The Newtown Pentacle

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grovelling obeisance

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“follow” me on Twitter at @newtownpentacle

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Having arrived at the venerable Nature Walk amenity found in Greenpoint, Brooklyn at the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant early one morning, it seemed that all of my worst fears about the troubled waterway had come true. Bathed in the cascading emanations of the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself, the face of a seeming cacodaemon grinned proudly from a paramount several yards over the pavement.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Baleful, the grinning countenance of the thing had been set atop one of the modernist lighting fixtures which adorn the spot. Upon gazing into its hollow and glowing eyes, the phrase “there can only be one” rudely entered my mind, and unwelcome remembrances of the 1986 Russell Mulcahy film “Highlander” began to flower therein.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

With the assistance of one of the stalwart groundsmen employed by the government to clean and polish the place, what turned out to be a mere Halloween mask formed of latex or rubber was removed and laid out for display and examination. Were it instead the once ubiquitous “Tor Johnson” latex mask produced by the Don Post company, depicting the former wrestler’s infamous role in director Ed Wood’s “Plan 9 from Outer Space,” one such as myself very well might have gone mad and run off to the Cripplebush.

Upcoming tours:

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.

for a full listing and schedule of tours and events, click here

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.

hoary and sinister

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned in prior postings, your humble narrator has been making a dedicated effort to visit and revisit certain sites along the Newtown Creek to which access was restricted during the long and icy winter. This springtime survey is referred to as “walking the beat” around HQ, although it really should be described as “scuttling the beat”. On March 19th, my camera and I found ourselves at the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant‘s Nature Walk.

Click here for more on the Nature Walk

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A surprisingly beautiful space, the Nature Walk is the safest and one of the most accessible vantage points along the infamous industrial waterway. Despite it’s relative remoteness, at the end of Paidge Avenue past the corner of Provost Street, people do find their way here. For some reason, I always find this surprising.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Newtown Creek has several access points, but most are pestilential street ends bordering industrial sites which are defended by dull eyed watchmen and aggressive private security guards. A few of them actually take you to the water’s edge, but you end up standing in contaminated mud amidst the rusting hubris of 150 years of breakneck industrial growth. The nice bit about the NCWWTP Nature Walk is that you are actually fairly safe (well… as safe as you ever are around the Creek…) and that it provides gorgeous wide open panoramas for the journeyman photographer.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The tributary which the sewer plant adjoins is Whale Creek. Once upon a time, this section of Greenpoint was the center of the lamp oil refinery trade, and said lamp oil was sourced from whale oil. Just down the main waterway from here were the shipyards of Neziah Bliss (and others) which supplied, augmented, and repaired the ships of New York’s whaling fleet. Additionally, the African slaves of Greenpoint and Newtown were known to join the crews of these ships, as 19th century whalers didn’t care about what color you were, just how hard you could work and how long you might survive.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The planters you see here are blocking the kayak launch, part of the controversial decision on the part of the City fathers to disallow boats to access the Creek from City property (obviously for liability reasons, in the wake of the Superfund announcement by the Federal Government). That decision has since been countermanded, and the launch is scheduled to reopen at the start of the “season” which greatly enhanced the happiness of those redoubtable kayakers emanating from the Long Island City Boathouse.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Personally, you couldn’t get me to interact with the water here even at gunpoint, but past postings have described the vast physical cowardice which cripples me. I can tell you, from everything I know about the Creek, that the water quality here isn’t “horrible”. It’s a little dirtier than the East River in this section, except after a rain event, which demands an interval of time to allow the bacterial and colorectal dumping of Combined Sewer Outfalls to dissipate. Luckily, radiation from the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself destroys most of these pathogens within a few days, and the focus shifts from bacterial to chemical contamination.

You are insane (or a Viking), though, if you spend much time beyond the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge or in Dutch Kills, Maspeth Creek, and especially English Kills. Lots of people are thusly “insane” however, and hardily survive the experience- so perhaps I’m being over cautious.

Time will tell, and cancer is patient.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Tomorrow, we’ll talk about the rest of the Nature Walk, and some of it’s more interesting features, but while viewing the shield wall of the Shining City with it’s titan blocks hurled at the sky- I noticed one of those small details which often escapes casual notice. Note the fencing in the lower left corner of the shot above, and the white placards affixed to it.

One of my pet peeves about the Newtown Creek watershed can be expanded upon here.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Three bits of signage, and I am assured by powers and potentates alike that these are strictly temporary, admonish and inform users of the waterfront access point about the esoteric dangers which one might encounter along the Creek. When an earlier posting at this, your Newtown Pentacle, warned the cadre of boaters docked at the Vernon Avenue Street end that they were placing themselves in “Mortal and Existential danger“- this is the sort of thing I was talking about.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My pet peeve, as it were, is that these signs are difficult to notice and written in English. Observations of who it is that actually fishes in Newtown Creek have revealed that it is mostly Spaniard and Slavic anglers that ply these waters- and the populations which line its Brooklyn banks are demographically disposed toward demonstrating literacy in the Spanish or Polish languages. Logic dictates, therefore, that this would be an excellent place for a multi-lingual bit of municipal signage.

As mentioned, I’ve been informed that such multilingual signage is “in the works”.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The English issue is something that I’m increasingly concerned about as we move into the Superfund era, and one that I’ve raised at the Newtown Creek Alliance meetings. If someone reading this posting is fluent in either Polish or Spanish, and wishes to “get involved”- please contact me here or swing over to the NCA website to find out more about the organization. My particular focus within the group is Queens, of course, but I see the communities surrounding the Creek as being more involved with each other (Long Island City and Greenpoint are ultimately one entity, despite political sophistry. Back in the day, they lived in Greenpoint and worked in LIC) than the neighborhoods surrounding them on the landward side.

Come to think of it, the Eels that this sign cautions against might explain those eyeless wriggling things that I’ve observed in Maspeth Creek- hmm.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Note: The following is a personal viewpoint, and doesn’t reflect the policies of any organization-

The world only makes sense when you force it to do so. Titanic forces and entities are on the move around the Newtown Creek, and the season of tumult and change upon the ancient waterway has begun. Whether the final shape of the place will be determined by outsiders or the community itself is ultimately up to us. The truth of Newtown Creek is that it is still one of the great economic engines of New York City, and one of the few places where someone without a collegiate degree can earn a decent living by the sweat of his brow. Do we want to lose this in the name of providing anchorages for some rich guy from Manhattan to park his yacht? What do you want the Newtown Creek to look like 20 years from now?

Paraphrasing Roger Waters- Are we destined to become a nation of waitresses, and waiters?

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