internet research powers. Suffice to say that within fifteen minutes of his ugly attentions and nasty commentary, I knew his home address and had a photo of him sitting on his porch in Smithtown out on Long Island. As expected, he was a retired city employee pining for the “good old days.” Seriously, folks, there is no such thing as online anonymity unless you are very, very skilled in hiding your tracks. All I need is your email address and I can follow the wires back to, at least, the corner you live on. Imagine what the cops can do. Don’t make threatening statements online, with the ideation that you won’t get kicked in the skedooch.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m not offended by the “hipster” or “clown” accusations, incidentally, although “hipster” is a bit of stretch. What pissed me off was the accusation that I’m some sort of transplanted Midwest suburbanite who recently arrived in NYC to disaffectedly enjoy soy mocha lattes at some upscale Williamsburg cafe. I’ve encountered this sort of thing before, and it just ticks me off. Other than something like six to eight composite weeks when I was off galavanting in New England or Europe on vacations, I’ve woken up in New York City every single day for the last fifty one years. I didn’t pick up and move to Long Island or Westchester or …Staten Island… like some goddamned little kid afraid of what he’s seen in the big bad City. That would be giving up, and admitting that the malefic intelligence of the City had beaten you.

It’s standard “keyboard warrior” technique, calling somebody names. Let’s talk face to face, on the street where things are tangible and real. Say it to my face, if you want to deploy your MAGA code words and veiled threats.

Feh. 

Upcoming events


Saturday, November 3rdTidal Toast, a fundraiser party to support Newtown Creek Alliance in our mission to “Reveal, Restore, Revitalize” the Newtown Creek. Since 2002 the Newtown Creek Alliance (NCA) has been the voice of Newtown Creek; working with industry, agencies, and residents alike to promote awareness, remediation, access, resilient businesses and ecological restoration. This celebration will champion the Vision for the future of the waterway and those that have contributed their time, energy and effort to it.
More information and tickets here. 


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 2, 2018 at 11:15 am

provoking curiousity

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DUGABO, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As you may have discerned by this point, one tends to circuit the Newtown Creek in its entirety about once a month.

Obviously, since I live in Queens, and specifically on the south eastern side of Astoria, the LIC and Maspeth zones are routinely visited when I stroll out for one of my constitutionals. The Brooklyn side is a bit more of a reach, especially the extant sections of English Kills which kiss up against the Ridgewood and Bushwick borderlands. The other night, while getting my gumption up in preparation of conducting a walking tour for Atlas Obscura, I wandered down to the Greenpoint Avenue street end to see what’s what and wave the camera around a bit. I find my time spent at the Creek and behind the camera to be rather introspective.

My beloved Creek never disappoints… thought I…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

then one laughed a bit after spotting this wry bit of signage adorning a parked car…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

commented to myself about the indomitable will to live that this patch of moss, found on the bulkhead’s edge, is possessed of…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

pondered my role in the universe, then I grew concerned about an itchy spot on my left leg, while spending way too much time framing this throwaway shot of some oil tackle…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

wondered if some new form of inorganic life was organizing itself here in the poison cauldron of the Newtown Creek…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

and that’s when I realized that time was growing short and that I had to get over to the meetup spot so that I could check everybody in for the tour.

Yes, my inner dialogue is that pedantic. My leg still itches a bit, and it’s possible that I may have picked up some poison ivy contamination on Sunday, or it’s just leg cancer. Who can say?


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 3, 2018 at 11:00 am

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