The Newtown Pentacle

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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.

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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!

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Written by Mitch Waxman

March 11, 2016 at 11:00 am

trammeled less

with 5 comments

A bit of the Newtown Creek which I’ve oddly enough never shown you – in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a bunch of streets around the Newtown Creek which are cul-de-sacs, as in there’s only only way in and one way out. One of these cul-de-sacs in Queens is just beyond “Deadman’s Curve” in industrial Maspeth, on the LIRR Lower Montauk Branch tracks, which these days are freight only. The street is either called 57th Avenue or Galasso Place, and I’m not entirely sure if it’s a private or public way. The property to the south, I’ve always been told, belongs to the Galasso Trucking people, but I can’t pronounce that for certain.

If I was trespassing, I can’t say or not.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a rail spur that leads off of the Montauk Line on the rail bed, and the roadway to the north – Rust Street – follows the ancient property line of the LIRR tracks. I always say that when you find a street that exhibits a long arcing curve, you’ve found a relict of the locomotive city.

The 20th century “automotive city’s” streets follow straight lines, the 19th century’s “locomotive city’s” are all parabolas.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is looking back to the west where you can see the old spur leaving the main Lower Montauk tracks. That’s the end of “Deadman’s Curve” you’re looking at. It’s called that because of “The Berlinville Railway Disaster,” and because laborers at Phelps Dodge used to run across the tracks here, and once upon a time, this was a VERY busy rail center that saw long freight trains moving back and forth between Long Island City and points east.

Lots and lots of people got killed during the dash across the tracks, but they were willing to take their chances rather than clock in a minute late and lose an entire hour of pay.

– fire insurance map from Belcher Hyde “Newtown, 1916” 

As you can see in the 1916 map above, which is a fire insurance map, the shoreline of this area was VERY different a century ago than it is today, and the only thing which hasn’t changed one little bit is the pathway of the Lower Montauk Branch tracks. There’s nowhere near the number of rail spurs there used to be of course, but then again there’s nowhere even close to the amount of industry present that there was back then.

Modern day 57th avenue corresponds to “Creek Street (Hanover Avenue)and these shots were gathered in the region which once hosted the now demapped Berlin Avenue back to Munich Street. That’s the 19th century street grid you’re looking at, lords and ladies, before the United States Army Corps of Engineers did their thing to the shorelines and bulkheads of Newtown Creek during the First World War.


– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just beyond the property between the 57th avenue and the water is Newtown Creek’s intersection with its tributary Maspeth Creek. I couldn’t resist focusing in on this banged up construction equipment, incidentally. It’s a weakness of mine, can’t resist this sort of thing.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There were a few pieces of such heavy equipment laying around back here, all exhibiting broken windows. This is one of the most out of the way and remote spots in Western Queens… can’t imagine somebody coming here to just vandalize the odd machine, it’s weird.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There was quite a bit of construction debris in the area visible from the road.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is the spot at which I might have stepped off the public way, or not? 57th avenue had a bit of sewer work going on at the unfinished and unpaved end, which terminated at a barbed wire fence. It seemed as if this fenceline was the western side of the plot occupied by a plumbing supply company which borders most of the length of Maspeth Creek whose street entrance is found on 49th street, but I could be wrong.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The rail spur actually had a chain link fence built over it, which was kind of interesting for a couple of reasons. Partially, it was because the rest of the fence is pretty much gone.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If I’m reading the old maps correctly, this entire area – about half of the length of 57th avenue – is the former footprint of National Enameling and Stamping company, as you’ll notice in the map above. There was all sorts of nasty happening along this stretch a century back, including a phosphates works.

For those of you not in the know, a phosphate mill was in the fertilizer and gunpowder business, and in the business of mining nitrogen out of manure and animal carcasses. It was considered a “low” profession, as the workers in this sort of industry picked up a horrible stink from particulates that became embedded into their skin, and you couldn’t bathe it out nor perfume it away.

A lot of Union supporters found their jobs at more attractive industrial occupations dry up after they announced their intentions to organize, and phosphate mills ended up being their only option. They were called “stinkers,” and weren’t allowed into saloons or church due to the reek. Nobody would want to associate with them, lest they share their fate.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Now, as to the reason why you don’t see many posts from a humble narrator exploring the cul-de-sacs around the Newtown Creek. The simple reason is that I’m on foot, rather than vehicle or bicycle. If something goes wrong back here – whether it be guard dogs or somebody offended at the idea of a photographer wandering through, I’m hosed. There are places along the Creek in which you want to tread softly, this is one of them.

Could you explain to a 911 operator where you were, if you break a bone or get chewed on by a Rottweiler, on what was formerly Creek Street?

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Written by Mitch Waxman

March 7, 2016 at 11:00 am

wholesome pursuits

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Checking in on the Kosciuszko Bridge project, in Today’s Post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

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 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.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

At the end of 2015, I got to visit the work site in Brooklyn with the DOT folks, as described in this post, and this one. I also walked the Queens side back in December. Today’s post contains images from the last weekend of February in 2016, and takes a look at the Queens side, at the border of Blissville and West Maspeth.

In the first shot, I’m exiting an arch at 43rd street which leads to Laurel Hill Blvd., which leads to the spot shown in the second. If these shots look similar to the ones which have been embedded into prior posts, btw, it is quite intentional.

Construction equipment is everywhere at this point. Part of the Kosciuszko Bridge replacement project involves the redesign of the cloverleaf exchange with the Long Island Expressway, and since the bridge plus it’s approaches involve an astounding 2.1 miles of structure – this is one of the biggest capital projects in NYC that’s happened in my lifetime, and certainly a huge moment in the history of my beloved Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The odd spiral walkway over the highway which allows pedestrian and bicycle access (and which is surprisingly well used) is going to be rebuilt as a part of the project as well.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Down on Laurel Hill Blvd., heading south towards Review Avenue and Newtown Creek. Calvary Cemetery is on the right, or west, side of the street. The red brick approach structures on the left are going to be demolished when traffic is rerouted onto the new span.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking east along 54th avenue, which has been closed to traffic.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking south along Laurel Hill Blvd., towards Brooklyn and Newtown Creek, at 54th road.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Poking the lens through a hole in the fence under the current Kosciuszko Bridge, at what used to be the NYPD’s towing impound lot for Queens, but is now the staging area and offices of the DOT. .

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over on “used to be 43rd street,” and looking in a southwestern direction, you can see the new bridge’s roadway rising alongside the 1939 model.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking west towards Manhattan and Calvary Cemetery at 55th avenue.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There was a lot of activity underway while these shots were captured, with construction workers and union guys moving heavy equipment around and doing all sorts of stuff. Welding, moving cranes about, working with concrete – that sort of thing.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Closer to the Newtown Creek, and looking over the former site of the Phelps Dodge company – a multi acre property deemed too toxic to be used as a parking lot for trucks. An early chemical factory – Nichols, later General Chemical, predated the Phelps Dodge copper refining operation which was once here.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A better view of the Queens side ramp under construction.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking across the Newtown Creek to Brooklyn, where the roadway ramp is nearly finished and the concrete towers which the cable stays that will support the span over the water will be tied up to are practically complete.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Back on Review Avenue/56th road, looking south towards Brooklyn.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Same spot, but looking north towards Sunnyside and Astoria from Review Avenue/56th road.

As a note – this stretch of road, which begins at Borden Avenue – is Review Avenue until the K Bridge, then it becomes 56th road until meeting 56th street whereupon it becomes Rust Street, which it remains until its terminus at Flushing Avenue.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Whatever you want to call it, the engineers of the NYS DOT have spanned the street with a new roadway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The DOT plan focused attention on the Brooklyn side first, given how densely packed that section of DUKBO was, and how much more work that entailed. The Queens side, which has a lot more “elbow room” was always meant to be handled several months behind it on their schedule.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking back east, from the intersection of Laurel Hill Blvd. and Review Avenue, at the border of LIC’s Blissville and West Maspeth (or Berlin) in Queens’s DUKBO at the fabulous Newtown Creek.

The term “House of Moses” keeps on going through my head whenever I think about this project, incidentally. Every living New Yorker lives in the house that Robert Moses built, after all, and a big chunk of his early work is getting replaced. Luckily, I’m there to get shots of the show.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

March 4, 2016 at 11:00 am

systemic horror

with 2 comments

An altar to Lord Dattatreya, at Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last Sunday, which was the only day in Decemeber that has actually felt – climatologically – like December, one found himself in the company of a couple of my Creek chums in a small boat on Newtown Creek. We saw something odd while out on the poison waters.

Our excursion was launched in pursuance of surveying certain bulkheads in an area defined by the former Penny Bridge and the Maspeth Avenue Plank Road. We were literally studying the Creek, and I was along to gather photographs for further inspection at a later date – this is the sort of sinister stuff we get up, in Newtown Creek Alliance. Our survey of the study area was completed, a loop through the East Branch tributary was enacted, and we were headed west towards a dock at North Brooklyn Boat Club nearby the Pulaski Bridge in Greenpoint.

That’s when one of my companions asked if I’d seen “the statue.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Restaurant Depot company, a wholesaler which supplies commercial food establishments, sits on part of the former Phelps Dodge property in Maspeth. Their property is lined with industrial piers which have seen better days, but which were stoutly constructed and you can still observe rail tracks adorning them. In a couple of spots, the piers have decayed or collapsed, and there are little wooden bays amongst the piles.

That’s where the statue is.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The style of the thing is clearly southeast Asian, and specifically subcontinental. Given the reach and spread of Indian culture, which is far flung, it’s often difficult to say “Indian” as opposed to “South East Asian.” The statue, however, displayed certain details which betrayed its stylistic and ritual origins, and after a bit of research – the specifics of its representation.

How it ended up in the littoral zone at the former Phelps Dodge property on Newtown Creek in Maspeth is anyone’s guess. I’ve long stopped asking these sort of questions on the Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The statuary was around three to four feet in height, and seemed to be made from molded concrete. It depicts Lord Dattatreya, who is a well known member of the Hindu Pantheon. The particulars of the statue are that it represents the Hindu trinity of Vishnu, Brahma, and Shiva – which members of the faith refer to as the Trimurti.

Note – if I get something wrong here, my Hindu friends, please offer correction in the comments section: 

Dattatreya is a primordial figure in Indian culture, and is mentioned in the Mahabharata – an epic holy text whose origins are nearly prehistoric. Mahabharata scholars believe its texts were originally written between 800 and one thousand BCE, making it a 2.5-3,000 year old holy book which is coincidentally the longest epic poem ever written at nearly two million words. Mahabharata is as culturally significant a text as the Christian Bible or the Quran, and offers spiritual guidance to what probably boils down to as much as a quarter of all living humans.

Dattatreya veneration was ancient when the Mahabharata was written, and the deity was originally represented with one head. Dattatreya came from the Deccan Plains in South Eastern India, which is one of the cradles of human civilization. The Trimurti version of the deity, seen above, has six arms and three heads. That’s Brahma on the statue’s left, Vishnu in the center, and Shiva on the statue’s right. The hands are all meant to be holding symbolic weapons and icons of these deities. The cow is sacred to Vishnu, and although it’s not terribly clear in the representation above, there are traditionally four dogs on a Dattatreya statue. Hindu scholars debate the meaning of the dogs.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When the Vedic religious traditions began, Dattatreya was reconsidered as an avatar of the Trimurti. About a thousand years ago, it became common practice to represent the deity as three headed. Certain Hindu sects revere Dattatreya as a supreme being singularly, with others placing him near the top of the food chain in the pantheon, but still subordinate to Vishnu, Shiva, and Brahma. His sister is Chandra, who is the moon goddess.

One can merely speculate as to the presence of the statue in the tidal zone of Newtown Creek, and as to what sort of congregants might rise from the water to worship before it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned above, our party was out on the water performing a bulkhead survey, and we were in search of something far more modern and mundane than an ancient Indian God. Controversy in the Superfund community has recently involved discussion of “Manufactured Gas” and the ebullition (reverse dripping) of coal tar sludge from subaqueous pockets in the sediment up to the surface. This has resulted in a humble narrator “getting smart” about the waste materials which the manufactured gas industry spewed out. Coal tar, and coal tar sludge, were – by far – the most abundant material that arose from the retorts and distillation equipment of the industry, but were hardly the only noxious material produced.

We were searching for “blue billy” amongst the rip rap shorelines of the lugubrious Newtown Creek, which is “spent lime” that had become infiltrated by ferrocyanide compounds during the industrial gasification of coal. There was no aftermarket for this material, and more often than not it was just dumped. Examining photographs of “blue billy,” my cohorts in NCA and I all remarked on how familiar it seemed, and set out to find some.

Instead, we found an Indian God.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 23, 2015 at 11:30 am

cyclopean endeavor

with 6 comments

Down Under the Kosciuszko Bridges Onramps – DUKBO – in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Around two weeks ago, Newtown Pentacle presented a pair of postings (this, and that) showing the progress of the Brooklyn side of the Kosciuszko Bridge construction project. I was invited to walk through the site by the NYS DOT, along with other members of the “Stakeholders Advisory Committee,” and the photos captured during the walk populated the posts. Today, the Queens side of DUKBO.

It should be mentioned that I didn’t enter the site for these, and just creeped around the fences on Thanksgiving weekend. It would have been a simple thing to enter the deserted site, of course, but the Newtown Pentacle way is to never trespass. I’m like a vampire, and have to be invited in before I do my work. Luckily, you don’t need an invitation to walk down the sidewalks of Queens in the direction of Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

These are the 1939 era bridge’s concrete approaches, as seen from Laurel Hill Blvd., which is the eastern border of Calvary Cemetery. The street that’s all ground up into gravel is “used to be 54th avenue.” “Used to be” is an apt adjectival phrase, as when the new bridge is finished several of the existing streets will have been relocated and the geometry of the street grid will be altered to accommodate the new structure.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As you can see, security is tight as a drum here in Blissville. Nobody over 350 pounds would be able to get through this gap. It’s at times like these that my “no trespassing” rule really grates.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking down Laurel Hill Blvd. to the south. That’s Calvary Cemetery on the right of the shot, and the redoubtable 1939 Robert Moses version of the Kosciuszko Bridge on the left. Moses convinced LaGuardia that the old Penny Bridge, which crossed Newtown Creek from the end of Meeker Avenue in Brooklyn and connected to Review Avenue in Queens, would be insufficient to handle the traffic load which the 1939 Worlds Fair in Corona would create. He proposed the “New Meeker Avenue Bridge,” which LaGuardia agreed to. Moses then argued that without the 2.1 miles of high speed approach roads, the money spent on the bridge would be wasted. LaGuardia agreed again. Moses then expanded the approaches, on one side to connect to his “Grand Central” Parkway and Mighty Triborough, and on the other to connect via Meeker Avenue to Grand Street, he also created something LaGuardia did not agree to in the bargain. What would become the “Brooklyn Queens Connecting Highway,” something we refer to in modernity as the “Brooklyn Queens Expressway.”

Clever one, that Moses.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Crossing under the Kosciuszko Bridge at 54th road – a corrugated fence which used to be part of an NYPD towing impound lot allowed for a quick view of the “House of Moses.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

By the end of 2017 (if I remember the schedule accurately), this will be an enormous demolition site. All the steel will be coming down in sections, and the cyclopean concrete piers will be chipped away. The stripping away of the central span of the Kosciuszko Bridge promises to be quite an exciting sight.

Essentially, they are going to bring in maritime cranes which will affix supports to the truss section in the center, cut it away from its supports with torches, and then lower it onto a platform composed of several barges. Multiple tugboats will guide it away, heading in a westerly direction down Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Crossing under the Kosciuszko Bridge via 54th road onto “used to be” 43rd street, the now familiar masonry of the BQE overpass appears. The roadway will be considerably lower here, in comparison to the old setup. Not really sure how much I like that, actually. It’s going to be bringing the close to 200,000 vehicles a day that cross the thing down to nearly street level. Noise, exhaust, etc. It’s higher on the Brooklyn side.

Oh well… welcome to Queens, now go fuck yourself… right?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is “used to be” 54th drive, and you can see the new concrete supports for the Kosciuszko Bridge approaches are coming along nicely. If you refer back to the two posts from the Brooklyn side linked to in the first paragraph, you can check out what this area will look like probably 6-8 months into 2016. The deck roadway will ride along on the top of this piers, rising to the cable stay supported section spanning Newtown Creek.

On the other side of the concrete structures are a bunch of office trailers which house the administrative and engineering staff for the project.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Kosciuszko Bridge project is striking its path through the former location of the Phelps Dodge company, on a patch of land which was once adjudicated as being “too toxic to park empty United States Postal Trucks on.” Phelps Dodge is a NYS Superfund site, and the company is one of the “potentially responsible parties” named in the Federal Superfund listing of Newtown Creek itself. Incidentally, Phelps Dodge and their copper refining operations were pretty much a 20th century thing, they inherited the property after a merger with a chemical conglomerate that had been here since the 1830’s.

The State Bridge people have made it a point of mentioning that they’re able to deal with the environmental stuff, but that it’s an immensely complicated situation. There’s a sign on the fence that says “Hazwoper.” I mentioned this signage to my Union laborer neighbor Mario during conversation about the project, which caused the big fellow to utter a “woof” sound, followed by “Hazwoper Zone, bro, woof.”

The entire project is an immensely complicated situation, actually.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Imagine building a bridge, next to an existing one which carries the Brooklyn Queens Expressway over a heavily polluted maritime industrial waterway found in the dead bang center of NYC. Imagine that this waterway was where the oil refining industry, and the manufactured gas industry, and the waste disposal industry, and the chemical industry, and the Long Island Railroad, all figured themselves out. Refineries, distilleries, waste transfer stations, open sewers… Ok? Got it?

Ok, so you finish the bridge, and reroute the highway onto it. Ok. Now you have to demolish the old bridge and cart it away. Now, you get to start on building the second half of the new bridge, and then reroute the highway again to take advantage of the completed bridge.

Ahh… my beloved Creek!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This shot looks north, from the “will continue to be” Restaurant Depot Parking lot. Most NY’ers are surprised at how much of the food they eat has spent some of its journey to their colons at Newtown Creek, but a humble narrator has reached the age where his innermost psychology can best be described as “a severe and apathetic form of nihilism,” so nothing really surprises me anymore. I don’t buy sausages in supermarkets, as an example of how this numbed acceptance of the world we live in informs my days and tortures my nights.

As you’ll notice, the shots depict concrete still being formed into the columns, and rebar sticking out of a few of them. The Brooklyn side is a bit further along, I’m told it was a bit more complicated on the Greenpoint side due to the rerouting of the BQE over Meeker Avenue, and the presence of dense populations surrounding the road.

In Maspeth, here on the Queens side, there were just two or three private homes and a few warehouse sized businesses. The various entities, hereabouts, were recompensed for their properties by the State and assisted with relocation to parts unknown. Or they might now be sausages in a freezer at a Costco. You’ll never know… which brings me back to the whole nihilism thing. There you go.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Our Lady of the Pentacle often reminds me that whereas everything in the shot above is familiar to me, I shouldn’t make the assumption that everyone reading this enjoys the same visual catalog as my creek chums and I do.

This shot looks towards the west, where you can see the Empire State Building over in Manhattan. Out of sight, not mind, the tracks of the LIRR Montauk line are aimed directly at midtown Manhattan and are travelling under the bridge and along the tree line. The wooded section, on the right, is Calvary Cemetery. Just beyond those concrete blocks is part of the Phelps Dodge site, and the truss section of the 1939 Kosciuszko Bridge is overflying Newtown Creek and traveling out of frame at top left – or south.

Just keeping y’all in the loop, here in DUKBO, Down Under the Kosciuszko Bridges Onramps.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

December 11, 2015 at 11:00 am

leftward fork

with 5 comments

Down Under the Kosciuszko Bridges Onramps – DUKBO, part 2 – in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As described in my last post, a visit to the NYS DOT’s Kosciuszko Bridge project site was arranged for members of the “Stakeholders Advisory Group” that is connected to the project. Community members, business owners, representatives of municipal agencies and elected officialdom, the SAG’s job is to bring concerns to the attention of the project managers of the K Bridge project. Anyone interested in finding out more about the project straight from the source, or who feel that they should be involved, can contact the Community Liason’s office.

There’s all sorts of job opportunities available on the project as well, for those of you involved with the trades, but quite obviously that’s not something a humble narrator can help you out with.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the left side of the shot above is the Robert Moses 1939 era “New Meeker Avenue” Bridge, which was rechristened in 1940 as the Kosciuszko Bridge. Its original purpose, as far as Mayor LaGuardia was concerned, was to allow egress for the multitudes of Brooklyn to the 1939 Worlds Fair over in what we refer to as “Flushing Meadow Corona Park.” For Moses, it was the first link in a chain which he originally called the “Brooklyn Queens Connecting Highway” which modernity knows as the Brooklyn Queens Expressway.

Technical note – the Gowanus Expressway actually was the first part of the modern BQE to be built, but my understanding is that Moses didn’t intend for it to be part of the BQE – it was incorporated into the larger expressway when the Verazzano was being built.

That’s my understanding, I might be incorrect, so “grain of salt.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Brooklyn side of the Newtown Creek enjoys a rather shallow firmament, as a craton which underlies this section of western Long Island – essentially an enormous glacial erratic or boulder – is only about sixty to seventy feet below the surface and sits at a fairly oblique angle relative to the land.

The Queens side is basically a giant pile of mud more than a hundred feet deep, and the bedrock craton on the northern or Queens side of the Creek is more difficult to access. The original or 1939 Kosciuszko Bridge piers on the Queens side are essentially founded on concrete blocks floating in this mud. The new bridge will be anchored in the bedrock instead. (This, incidentally, isn’t something I know from the SAG, rather its “history” stuff).

The piles seen above are in various stages of being driven down to the craton – or bedrock.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As we neared the shoreline of Newtown Creek, I mentioned to several people that this was one of the spots which I had never actually set foot upon. There used to be a carting company here which was… let’s just say that they didn’t like people with cameras wandering around, and that the few times which I did approach their fencelines over the years resulted in my being literally threatened by several mustachioed people with a distinctly Italian variant of the North Brooklyn accent. As I often say, I only run when someone or something is chasing me, and after meeting these fellows I was running.

The metallic box pictured above was a pretty cool thing, however.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The new Kosciuszko Bridge is going to be a “cable stay” bridge, the first of its kind in NYC. The device pictured above is what the cables will be running through. The cables will leave their anchorage and climb up and over the towers, feeding down to and supporting the roadway over the water. This is a pretty important bit of kit, obviously, as the BQE carries a couple of hundred thousand vehicles a day over Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking towards West Maspeth’s border with Blissville near Calvary Cemetery, across the lugubrious Newtown Creek. The Queens side of the job is on schedule, but the process isn’t quite as far along on the north shore. You can see the piers which will carry the road, but the towers which will support the cables haven’t been erected yet.

There’s a whole lot of environmental “ugly” in the shot above, the ground to the right is part of the Phelps Dodge State Superfund site. The sediments in this section of the Newtown Creek are rife with organocoppers and all sorts of bad stuff, which is why the water and what lies below is part of the Federal Superfund site, and not too long ago it was determined that the chemical condition of the land at Phelps Dodge was too extreme for it to serve as a parking lot for USPS trucks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking up the dizzying heights of the two concrete towers of the Brooklyn side, which are still rising. There were gangs of laborers working up there, who are clearly made of sterner stuff than I. I’d need the Fire Department to come rescue me, as paralysis would set in due to the height.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking back towards the south/south west, along the ramps of the Kosciuszko Bridges. You can really see the difference in the two spans’ deck heights in the shot above. The DOT folks tell me that this is to ensure a smoother experience for drivers, as they won’t have to crest quite as high an incline. Additionally, the BQE will no longer compress to three lanes from four and then back to four again on the new bridge. There is also meant to be an entirely dedicated approach to the Long Island Expressway when the job is finished.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Our visit over, the Stakeholders Advisory Group was escorted back to Meeker Avenue, where we turned in our hard hats and other safety gear.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 23, 2015 at 11:00 am

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