The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Kill Van Kull

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It’s National Sponge Cake Day, followed by the Night of the Living Dead, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A bit of a personal milestone is reached today, as I’ve now been amongst you all for some six hundred months. The last eighteen thousand two hundred and sixty three days have been a mixed bag, overall. Lots of boredom and pedantry, which has been punctuated by pulse pounding terror. Every now and then, one or two of the four hundred and thirty eight thousand, three hundred odd hours which I’ve experienced on this mortal coil hasn’t totally sucked. I’ve met good people, bad people, and have generally gone out of way to try and not hurt anyone who didn’t deserve it.

For all of those times when I’ve been a total asshole to someone during the roughly twenty six point three million minutes I’ve been on this planet, apologies are offered.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s lessons I’ve learned, and mistakes I’ve made which I strive not to repeat. When I was born, Lyndon Baines Johnson was President of the United States (I’ve got a certificate from the White House some where congratulating my parents on my arrival) and the Woodstock festival had just wrapped up. I clearly remember a moon landing, and the Watergate investigations being broadcast live on all three television networks.

I was a weird and lonely kid, and some things never change – even after nearly one point six billion seconds.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One is lost and deep in a “reminisce” today. Trying to remember their faces and to forget all the slings and arrows. Trying to appreciate what I’ve got, and lost, and the pageantry I’ve experienced. Overall I’ve been fairly lucky, as people of high quality who are “above my pay grade” are in my life. Also, I’m thinking about dead friends, and family.

Tonight is the Night of the Living Dead, so perhaps I’ll be seeing some of them as they try to batter in my door to feast.


Upcoming Tours and events

DUPBO Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with NYCH20 – Thursday August 24th, 7 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Explore Greenpoint and Hunters Point, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

America’s Workshop Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with Atlas Obscura – Saturday August 26th, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Explore the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek in Long Island City, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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Written by Mitch Waxman

August 23, 2017 at 12:00 pm

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator is fairly crispy around the edges, and in a state best described as “too little butter scraped over too much bread.” The ridiculous schedule I’ve been keeping throughout the months of April and May is beginning to wear me down a bit, and I’ve got literally thousands of photos to process and deliver to various entities. Busy is good, admittedly, but “man alive” do I need a day or two off.

Pictured above is one of the Cormorant breeding/habitat stands which are observable beneath the Bayonne Bridge, at the intersection of the Kill Van Kull and Newark Bay

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Ultimately, it’s the dog who suffers. Poor Zuzu the dog didn’t get out for her slow motion walk last night until after midnight. She’s a bit pissed off at me, my dog. Saying that, she was quite engaged with the late night sniffing, probably because every other dog in the neighborhood had already taken care of business and every tree pit was redolent with their scents and “pee mail.”

Pictured above, the spring blossoms of a tree you might observe on the corner of 45th street and 34th avenue in Astoria, Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s entirely likely that, as we descend into the madness of a holiday weekend, you’re going to be greeted with single image posts tomorrow, Friday, and Monday, so apologies are offered. My services have been engaged by one of the local newspapers to photograph the Maspeth Memorial Day parade on Sunday, incidentally, so if you’re there and you see some weird looking old guy with a camera and a Newtown Creek Alliance hat, say hi.

Pictured above, a double entendre laden bit of signage from Third Avenue in Manhattan. If you don’t know the street slang meaning of “Toss my salad” I’d suggest you google it, as this is a family blog.


Upcoming Tours and events

Newtown Creek Alliance and Riverkeeper Visioning, June 3rd, 1-4 p.m..

Imagine the future of Newtown Creek with Riverkeeper and NCA at the Kingsland Wildfowers Green Roof (520 Kingsland Avenue in Greenpoint) details here.

Newtown Creek Alliance History lecture with NCA historian Mitch Waxman, June 3rd, 5:00- 7:30p.m.

An free hour long lecture and slideshow about Newtown Creek’s incredible history at the gorgeous Kingsland Wildfowers Green Roof (520 Kingsland Avenue in Greenpoint) followed by a walk around the roof and a Q&A – details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 24, 2017 at 1:00 pm

even thirstier than

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A few tugs, observed, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week I was invited to attend the Waterfront Alliance’s annual conference, which takes place on a large excursion boat operated by the Hornblower corporation. Onboard, there’s a series of conferences in which bigwigs and harbor heavyweights discuss this or that issue which impacts the Harbor of New York and New Jersey. Onboard… well, let’s just say that after nearly a decade of a humble narrator hanging around with the harbor crowd that there were a LOT of familiar faces. Last year the conference boat headed north along the Brooklyn and Queens coastline, but this year I was pleasantly surprised when the trip went south and we found ourselves on the Kill Van Kull separating the north shore of… Staten Island… from the chemical coast of New Jersey.

“Cool” thought I, when Moran’s “Marie J Turecamo” tug slid past!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Kill Van Kull seldom disappoints, as it’s a busy maritime corridor connecting the upper harbor with Port Elizabeth Newark and the cargo docks which you’ll find back there. There’s almost always a ballet of tugs and cargo ships moving through here, and after Newtown Creek and the East River – it’s the one of the NYC waterways with which I’m most familiar and can speak intelligently about.

This is, of course, due to the tutelage I was lucky enough to receive from Capt. Doswell of the Working Harbor Committee, on the many, many Newark Bay tours he led back here for WHC. I’ve studied the place on my own, of course, but when you’ve got somebody like Doswell sharing his “smarts” with you – you shut up and listen.

I believe WHC is going to be conducting a Newark Bay tour this summer, but obviously our late Captain Doswell will be there in spirit only.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Waterfront Alliance boat didn’t go as far back as WHC does – we didn’t get a close look at Global Marine Terminal for instance – but it was a real treat to get to shoot some tugs. I was onboard the WA boat to shoot the actual conferences, and some Oyster thing in the morning as well, but after accomplishing my “shot list” one headed topside and checked a few things off of my personal shot list.

“Franklin Reinauer” on Kill Van Kull, check.

Upcoming Events and Tours

Saturday, May 21st at 3:30 p.m. –
A Return to The Poison Cauldron of the Newtown Creek,
with Atlas Obscura, in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Click here for more details.

Thursday, May 26th at 6 p.m. –
Brooklyn Waterfront: Past & Present Boat Tour,
with Working Harbor Committee. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 19, 2016 at 1:00 pm

marine things

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R.I.P John Skelson.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another member of “Team Bernie” has left us, this time it’s photographer John Skelson. John was a life long Staten Islander who spent a lot of his time on the North Shore along the Kill Van Kull photographing passing ships. Working Harbor Committee alumni, John produced shots for the WHC blog’s Friday feature – Ship Spotting with Skelson. Ship Spotting got John noticed by the NY Times and others, and happily I can report that during his final years he enjoyed a certain notoriety in maritime circles. He’s survived by his wife, Phyllis Featherstone.

That’s John Skelson pictured above, at his office on the Kill Van Kull, just a few months before he died.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week, in his honor, a few of us met up at Skelson’s office to collect a few shots and reminisce. Will Van Dorp from tugster.com showed up onboard the NY Media Boat. Afterwards, we retired to Liedy’s Shore Inn, drank a beer or two, and then headed back to other parts of the archipelago.

You people have no idea how connected all of us are to each other, out there on the edge of the water.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Team Bernie, as mentioned above, was the collection of harbor rats, rail enthusiasts, and antiquarians whom photographer Bernie Ente included on his adventures. Bernie went first, cancer. John Doswell went next, cancer. Skelson just died, cancer.

And you people wonder why I’m so obsessed with what’s lurking in the water. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

John Skelson was a good and kind man, as were Bernie Ente and John Doswell. He, and they, are dearly missed. The collective knowledge which died with them, which will be lost to time, is irreplaceable. Bernie, also a photographer left behind a wife and daughter, who are doing fine last I heard. Capt. Doswell’s wife Jeanne is still one of the operative and moving gears which allows Working Harbor Committee to continue.

And you people wonder why I blog every day, and kiss Our Lady of the Pentacle every chance I get.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s the worst part of growing older – just at that moment when you’ve got yourself figured out, know what and who you actually are – that’s when it comes. All the wasted time and emotional tumult, all the troubles and tribulations, just at the point when you’ve “figured your shit out” is when it all ends. That’s when all that’s left are clothes, papers and possessions, and someone you love finds themselves alone. There’s some truth to the concept that the person that suffers least is the one who died. Saying that, cancer.

And you people wonder why I’m the guy with the sign boards in Times Square that say “the end is nigh.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is Skelson’s Office. The tracks of the Staten Island Railroad are still there, at the corner of Richmond Terrace and Bard Avenue, between the gas station parking lot and the water. A general call is going out to the maritime community to refer to it as such. For those of you interested in photographing the show along the Kill Van Kull, Skelson’s Office is available for new tenants. Bring a zoom lens, and dress warm. Get there early, stay there late. NY Harbor never disappoints.

And you people wonder why I talk about legacy and “passing it on” so much. 

Also, on a completely different note:

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Want to get involved in the future of the Montauk Cutoff? A “visioning meeting” will be taking place tonight (December 2nd) at LIC’s Nomad Cycle (47-10 Austell Pl, Queens, NY 11101), between 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. There will be snacks!

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

December 2, 2015 at 11:00 am

work round

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Kirby Towing’s Siberian Sea tug, along the Kill Van Kull’s Chemical Coast.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

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

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 16, 2015 at 11:00 am

landing above

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Bayonne.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned yesterday, 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 8, 2015 at 11:00 am

decadent element

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Bayonne Bridge progress, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A recent Working Harbor Committee excursion, one of our education tours for kids (typically inner city teenagers who are introduced to the idea of a career on the water or at the ports by Martime professionals and Coast Guard Officers whom we bring onboard) headed out to Port Elizabeth Newark. These kids tours are what WHC is really about, and the public tours we do are actually fundraisers that support these other efforts.

Your humble narrator was onboard solely to photograph this time around, and I soon found myself focusing in on the Bayonne Bridge reconstruction project.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There are three major bridge projects underway in NY Harbor at the moment – two are replacements (Kosciuszko Bridge at Newtown Creek, and Tappan Zee over the Hudson) and the third is a retrofit – Bayonne Bridge.

In the case of Othmar Amman’s masterful Bayonne Bridge, the roadway is being raised to allow a new class of cargo ship access to the Port Newark terminals and it’s the BB’s owner which is running the show – The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Bayonne Bridge spans the Kill Van Kull, connecting Staten Island’s North Shore to New Jersey. Just beyond it is the busiest cargo operation in the North Eastern United States. The continuing modernization of global container based shipping operations has created a sort of arms race to see how big a cargo ship can get (economy of scale) and the most recent iterations of these giants cannot cross under the roadway. In order to remain economically viable, the Port Authority has been forced to redesign the bridge so as to accommodate these larger vessels.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s all sorts of “big industry” involved in this sort of undertaking, and in the shot above and below, you will observe a “beam spreader.” It’s job is to hoist the sections of approach roadway into place and hold them steady while crews of workers secure them to both the pylons which will support them and to the previous sections already installed.

You can see the difference in altitude between the old and new roadway in the shot above, with the older approach visible to the right hand side of the shot, backed up by the Freedom Tower.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After decades of inertia, wherein the various governmental entities found here in the megalopolis barely had the funding to perform basic maintenance on the various bits of infrastructure which make it possible to move people and commerce around, it’s actually startling to see so much of it going on all at once.

There is no investment more prosaic to make than in infrastructure. Unfortunately, in the case of all three bridge projects mentioned, none of them have avoided the mistakes of the House of Moses and incorporated a light rail line or any sort of mass transit into their modernizations. We are reinforcing and advancing the age of the Automobile.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Still, as I’m sure the crew of the James E. Brown tugboat would say about the project – “I feel good.”

Sorry – could not resist the pun.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Bayonne Bridge project is ongoing, and will continue to be documented at this – your Newtown Pentacle.

For more on the Bayonne Bridge project, direct from the “horse’s mouth” as it were – check out this page at the Port a Authority’s website.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

August 8th, 2015
13 Steps Around Dutch Kills – LIC Walking Tour
with Atlas Obscura, click here for details and tickets

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