The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Manhattan

discoursed of

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All access, indeed!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As described in bit more than six years of prior posts, one has a certain fascination with those things which others ignore. The history of NYC can literally be found right there beneath your feet, especially once you learn how to read the signs and sigils left behind by earlier generations. Access, or Manhole covers, are everywhere. Research has shown that Federal Roadway regulations state a preference for State and Local governments to either replace an access cover with an exact copy from the original foundry, or just leave the old one in place. This means, since most of these things were put in place before the World Wars of the early 20th century, that there are iron or steel discs adorning the “via publica” which can tell the tale of Municpal organization, consolidation, dissolution, and indeed gentrification scattered about.

Pictured above, an access cover put in place by the Bureau of Sewers, Borough of Queens found in Astoria.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over in Blissville, also in Queens, an access cover which once belonged to the New York & Queens Electric Light & Power Company, which is one of the consolidated parts of Consolidated Edison. NY&Q EL&Pco. was created in 1900, and quickly bought up most of the smaller players in electrical generation and supply in western Queens. Most of NY&Q EL&Pco.’s common stock was actually held by the Consolidated Gas Company of New York. In 1918, the NY&Q EL&Pco. merged with the Edison Electric Illuminating Company of Brooklyn. The new entity merged with the Edison company of Brooklyn, Inc. Eventually, after decades of this sort of merger and acquisitions nonsense, you get to Con Ed. On it.

The circles, I am told, are standard indicators that electrical equipment will be found below.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An odd one spotted on West 24th street in Manhattan, which quite obviously belongs to everybody’s favorite corporation – Time Warner Cable. It bears their modern logo, and is quite interesting as there aren’t thousands of wires splayed through the trees and bending utility poles, which is that squamous corporation’s tell tale calling sign is in Queens and Brooklyn. I guess the City people don’t want their blocks all cluttered up so the wires are in the ground where they belong.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over in Queens Plaza, sometime between 1912 and 1923, this NYM cover was placed. The New York Municipal Railway Corporation was formed in pursuance of contract 4 of the dual contracts era of the New York City Subway construction era, and was originally connected to the Brooklyn Rapid Transit (BRT) company. In 1923, NYM merged with the New York Consolidated Railroad and formed the New York Rapid Transit Company. It also stopped working on “BRT” or Brooklyn Rapid Transit and instead got busy on the “BMT” or Brooklyn Manhattan Transit situation.

The BMT became the New York City Board of Transportation’s problem in 1940.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A precursor agency of the modern DEP was the Department of Water Supply.

The DEP was formed in 1983, incidentally, combining several independent bureaucracies into one massive agency which handles the delivery of potable water to the City, the operations and maintenance of the storm water and sanitary sewers, and a bunch of stuff that doesn’t involve getting wet – like noise complaints, air issues, chemical spills, and those sorts of things.

DEP also spends a lot of effort figuring out ways to obscure what they’re doing from the reckoning eyes of regulators and citizens. The DEP accounts for something close to a third of NYC’s budget, has a navy, operates courts and police departments in upstate New York on Resovoir lands, and ultimately reports to a Robert Moses style “Authority” and the Mayor of New York City. The Water Board Authority, whose board is composed of political appointees (The DEP Commisioner plus 4 mayoral and 2 gubernatorial appointments), can borrow a theoretically unlimited amount of money in your name – doesn’t have to tell you who they borrowed it from – and will raise your water rates to pay the interest. They are the permanent government. Kafka would recognize the DEP.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another “Authority” who can borrow freely in your name, once upon a time the New York City Transit Authority was known as “Rapid Transit New York City” and that was when this smallish “RTS NYC” hatch cover was embedded in the pavement. The particular specimen pictured above is found on Broadway somewhere near the hazy borders of Jackson Heights and Woodside in the 60’s.

The City’s RTC NYC purchased the BMT and IRT in 1940, and in June of 1953, the New York State Legislature created the New York City Transit Authority to rescue the nearly bankrupted agency. In 1968, NYCTA was folded into the State’s new Metropolitan Transportation Authority, along with LIRR and twelve other counties worth of rail and bus operations. That’s how, long story short, MTA became New York City Transit’s parent agency.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

We were once a plain spoken people, we New Yorkers. Once upon a time it was simply the “N.Y.C. SEWER” department. Today, it’s a division of DEP called “Bureau of Water and Sewer Operations.” Guess it sounds better on your resume when trying to pick up a lucrative Singaporean consulting gig after you’ve done your 25.

NYC has a fairly archaic system, sewer wise. It was state of the art back when Germany had a Kaiser, but the combined sewer system has major drawbacks in our modern time. A quarter inch of rain translates into a billion gallons of water, citywide, moving through the system. Since our sanitary and storm sewers feed into the same pipes, the mixed flow of liquid happiness is far greater than our sewer plants can handle all at once and it gets released directly into area waterways – like my beloved Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The access cover pictured above sports six sided bits on its face (hexagons), which indicates there’s some sort of telephone infrastructure under it. Mysterious, to me, is the titanic amount of force and weight required to break one of these cast iron things on Astoria’s Broadway near the 46th street station of the R and M lines. Famously, a 1950’s nuclear test (Operation Plumbob) launched a manhole cover, which resided on a shaft near the blast site, at six times the velocity which would be required to escape Earth’s gravity. The discus was never recovered.

At the end of it all, there will be rats, roaches, and manhole covers.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

You see these all over Long Island City, and they are my favorites. My understanding of the process involved in creating one of these designs is that it’s a pretty straight forward sculptural one. A carving is made which serves as the “positive” for molds. The molds then have molten metal poured into them, creating a casting. The red hot casting is cooled, and undergoes a finishing round of polishing and grinding. The reason that so many of these access covers are as ancient as they are is that foundries generally discard positives and molds after the order has been fulfilled. Most of these foundries aren’t even in existence anymore, either. You don’t meet many blacksmiths or forge stokers in Bushwick or Williamsburg these days, not even artisanal ones.

As stated at the start of this post, the federal highway people prefer for the original cover to stay in place, or be replaced with an exact duplicate. Sans the original mold, that ain’t gonna happen.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 6, 2015 at 11:00 am

noisome air

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Rain, rain, rain. Bored, boredity, bored, bored.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One thing is certain, which is that the next few days will exhibit some truly ugly weather here in the Newtown Pentacle. In today’s post, library shots of wet weather are presented. Above, somewhere within the Shining City of Manhattan, from whence cometh the greater part of that flow of sewer juice that doth enter my beloved Creek during rain events.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Everybody I meet gets a lecture at one point or another about the sewer system, and the Combined Sewer problem that bedevils our community. Suffice to say that it takes as little as a quarter inch of rain, citywide, for a billion gallons of storm water to propagate into our waterways. Days like this one, and the next few, will carry hundreds of billions of gallons of raw sewage into the water.

Pictured above, a manhole or access cover, originally laid in place by the “Bureau of Sewers Borough of Queens” which I believe to have been absorbed into the larger Municpal entity that would someday become the DEP around the time of the LaGuardia administration. I’m a bit hazy on this one, historical like, and promise that I’ll find out more and report the facts when they’re in hand.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

From what I’ve been told, the MTA hasn’t been having too good a time for the last 24 hours or so, with more than a few outages on major lines. One wonders, and more than wonders, why the MTA only seems to plan and engineer the system around the conditions of ideal weather?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I mean… it’s going to rain. It’s also going to snow, eventually.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m the first person, literally, to throw shade at the commissioners and deputy commissars of the DEP during their periodic visits to Newtown Creek. DEP bosses lie like rugs, do so with a smirk, and every time there’s a political shake up in City Hall – the new guy isn’t bound by the promises made by the last set of “powers that be.” Saying that, I’m thankful for the rank and file who will be doing what they can during the coming deluges. Pictured above is the sewer plant in Greenpoint, getting rained upon.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Here in Astoria, folks are taking the gathering storm quite seriously. There’s chanting and everything, and store shelves are fairly bereft of the puzzling combination of batteries, milk, bread, and toilet paper that everyone seems to require when a storm is on the way.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My neighbor Mario spent yesterday evening cleaning our sewer catch basin and the gutter of leaves and the garbage which everyone just seems to drop. Saying that, there’s a whole lot of sweeping to do.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One last rainy day shot, which was captured close to a decade ago at Greenwood Cemetery. Good luck, lords and ladies, with the stormy weekend. If you’re reading this on Monday, it’s likely my internet is out, and I’ll post as soon as Time Warner comes back online.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

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

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 2, 2015 at 2:00 pm

consistently toward

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It has been one heck of a couple of weeks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One tends to become a bit overwhelmed at times, and the last couple of weeks are an exemplar of this truism. Accordingly, posts at this – your Newtown Pentacle – have been a bit… light on the hidden facts and occluded history and all the other stuff I’m normally obsessed with bringing you. A particular series of recent imbroglios surrounding my beloved Newtown Creek have occupied a bit of the brain space. Pictured above is the Kosciuszko Bridge spanning the troubled waterway.

Recent meetings and presentations offered by the various powers that be in the Superfund story have been generating a tremendous amount of debate amongst the activist community on the Creek – which is actually a great thing. It is only through hand wringing and intellectual conflict that a community can find the correct path towards the future by finding the “middle way.” There is a corporate side, a governmental side, and a community side to the story of rectifying Newtown Creek’s environmental issues. All have valid interests, and all must be acknowledged as we proceed through the superfund process.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recent endeavor, the sort of thing one occupies himself with when the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself dips below the horizon offered by the shield wall of Manhattan, is presented in the “table shot” above. The photographic exercise was less about the technical aspects of the shot than it was about color purity and reproduction. The pencils were part of my old kit from back when I was drawing comics, and representative of the sort of palette which was often employed in the manufacture of my four color fantasies. This was a one light source one camera flash shot, for you curious shutterbugs out there.

The big flaw in the image is the color pollution notable in the orange brown shadows falling on the white substrate at the bottom of the shot, something which I’d retouch away if it was a “commerical” image rather than an exercise.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Around two in the morning one recent night, the sound of an angry toddler screaming drifted through my windows from the sidewalk below. Turns out that this kid wanted to go for a midnight walk and his VERY patient Dad was trying to explain to him why that was a bad idea. This fellow deserved the “Dad of the Year” award, imho. The kid kept on trying for the street, and Poppa kept on pulling him back in a kind manner, patiently explaining that playing in the streets was a bad idea.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Lastly, the 5 train entering the bunker found at 59th street in Manhattan. For the last year or so, my normal habit of just getting on some Manhattan bound local train and lazily “sitting out” the trip has been avoided. I’ve been trying to use the system in a somewhat more intelligent way, which involves a lot of transfers. Don’t want you to think I’ve become a transit nerd… but I’m becoming a transit nerd.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

October 3rd, 2015
Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour
with Atlas Obscura, click here for details and tickets

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 25, 2015 at 1:05 pm

hewing in

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

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

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

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

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

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

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

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

absent friends

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Well, here we are again.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s actually a bit difficult to believe that the defining event of our common era happened fourteen years ago. To me, at least, it feels like yesterday that the ground shook and everything changed. I was living in Manhattan back then, on an Upper West Side that bears virtually no resemblance to the one you’d find today (except architecturally, of course), and I found out what was happening as I was putting on my socks in preparation to go to work. As was my habit, I flipped on NY1, and saw the live feed of the second plane as it hit.

I knew a few Port Authority cops, and FDNY personnel, from the bar which I used to drown my sorrows at. After that morning, I never saw them again.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The last fourteen years have been quite a ride.

At the time, we were thankful that Rudy was the Mayor (no matter what you think of him now) instead of Mark Green or Ruth what’s her name. Even George Pataki managed to impress for a bit. Unfortunately, the folks who occupied the White House were a “worst case scenario” cast of villains who managed to throw away most of what unified the country and world behind NYC after a few months, and there’s really no point in discussing the various armed conflicts and abridgements of the Constitution which followed the attacks.

Given the “junta” which ruled the roost down in the District of Columbia, we’re actually lucky that we didn’t end up having to wear arm bands signifying national and party loyalty.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

All I would say, fourteen years later, is that we are missing a lot of friends and that their loss is still dearly felt – both in the Newtown Pentacle and in the City of Greater New York. If you’ve got a couple of extra bucks, why not send a couple of anonymous pizzas over to your local precinct or fire house with a note sayin “thanks”? If you go out tonight, throw a twenty down on the bar and instruct your bar tender that it should be used to buy a pint or two for a cop, fireman, or soldier.

Everyone in NYC knew someone who ended up in a crowd in the streets of heaven that night, fourteen years ago, and for the services – the least we can do is to buy ’em a drink. They’ve got a longer list of absent friends than the rest of us do.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

September 13th, 2015
Poison Cauldron Walking Tour
with Newtown Creek Alliance, click here for details and tickets

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

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 11, 2015 at 11:00 am

pale vapors

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Lower Manhattan’s FDR drive, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just prior to this shot of Manhattan’s FDR Drive being captured, a humble narrator had walked across the East River via the Williamsburg Bridge from the border of Greenpoint and Williamsburg at Meeker Avenue. One enjoyed a brief sit down and contemplation of the past at Corlears Hook park on Cherry Street before continuing on. Cherry Street on the East Side is one of those spots in NYC which is writ large in the historic record, and even Jacob Riis mentions it (during its degenerate period).

According to contemporaneous reports, the absolute worst tenements of the 19th century were not found at the famous Five Points but here at Cherry street. Additionally, a gang whose specialty was river piracy operated out of this area – they were called the Swamp Angels – and it’s because of their infamy that the NYPD ultimately created the Harbor Unit. After resting for a few minutes (it’s important to give your lower back an interval of downtime on a long walk, since it’s actually doing most of the work) I crossed one of the pedestrian bridges over the coastal parkway and entered “The House of Moses.”

from wikipedia

In 1785, the four-story mansion at 3 Cherry Street was leased by the Continental Congress to serve as the Executive Mansion for Richard Henry Lee, President of the Congress under the Articles of Confederation. It continued to serve as such for the next three Presidents and, in April and May 1789 served as the first Executive Mansion of the President of the United States and Mrs. Martha Washington.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another term of my own invention, “The House of Moses” is appropriately used when you find yourself on Borden Avenue in LIC, or Meeker Avenue in Greenpoint, in certain parts of Astoria, or even here along the East River coast of the Shining City itself. Wherever NYC’s master builder Robert Moses felt it was appropriate to eliminate vast swaths of residential or industrial real estate in order to make way for a high speed road (distinguished by zero grade crossings, mind you), you’re in the “The House of Moses.”

from wikipedia

Robert Moses (December 18, 1888 – July 29, 1981) was the “master builder” of mid-20th century New York City, Long Island, Rockland County, and Westchester County, New York. As the shaper of a modern city, he is sometimes compared to Baron Haussmann of Second Empire Paris, and was arguably one of the most polarizing figures in the history of urban planning in the United States. His decisions favoring highways over public transit helped create the modern suburbs of Long Island and influenced a generation of engineers, architects, and urban planners who spread his philosophies across the nation. One of his major contributions to urban planning was New York’s large parkway network.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

“The House of Moses” had a tendency to blight the areas surrounding it. The sections of Sunset Park and Red Hook which the Gowanus Expressway casts its shadow upon have never truly recovered, for instance. For generations, this East River waterfront was generally verboten to residents of surrounding communities, due to stink and crime. For most of my lifetime, this area was a de facto parking lot for Municipal employees, and a homeless camp. Ummm, ok – it is STILL both of those things, but there’s a lot less of the foreboding and sense of imminent doom or threat of arrest than there used to be.

The same process played out along the Hudson, and is currently underway on the western coast of a Long Island – the so called Brooklyn and Queens Greenways. The modern motivation for improving these littoral areas is that parks aid real estate development, of course.

from wikipedia

The East River waterfront in Lower Manhattan was known for heavy maritime activity, with over 40 piers in operation by the later 1950s. The busy waterfront provided easy access to New York Harbor and the Atlantic Ocean in the south, the Hudson River on the west, with a connection to the Erie Canal. However, the rise of truck traffic and the transfer of port activity to the Port Newark-Elizabeth Marine Terminal drastically reduced maritime traffic on the river after the middle 20th century. With many piers now defunct, ambitious plans have been made to reclaim and reuse the pier space. The north-south arterial highway, the FDR Drive, was moved to an elevated location to allow convenient access to the piers. In the 1970s, the Water Street Access Plan was drafted to extend the confines of the traditional Financial District eastward and create a new business corridor along Water Street, south of Fulton Street. Noting the success of the World Financial Center, the East Side Landing plan was created in the 1980s to add commercial and office buildings along the waterfront, again south of Fulton Street, similar to Battery Park City. This plan never materialized.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The process is quite far along in the tony sections of Brooklyn’s Gold Coast like DUMBO and Williamsburg, as well as in Hunters Point. The eventual goal on that side of the East River will be a contiguous pathway which will allow you to walk or ride a bike through a modern residential corridor extending from Red Hook all the way to Astoria Park with just a few interruptions offered by obstacles like the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and certain unpleasantries – such NYCHA housing projects or Newtown Creek.

On the Manhattan side, the river walk currently extends (contiguously, I mean, as it does travel quite far north with interruptions) from 23rd street all the way south to Wall Street in the financial district and connects into Battery Park nearby the Staten Island Ferry.

Saying that, some sections of the promenade seem better used than others.

from nyc.gov

The East River waterfront has developed over the past 350 years as a central place in the city’s maritime history. The city began here, and as it grew and developed, the island expanded into the river. As population expanded, the city promoted the infill of waterfront lots to serve the growing demand for land in Lower Manhattan. As a result, the current shoreline is more than three city blocks from the original shore. The present location of Pearl Street is in fact the original East River shoreline of Lower Manhattan. As the city’s position as the premier port for trade on the east coast grew, so did the need for new piers to service the vessels coming and going out of the port. At its peak in the 1950’s there were over 40 piers along this two-mile stretch of waterfront; today there are fewer than 10 remaining.

With the decline in maritime activity over the past 40 years, various master plans have been developed for this waterfront. The Water Street Access Plan in the 1970’s envisioned Water Street as a commercial spine for modern office buildings and the expansion of the financial core. In the 1980’s, the plan for East River Landing, inspired by Battery Park City, proposed new office development on the waterfront south of Fulton Street. In the 1990’s, a new outpost for the Guggenheim Museum was proposed on the waterfront at the present location of piers 13 and 14 at the foot of Wall Street. Aside from some components of the Water Street Access Plan, none of these waterfront schemes have been realized to date.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Part of the planning and construction offered to the 20th century by the “House of Moses” included not just highways but block after block of “slum clearance” projects. Hundreds of acres of walk up tenement buildings were razed to make room for apartment houses whose footprint could encompass an entire city block, something you see a lot of in the eastern section of Chinatown. These apartment complexes were financed and built using Federal monies that filtered through carefully chosen banks and insurance companies. His allies in finance and government were fiercely loyal to Robert Moses and urban renewal was how he paid them back. Author Robert Caro called Moses “The Power Broker.”

It’s fantastic that those days are long over, and there isn’t some moneyed clique of real estate, insurance, and construction interests that colludes with Government officialdom to displace and eradicate whole waterfront neighborhoods. That would be awful, wouldn’t it?

from wikipedia

Caro’s depiction of Moses’s life gives him full credit for his early achievements, showing, for example, how he conceived and created Jones Beach and the New York State Park system, but also shows how Moses’s desire for power came to be more important to him than his earlier dreams. Indeed, he is blamed for having destroyed more than a score of neighborhoods, by building 13 expressways across New York City and by building large urban renewal projects with little regard for the urban fabric or for human scale. Yet the author is more neutral in his central premise: the city would have been a very different place—maybe better, maybe worse—if Robert Moses had never existed. Other U.S. cities were doing the same thing as New York in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. Boston, San Francisco and Seattle, for instance, each built highways straight through their downtown areas. The New York City architectural intelligentsia of the 1940s and 1950s, who largely believed in such prophets of the automobile as Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe, had supported Moses. Many other cities, like Newark, Chicago and St. Louis, also built massive, unattractive public housing projects.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s actually in Chinatown where you’ll notice how thoroughly a community can embrace one of these waterfront esplanades installed by the House of Moses. Unfortunately, there are no signs installed by the State DEC cautioning against regular consumption of East River fish and crabs, and not once did I notice a bit of signage from the City DEP advising of the presence of a combined sewer outfall. Those pipes you’ll notice traveling down the supports of the FDR drive drain the elevated highway and feed directly into the East River.

Any who, that’s the House of Moses for ya.

from wikipedia

Large scale urban renewal projects in the US started in the interwar period. Prototype urban renewal projects include the design and construction of Central Park in New York and the 1909 Plan for Chicago by Daniel Burnham. Similarly, the efforts of Jacob Riis in advocating for the demolition of degraded areas of New York in the late 19th century was also formative. The redevelopment of large sections of New York City and New York State by Robert Moses between the 1930s and the 1970s was a notable and prominent example of urban redevelopment. Moses directed the construction of new bridges, highways, housing projects, and public parks. Moses was a controversial figure, both for his single-minded zeal and for its impact on New York City.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

September 3rd, 2015
Newtown Creek Boat Tour
with Open House NY, click here for details and tickets.

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

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 31, 2015 at 11:00 am

victoriously swept

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If the bridge wasn’t there, it would be impossible to recognize Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Mephitic vapors, the effluent of furnaces and forges, a vague scent of molasses, and the smell of freshly smoked crack cocaine used to be all you needed to recognize where you were when visiting Williamsburg. These days, all you’ve got is the visual cue offered by its eponymous bridge and the vague scent of high end Marijuana.

Occasion found me in the ancient village, and as I was headed for Manhattan to meet up with a boat later in the day, a scuttle across the bridge was called for.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A lot of people think this span is an architectural travesty, but I’ve never thought it was bad enough to to create a Municipal Arts Society over. There are “separate” pedestrian and bicycle paths, which aren’t really segregated from each other in any cohesive manner, but as one such as myself enjoys playing things “by the rules” – I found myself climbing the surprisingly steep ramp leading up from Brooklyn to the bridge itself. At least it provides for some fairly good “cardio.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Back in art school, the conventional wisdom imparted to me by a generation of instructors was that you can’t go wrong when there’s an umbrella in your shot. The reasoning is that the umbrella is an inherently interesting shape, and it breaks up the otherwise pedestrian points of view one normally encounters. It wasn’t raining, of course, and the umbrella was simply there to shield its wielder from the particularly powerful emanations of the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself whose gaze seemed fixed upon the bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

All the tourists seem to flock to the Brooklyn Bridge, and its pedestrian path offers one a frustrating and crowded experience. It’s a bit like a lunch line at a buffet, that walk, a slow shuffle while trapped in a queue. Vast preference for the less popular bridges like Queensboro, Williamsburg, and Manhattan is offered by your humble narrator. Crowds suck.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For this walk, I used my “crappy lens” – a 70-300 consumer level zoom. After the great camera disaster of July, wherein both camera body and my “best lens” were destroyed, I’ve been making it a point of mixing things up a bit. Thanks to many of you who donated money for replacement equipment to this blog, and both body and “best lens” have been replaced. Regardless, one tries to keep things fresh and the extra reach which the imperfect but serviceable “long lens” provides for slightly different perspectives and color rendition.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It would be utterly pedantic to go into the technical details on this subject, so suffice to say that each and every lens interprets the light moving through it in different ways. Certain lenses are great for portraits, others for landscapes. Camera settings can also affect color rendition as well – for instance, narrow apertures render the color blue in a certain way due to the clipping of upper and lower limits found in the blue light wave.

As I said, technical and pedantic.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Manhattan side of the Williamsburg Bridge, at Delancey Street, and looking back towards the infinity of Brooklyn.

The Williamsburg Bridge is 7,308 feet long (measuring between the cable anchor terminals) and the deck is some 118 feet wide. The height at the center of the bridge is 135 feet and each tower is 310 feet in height as measured from the East River’s high-water mark. It was originally called East River Bridge #3 when opened in 1903. Its architect was Henry Hornbostel, and the chief engineer who oversaw its construction was Leffert L. Buck.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

September 3rd, 2015
Newtown Creek Boat Tour
with Open House NY, click here for details and tickets.

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 25, 2015 at 11:00 am

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