The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Newtown Creek Petroleum Industry

hellish ooze

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Paranoids and conspiracists rejoice at the Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Those who have had the scales cast off from before their eyes, when they’re not telling you that the Queen of England is a star born reptile or that the moon landings were faked, will inform petitioners about the Rockefellers. The family is reported to be illuminati, in cahoots with the Bilderbergers, agents of Lucifer itself, and or working with space aliens to reduce 99% of humanity down to the status of a herd animal. Your humble narrator is a paranoid, but ain’t that far gone yet. I do give them credit for a lot of what’s wrong on my beloved Newtown Creek, however.

from 1882’s “Annual Report, Volume 2 by New York (State) Dept. of Health,” courtesy google books

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just mentioning the name of the sire, John D Rockefeller, in connection with his Standard Oil company (which by 1892 had a stranglehold on oil refining around the Creek and owned 95% of the petroleum industry by 1911), has caused several well meaning folks to pull me to the side and ask that I not mention his name for fear of repurcussions. It seems that the grand kids and great grandchildren of the old man are funders of and heavily involved in water based non profits, and they worry about me rocking the boat, donations wise. Greater good, I’m told.

Still, its John D’s legacy that’s oozing out of the bulkheads on Newtown Creek to this very day.

from 1870’s “The Insurance Times, Volume 3,” courtesy google books

KEROSENE EXPLOSIONS Is there to be no end to the destructive ravages of kerosene. Already it kills more than railway and steamboat accidents put together, aud yet the fatal explosiveness is mainly a consequence of adulteration. Commercial traud is becoming an agency more deadly than the most dreaded epidemic it poisons the community through its drinks and destroys lifu and property by means of ti c domestic lamp The poor creatures who were left houseless and destitute the other night by the tire in Thirty fourth street may have no appeal against the injustice that diluted the household oil with elements of destruction but the State ought to take cognisance of an abuse so shameful and so inhuman Sun KEROSENE FIRE AT GKEKNPOIKT LONG ISLAND A MAN FATALLY BURNED The Kingsiand Oil Works on Newtown Creek Ureenpoiut owned by Messrs Fleming & Wells were set on lire last night by the explosion of a tank of benzine Michael Casey the night watchman was severely burned about the face and hands He is not expected to live The loss by the fire is estimated at $5,000

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Thing is, unlike most involved in the “environmental” scene, I’m decidedly not anti-business and I am certainly not some vegan muffin eating virgin who thinks that oil companies are necessarily evil. The fact is, you can’t blame a drug dealer for selling their wares to an addicted clientele, and you also can’t point your accusing finger at an oil company if you’re thrusting an arm out of an automobile window to do so.

I will concede, however, that since the Rockefellers and Pratts originally marketed their kerosene businesses as selling “illuminating oil,” that they might accurately be described as illuminati. The jury is out on the Queen of England and her House of Saxe Coburg being lizards, although it would explain a lot of things.

from 1910’s “Seventh International Congress of Applied Chemistry, London, May 27th to June 2nd, 1909 Section 3a, Metallurgy and Mining,” courtesy google books

Oil Shales of Canada By CHARLES BASKEBVILLE Ph D The use of shale as a source of oil by destructive distillation is well known in Scotland France Germany and Australia and requires no explanation to this Congress In America however this fact is not so well recognised although Gesner claimed to have been the first to produce illuminating oil from bituminous materials on that continent At public lectures delivered in Prince Edward's Island in August 1846 he burned in lamps the oil obtained by distilling coal Patents granted to Gesner nine years latert passed into the hands of the North American Kerosene Gaslight Company who manufactured the oil at their works at Newtown Creek Long Island and sold it under the name of Kerosene Oil The agents of this company encountered considerable difiiculty in selling their product

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There are two public Newtown Creek walking tours coming up,
one in LIC, Queens and one in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

Glittering Realms, with Atlas Obscura, on Saturday May 17th.
Click here for more info and ticketing.

Modern Corridor, with Brooklyn Brainery, on Sunday May 18th.
Click here for more info and ticketing.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

calmly gazing

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Wrapping up the 400 Kingsland Avenue posts.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned in earlier posts, Kate Zidar of Newtown Creek Alliance and Kevin Thompson of ExxonMobil created an opportunity for artist Jan Mun (pictured above) and her collaborator Jason Sinopoli to work on an installation at the 400 Kingsland Avenue ExxonMobil property in Greenpoint that would demonstrate the efficacy and possibilities of mycoremediation- the usage of oil eating mushrooms as a bioremediator on contaminated sites. The project took the form of earth work “fairy rings,” a play on European mythology, which would act as a platform for the fungus. I was there to photographically document the project, which played out over the summer of 2013.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The earthworks were arranged around defunct well heads, and hosted two specie of mushrooms. A growth medium of “inoculated” hay stuffed into burlap bags hosted one specie, while the other fungal family was installed directly into the soil. Jan Mun was building on the concepts and work of a fellow named Paul Stamets, who is a leading authority on the subject. The mushrooms took root, as it were, and by late August and early September, we began to see the literal fruit of Jan Mun’s efforts.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The mushrooms began to fruit, as they absorbed nutrients from the soil. Interestingly enough, the bags of fungus also began to host a colony of what the kids in my old neighborhood would have referred to as “curly bugs.” That’s the sort of critter which curls up into a ball when you poke them with a stick, which I believe those outside of Canarsie refer to as “Potato Bugs.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The fungi weren’t the only thing that grew here in the summer of 2013. The NCA and ExxonMobil folks began to form a working relationship and friendship, an organic and unplanned consequence of close contact. Your humble narrator, in particular, found a friend in the site manager of the property- Vito- who is also a bit of a history buff. He exhibited some of the artifacts which his crew had dug out of the ground over the years, leave behinds from the long tenancy which the Standard Oil Company of New York enjoyed at this location.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The vernal project concluded, for me at least, with Jan Mun presenting the work to the team of engineers who labor at the site during a “toolbox talk.” Some of these folks worked directly for ExxonMobil, others for the larger company’s subcontractor Roux. The workers here are the men and women who are directly laboring on the remediation and cleanup of the Greenpoint Oil Spill. We shared a meal with them, and then went out to Jan’s work area to discuss the project and the concept of using fungus organisms in the pursuit of our shared organizational goals- achieving a restored and revitalized Newtown Creek environment.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Jan Mun and Jason Sinopoli continue to care for and work on their garden, here at 400 Kingsland Avenue. My documentation of the project is over for now, and I have returned to my solitary wanderings through the concrete devastations. The darkest of the hillside thickets awaits, and I turn away from this brightly lit and illimitable corridor found along the insalubrious valley of the Newtown Creek.

Upcoming Tours

Saturday – October 19, 2013
The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek with Atlas Obscura- tickets on sale now.

Sunday- October 20th, 2013
The Poison Cauldron of the Newtown Creek with Brooklyn Brainery- tickets on sale now.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

shadowy groves

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More on how I spent part of the summer of 2013.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As discussed in yesterday’s post, Newtown Creek Alliance’s Artist in Residence- Jan Mun- proposed an art installation centered around the concept of mycoremediation (hydrocarbon eating mushrooms) and the mythology surrounding “fairy rings.” The project intrigued Newtown Creek Alliance, whose directors reached out to the ExxonMobil folks who oversee the remediation of the Greenpoint Oil Spill. ExxonMobil graciously invited Jan and NCA onto their property at 400 Kingsland Avenue in Greenpoint (and supplied budgetary support for grounds shaping as well as mushrooms) and I was asked to document the project. This week’s posts all emanate from the venture, and feature shots from “behind the wall.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

ExxonMobil representative Kevin C. Thompson was with us every step of the way, here he is helping Jan Mun sketch out the outlines of the fairy rings which formed concentric circles around inactive well heads. One thing which I can definitively say about the experience is that it was hotter than blazes just about every Tuesday this summer, which was our designated work day, and it would be an understatement to say that the site requirements for long sleeves and gloves was a cumbersome but ultimately necessary burden.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Even though we were working on something “soft,” an art project ultimately, the 400 Kingsland property is an active industrial site full of machines and busy engineers. The safety training we were asked to attend at the start of things informed us to the hazards of the site as well as the mores and conventions of such places. This is pretty standard stuff for industrial areas, as it is extremely easy to get extremely hurt in such places.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s Jason Sinopoli, Jan’s collaborator and partner on the project, walking out of one of the sketched out fairy rings. ExxonMobil uses a landscaping contractor to maintain the grounds here, and Mr. Thompson arranged for them to come in with a bobcat and crew to install and shape the soil to Jan and Jason’s wishes. The contractor came and went, and they left behind spiral mounds for the two J’s to work with.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The plan Jan laid out for all was to use two forms of mushrooms in the rings, one which would interact directly with the soil and another which would spawn within bags of “inoculated” hay. By inoculated, she means boiled and sprayed with alcohol to kill off any other fungal organism which might already be on the hay. This process was accomplished at the Smiling Hogshead Ranch over on Skillman Avenue in Queens, which is run by Gil Lopez – another of our Newtown Creek Alliance chums.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The hay, along with heaps of mushroom spores, was loaded into burlap sacks and placed atop the earthworks. The bags would require regular watering, and to be covered by tarps to protect it from the effects of the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself. Fingers crossed, we would leave the ExxonMobil property one Tuesday, then come back the next to see what weird sort of life might be sprouting there.

Upcoming Tours

Saturday – October 19, 2013
The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek with Atlas Obscura- tickets on sale now.

Sunday- October 20th, 2013
The Poison Cauldron of the Newtown Creek with Brooklyn Brainery- tickets on sale now.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

elysian realms

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Here’s what I did this summer.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

To begin, one must discuss the context of the 400 Kingsland Avenue site. Formerly the home of the Standard Oil Company of New York’s Locust Hill refinery, this is one of the primary operational sites wherein ExxonMobil and its subcontractor Roux work on remediating the Greenpoint Oil Spill. The primary occupation of the 400 Kingsland site (there are several locations around Greenpoint) involves the removal and control of “VOC’s” (volatile organic compounds) which would otherwise be outgassing from the soil. There is a small structure with a battery of activated carbon filters attached to it visible in the right hand side of the shot above. The site is in DUGABO, which is my abbreviation for “Down Under the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge Onramp“. It is across the street from the Miller Building, and was where one of the greatest conflagrations in Newtown Creek history occurred.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The refining of oil ceased on Newtown Creek by 1966, and today its all about distribution. The petroleum industry, in the form of Kerosene manufacture, was very much in place here just a few years after the civil war. Independent producers ruled the roost until the 1880’s and 90’s when John D. Rockefeller and his Standard Oil company arrived. By 1900, Standard had gobbled up all the competition. The Standard Oil Company of New York (SOCONY) was based here, and after the Federal Government broke up the national “Standard Oil Trust,” SOCONY continued on at this and other properties in Greenpoint. Through mergers and acquisitions, SOCONY eventually became known as Mobil oil. Mobil eventually merged with the former Standard Oil Company of New Jersey, which had come to be known as Exxon by the time of the merger. The composite corporation inherited the sins of its parents, and that’s how ExxonMobil ended up on the hook for the oil pollution which underlies Greenpoint and parts of Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pictured above is Jan Mun, an artist who proposed a project to both the Newtown Creek Alliance and to ExxonMobil wherein she would be investigating and demonstrating the usage and viability of mycoremediation (hydrocarbon eating mushrooms) in the Newtown Creek watershed. Jan consistently reminded everyone that this is an art project, an installation, and not a scientific experiment- which bears repeating. She proposed the project to NCA’s Kate Zidar, who then approached ExxonMobil for permission, and the company agreed to allow us on site and participate in it financially. All participants would need to attend a perfunctory safety class which instructed and informed all in the mores and methods of their safety culture. After ExxonMobil agreed, enthusiastically I would add, Kate asked a humble narrator if he would be interested in documenting the project for NCA.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Every Tuesday during the summer of 2013, nearly, a group of us would head over to the ExxonMobil property and get suited up in safety gear- glasses, gloves, steel toe boots, hard hats, and vests. The mushroom spores came from a supplier in California, Paul Stamets, and Jan had an aesthetically pleasing plan to install the mushrooms in the form of “fairy rings” around the former well heads which once fed oil into those oil tanks which would be very familiar to longtime residents of Greenpoint.

In subsequent postings this week, the production of the fairy rings and the fruit they bore will be discussed.

Upcoming Tours

Saturday – October 19, 2013
The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek with Atlas Obscura- tickets on sale now.

Sunday- October 20th, 2013
The Poison Cauldron of the Newtown Creek with Brooklyn Brainery- tickets on sale now.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

clearing sky

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

While scuttling across the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge recently, enroute to a Newtown Creek Alliance meeting featuring a presentation by the DEC’s head oil spill man -Randall Austin, this fellow was observed hard at work by one unused to such exertion. As a zoom lens was already affixed to my camera, I decided to see what might be captured, and realized that I knew almost nothing about the process of welding.

Of course, what I do know about is Newtown Creek.

from wikipedia

Welding is a fabrication or sculptural process that joins materials, usually metals or thermoplastics, by causing coalescence. This is often done by melting the workpieces and adding a filler material to form a pool of molten material (the weld pool) that cools to become a strong joint, with pressure sometimes used in conjunction with heat, or by itself, to produce the weld. This is in contrast with soldering and brazing, which involve melting a lower-melting-point material between the workpieces to form a bond between them, without melting the workpieces.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On a basic level, I understand the process, but having never undertaken the task- am largely ignorant of its mores. Something I do know of welding, however, it that a welded tank is preferred to a riveted one for bulk storage of petroleum- which was once the industry “standard”.

Incontrovertibly, if one is at Newtown Creek, and the word “Standard” comes up- only one meaning can be gleaned.

from wikipedia

A rivet is a permanent mechanical fastener. Before being installed a rivet consists of a smooth cylindrical shaft with a head on one end. The end opposite the head is called the buck-tail. On installation the rivet is placed in a punched or drilled hole, and the tail is upset, or bucked (i.e., deformed), so that it expands to about 1.5 times the original shaft diameter, holding the rivet in place. To distinguish between the two ends of the rivet, the original head is called the factory head and the deformed end is called the shop head or buck-tail.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The facility that this torch bearing fellow was at work in is either the Lukoil or Metro depots, but I’m never certain about the property lines in the petroleum district- and given the generally paranoid atmosphere loosed roughly upon society and caused by the ongoing Terror Wars- it’s probably best not to speculate too long about the subject of whose fence begins or ends and where the property lines are.

What’s more interesting about this spot along Newtown Creek, to me at least, is that this laborer was at work in a very special spot- historically speaking.

from wikipedia

Oil depots are usually situated close to oil refineries or in locations where marine tankers containing products can discharge their cargo. Some depots are attached to pipelines from which they draw their supplies and depots can also be fed by rail, by barge and by road tanker (sometimes known as “bridging”).

Most oil depots have road tankers operating from their grounds and these vehicles transport products to petrol stations or other users.

An oil depot is a comparatively unsophisticated facility in that (in most cases) there is no processing or other transformation on site. The products which reach the depot (from a refinery) are in their final form suitable for delivery to customers. In some cases additives may be injected into products in tanks, but there is usually no manufacturing plant on site. Modern depots comprise the same types of tankage, pipelines and gantries as those in the past and although there is a greater degree of automation on site, there have been few significant changes in depot operational activities over time.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This was right across the street from an early (1840) Kerosene refinery- Sone and Fleming, which was later acquired by John D Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Trust and transformed into an oil refinery. This facility has been mentioned before, in connection with an armageddon like blaze which Greenpoint suffered through in 1919. Such disasters were fairly common occurrences in the early days of oil refining and storage depots, and often were caused or made worse by weaknesses in petroleum tanks that were defectively riveted.

Today, there are no refineries along the Creek, it’s all about distribution and temporary storage.

from nytimes.com

TWENTY ACRES OF OIL TANKS ABLAZE; BIG FACTORIES BURN; Flames Cross Newtown Creek from Standard Yards Storing 110,000,000 Gallons of Oil. LOSS RUNS TO MILLIONS Each Fresh Explosion Fills the Sky, as from a Volcano, with Flame and Smoke. 1,200 FIREMEN AT THE SCENE Blaze Spreads for Blocks–Two City Fireboats Catch Fire and Two of Crew Reported Missing. TWENTY ACRES OF OIL TANKS ABLAZE Burned in 1883. Crowd All But Engulfed.

also- check this photo at cah.utexas.edu out, it’s from 1919, showing the fire’s aftermath.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Welded joins are an order of magnitude better than riveted ones in such structures. Owing to my ignorance of this industrial art, a quick check was made with a neighbor who was formerly a member of a steam fitting trade union. He instructs that a perfect weld should look like a series of quarters overlapping each other seamlessly, and that an x-ray spectrum radiological photograph can be inspected to confirm a firm and lasting fit- something which cannot be obtained with rivets.

See, you learn something new every day- here in heart of the Newtown Pentacle- along the loquacious and utterly provocative Newtown Creek..

from 1921’s Welding engineer, Volume 6, courtesy google books

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Click for details on Mitch Waxman’s
Upcoming boat tours of Newtown Creek

July 22nd, 2012 NEXT SUNDAY- There are Just a few tickets left, don’t miss out

Working Harbor Committee Newtown Creek Boat Tour

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