The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘newtown creek

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It’s National Martini Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the things that we, as in the environmental and activist community along Newtown Creek, have been asking officialdom about for years is about why there is zero signage advising the citizenry about not fishing or crabbing in the Newtown Creek. I know this might strike you as odd, but folks actually do fish and crab hereabouts. Observationally, these are people who were born overseas, so the signage issue becomes a bit complicated given the legendary “diversity” of Western Queens and North Brooklyn. The Albany people have always questioned as to why you’d need signage, as it’s illegal to fish without a license, and every NYS licensee has been advised about the environmental conditions encountered on the inland waterways of NYC – which is one of the most “Albany people” things I’ve ever heard.

Luckily, the Feds at EPA realized what we’ve been asking for is necessary and have begun the process of creating advisory signage, and the PRP (Potentially Resonsible Parties) consortium which styles itself as the “Newtown Creek Group” volunteered to manufacture the placards, which EPA would in turn design and install. The signage is pretty close to its final design iteration, and the latest version looks like this. As to where the signs should be placed? Who has carefully documented every little pocket and corner of the streets surrounding the Creek? Who can tell you where people commonly fish? That’s a Newtown Creek Alliance job, anyone can tell you that.

Let’s face it, who ya gonna call?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Accordingly, one found himself in Greenpoint recently at nine in the morning as the EPA team assembled. Civilians cannot ride in Government vehicles (which is an odd rule, as we technically own them) so the third party contractor who will do the actual installation of the things did the driving. We hit every little corner of the Newtown Creek where people can find access to the water, even the hidden spots where the “utes” of Greenpernt like to experiment with cannibinoids.

It was actually quite a beautiful morning, and the light was fantastic, so while the Feds got busy with the tape measures and GPS’d the various locations we visited, I waved the camera around a bit.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

We did encounter an “enforcement situation” in Brooklyn alongside the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge. There’s a protocol for “who’s responsible for what” along the Newtown Creek. Short version is this – EPA is in charge of Superfund, which is specifically related to the sediments under the water. New or ongoing pollution entering the water is the provence of the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation.

The NYC DEP is responsible for absolutely nothing anywhere or anytime, it’s not their fault at all, and they have no idea why they were named as a PRP in the first place as it’s all Exxon or National Grid’s fault.

The fellow from EPA I was on the bridge with confirmed my belief that “I should call this in” and the NYS DEC Spill Response hotline was called. If you spot oil slicks, plumes of floatable contaminants, or as in the case of the shot above – hundreds of gallons of milky white mystery juice exiting one of DEP’s open sewers – the protocol is to first photograph it, as documentation, and then to call 1 (800) 457-7362 to let DEC know about the situation so they can investigate.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

We were, as mentioned above, visiting every conceivable spot that the citizenry could find their way to the water.

That included “off limits” locations like the Montrose Avenue Rail Bridge over the English Kills tributary. As you can see from all the interesting graffiti on the bridge, which carries lead tracks of the Bushwick Branch LIRR, trespassing is pretty common back here. This is the reason that EPA asked Newtown Creek Alliance to send somebody along with them, as there’s the “official story” and a “real story” found along the water.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This family of Canada Geese were encountered at the Maspeth Avenue Plank Road, and were being predated by a feral cat who was anxious for breakfast. Momma and Poppa Goose were just out of frame to the left, so the cat made a brilliant decision and continued on into the brush to look for some easier prey. We encountered a couple of broods of Geese over the course of the morning. Geese can be ornery, as a note, and will smack you up if they’re annoyed.

One of these illegal alien avian bullies, at Maspeth Creek, actually hissed at us as we neared, and stuck its tongue out at me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The reasoning behind the signage is based around science rather than good humored politics, incidentally. When you’re chatting with environmental officials, they don’t refer to oysters or mussels as shellfish, rather they call them “bioaccumulators.” Animals that are high up in the food chain have internal organs – livers in particular – and muscular tissues which have amassed dangerous levels of whatever pollutant is found in the sediments of the waterway, which they’ve attained by consuming all the prey critters who are below them in the food chain hierarchy. In the case of crabs, in particular, you can encounter a fantastic amount of chemical concentrates due to their particular niche and occupations.

Newtown Creek is – of course – a Federal Superfund site. The sediment beds hereabout are a goulash of petroleum and petroleum byproducts, organocopper compounds, volatile organic compounds, PCB’s, coal tar, sewage, and everything else that has ever been dumped or spilled into the water. The sediment is referred to as “black mayonnaise” and it’s where the crabs live. It’s also where most of the invertebrates that form the bottom of the food chain for the fish population live. Itty bitty critters eat the decaying organics of the black mayonnaise, and slightly less itty bitty critters eat handfuls of the little guys, and the larger critters eat hundreds of them – you get the idea.

You don’t want to eat fish or crabs that you catch in the Newtown Creek. Really.


Upcoming Tours and events

Newtown Creek, Greenpoint to Hunters Point, walking tour with NYCH2O – June 29th, 7-9 p.m..

Experience and learn the history of the western side of Newtown Creek, as well as the East River Parks Hunters Point with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


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It’s International Lemon Drizzle Cake Day.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My understanding is that there are isolated settlements, and pockets, of humanity which would be found to the north, west, and south of New York City but that just might be an old wives tale. Imagine… someplace which is not NYC… it boggles the mind. Do these semi mythological people wear skins and hunt with clubs? Are they the descendants of the Dutch who moved away when the English civilization took regency of our archipelago so long ago? Someday, one must mount an expedition and explore the dark continent found to the west, but for now… one is busy attempting to access a lead clad iron vault hidden away beneath the Steinway Branch Library at Broadway here in Astoria, wherein the Queens library system is rumored to store its collection of blasphemy riddled occult literature.

The Queens Library won’t admit, and will tacitly deny in fact, that a stout vault containing tomes of forbidden occult lore exists in Astoria, but you can’t fool a humble narrator… such wonders do exist, as does the dire information they contain. Why do you think the Greeks and Copts travelled from the orient and settled here? Grow up.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Word has it that Dutch Sea Captain Peter Praa brought certain “artifacts” back from the southern Pacific island of Ponape, which he buried in discrete locations around a land grant he acquired from the Dutch East India people which once belonged to Dominie Everardus Bogardus. This land was later inherited by Praa’s great grandaughter Anna Hunter. Hunters Point in LIC, as we know it in modern times, is constantly riven by the crews of laborers who are scratching into the mud and rock found here. The cover story offered by officialdom is that these laborers are merely construction workers employed by the Real Estate Industrial Complex, but don’t believe what you’re told. They’re searching for Praa’s treasure, and their employers seek possession of those occluded secrets carried back to the west which the Dutch thought best left buried and forgotten.

Just because a tale is fantastic, unbelievable, or inconceivably byzantine doesn’t mean it isn’t true. Sheesh.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Secrets and lies, secrets and lies. There are sections of the Newtown Creek about which even the otherwise overly transparent officials overseeing the Superfund proceedings will not opine. When questions arise about these isolated spots, they grow pale and elusive, avoiding your gaze and changing the subject quickly. What have they found in the muck and mire, in certain stretches of the waterway, particularly on the Brooklyn side, where the pirate Blackbeard is said to have buried a cache of stolen booty? The 19th century tales told by the toll bridge attendants of the Penny Bridge? The man like things with frog heads which they reported as loping out of the water in the dead of night and howling at the moon? Myths and old wives tales, if you believe the powers that be.

Who can guess, all there is, that might be buried down there?


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It’s National Cheese Souflee Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So far, I’ve never tired of seeing the old Koscisuzcko Bridge from the roadway of the new one, but then again its only been around three weeks that the thing has been open. One is curious as to the reactions all of y’all have had at the sight of the new span, how it’s been working out for you so far, all that sort of thing. I’m on the Stakeholders Advisory Committee, so if there’s something specific or pithy you’d want me to bring to officialdom, let me know and I’ll pass it on to the powers that be.

Today’s first two shots were captured from behind the windshield of a car, in case you’re wondering. What I was doing in an automobile, of all things, is something which I’ll tell you about in a future post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The driver of the car I was in is one of my neighbors from back here in Astoria, if you’re curious, but I had engaged his services in the context of his being a professional and TLC licensed driver. Again, I’ll tell you why I needed a ride at a later date. Our path didn’t just include a crossing of the Koscisuzcko Bridge, but also involved a trip into the City as well. That’s the Roosevelt Island Tram hurtling over the Queensboro Bridge, pictured above. Very exciting.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A couple of weeks ago, I conducted a Newtown Creek tour for a group of European college students, and my pals at Sims Metal Management were gracious enough to allow the group to visit the Newtown Creek Pier facility maintained by the recycling company. Sims has a contract with DSNY to handle the “MGP” or “metal, plastic, glass” recyclable trash we put out on the curb, and they were engaged in the process of collecting it from the white packer trucks maintained by the agency for the task. The stuff ultimately gets barged out to another Sims facility, where it’s sorted.


Upcoming Tours and events

Newtown Creek Alliance Boat tour, May 21st.

Visit the 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

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It’s National Hoagie Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A few odds and ends today. Whilst walking some folks around the Creek the other day, we found ourselves at the corner of Grand St. and Morgan Avenue, and this atypical MTA bus was observed. The general consensus amongst Kevin Walsh of Forgotten-NY and myself was that it was possibly heading to the racetrack at Aqueduct, hence “Roadeo” and the pictures of the horses, but who the hell knows? There is a “bus Roadeo” event wherein the MTA shows off its historic rolling stock, but that usually happens in the summer. Anybody out there know?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

We encountered a fantastic display of illegal dumping on Varick street nearby the National Grid property, which saw shattered window glass spread liberally about the sidewalk. Often opined, illegal dumping in Brooklyn is amateurish. For color, composition, and overall message – come to Queens. Illegal dumping is the native art form of this borough.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Lastly, spotted this lucky fellow driving a vintage Ford pickup down Metropolitan Avenue nearby the bridge of the same name. He was stuck in a traffic jam, so I didn’t want to bother the driver with queries as to model year and the restoration story.


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.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

May 5, 2017 at 11:00 am

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It’s National Candied Orange Peel Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week was quite a busy one, with the new K bridge opening and the Governor coming to Newtown Creek, and then riding over the thing with the NY Times and all, but my fun didn’t end there. After the green cab ride with Emma G. Fitzsimmons, the NY Times transit reporter who wrote the article, one found himself in Williamsburg where I got to observe the insane amount of traffic typical of the Metropolitan Avenue corridor. I had to get to Maspeth to meet up with Kevin Walsh of Forgotten-NY and a couple of other friends, who had asked me to conduct a Newtown Creek walk for them. I had a full day of scuttling in front of me, so I wanted to conserve my energy.

Luckily, the Q54 bus replicates the route of an old trolley line which connected Williamsburg to Maspeth, so I whipped out my Metrocard and headed for the Clinton or Goodfellas diner. Traffic was horrible all the way there, and I ended up being about a half hour late for the endeavor.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The walk I took the small group on was a “half Creekathon” which proceeded eastwards from industrial Maspeth through Bushwick and Ridegwood and then west towards Greenpoint. As this was the first truly warm day of the year (and quite humid) our stamina was challenged and we didn’t quite make it all the way, but the roughly five mile walk around the Newtown Creek was – as always – fascinating. The view above is from mid span on the Grand Street Bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Slouching roughly across a footbridge that spans the Bushwick Branch lead track of the LIRR, we crossed the Brooklyn Queens border and entered into industrial Bushwick. This is an area undergoing tremendous amounts of transformation, but it’s still quite horrible, thankfully.

Waste Transfer stations, heavy trucking, the most heavily polluted section of Newtown Creek, visiting the destination for about a third of NYC’s putrescent trash… ahhh… home.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of the Bushwick Branch, we spotted this double engine setup crossing Varick Street from the Waste Management facility which processes and handles the trash which will fill up the garbage train. Those green box cars on the left are the containers for the stuff, and it was a bit surprising seeing a bright blue GATX unit back here – normally it’s the black and emerald color way of the NY & Atlantic company you see.


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.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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It’s National Chocolate Parfait Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m always excited when people come to Newtown Creek to spend some time with me, but for some reason it always ends in a cloak of darkness punctuated only by the flashing of red and blue lights and the presence of law enforcement. Last Thursday, the 27th of April, was no exception to this tradition. That was the day that Governor Andrew Cuomo returned to Newtown Creek to celebrate the opening of the triumphant new Kosciuszcko Bridge.

Luckily for me, and you, and the historic record – a humble narrator was on the scene.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A habit, one arrived earlier than the appointed time for the event. I’m on the Stakeholders Advisory Committee, but somehow made it onto the first shuttle bus to the event with the press corps. That gave me a few minutes to wander about and get the lighting conditions figured out, and more than one or two shots of Newtown Creek from the bridge were acquired, since I was just waiting for the event to start.

Documenting this project has been a long standing project of mine – this 2012 post tells you everything you could want to know about Robert Moses, Fiorella LaGuardia, and the origins of the 1939 model Kosciuszko Bridge. Just before construction started, I swept through both the Brooklyn and Queens sides of Newtown Creek in the area I call “DUKBO” – Down Under the Kosciuszko Bridge Onramp. Here’s a 2014 post, and another, showing what things used to look like on the Brooklyn side, and one dating back to 2010, and from 2012 discussing the Queens side – this. Construction started, and this 2014 post offers a look at things. There’s shots from the water of Newtown Creek, in this June 2015 post, and in this September 2015 post, which shows the bridge support towers rising. Additionally, this post from March of 2016 detailed the action on the Queens side. Most recently, here’s one from May of 2016, and one from June of the same year. Here’s one from August of 2016the December 2016 one, and finally . Here’s another from March of 2017 which discusses the demolition of the 1939 bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Suddenly, marching bands began to appear. This troupe danced their way over from Greenpoint.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This troop marched in from the Queens side, which is in West Maspeth.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One does love a parade.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A whole passel of people began to appear from both sides of the new bridge, including this contingent of elected officialdom and VIP’s from Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The security people and the folks from Albany got everyone into their places, and I crouched down with a bunch of other camera wielders as a 1932 Packard Limo which used to belong to Franklin Delano Roosevelt arrived on the scene.

Andrew Cuomo had returned to the Newtown Creek, in style.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The last time that I saw Mr. Cuomo hereabouts was back in November of 2010, when he (as Attorney General of NYS) announced the settlement of the ExxonMobil/Greenpoint Oil Spill lawsuit. As a note, that’s no dig, the Big Guy’s been busy.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Governor of New York State seemed quite pleased with his new bridge, a project which he had famously and personally shouldered into fruition.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There was a ribbon cutting.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Then the crowd formed ranks during the pledge of allegiance, and the speechifying began.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

First up was Borough President Melinda Katz of Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Second was Assemblyman Joe Lentol of Greenpoint. Mr. Lentol was followed by a diplomatic official from the Polish Government whose name I did not catch. Thaddeus Koscisuzcko whom the bridge is named for was, of course, a Pole and he’s a national hero to that proud nation.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It seemed like every news crew in NYC was there, and there were camera drones zipping around as well.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Governor Cuomo seemed… rather… Presidential to me, if you know what I mean.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The plaques that adorned the old bridge for 78 years had been cleaned and polished up prior to the event, but this was the moment they were unveiled. The plaques are going to be installed on the new spans when all is said and done in 2020.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

2020, of course, is when the second half of the new Koscisuzcko Bridge is scheduled to be finished.

One was invited to attend the second ceremony of the day in Maspeth, wherein the Governor would unveil the new lighting project he’s enacting for all the bridges of New York Harbor. It was a dark and foggy night, but there was a variety of truly excellent food and drink that Mr. Cuomo had arranged for on hand. A party atmosphere penetrated the shroud of darkness cloaking the incredible Newtown Creek.

Note: For anyone from the Governors office or the Taste of NY people who might be reading this – that was probably the best brisket sandwich which I’ve ever quaffed. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Synchronized to music played on a couple of radio stations and over loud speakers at the event, the bridge was suddenly dancing with bright light.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The reaction of the crowd to this display seemed to please the Governor. My reaction, which was to try and get some decent shots of the thing, was badly reacted to by his security detail. “Get behind the white line” and “Now” was I told, and so did I comply. This encounter scared me, and fearing that one of my panics might be oncoming, one “retreat scuttled” back and away from the event and into the shadows of industrial Maspeth.

I really shouldn’t be amongst people. It always ends badly, with darkness, and law enforcement, and flashing lights.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One began to “quick scuttle” through the oily miasma and patchy fog of Blissville, keeping the tomb legions of Calvary Cemetery on my right, and all the while feeling the staring presence of those unknown eyes which watch from shuttered warehouse windows to the left. Off in the distance, the thing in the Sapphire Megalith of LIC watched through the mist.

It was nice to feel a slight return to normalcy, after such a long day in the presence of others.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

By the next day the Governor and the rest would all be back doing their own things in the places where they usually do them, but to a humble narrator on the 27th of April in 2017, the soliloquy of the Newtown Creek itself had just entered into a new chapter.

As a note, the next morning I was asked by NY Times reporter Emma G. Fitzsimmons to ride over the new bridge with her in a green Taxi, and she posted this article about our trip.


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.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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It’s National Zucchini Bread Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned yesterday, Our Lady of the Pentacle and myself spent a rainy Earth Day in industrial Greenpoint, and our first stop was at the brand new Green Roof at 520 Kingsland Avenue. Our second appointment was with the NYC DEP, who were offering tours of the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant pictured above. As a note, this was an abbreviated version of the tour, which only included an audience with the newly hired and immensely cool Deputy Commisioner Pam Elardo and the second Superintendent of the plant, Zainool Ali. A brief lecture on sewer operations and the DEP’s mandate was followed by a visit to the walkway that hovers over the digester eggs. The old version of the tour included a few other areas of the plant such as the electrical rooms and screening facility.

As you’d imagine – I’ve been on this tour several times over the years as a member of the Newtown Creek Monitoring Committee, my role as Newtown Creek Alliance Historian, and just out of my own puerile interest.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The walkway above the digester eggs is encased in greenish blue glass, which always poses a bit of a challenge – photographically speaking. The glass tends to act as a neutral density filter and lends a color cast to the shots you can capture up there. Also, as mentioned, this isn’t my first rodeo up there – so I’ve developed certain countermeasures on both the capture and digital darkroom sides to deal with the glass issue.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s nothing you can do about rain, however, so as my pal Bernie Ente used to advise – just use it to your advantage. One is quite enamored with the image above, which is one of the better atmospheric shots I’ve managed to capture so far this year. This is looking west, obviously, towards the shining city of Manhattan and over Greenpoint.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking eastwards, towards Maspeth and the Kosciuszcko Bridge project. You’ll notice that there aren’t rain or glass distortions present in this shot, or the one below. That’s due to my having visited the walkway multiple times in the past and knowing where there are lapses in the wraparound glass big enough to shove a camera lens through.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s probably going to be the very last “birds eye” shot of the 1939 era Koscisuzcko Bridge seen above, doing the active duty it’s been engaged in for 78 years, that I am going to ever take. On Thursday the 27th, Governor Cuomo is going to officially open the new bridge and the NYS DOT is going to shortly thereafter reroute the BQE onto it. The demolition process of the 1939 bridge is meant to begin playing out over the summer and should be completed sometime this fall, whereupon the second half of the “K Bridge” project will start.


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.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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