The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Newtown Creek Waste Water Treatment Plant

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It’s National Raspberry Tart Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Call me Ezekial for my visions of a dire future are informed solely by the lessons of the past. When the NYC DEP people told the Newtown Creek Monitoring Committee of their plans for a “waste to energy” project at the sewer plant in Greenpoint a while back (I think at the end of the last Bloomberg administration?), they also mentioned that they intended for the equipment which would convert the waste methane produced by their industry into a usable fuel – “natural gas” – on the Greenpoint Avenue side of the sewer plant, a humble narrator grew agitated.

The DEP people said “c’mon, it’s behind the fence, what could happen?” I turned around to Councilmember Steve Levin, who was observing the meeting, and said “Greenpoint has a long history of huge industrial fires, and it’s only a matter of time before a car or truck accidentally blasts through the fence, or a fire starts nearby that could threaten the perimeter here.” “Do we really want a high pressure gas manifold on heavily trafficked Greenpoint Avenue with only a chain link fence to protect it? What if?”

Mr. Levin took note, but the DEP was dismissive. The DEP is always dismissive, and the agency does not like its pronouncements or plans being questioned by unwashed rabble like myself, the State of New York, or the Federal Environmental Protection Agency.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Not six months afterwards, a paper recycling yard across the street from the sewer plant caught fire and burned for several days. DEP had people on the plant’s grounds sweep their property facing the smokey fire with hoses, for fear that wind scattered embers from the blaze across the street might cause damage or start a fire at the plant. The next Newtown Creek Monitoring Committee meeting came around and I got to say “I told you so” to the DEP. The councilman gave me a knowing look and acknowledged that I “called it,” and that was the end of that. The DEP people went along with their plans to install the gas equipment on a busy truck route called Greenpoint Avenue.

Of course, the Citistorage Building fire on the East River side happened a few months later, so allow me to reiterate…

Greenpoint has a history of fires that occur in large industrial buildings that tend to burn for days and days. In 1882 and again in 1919, the entire refinery complex on the Newtown Creek coastline between Greenpoint Avenue and Meeker Avenue were immolated and utterly lost, and in the 1882 fire – the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge burned down. Don’t believe me? Ask my colleague, Greenpoint Historian Geoff Cobb, or do your own research on the subject.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Imagine my recent joy, therefore, when another of my little prophecies came true.

I was at the plant to attend a presentation offered by the DEP regarding their “Long Term Control Plan” for combined sewer overflows into Newtown Creek. The plan is a lot of hoo-hah if you ask me, a Potemkin Village’s worth of politically convenient bioswales, rain gardens, and unfunded mandates for large scale construction projects which is designed to compel future generations into finding a way to pay for it all, rather than asking it of the current one. The LTCP process, citywide, is turning out to be a wonderful example of non urgently passing the buck while billions of gallons of sewage flow into New York Harbor every single time it rains. They want to build pump houses and dig retention tunnels, but all of it begins in twenty to thirty years and…

Thirty years ago, New York City was financially crippled and crime was at an all time high, and you couldn’t give away the waterfront land in Williamsburg or Long Island City. Twenty years ago, America had “won the Cold War” and it was the “end of history.” Rudy Giuliani was already a bit crazy, but not like now… Bill Clinton was President… you would have been hard pressed to get anyone to believe the sort of dystopic world we now live in, or the property valuations of Williamsburg, were just on the horizon. Donald Trump? What?

A lot can happen in 20-30 years, and there’s no time like the present for “getting it done.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Funnily enough, I had attended a tour of the plant on Sunday April 22nd, and these shots were captured on Wednesday the 26th. Anonymous informants who work at the plant informed me that some driver had not recognized the presence of the fence when traveling west from North Henry Street, and crossed Greenpoint Avenue at accelerating speed, and plowed into the fenceline without braking.

As a point of trivia, North Henry Street actually does continue through the plant, it’s just closed to non official traffic. I seem to recall seeing a street sign for it inside the fence quite a while ago, but I also might be imagining it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The good news, which came to me in another Newtown Creek Monitoring Committee meeting on the 30th of March, is that DEP’s partners in the “waste to energy” project – National Grid – now prefer a spot deeper within the plant’s grounds to install their equipment to harvest the waste methane which is not on Greenpoint Avenue.

Ezekial, call me Ezekial, for I am a prophet.


Upcoming Tours and events

First Calvary Cemetery walking tour, May 6th.

With Atlas Obscura’s Obscura Day 2017, Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour – details and tix here.

MAS Janeswalk free walking tour, May 7th.

Visit the new Newtown Creek Alliance/Broadway Stages green roof, and the NCA North Henry Street Project – details and tix here.

Newtown Creek Alliance Boat tour, May 21st.

Visit the new Newtown Creek on a two hour boat tour with NCA historian Mitch Waxman and NCA Project Manager Will Elkins, made possible with a grant from the Hudson River Foundation – details and tix here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

untold agony

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Hoary Greenpoint, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last weekend, the light was spectacular over in Greenpoint, and since I seldom find myself there in the early part of the afternoon – advantage was taken. Manhattan Avenue’s tenements and apartment buildings are framed by Saint Anthony’s Roman Catholic Church in the shot above. St. Anthony’s hosts both a rectory and a convent. The Church is built in the high victorian gothic style, with a 240 foot high steeple, and it laid its cornerstone back in 1873.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Linoleum signage on Manhattan Avenue, for the J. Josephs Sons Co. – a former appliance store. This is vestigial, and part of the character of the street which will shortly be cleansed by the bland homogeneity offered by the Real Estate Industrial Complex’s desire to eradicate all character from the streets of New York City in the name of lining the sidewalks with glass boxes. I cannot imagine what future generations will think.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over on North Henry Street, a seldom seen point of view on the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment plant. This is a quite industrial spot, with a biofuel company and a recycling operation found along the bulkheads of the Newtown Creek. It’s also the “back door” to the sewer plant, where the contractors come and go.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

May 3, 2015 –
DUBPO, Down Under the Pulaski Bridge Onramp
with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, a free tour offered as part of Janeswalk 2015, click here for tickets.

May 31, 2015 –
Newtown Creek Boat Tour
with Working Harbor Committee and Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, click here for tickets.

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.

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“follow” me on Twitter at @newtownpentacle

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just last week, as a dramatic downpour doused New York City, your humble narrator was at a Newtown Creek Monitoring Committee meeting at the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant in Greenpoint debating the finer points of some signage which the DEP wants to hang on their fence line at the plant and for which they were seeking community input. When the clouds burst, however, and rain began to lash at the windows- one grabbed for the camera and headed to the door. If you’re at the largest sewer plant in New York City during a cloudburst, you take some pictures.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A quarter inch of rain, citywide, becomes a raging river of one billion gallons surging through the combined sewer system. Combined sewers, a term indicating that storm and sanitary sewers share the same pipes, are one of the City’s “original sins.” This billion gallon per quarter inch torrent has no where to go except for sewers, which when added to the regular sewage flow, “outfalls” into those waterways which distinguish and define our little archipelago.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The system of waste water treatment plants which are maintained by the DEP can handle some of this flow, using ingenious systems of weirs and diversion tunnels to slow down and store it for treatment, but a lot of the water hurtling through their network of sometimes centuries old pipe ends up going directly into the environment untreated. This is the problem which most afflicts my beloved Newtown Creek, but its also a big part of what’s wrong with the East and Hudson Rivers as well as all the smaller waterways found all around the harbor. This is also the reason why advisories are issued not to swim at area beaches following a storm.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Unfortunately, there’s little that can be practically done about it. If we who are taxed asked those who are elected to spend our money to remedy the situation, the astronomical bill incurred would bankrupt the Municipal, State, and quite possibly the Federal governments. It would involve opening up every street in New York City, remapping the gravity driven sewer system which has grown in spurts over the last 300 years, and begin building a brand new dual system. This would be catastrophically expensive, disruptive to every facet of the community, and take decades.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A simple thing each of us can do, based on an old adage- don’t waste a gallon of water on a pint of piss- is simply to not flush the toilet unnecessarily when its raining. By not adding your “constituents” to the flow during rain events, and I mean number one not two, you can help alleviate a significant amount of stress on the system and ensure that sewage does not wash out into the harbor with the storm water. This may seem “gross,” but here’s the question- can you tolerate leaving a bit of urine in the toilet for an hour or two until it stops raining or would you rather swim or boat in your own piss tomorrow?

Also: Upcoming Tours!

Glittering Realms Saturday, April 20, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets now on sale.

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 on sale soon.

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

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.

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