The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Hudson River

shrewd guessing

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It’s National Cream Filled Donut Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over the Labor Day weekend, on September the 3rd to be exact, our Working Harbor Committee presented the 25th Annual Great North River Tugboat Race and Competition on the Hudson River. It was raining at a pretty good clip, which kind of sucked, but… tugboat race. I mean… tugboat race.

That’s a brand new tug above, the Capt. Brian A. McAllister.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As is usual for the tug race (this is my seventh or eighth time photographing the event), I was onboard the “official” race boat, but due to the inclement weather and a variety of other conditions, one wasn’t in the best place to shoot the actual race this year. Normally, I like having Manhattan in the background, looking northwards across the competition. Construction barges and other maritime impediments forced the race to occur in the west channel of the river this year, so all you got for background is New Jersey.

No offense to New Jersey is intended, of course, but y’all haven’t got an Empire State Building on your side. It seems nice over there though.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My favorite part of the Tug Race, from a photographic perspective, has always been the line toss competition. That’s Donjon towing’s Mary Alice Tug in the shot above.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This rope was a thrown from a tug based at Millers Landing, the Susan Mller.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Mister T tug also gave it a go.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This one was hurled by a crewman of the tug James William.


Upcoming Tours and events

The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura – Saturday, September 23rd, 11 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Join us on the wrong side of the tracks for an exploration of the hidden industrial heartlands of Brooklyn and Queens, with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

September 14, 2017 at 11:00 am

parenthetical ideation

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It’s National Barbecue Day, in these United States. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s no secret that we live in an age of real estate mega development, and that the skyline of NYC has been undergoing massive changes which we haven’t seen the like of since the late 1950’s and early 60’s. Unfortunately, so much of what is being built is uninspiring, and banal. Glass rectangles designed to maximize profit which offer no sense of wonder, inspiration, or esthetic joy. 

The exception to this modern rule is actually found in Manhattan, where what I consider to be the most interesting new building in NYC is found. It’s on West 57th street at the Hudson River – Bjarke Ingels’ W57. Check out this article at the Atlantic for all the details on it. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve been watching this one go up from the water for a couple of years now, and it’s made me think a bit. I’m in a constant argument with both friends and enemies over rhetorical tone and grammar when it comes to political terminology. “Gentrification” is a bugbear word for me, especially when it refers to LIC or Greenpoint. What’s going on there isn’t gentrification – we haven’t coined a name for what’s happening along the East River coast of Long Island, yet. 

What happened in East Harlem and Park Slope in the 90’s – that was “gentrification.” Similarly, there’s no such thing as a “liberal” or a “conservative” or a “progressive” anymore, our culture is just stuck in a grammatical paradigm which was coined by an earlier generation (one which refuses to retire, much like the so called establishment it sought to replace in the 60’s)

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Where NYC architects went wrong was the embrace of inhuman and emotionless architecture like the so called “international style,” which imparted a soulless and somewhat fascist countenance to the city. Ask a native New Yorker, and we will always point to the Chrysler, Empire State, and Woolworth buildings as the ones to embrace. Soulful and inspiring, these sorts of mega structures are loved and welcomed by communities rather than reviled. 

Hopefully, W57 will offer a lesson and act as a harbinger to the real estate shit flies out there. It’s not some “NIMBY” sentiment which activates community protests against their projects, rather it’s about avoiding the building of yet another banal glass rectangle whose singular purpose is “stealing the sky.” 


Upcoming Tours and events

Newtown Creek Alliance Boat tour, May 21st.

Visit the new Newtown Creek on a two hour boat tour with NCA historian Mitch Waxman and NCA Project Manager Will Elkins, made possible with a grant from the Hudson River Foundation – details and tix here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 16, 2017 at 11:00 am

luring skyline

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It’s Christmas Eve, if you’re Russian Orthodox, and Christmas Day if you’re Armenian Orthodox.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself dipped behind New Jersey, whilst on my way to that Holiday party in Hells Kitchen I’ve been talking about all week, I was reminded of something about myself. I’m lucky. Despite the objectionable nature of my personality, the disgusting personal habits I readily display, my sloth, bizarre opinions loudly repeated, and everything else which causes those who know me to curl their upper lips up in disgust – I’m lucky. I also need to get out more often.

As I was passing by the Circle Line at 42nd street and found myself approaching Pier 84, I noticed a series of maritime cranes and tugs at work.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It was DonJon towing doing the work – the Sarah Ann and Brian Nicholas tugs were quite busy. You don’t get to see much maritime industrial stuff going on at the Hudson River coastline of Manhattan, in this century at least.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The DonJon tugs were “wrassling” two barges into place, one carried a maritime crane, the other was full of what I originally perceived as being scrap. Couldn’t have been more wrong, as it turned out.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Longtime readers of this – your Newtown Pentacle – know that I have a certain fascination with the DonJon towing company, who operate regularly on my beloved Newtown Creek. They have wonderful toys, DonJon does.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The flat top barge was carrying huge “lomticks” of steel, which conversation with one of many “hard hats” on the pier described as being destined for the Hudson Yards project. Scrap indeed.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Part of the reason that I originally thought the flat top barge was handling scrap was the significant tonnage of the stuff that I normally observe the DonJon people moving around the harbor. This post from 2012 follows the DonJon Tug Sarah Ann, pictured above, towing metal and employed by the recycling people.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The other DonJon towing vessel on duty was the Brian Nicholas, discussed in another 2012 post, one which also happens to carry one of my all time favorite “tugboat on Newtown Creek” shots.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The location which the steel was being delivered to is a fairly narrow channel that’s normally used to launch human powered boats by the Manhattan Kayak club people, adjoins Hudson River Park, and it neighbors the Intrepid Air and Space museum. This location is analogous to the Manhattan street grid as being 44th street.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The crane barge is DonJon’s Columbia New York. She’s got a 140 foot long boom, dates back to the 1970’s, and can lift 310 short tons while its base is revolving. Everything you’d care to know about the thing can be found here.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The entire operation slowed down to a crawl as they approached the Manhattan bulkheads. A small workboat was zipping around, and everywhere you looked on the vessels there were sailors peering over the sides communicating on walkie talkies. I guess they didn’t want to scratch the Intrepid or something.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Brian Nicholas hung back as the crane and flat top barges moved into position.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The crane barge began lowering its “spuds,” which are long steel bars that extend down to the bottom of the river and act as stabilizers (think table legs). While that was happening, ropes were flung around and tied off to bollards.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Having successfully killed the time between leaving Point A (Astoria) and that Holiday party in Hells Kitchen by walking through LIC, taking the 7 to Hudson Yards, checking out the Hudson Yards megaproject from the High Line, and then luckily running into this maritime industrial display – it was actually now time for me to begin heading there directly.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Couldn’t resist one or two more shots, however.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s some of the structural steel being delivered to the Hudson Yards project, in a somewhat elevated shot gathered from a pedestrian bridge at West Street between 45 & 46th streets.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

From the same elevated position, and from a bit of a distance, you can get a better idea of the size of the crane.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

While all this was going on, rush hour was playing out on West Street.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So, that’s the story about all the stuff I saw because I got invited to a holiday party in Hells Kitchen. I should leave the house more often, I guess. See what happened the next time I went out, next week at this – your Newtown Pentacle.

Also, Merry Christmas to all you orthodox Russians and Armenians. Sunday the 7th is “Gristmas,” btw, or Greek Orthodox Christmas.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 6, 2017 at 11:00 am

inclement forecast

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A labor day tradition, postponed.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The 24th annual Great North River Tugboat Race and Competition has been postponed from September 4th to Sunday, October 9th, 2016 due to the likely appearance of Hurricane Hermine in NY Harbor on Sunday.

Click here for the Working Harbor Blog which will be your best source of information on the storm and the rescheduled Tug Race.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

September 2, 2016 at 11:00 am

natural history

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Happy 50th Brithday, Riverkeeper.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I finally got to shoot a Kennedy. 

In this case, it was Robert Kennedy Jr., while onboard a NY Water Taxi celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Riverkeeper organization. Mr. Kennedy, who in addition to being an environmental attorney and President of Riverkeeper, has a degree in history – offered the assembled group an absolutely fantastic encapsulation of the history of the Hudson River and spoke about the role and history of Riverkeeper in NY Harbor.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Before I continue, my continuing practice of listing my conflicts of interest and personal prejudices must be enacted – Newtown Creek Alliance has had a LONG and deep connection with Riverkeeper. Current DEC Commisioner and former Riverkeeper official Basil Seggos, and Riverkeeper Attorney Philip Musegaas are both former board members of NCA.

Additionally, I have enjoyed the company and tutelage of Riverkeeper’s patrol boat Captain, John Lipscomb, on more than one occasion, and Riverkeeper’s current representative in my part of the world – Sean Dixon – is both a friend and ally of Newtown Creek Alliance and our goal to “reveal, restore, and revitalize” Newtown Creek.

Riverkeeper, as an organization, are the “good guys” in my opinion and I consider being in the company of the organization on this important milestone for them both an honor and a privilege.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Robert Kennedy Jr. – suffice that whatever you want to say about the storied political dynasty from which he descends, when this fellow starts speaking – you pay attention. Kennedy described the formation of Riverkeeper from the Hudson Fisherman’s Association, and its role in cleaning up the notoriously polluted Hudson River over the last half of the 20th century and its expansion into other domestic waterways and now international efforts.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Personally, as someone who has always identified with the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, a humble narrator was absolutely stoked just to be in the same room (or cabin) with him. That’s an actual leader you’re looking at above, and a bit of rock star at that. I’m not alone in this view, of course, and several of my colleagues from Newtown Creek and activists from the larger Harbor of New York and New Jersey were also invited onboard to celebrate the anniversary.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another “actual leader” is Paul Gallay of Riverkeeper. Mr. Gallay assessed Riverkeeper’s current efforts and made a cogent case against the continuing operation of the shoddily constructed and badly managed Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant which is just 45 miles from Manhattan.

He also discussed the so called petroleum “bomb trains” which have begun populating the rail system in upstate New York, and Riverkeeper’s ongoing battle to ensure a swimmable and fishable state for all of New York’s waterways – big or small.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Unfortunately, it was quite rainy and cold when we were out on the NY Water Taxi. I managed to crack out one shot of the surrounding scenery, as evinced above.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Walking Tour – Saturday, April 23rd, 2016

First Calvary Cemetery Walk.
Join Newtown Creek Alliance historian Mitch Waxman at First Calvary Cemetery, found in LIC’s Blissville neighborhood along Newtown Creek. Attendance limited to 15 people.
Click here for more info and ticketing.

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 19, 2016 at 11:00 am

forms strangely

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Fireboat 343, Hudson River.

– 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

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 12, 2015 at 11:00 am

hewing in

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A few shots from the Great North River Tugboat Race, in today’s post

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When the wheel of the year rolls around to Labor Day weekend, a humble narrator always has plans.

The Great North River Tugboat Race, produced by the Working Harbor Committee, occurs on the Sunday of Labor Day weekend. This year, 12 tugs raced from the boat basin at 79th street (well, Pier I, technically) to 42nd street right by the Intrepid. The winner, I believe, was the red McAllister tug pictured above.

Why not swing over to working harbor to check out the official results? My colleague John Skelson also has a whole series of shots of the race running there as well.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After the race, the tugs get into a “tug of war” competition. They go nose to nose and push each other around. This contest is about a lot more than just raw horsepower, it’s about the skill of the captains and how they handle their boats.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Far and away, my favorite part of the Great North River Tugboat Race is the line toss competition. During this part of the event, the tugs come in at speed towards a bollard on the pier, and deckhands throw the heavy rope at it in an attempt to “get it in one.”

There’s also a spinach eating competition, because as every sailor knows – you’re strong to the finach if you eats your spinach.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

September 20th, 2015
Glittering Realms Walking Tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, click here for details and tickets

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