The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘National Grid

disordered nerves

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Moonscape, Brooklyn.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the larger properties found along the Newtown Creek is the National Grid site. It’s a bit of black box, Nat Grid, and appropriately a high security “Marsec 1” zone. Marsec 1 is the same security level as the runway of an airport or the bulkheads at a cargo port, and that means a lot of paranoia on the part of those employed in the business of keeping the place secure. The street facing sections of Nat Grid are designed to look like a military base with double layers of fencing topped with razor wire and an obvious series of security cameras pointed at them. There’s also guards patrolling the area.

All of this is actually a good thing, as those two white tanks you see above are cryogenic storage units for “LNG” or Liquefied Natural Gas. In the past I’ve indicated that were these things to explode, it would take half of Brooklyn and Queens with them, but the Nat Grid folks have since told me that’s impossible. Were a rupture to occur, they say, it would near instantaneously freeze the surrounding air due to the extreme cold temperatures of the LNG inside and seal the breech. I don’t argue with engineers, as that’s usually an argument you will lose.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Lombardy Street is another one of those byways in the Creeklands which is entirely contained by them, and “cul de sac’d.” It starts at Kingsland Avenue a few blocks to the south, and terminates at the water’s edge of Newtown Creek. For most of its course, it defines the western border of Nat Grid’s property line.

The Nat Grid property was originally owned by Brooklyn Union Gas, a corporate entity formed in 1825 which consolidated the gas lines of the City of Brooklyn and parts of Queens under single ownership by 1895. By 1910, BUG was operating something like 2,100 miles of metered pipe and manufacturing the gas they sold at a smallish property along the Gowanus Canal in South Brooklyn. By 1928, BUG was pumping some 22 billion cubic feet of gas through their network. They needed to expand their operations, and their source of supply, so in 1929 the Gowanus plant was shuttered and they relocated their facilities to a new 115 square acre property along Newtown Creek in Greenpoint.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The BUG people built a manufactured gas plant here, which burned fuel in low oxygen furnaces called “retorts” designed to encourage the fuels to smolder rather than combust. The gases released by the retort were then separated chemically, in pursuit of the manufacture of Methane or “Natural Gas.” There were all sorts of corollary chemical compounds, some commercially desirable, that were released from the fuel. A lot of waste came along with it as well; coal tar, ammoniacal liquors, arsenic compounds. Manufacturing gas can get messy.

BUG called this site the Vandervoort Street facility, and it was designed to manufacture 200 million cubic feet of gas a day. Through corporate mergers and stock market acquisitions, BUG ended up becoming a part of the Keyspan Company, which itself was acquired by National Grid at the start of the 21st century.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Lombardy Street in eastern Greenpoint/Western Bushwick (depends how you define the areas, by whom, and when) is less than friendly to the itinerant pedestrian under the best circumstances. It’s a heavy trucking backwater, used to avoid getting hung up in traffic on nearby Meeker Avenue. The street itself is an atrocity, missing sidewalks distinguish most of its length, and the vehicle lanes which you’re forced to walk on are so chewed up that it would be quite an easy thing to snap an ankle while scuttling along it.

That’s something I can personally attest to, incidentally. Came within an inch of cracking a bone one day a couple of summers ago on Lombardy. If I wasn’t wearing my trusty Merell hiking shoe which offer ankle support…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a gas flare tower at the National Grid site which always draws my attention.

It makes a loud hissing whistle sound (hisstle?) that always pulls me to it, and then there flames… so…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve been on the Nat Grid site just once, when the company’s PR representatives consented to my multiple requests to “get me smart” about their operations. Unfortunately the visit took place in an office building way on the other side of the site and involved a slide show presentation about their clean up operations for the place.

It seems the BUG people left behind quite the mess, which is why National Grid is one of the “Potentially Responsible Parties” named by the EPA as being culpable for the Newtown Creek Superfund site.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 6, 2018 at 2:00 pm

present quarters

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No dumping allowed.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Back in 1919, Brooklyn Union Gas moved from the Gowanus Canal to Newtown Creek, creating a 115 square acre Manufactured Gas Plant called the Vandervoort Street Facility, with a farm of cylindrical gas holders. BUG would eventually be purchased by Keyspan Energy, which would itself later be acquired by National Grid. This is where the so called “Maspeth Holders” were imploded in 2001, and the property is generally referred to – in modernity – as the “National Grid Site.” They don’t manufacture gas here anymore, instead they store and process “LNG” or Liquified Natural Gas, which is brought out of its cryogenic status through some arcane technological wizardry for pipeline delivery to the ovens and furnaces of Brooklyn.

At least a third of their property is relict, and seemingly abandoned. Along the chain link fences of Vandervoort Street, you’ll notice that they’ve allowed a small lake to form in the footprint of some long ago industrial structure.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

While out the other night on my “night shot” walk, mounds of dumped garbage were noticed around the edges of the small lake on the southern or Vandervoort Street side of the National Grid Site. I guess it’s their property, they can do what they want with it, but personally speaking I try not to poop on my living room carpet.

I also try not to poop where a passing photography enthusiast might notice it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There were a couple of these mounds, which looked to be commensurate with what you expect to be able to pack into a medium sized truck. Not sure how long this has been here, as I haven’t wandered past this particular spot in a couple of months.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ll be sending this post over to the National Grid people and asking what’s going on here. If I get an answer from them which I can share, then you Lords and Ladies will certainly be the first to know it.

As a note, the preceding shots were handheld, breaking with the tripod ones for a hot minute,

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Once I turned onto Metropolitan Avenue, however, I got busy with the cable release and tripod action again.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

February 16, 2018 at 11:00 am

positive knowledge

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“follow” me on Twitter at @newtownpentacle

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On Friday the 26th of April in 2013, a gathering at the Newtown Creek Waste Water Treatment Plant Nature Walk occurred.

The occasion which drew this large group together was the commemoration of the founding of a “Friends of the Nature Walk” group which will sponsor and oversee the upkeep and improvement of New York City’s most unique public space (found in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.)

Pictured above is National Grid’s President Ken Daly presenting a symbolic check to Irene Klementowicz of the Newtown Creek Monitoring Committee.

The $50,000 check is addressed to the Open Space Alliance group, a North Brooklyn non-profit which will act as bursar for the funds.

from nyc.gov

NCMC is a committee of volunteers from the Greenpoint community of Brooklyn established in 1996 pursuant to a City Council resolution allowing the City to acquire property required for the upgrade of Newtown Creek WWTP. NCMC members are appointed by the local City Council member, the Brooklyn Borough President and Brooklyn Community Board #1. NCMC is one of the longest standing citizen oversight committees in New York City.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The “friends of” group will include other large corporate sponsors, and National Grid is the first to sign on and support the effort. The company, formerly known as Brooklyn Union Gas, maintains a large footprint at Newtown Creek. The corporation also brought along several of its employees to volunteer with plantings and clean up work at the Nature Walk, which was severely impacted by Hurricane Sandy.

In the shot above are members of the Newtown Creek Monitoring Committee (NCMC), various elected officials, employees of NYC DEP, and Ken Daly and other employees of National Grid.

from wikipedia

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NYCDEP) manages the city’s water supply, providing more than 1.1 billion US gallons (4,200,000 m3) of water each day to more than 9 million residents (including 8 million in the City of New York) through a complex network of nineteen reservoirs, three controlled lakes and 6,200 miles (10,000 km) of water pipes, tunnels and aqueducts. The DEP is also responsible for managing the city’s combined sewer system, which carries both storm water runoff and sanitary waste, and fourteen sewage treatment plants located throughout the city. The DEP carries out federal Clean Water Act rules and regulations, handles hazardous materials emergencies and toxic site remediation, oversees asbestos monitoring and removal, enforces the city’s air and noise codes, bills and collects on city water and sewer accounts, and manages citywide water conservation programs.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the few term limited politicians I’m sorry to see go, Borough President Marty Markowitz was there. The main reason I’m going to miss Marty is that I like taking pictures of him during speeches. Markowitz speaks “with his whole body” as my grandmother would have said, and is a pleasure to photograph.

Admittedly, he’s no Lindsay Lohan, but boy is it fun taking photos of him.

from wikipedia

Marty Markowitz (born February 14, 1945) is the Borough President of Brooklyn, New York City, the most populous borough in New York City with nearly 2.6 million residents. Markowitz was first elected borough president in 2001 after serving 23 years as a New York State Senator. His third term began in January, 2010.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Assemblyman Joe Lentol also gave a short speech. Joe is a great guy, always there to lend a hand with problems that develop around the Creek. I live in Queens, of course, but I’d vote for him if he were in my district. Joe’s alright.

from assembly.state.ny.us

Assemblyman Joseph R. Lentol has represented North Brooklyn in the New York State Legislature since 1972. He is a lifelong resident of New York City, whose father and grandfather both also served in the New York State Legislature.

An attorney by profession, Mr. Lentol was Assistant District Attorney in Kings County prior to holding elective office.

Since 1992, Mr. Lentol has been Chair of the Assembly’s Committee on Codes, which reviews and evaluates all criminal justice legislation in the State. He has been Chair of the Committee on Governmental Employees, which oversees the State’s pension and employee benefits. In that capacity, Mr. Lentol presided over the State’s divestiture of its pension fund’s investments in South Africa. He also chaired the Assembly’s Committee on Governmental Operations, which monitors the operations of State agencies and departments.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another speaker was Stephen Levin of the NYC City Council. He lives in Greenpoint, not too far from the Creek, and has been quite involved in the story and evolution of the place.

from council.nyc.gov

During his first term in the City Council, Stephen has proven to be a leader on education and early childhood issues, and an advocate for increased open space in our communities and transportation safety initiatives. He has passed legislation requiring the Dept. of Education to notify families and teachers about potential PCB contamination, and has sponsored resolutions calling for mandatory kindergarten and breakfast-in-the-classroom, as well as stronger standards for Rent Guidelines Board members.

In addition to serving as Chair of the Subcommittee on Planning, Dispositions and Concessions, Council Member Levin serves on the Education, Economic Development, Environmental Protection, General Welfare, Land Use, and Lower Manhattan Redevelopment committees.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Irene Klementowicz is a citizen activist hero in Greenpoint, a legend in the environmental community who has been fighting the “powers that be” since before I was born. I’ve seen her disassemble representatives of City Hall with just an icy stare, and you never ever want to find yourself on the opposite side of her in an argument or attempt to get something past her. The Nature Walk happened, in no small part, because of Irene.

from capitolwords.org

In the words of Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney-

“Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to Irene Klementowicz, a resident of my district who has fought hard to protect the environmental health of her community.

Ms. Klementowicz has actively worked to improve her community since she first arrived in Greenpoint. Among her many activities, she helped ensure that a local factory started implementing pollution controls. This was especially important since it was situated directly across from two schools.

This early activism led to an appointment to Community Board 1, where she continues to champion the health and safety of her district. Among her accomplishments, she can be credited with a hard-fought and successful campaign to shut down the Greenpoint incinerator, long a source of pollution and nuisance.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The $50,000 donated by National Grid is a down payment to the community, the start of a new era of stewardship over the Nature Walk which will- as the public space is expanded in coming years to wrap entirely around Whale Creek and connect Kingsland Avenue with Paidge- allow a regular schedule of gardening and maintenance to occur.

One step forward, Lords and Ladies, for this once and future King of the Creeks called Newtown.

Also: Upcoming Tours!

13 Steps around Dutch Kills Saturday, May 4, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets now on sale.

Parks and Petroleum- Sunday, May 12, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Newtown Creek Alliance, tickets now on sale.

The Insalubrious Valley Saturday, May 25, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets now on sale.

Hidden Harbor: Newtown Creek tour with Mitch Waxman – Sunday, May 26,2013
Boat tour presented by the Working Harbor Committee,
Limited seating available, order advance tickets now. Group rates available.

perpetually ajar

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recent serendipity found your humble narrator onboard a vessel plying the languid waters of the Newtown Creek. This particular adventure was part of a larger and laudable effort which will be the subject of a posting later in the week, but urgent demands and unavoidable deadlines preclude discussion of the outing at this point. Instead, one is anxious to share the scenic wonders and hidden landscape of this water body that defines the currently undefended border of Brooklyn and Queens.

Captured in the heart of DUMABO (Down Under the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge), the shot above depicts the far off and omnipresent Sapphire Megalith rising over industrial Brooklyn and framed by the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge while opening at English Kill.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The self same Megalith again provides geographic context for the scene, and the thrice damned Kosciuszko Bridge and Calvary Cemetery occupy the foreground.

To the right is the Phelps Dodge site, and to the left is found the lurking fear and that rampant darkness which lurks on the Brooklyn side of DUKBO (Down Under the Kosciuszko Bridge Onramp).

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In the shot above, gaze in wonder at the skyline of the Shining City itself, as framed by the titan National Grid tanks and the myriad works of infrastructure arrayed across the Brooklyn flood plain. Inextricably linked, the heavy industries and energy installations along the Newtown Creek allow the Shining City to maintain the facade of assumptions which Manhattanites prefer to believe about this place where aspirant and realist metaphors clash.

More, on why exactly I was on this boat, will be forthcoming. Apologies for brevity and obfuscation.

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