The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Posts Tagged ‘kosciuszko bridge

mouldering bulk

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It’s National Canadian Bacon Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

“Blowing it to bits” is a bit of an exaggeration, as offered by NYC’s tabloid headline writers (and the Governor of New York State), referring to a recently offered plan by the NYS DOT regarding the controlled demolition of the Kosciuszko bridge. Really… this isn’t going to be like the end of the movie Diehard, if anything it’s going to be a bit more like the end of Fight Club.

Documenting this project has been a long standing project of mine – this 2012 post tells you everything you could want to know about Robert Moses, Fiorella LaGuardia, and the origins of the 1939 model Kosciuszko Bridge. Just before construction started, I swept through both the Brooklyn and Queens sides of Newtown Creek in the area I call “DUKBO” – Down Under the Kosciuszko Bridge Onramp. Here’s a 2014 post, and another, showing what things used to look like on the Brooklyn side, and one dating back to 2010, and from 2012 discussing the Queens side – this. Construction started, and this 2014 post offers a look at things. There’s shots from the water of Newtown Creek, in this June 2015 post, and in this September 2015 post, which shows the bridge support towers rising. Additionally, this post from March of 2016 detailed the action on the Queens side. Most recently, here’s one from May of 2016, and one from June of the same year. Here’s one from August of 2016, and finally the December 2016 one.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The NYS DOT held two meetings this week, one of which I attended, in which they described their plans. First – the central truss removal plan no longer involves the usage of maritime cranes. What their engineers described instead was the construction of four temporary towers which would support machinery which they described as “strand jacks,” which would lower the central truss down to couple of waiting flat top barges. Welding torches would be used to sever the truss’s links to the bridge superstructure, after the strand jacks are attached to support its weight. The truss will be lowered and secured to the barges, whereupon tugboats would guide it westward out of Newtown Creek, and across the harbor to New Jersey where its steel will be recycled.

They indicated this process would play out sometime around the end of April or the beginning of May. The DOT folks were quite vague about specific dates, saying that these were probable time frames but that they couldn’t commit to specifics at this point in time. This is problematic for me, personally, as I’m in the process of negotiating for boats to do Newtown Creek tours this summer, and the procedure described above includes the closure of the creek to all traffic for a couple of days. Worry, worry.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There are two steel towers on either side of the Newtown Creek, which the engineering people indicated would be removed using conventional means (torches and cranes). Beyond the two steel towers, there are 21 spans supported by concrete piers – 10 in Brooklyn and 11 in Queens – which support roadway sections that range between large 230 foot long and 800 ton units and smaller ones that are 120 feet long which weigh in at 2-300 tons. These sections are the ones that DOT and the contractor partnership working for them are proposing to use the explosives on.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The explosives used, and it should be mentioned that the very conservative FDNY Explosives Unit was present and participating in the discussion, would be shaped charges. What that means is that these things are essentially copper bars with high explosive material attached. The charges are placed at critical structural points on the bridge sections, and when their detonation is triggered, the copper chops right through the steel like a knife through butter. The sections which the explosives will be attached to will be “wrapped in filter fabric and conveyor belting equipment,” as they told us. It’s all very complicated.

The detonation will introduce structural deficits into the bridge sections, which will cause them to collapse in a controlled manner, effectively dropping straight down with little or no flyaway debris. There will be dust on impact with the ground, of course, which is a bit of a concern but the engineers say they have techniques to control that too.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Vibration from the dropping sections – which again, weigh anywhere between 200 and 800 tons – is a concern, and the engineering folks described a series of dampening and avoidance technologies and techniques to handle that. These involved building engineered soil berms with internal steel structures, digging trenches, and so on. To be honest, I’m a bit concerned about what will amount to a seismic event, given the proximity of Calvary Cemetery and the somewhat ancient building industrial stock of West Maspeth and Eastern Greenpoint, but the FDNY guys seemed cool with it all.

As I said during the meeting – “If an FDNY Deputy Chief told me to go jump off the bridge, I’d probably listen to him or her,” but I have a more than normal level of respect for the FDNY’s opinions. One of the guys speaking at the meeting was a deputy chief, as a note.

As you may notice from the shot above, and the reason this whole demolition story is flying around, is that the DOT and their contractors are nearly done with constructing the eastern half of the new bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The 200,000 units a day of vehicle traffic carried by the Brooklyn Queens Expressway will soon be rerouted onto the new bridge, at which point the old bridge is irrelevant and in the way. A twin of the new bridge will then be erected on its footprints. As often mentioned in the past – this western side of the new span will include a pedestrian and bicycle path.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In West Maspeth, once called Berlinville, you’ll find the sections of the roadway sitting on truck trailers and awaiting insertion into the span. Based on what I’m seeing, they should be installed shortly, and my guess would be that sometime in March the new span over Newtown Creek will be complete.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One thing which I’m looking forward to in 2017 is a promised walk with the DOT over the new bridge shortly before traffic is rerouted. They’ve been a little vague as to when this will happen, but they have said repeatedly that it will occur. As a note, those are the tracks of the Lower Montauk branch of the LIRR, and a section of them known historically as “Deadman’s Curve.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Anywho, that’s your Kosciuszko Bridge replacement project update for the first quarter of 2017, see you on Monday at this – your Newtown Pentacle – with something completely different.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

March 3, 2017 at 11:00 am

dark and shapely

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Kosciuszko, Kosciuszko, men have named you…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over Thankgiving weekend, a visit was paid to the hazy borderlands of West Maspeth and Blissville. My goal was to check in on and shoot some photos on the progress the NYS DOT is making on Phase One of the Kosciuszko Bridge replacement project. Phase One involves the creation of half of the new span, the rerouting of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, and the demolition of the 1939 era Kosciuszko Bridge, which overflies the lugubrious Newtown Creek.

Documenting this project has been a long standing project of mine – this 2012 post tells you everything you could want to know about Robert Moses, Fiorella LaGuardia, and the origins of the 1939 model Kosciuszko Bridge. Just before construction started, I swept through both the Brooklyn and Queens sides of Newtown Creek in the area I call “DUKBO” – Down Under the Kosciuszko Bridge Onramp. Here’s a 2014 post, and another, showing what things used to look like on the Brooklyn side, and one dating back to 2010, and from 2012 discussing the Queens side – this. Construction started, and this 2014 post offers a look at things. There’s shots from the water of Newtown Creek, in this June 2015 post, and in this September 2015 post, which shows the bridge support towers rising. Additionally, this post from March of 2016 detailed the action on the Queens side. Most recently, here’s one from May of 2016, and one from June of the same year. Finally, here’s one from August of 2016.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The roadway now extends out over the water and is firmly shadowing the concrete devastations of Queens, nearly crossing the LIRR Lower Montauk tracks. The BQE Onramp also seems to be coming along, and I suspect that the DOT’s contractors will be joining the bridge span to the Queens side approaches pretty soon.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of the BQE Onramp, there it is. In the foreground is one of the structural steel sections which will be joined to the span and support the road surface. Not pictured are the “panels” of the road surface, which arrived a couple of days later and which were noticed during a subsequent and unrelated visit to the area.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In the shot above, you can see how the sections are attached. This is a cable stay bridge, of course. The roadway above will carry four lanes of two way traffic, but it’s just half of the new bridge. When the western half of the project is complete, there will be four lanes in each direction, and there’s also going to be a bicycle and pedestrian path.

That’s awesome. Cannot wait to shoot from up there.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The new bridge, as I’ve been mentioning for several years at this point, is going to be quite a bit lower than the 1939 model. That’s going to bring noise issues to Maspeth and Blissville, I fear, but let’s see what DOT has planned.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The NYS DOT is currently wondering what to do with the areas on both sides of the Creek which these columns rise from. There’s talk of public space and treating the two spots in the manner of a park or playground.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Further back in Queens, to the north actually, the approaches to the new bridge seem to be ready for business. I haven’t managed to get up there yet, but cross your fingers, maybe I can talk the DOT folks into a walk through soon.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Given the fantastic sort of luck for which I’m distinguished, just as I started back for home (cutting through Calvary Cemetery) the misty murk occluding the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself began to break up, allowing the sky to turn blue and light to suffuse. I turned around and grabbed one last shot, while cursing.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 1, 2016 at 11:00 am

leaping shadows

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Lets talk about the Kosciuszcko Bridge, huh?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Since the big bridge over Newtown Creek’s 77th birthday is coming up – August 23rd for the vulgarly curious – one decided to walk over and through Calvary Cemetery into West Maspeth the other day and check out the latest progress which the NYS DOT and their contractors are making on replacing it. The Kosciuszcko Bridge replacement project is humming along.

As a note, this post represents no special access or anything, just some specialized knowledge about Newtown Creek and the points of view thereupon which I am privy to. If there’s an angle of view on the Creek I don’t know about by this point, I will buy you a drink for showing it to me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As is my habit, one has been keeping a running tally of posts about the project.

To start – this 2012 post tells you everything you could want to know about Robert Moses, Fiorella LaGuardia, and the origins of the 1939 model Kosciuszko Bridge. Just before construction started, I swept through both the Brooklyn and Queens sides of Newtown Creek in the area I call “DUKBO” – Down Under the Kosciuszko Bridge Onramp. Here’s a 2014 post, and another, showing what things used to look like on the Brooklyn side, and one dating back to 2010, and from 2012 discussing the Queens side – this. Construction started, and this 2014 post offers a look at things. There’s shots from the water of Newtown Creek, in this June 2015 post, and in this September 2015 post, which shows the bridge support towers rising. Additionally, this post from March of 2016 detailed the action on the Queens side. Most recently, here’s one from May of 2016, and one from June of the same year.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The roadway which will be the easterly BQE section leading out of Queens is now largely in place. There’s still a bunch of work going on up there, presumptively it involves the sort of rebar work observed in the May 2016 post linked to above.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shape of the cable stay section of the new bridge is beginning to form up as well.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The steel sections are prefabricated and shipped to the job site via flat bed truck, where they’re then hoisted up and attached to the towers and cables.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking down 56th road from Blissville into Maspeth. The area in the left hand side of the shot used to be an NYPD tow yard, which was a great example of NYC’s macabre sense of humor. NYPD tow pounds are typically in places which you can’t reach without a car, and since they’ve just taken your car…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking north towards Sunnyside from 56th road. You can really discern the difference in height between the 1939 and modern bridges in the shot above. Apparently, part of the traffic engineering underlying the new bridge project is to eliminate the steep incline from the approaches.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking south towards Brooklyn, while still on 56th road. The property fence line I’m shooting over is the former home of the Phelps Dodge refinery, which is said to be a particularly toxic hot spot.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A bit closer to the water, on another part of the former Phelps Dodge properties which isn’t quite so “hot,” pollution wise. This is the parking lot of a wholesaler catering to the restaurant trade.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The cable stay span of the new bridge is growing steadily towards Brooklyn in the shot above. To me, it looks like it’s going to be connected to the Brooklyn side ramp fairly soon.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A close up on the ramp, and you can see the itty bitty construction guys at work right on the edge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Same perspective, but wide angle. That’s the Newtown Creek flowing below, and we are looking west towards Manhattan. Again, notice the height differential between the two spans.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking south again, this time from Maspeth’s 43rd street. The contractors have a lot of their equipment and prefabricated materials staged out here.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Back on 43rd street, but this time from the very edge of the project site, looking south along the spine of the BQE.

There you are.

Upcoming Events and Tours

Sunday, August 14th, 11:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura. Click here for more details.

Sunday, August 21, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
Poison Cauldron Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura. Click here for more details.

Wednesday, August 24, 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. –
Port Newark Boat Tour,
with Working Harbor Committee. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

tourist parties

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Bottoming out in Blissville, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A recent Saturday found me speaking at an early morning waterfront event in Astoria recently, which was followed by conducting a walking tour of the Poison Cauldron of the Newtown Creek in the late afternoon. Left with a gulf of time to fill between the two, I decided to spend it by walking from Astoria to Greenpoint via Blissville and checking in on what’s going on with the Kosciuszko Bridge project on the border of West Maspeth and the aforementioned Blissville section of Long Island City.

A bit of history trivia is offered – the Kosciuszko Bridge is built along the “legal” south eastern border of Long Island City and what was once known as “Newtown.” For the curious, the North Eastern border was more or less defined by Woodside Avenue.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The roadway ramps on the Queens side of the Kosciuszko Bridge project are now overflying Review/58th avenue and reaching towards Newtown Creek. The Kosciuszko Bridge project engineers have always said that the northern section of the project would lag behind the southern, or Brooklyn, side.

Longtime readers of this – your Newtown Pentacle – will report that I’ve been keeping track of things at the Kosciuszko Bridge, with this recent post being the latest report from the Brooklyn side.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For a running history of Newtown Pentacle coverage on the subject – this 2012 post tells you everything you could want to know about Robert Moses, Fiorella LaGuardia, and the origins of the 1939 model Kosciuszko Bridge. Just before construction started, I swept through both the Brooklyn and Queens sides of Newtown Creek in the area I call “DUKBO” – Down Under the Kosciuszko Bridge Onramp. Here’s a 2014 post, and another, showing what things used to look like on the Brooklyn side, and one dating back to 2010, and from 2012 discussing the Queens side – this. Construction started, and this 2014 post offers a look at things. There’s shots from the water of Newtown Creek, in this June 2015 post, and in this September 2015 post, which shows the bridge support towers rising. Additionally, this post from March of 2016 detailed the action on the Queens side.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Supposedly, I’m meant to be gaining some access to the actual worksite in Queens fairly soon, although the only thing keeping me from having walked the site is my own discretion. As far as “urban exploring” goes, this would be an easy conquest. Regardless, I’m looking forward to walking the site sometime in June.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

To wit, a graffiti crew which decided to adorn the still under construction masonry of the new Brooklyn Queens Expressway ramps leading to the span. Another crew a little bit further north of here weren’t quite as colorful, and instead painted white swastikas on the brick masonry of the BQE on-ramps.

What you see above is not graffiti, incidentally, it’s time.

Time and opportunity. 

Upcoming Events and Tours

Saturday, June 4, 11:00 a.m. -1:30 p.m. –
DUPBO: Down Under the Pulaski Bridge Onramp,
with Brooklyn Brainery. Click here for more details.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

June 3, 2016 at 11:00 am

some passages

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Kosciuszko Bridge project, Brooklyn side, Q2 2016, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The invitation went out to all the concerned parties – inclusively referred to as the Stakeholders Advisory Group – from the NYS DOT that an opportunity to observe the progress of the Kosciuszko Bridge replacement project was once again at hand.

Accordingly, a humble narrator collected together the camera and lenses, and set off for Greenpoint’s DUKBO – Down Under the Kosciuszko Bridge Onramp.

Several progress reports have been offered on the NYS DOT’s Kosciuszko Bridge replacement project. I seem to be the only person In New York paying any attention to the project, and there’s been a series of prior posts on the bridge presented at this – your Newtown Pentacle – chronicling the project.

To start – this 2012 post tells you everything you could want to know about Robert Moses, Fiorella LaGuardia, and the origins of the 1939 model Kosciuszko Bridge. Just before construction started, I swept through both the Brooklyn and Queens sides of Newtown Creek in the area I call “DUKBO” – Down Under the Kosciuszko Bridge Onramp. Here’s a 2014 post, and another, showing what things used to look like on the Brooklyn side, and one dating back to 2010, and from 2012 discussing the Queens side – this. Construction started, and this 2014 post offers a look at things. There’s shots from the water of Newtown Creek, in this June 2015 post, and in this September 2015 post, which shows the bridge support towers rising. Additionally, this post from March of 2016 detailed the action on the Queens side.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Leading the tour was NYS DOT’s project leader, engineer Robert Adams, who is the fellow pictured above in the stylish (and highly visible) yellow jacket.

Mr. Adams allows me to call him Bob, for which I’m grateful. One such as myself dislikes the usage of extraneous syllables in the spoken form. For the purposes of today’s post, however, I’ll refer to him as Mr. Adams – as the job his team is overseeing has done such an impressive job of staying on or ahead of schedule, he deserves the honorific.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Part of the job, as it were, includes the rerouting of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway section which travels north/south along Meeker Avenue. The new roadway is supported by masonry and steel, and its outer facing is covered in sculptural tiles (which I think are concrete). I asked Mr. Adams if the sculptural motif on the tiles had a particular purpose – diffusing sound, or guiding rain runoff, for instance – but he said that it was purely esthetic, and part of the architectural design.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The old overpass abutments on Meeker Avenue are in the process of being dismantled. It’s a fairly chaotic scene down around here – this is the intersection of Vandervoort and Meeker if you’re curious.

Mr. Adams told us that one of the ways in which his team alleviated the impact of construction on traffic flow to the highway above was to build the new abutments “behind” the old ones. When the project is done, this will allow the DOT to add wider pedestrian sidewalks, and to also create an increased amount of space for the required turning radius of trucks as they move under the overpass.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the actual job site, in a spot which I refer to as “used to be Cherry Street,” is pictured above. Old school Cherry street is found beneath the masonry structure occupying the left side of the shot above, I would mention, and the unpaved access road at bottom right represents the right of way for “New Cherry Street.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Getting down to the action, and there’s a lot of it going on down here in DUKBO. This spot is one of the areas where some of that worksite safety training I’ve mentioned before comes into play. The contractors on the job – Skanska, Kiewit, and ECO3 – all subscribe to “safety culture” which is designed to keep laborers from suffering needless injuries. We – as in the civilian visitors Mr. Adams was escorting around the site – were all dressed up in orange vests, safety glasses, hard hats, and work gloves.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The roadway leading to the new bridge is on the right, with the 1939 vintage Kosciuszko Bridge on the left. We were told that the area down here will actually be available for use as a public space in the post construction era. At a luncheon meeting after the tour, Mr. Adams was petitioning the group for ideas as to what the community might want to happen down here. There will be space available on the Queens side as well.

Speaking of Queens, we were also told that in the early summer, a similar walk-through of the Queens side will be happening. Can’t wait for that one, mainly so I don’t have to walk all the way to Greenpoint from Astoria.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Having crossed Gardiner Avenue, heading south towards the languid waters of Newtown Creek, it was pretty exciting to notice that steel has begun to be affixed to the concrete tower columns of the new bridge – a major milestone. The new Kosciuszko Bridge is going to be of the cable stay variety, and the first of its type in NYC.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of steel, there were gigantic chunks of the stuff ready for deployment. These pieces are actually the outward facing sides of the highway. Mr. Adams made it a point of informing us that this was an entirely American produced bridge, with steel coming in from Pennsylvania and concrete sourced from a Queens company that’s called Tek Crete.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A bit closer to the columns, and rapidly emerging roadway, which will become the easterly half of the new bridge.

The plan from the beginning has been to produce the new span in three distinct stages. First – build the lanes of the eastern side. Second – demolish the 1939 bridge. Third – build the westerly side which will sit in the footprint of the 1939 model. Chatter on the tour indicated that the demolition part of the project will begin in 2017, and that the engineers are still debating as to how best remove the concrete piers which support the steel truss.

The truss itself is actually the easiest part of the job to figure, and the center section is going to be removed in one piece. It will be lowered, by cranes, onto barges which will be towed by tugboats out of Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As you can see in the shot above, the first set of cable stays has already been affixed to the new road section. For a sense of scale on how absolutely colossal this project is, take notice the itty bitty construction workers who are on the lift between the two towers.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A bit of a better angle showing the cable stays and their anchors on the roadway section. This will be be built out both south – towards Greenpoint and Meeker Avenue – and north, over the water and into Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Mr. Adams and his team indicated that we were going to be heading back towards Greenpoint, and climbing a temporary stairway up to the still under construction roadway which will be the north bound lanes of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway. Couldn’t resist one last shot from ground level showing the two structures.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

From the temporary stairway, which was around 4-5 stories worth of climbing, and looking north towards Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The roadway itself is still under construction. The views from up here were fairly epic, but I’ll share those in a future post. Suffice to say that were I to attempt the same shots post construction, I’d be thoroughly squished by traffic moving at highway speeds.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Not sure which Union these fellows were members of, but they were too busy for me to ask. The Union guys were tying off the structural rebar, in preperation of pouring the concrete which would become the underpinning of the BQE’s roadway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The rebar that these Union guys are installing is actually stainless steel rather than galvanized iron. The extra expense for the stainless is justified in the name of avoiding corrosion, due to the massive amount of salt which is typically applied to the BQE during the winter months.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One last shot looking north along the 1939 version of the Kosciuszko Bridge. What’s truly interesting to me about this project which Robert Adams is supervising is the fact that at no point can traffic along this Robert Moses built highway be impeded or stopped. It’s analogized best as doing a full rebuild of your car’s transmission, while driving at 90 mph in heavy traffic.

Progress on the Kosciuszko Bridge replacement will continue to be documented, at this, your Newtown Pentacle.

Upcoming Events and Tours

Sunday, May 8th at 11 a.m. – North Henry Street Project,
with Municipal Arts Society Janeswalk and Newtown Creek Alliance,
in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Click here for more details.

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poised on

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Happy Earth Day, from the Poison Cauldron in DUKBO.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week, a humble narrator found himself in Greenpoint over in Brooklyn. One was scuttling along a proscribed route whose intention and path was built around a walking tour conducted for a private group. Given the enormous construction project underway in the area, the NYS DOT’s construction of a replacement for the 1939 vintage Kosciuszko Bridge which carries the Brooklyn Queens Expressway over Newtown Creek, there is little certainty that just because you can move from “point A to point B” via one street or another on one day you can do it on another due to street closures and ongoing construction. From a vehicular POV, it’s actually a bit of a challenge to negotiate the streets hereabouts – there’s detours and so on – but from a pedestrian’s perspective, it’s a real bugbear as you find yourself dodging heavy trucks and moving through an enormous cloud of airborne dust and particulates in this area which are less than desirable to breathe in.

This is the area I describe as “The Poison Cauldron of the Newtown Creek” after all.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I just got invited to attend a tour of the actual construction site with the DOT show runners next week, so for today I’ll abstain from making a full progress report as by next week I’ll have heard it directly “from the horse’s mouth” and I’ll have shots from within the fence lines to show you.

Saying that, observationally, the project continues to move along at a fast rate, and the roadways of the new bridge are stretching towards the turgid waters of the Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For the curious, one would like to reiterate that whereas this area is a photographic wonderland, I cannot describe how dangerous it is and that it’s really best for you to avoid the area for a number of environmental and safety reasons. A humble narrator has received multiple hours of “safety training” from various industrial giants along the Creek (requirements for stepping on several sites around the waterway include a mandatory “union” safety course) and I’m versed in the mores and methods of how to move about safely when the sort of equipment you see above is passing by.

There’s a reason I call it “the Poison Cauldron.” This area in Brooklyn’s DUKBO hosts a startling number of waste transfer stations, and all of that airborne particulate mentioned above is literally just hanging in the air.

“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 22, 2016 at 1:00 pm

catenary connections

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Just one more from the Creeklands, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last weekend, a humble narrator somehow found himself up in Ridgewood on Fairview Avenue off Linden and it was decided that I’d walk home to Astoria since it was a fairly nice afternoon. It’s literally “all downhill,” after all, and not that far. My path carried me down off of the proverbial “ridge” for which the community is named, and down through the valley of tears which the loquacious Newtown Creek flows through.

Once again, my path found me in West Maspeth (or Berlin). Topography is something I notice continually as I wander around Queens, and the area around Newtown Creek is shaped like a sort of soup bowl. Proper Maspeth, as in the Mount Olivette Cemetery area along Grand Avenue, is embedded into the terminal moraine of Long Island – true rock. All of LIC, Astoria – pretty much anything west of the high point in Maspeth, is sitting on a giant pile of glacial till which is supported on the back of a giant underground Boulder called a craton.

Ridgewood literally sits on a rocky ridge which leads north/east to the Maspeth Plateau. Seriously. The British mapped it all out during the Revolutionary war.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Having a couple of hours of light left before the vampires began to awaken, I decided to wander around a bit after turning up on 48th street. “Up” is apt, as you are climbing away from one of the lowest points in all of New York City which is nearby Maspeth Creek on 49th street. 48th street continues to rise until it meets the Long Island Expressway near Third Calvary Cemetery and crests at Queens Blvd. in Sunnyside (which is built on another elevation, but an elluvial one).

The best way I can describe the up and down nature of the hills leading from Ridgewood to Astoria would be ripples in stone rather than water with Newtown Creek at the center. There’s a conflicting set of ripples leading away from the East River and Bowery Bay which apparent in Ravenswood/Dutch Kills and Astoria, respectively. Hunters Point is flat as a pancake.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Turning onto 55th avenue, carven into what was once known as “Berlin Hill,” this little house was encountered at 46th street. Before you ask, I have no idea what’s up with the office chair tied to the pole. There are just some things you don’t want to inquire into too deeply. It always amazed me – here in the middle of what can only be described as a “post industrial and apocalyptic” landscape defined by cemeteries and highways and a nearby superfund site – here – people actually live here. Funny thing is, it used to be worse, when the acid factory was still up and running a couple of blocks away.

The people who live here must… have to be some of the most resilient folks on the earth.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is DUKBO – Down Under the Kosciuszko Bridge Onramp. A couple of hundred thousand vehicle trips a day rumble through here on the highway alone. There’s heavy trucking businesses, like UPS, and other huge warehouse operations that are busily at work here twenty four hours a day, and there’s nearby freight rail tracks operating at street grade. Enormous fleets of concrete trucks are based here, and the number of light trucks and automobiles that roll through the local streets are uncountable.

And people live here. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

44th street near 54th road, and a line of 20th century row homes which are spectacularly well kept. Acros the street is a yard hosting tower cranes, and a block away is the LIE interchange ramp with the BQE. This is about midpoint on Berlin Hill, and 44th street used to called Locust Street hereabouts.

Locust continued north back then, heading for Sunnyside, before the “House of Moses” first landed on the neighborhood back in the 1930’s. Moses kept coming back to this neighborhood, smashing his roads and bridges into it, until the early 70’s.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The border between Newtown and Long Island City was just a block away – the Kosciuszko Bridge sits atop it. On the LIC side is Laurel Hill (Calvary Cemetery) in Blissville.

This section of West Maspeth was formally part of Newtown (prior to NY City consolidation) – the municipal entity which had evolved from Dutch colonial to British and later American governance. Newtown county was once enormous and contained a good chunk of what is now Nassau County, but in the context of which I’m speaking – it’s the municipality which was centered in Elmhurst near the intersection of Queens Blvd. and Broadway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The first time I wandered through this area, many years ago, I had a very odd conversation with a very skinny and somewhat disheveled fellow standing in front of the home on the corner of 44th and the Queens Midtown Expwy. service road that is pictured above.

He insisted that “he knew that I knew that he knew that I know, and that he knew things which I didn’t know nor could I understand what he knew, but he knew that I knew that he knew and he was ok with that.” I thanked him and moved on, after affirming that he didn’t want me to take his picture.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The high point of this hill/ripple once called “Berlin” is up on 46th street. As a point of interest, there is no 45th street found between 44th and 46th hereabouts – no doubt to confuse invaders.

As opined endlessly in prior posts, the DOB records for western Queens are spotty, but as far as I’ve been able to determine – the house pictured above and below on 54th avenue dates back to 1915.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On other rambles through this section, kid’s bicycles and toys have been noticed on both porch and staircase. Not sure if it’s still occupied, but there’s a car parked in the driveway on the other side of this home. Notice how there are no side windows? It’s the last survivor of a series of old row houses – a type of working man’s quarters which folks from New Orleans might call a “shotgun.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Passing under the Kosciuszko Bridge, via “used to be 43rd street” I made my way towards 43rd street and headed back to Astoria.

Next week – something completely different!

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

March 11, 2016 at 11:00 am

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