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Posts Tagged ‘Hell Gate

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It’s National Turkey Neck Soup Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Racing thoughts, cold sweats, night terrors, or existential anxieties notwithstanding – one is happy to report that the Hell Gate Bridge Centennial has been marked. Last weekend, one attended a walk conducted by the estimable Richard Melnick of Greater Astoria Historical Society celebrating the event. Mr. Melnick was joined by Dave Frieder, a photographer and bridge expert, as well as around fifty enthusiasts. For me, it was nice just to be around people who weren’t chasing or deriding.

Pictured above, a CSX freight train heading eastwards over the bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

While following our course, the usual grand panoply of sights were encountered along the east river, including the transit of an articulated tug and barge – the Bouchard corporation’s “Evening Star” tug towing a fuel barge… It’s all so depressing, really.

As always, one reminds that whether they’re pulling or pushing, Tugboats are always “towing.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Hell Gate bridge overflies Astoria Park, of course, and one spotted the curious tableau seen above while there.

I’ve been warning all of you about Lovecraftian phenomena occurring in Queens for years, and now at last I can demonstrate the presence of the Shoggoths amongst us.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This looked like the kind of fun I would have enjoyed having as a child, in those halcyon days before my soul had been blackened to a crisp by the unrelenting fires of adulthood. Life – it’s become a neutral gray for me nowadays – banal, ashen, joyless.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Greater Astoria Historic Society has a full calendar of Hell Gate related programming coming up, and this summer the folks who live in “Astoria, Astoria” or plainly Astoria’s north side are planning a few summertime celebrations for Lindenthal’s triumphant arch bridge over the East River.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

March 30, 2017 at 1:00 pm

flaming thing

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It’s Tag des Deutschen Apfels (German Apples) day in the Bundesrepublik Deutschland.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The bright passage, it’s a not unlikely spot to find a group of cultists dropping a bizarre golden diadem into the water hoping to contact those who might lie below the seething waters. Hells Gate, with its bizarre and blasted subterrene topography, cannot possibly host a race of non human intelligences, can it? That would be crazy.

I mean, is this Queens or Innsmouth?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of alien intelligences with unintelligible plans for the future, the DEP’s MV Red Hook sludge boat slid through the bright passage while one was contemplating what sort of life might inhabit the craggy bottom. Between the strong cross currents of the tide, all the endemic pollution… it boggles.

It’s almost as if the area is being terra formed for a different and quite alien species.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One was pleased that a concurrence of maritime and locomotive subject matter occurred as Amtrak’s Acella came rolling by on the Hell Gate bridge at the same time as Buchanan 1 tug slid through the Hells Gate narrows of the East River. When I left the house this day, I rued not having the time to visit Staten Island and the Kill Van Kull – my original intention for the afternoon. What with the sun setting in the late afternoon, it’s kind of difficult to complete that journey from Point A in Astoria while the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself is still hanging in the sky.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Back to worrying about the ones who cannot possibly exist in the deepest waters of Hells Gate, and their land dwelling acolytes who surreptitiously accompanied the wholesome Hellenes during their 1970’s migration to Astoria, did a humble narrator’s thoughts turn.

There are too many individual and quite minor clues to mention which lend credence to the theory of their presence – odd smells and sounds, brief flashes of unrecognizable shapes seen when walking past closing doors, the popularity of Bosnian cuisine, bizarre chanting. This is an entirely different “thing” than the occluded witch cult operating out of St. Michael’s cemetery, incidentally, but perhaps I’ve already said too much.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The sound of chitinous scratching on my second floor garret window will no doubt resume after this posting, and the whispered calls to leave this life behind and to either go into the water or dance with the night ghouls of Nephren Ka across the rooftops and tombstones of western Queens will no doubt follow.

Who can guess, all there is, that might be buried down there, beneath the waters of the Bright Passage?


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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 11, 2017 at 11:00 am

civic spirit

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Happy Centennial, Hell Gate Bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One hundred years ago today, the construction of the Hell Gate Bridge was finished. It had been ongoing since 1912, and it was a bit of a contemporaneous construction miracle – as far as the details of how the Pennsylvania Railroad engineers (specifically Gustav Lindenthal) managed to build the span out from both shorelines simultaneously – and to have the completed sections precisely join (with a 5/16th of an inch tolerance) over the Hells Gate section of the East River between Astoria and Randall’s Ward’s Island. It was “officially” dedicated and opened to rail traffic on the March 1st March 9th of 1917. The first commercial usage of the bridge began on April 1st of 1917, when a Washington to Boston passenger train crossed it. These days it’s owned by Amtrak. (strike throughs indicate corrections offered by my pal Dave Frieder, the “Bridge Man,” who is going to be presenting his vast knowledge on the subject at a lecture at the Greater Astoria Historic Society next Monday night).

For a piece on the bridge that I wrote for my old Brownstoner Queens column back in 2013 – click here. For another Brownstoner Queens column that discusses the Hells Gate section the East River – click here.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Hell Gate is as iconic to Astoria, Queens as is a plate of spanokopita.

Lots of local businesses, even the Greater Astoria Historic Society, use images of the bridge on branded clothing items like t-shirts and hats and there’s an assortment of local businesses that incorporate “Hell Gate” into their name.

Virtually no one talks about Mighty Triborough as being our icon, incidentally. There’s ancestral memory in Astoria that remembers Robert Moses carving the Grand Central through the neighborhood, which left a bitter taste.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s a rail bridge, Hell Gate. Most of the traffic you see using it is passenger service run by Amtrak, but occasionally CSX or another freight carrier transits from Queens to the Bronx via Hell Gate. The bridge plugs into the Long Island rail network via the New York Connecting Railway, which extends to the Sunnyside Yards (where you can switch into the LIRR system) and uses the East River tunnels to travel into Manhattan – and by extension travel under the Hudson and into New Jersey and the rail network of the entire country. This bridge, and those tunnels, are Long Island’s only rail link to the continent.

That’s it, other than floating rail cars around on barges, but that’s a whole other banana.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Astoria locals, as in the folks who are in the “born and raised” crowd hereabouts, have all sorts of spooky adolescent legends about the Hell Gate Bridge. There was supposed to have been a child killer living in the tower on the Astoria Park side… there’s a demon train which will appear if you dare to climb the bridge to its deck… there’s a lot of Astoria stories out there.

I’m told that climbing Hell Gate is a rite of passage for teenage boys hereabout, and observable graffiti up on the deck seems to back that up. There’s meant to be four tracks up there, but I’m told that one of them is all but abandoned.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a local committee that’s sprung up to celebrate the Bridge centennial, but so far there’s only been a couple of meetings and not too much has emerged from attending them. Nice people though. Anywhere else is the United States, or even in NYC, the centennial of a major bridge like this would be met with parades, and fanfare, and school kids would be taught about the days when Americans were still capable of doing great things… but… this is Queens…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Personally, I’m regretting the inclement weather today as I wanted to to go visit the old girl on her de facto birthday.

Upcoming tours and events:


“The Untold History of the Newtown Creek (aka Insalubrious Valley)” walking tour
with New York Adventure Club, Saturday, October 1st from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Click here for tickets.
 TOUR CANCELLED DUE TO WEATHER. 


“First Calvary Cemetery” walking tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, Saturday, October 8th from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Click here for tickets.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

September 30, 2016 at 11:30 am

shaken open

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From Hells Gate… in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The titular centennial for the Hell Gate bridge, one of the prides of Astoria, will be occurring shortly. Accordingly, the “powers that be” hereabouts have begun to gather and plan for a community celebration. A meeting was called recently, and one marched over to the forbidden northern coast of Queens to participate. This particular meeting was the moment when the centennial efforts got serious, as none other than Peter Vallone Sr. was in the room. If you don’t who that is, or what it means when the great man himself is present, you don’t know much about Astoria.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As is my habit, I left a LOT earlier than I needed to, and walked to the meeting location “the long way.” The “short way” takes about 25-30 minutes, the “long way” is a meandering but somewhat photogenic path that’s more like 90 minutes. My chosen path would, I hoped, allow me to catch some maritime traffic taking advantage of the flood tide on the East River for transiting to the north and east. I wasn’t disappointed, but I’ll show you that later in the week. That’s a Dann towing company tug in the shot above, incidentally.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The “long way” involves me walking from HQ on the south eastern side of Astoria, where we share borders with Woodside and Sunnyside, down Broadway and then following the East River north in the direction of Astoria Park. That’s where I encountered this scene above, which is a great example of why I love living in this neighborhood.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

“I like the way you think” is what I told the fellow in the Lay-Z-Boy on Shore Blvd. I also assured him that if he were to run for elected office, he could count on my support. He encouraged me to take his photo, incidentally, as his innovative notion of what a “folding chair” is was something wonderful.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ll show you some of the maritime traffic I spotted along Hell Gate in a post later on this week.

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 20, 2016 at 1:30 pm

unknown respondent

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Sludge Boats, baby, Sludge Boats.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

These shots are actually from the height of that shoulder injury period last month, and represent a desperate desire one acted upon to “shake it off” by indulging in a bit of exercise. The weather was less than cooperative from a light point of view, and the affected limb was less than pleased at the rest of my body moving around, so I decided that since I was in the “hell of pain” I’d simply head over to Hells Gate and indulge the horror.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Luckily for my diversion starved and somewhat depressed state of mind, the MV Red Hook was observed while debarking from the Wards Island dewatering facility across the river. Wards Island is the end point for the sewage sludge process, which is operated by the NYC DEP. Centrifugal machines are fed the material, which has the consistency of syrup or warm honey at the end of the thickening process at the various neighborhood sewer plants, which is carried here by the DEP’s fleet of “Honey” or Sludge boats. The dewatered material is compressed into “cakes” and sold for use as fertilizer on non food crops such as cotton and Christmas Trees.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

MV Red Hook is one of NYC’s older generation of Sludge Boats, although it’s the newest of its type – having come online in 2012. The newer class of Sludge Boats has been discussed here at Newtown Pentacle before.

from NYC.gov

The Red Hook sludge vessel was built over a three-year period in Brownsville, Texas by Keppel AmFELS. Once completed, it took seven days to make its way to New York City, arriving on November 19, 2008. The vessel has recently completed post-delivery dry-dock inspections and adjustments at the Brooklyn Navy Yard and is ready for service. Each six-person crew consists of a captain, chief engineer, assistant engineer, mate and two mariners. Crews work a 40-hour week divided into 14, 13, and 13 hour shifts. The Red Hook is slightly over 350 feet long, about 53 feet wide, with a depth of slightly over 21 feet. It has eight storage tanks with 150,000 cubic foot capacity equivalent to 1.2 million gallons. The Red Hook weighs over 2,098 long tons and is designed to travel at 12.75 knots or approximately 15 miles per hour. On a typical week, each vessel makes 14 round trips and visits eight wastewater treatment plants.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

All of the DEP’s honey boats will find themselves heading to or from Wards Island periodically, after making their rounds at one of the City’s 14 sewer plants. Hells Gate is a great place to spot them, and Shore Road along Astoria Park is a great place to observe Hells Gate.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There are many who would agree with me, in my assertion that the view from Shore Road rocks.

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thousand young

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A goat with a thousand young, that sort of thing, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Magna Mater notwithstanding, one worries that he has lost his moorings, but I’ve thought that since the age of five.

So many dreams are left unfillfilled – such as sparking a witch panic in western Queens. It has also also long been one of my goals to lead a torch bearing mob, but little success has been found in pursuing this goal. There’s the nuanced side of it all – you need to store the rag wrapped sticks, the accelerants, and determine some sort of organizing point for the angry masses… it’s all quite complicated. You also need to get a group angry enough to take to the streets and chase the monster towards the old and flammable mill. There’s no way to start a political riot these days which doesn’t involve some sort of intense preparation, and advance permitting, and I’ve always been a spontaneous sort of guy. Also, my apathy can be considered as being weaponized, and I just can’t be bothered to pointlessly bleat. What’s wrong with a Monster anyway, who’s it bothering, and why do you want to slay it so badly?

At any rate – anarchy, chaos, and – wooooh.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I spent last night at the District Office, which is what I call the bar in Astoria that I frequent, and chatted with the working guys for awhile. A surprising number of them were “big” on Donald Trump’s candidacy for President. In particular, they were in favor of the expulsion of “illegal immigrants.” I reminded them that most of these “illegals” who would get caught up in this effort wouldn’t be of Mexican lineage (whom most stereotype as being the “illegals”) and that a significant number of 70-80 year old Greeks, Croatians, and Irish people who have lived here for decades would be the likely victims of this policy. Why? Because back in the 1970’s and 80’s it was fairly easy to buy a green card from forgers.

Also, given what I know about the way things actually work in this City – you’d have to literally go from house to house and search every attic and basement for “illegals” to comply with the Federal Mandate.

Speaking strictly as someone of Jewish descent, this sort of thing has been tried before in other countries and it didn’t work out well for anyone involved.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Let’s do the thought experiment though, said a humble narrator, of how President Trump’s expulsion program would actually play out – using Astoria as an example. NYPD sets up a cordon on 21st street, and on Woodside Avenue. A skirmish line of Police begin moving north from Northern Blvd., working their way through every building and business and demanding identification and proof of status from everybody they meet. Those individuals who aren’t “pure” citizens are arrested, and shipped out to a holding cell.

The detainees would have to taken somewhere for further processing. Since our jails are already fairly full, we’d have to create mass incarceration camps where they could await deportation. Our national nightmare is the presence of an army of terrorists on American soil, yes? I can think of no better way to create one than building concentration camps full of angry people that know implicitly how to avoid detection when crossing a national border whose only wish was to become Americans and live in the United States.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 26, 2016 at 12:20 pm

upon all

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Triborough and Hells Gate.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned, one is taking a short break – hence the singular image which greets you above. Back soon with new stuff.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours and events –

October 10th, 2015
Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour
with Atlas Obscura, click here for details and tickets

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 9, 2015 at 1:14 pm

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