The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘newtown creek

greater reality

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

The opportunity to visit the NYC DEP Manhattan Pump House on the Lower East Side of the Shining City drew me to the center of the human infestation in the desperate manner of an opiate addict.

The Newtown Creek Monitoring Committee is a community group which provides input and access to the people of Greenpoint in matters related to the reconstruction and operations of the Newtown Creek Waste Water Treatment Plant in Brooklyn. Despite geographic and political boundaries, the pump house is an integral part of that facility and has been undergoing its own upgrade and reconstruction.

from nyc.gov

DEP meets monthly with the Newtown Creek Monitoring Committee (NCMC), a committee of volunteers from the Greenpoint community, which was 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, with the assistance of its technical consultant, reviews and makes recommendations about activities associated with the treatment plant upgrade in order to mitigate potential impacts to the Greenpoint Community. NCMC worked with DEP to identify and design community amenities such as the Nature Walk, and is one of the longest standing citizen oversight committees in New York City.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Vast trunk line pipes underlie Manhattan and carry waste water from storm water cisterns and weirs as well as residential sewage. Every cleaning chemical, medicinal formulation, or cold cup of coffee which goes down the drain is agglutinated and homogenized into the flow, all of it headed for a relatively small building sited between a power plant and a city housing project.

Titan works exist hidden here, and the part of the structure visible from street grade elevations are merely the tip of a finger.

from nyc.gov

The Avenue D Pump Station (also known as the 13th Street Pump Station or more commonly the Manhattan Pump Station)  is currently being upgraded as part of the Newtown Creek Upgrade Project.  The Manhattan Pump Station provides the Newtown Creek WPCP with more than half of its flow, 155 million gallons per day (mgd) for treatment.  The pump station was put into service in 1965 and is currently undergoing a total reconstruction upgrade.  As part of this upgrade, the station will receive five(5) new 2,500 horsepower motors controlled by energy efficient Variable Frequency Drives, new screening equipment, a full emergency power generation system, and an architectural façade.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

At the lowest levels of the place, one will find the elephantine plumbing which quietly accomplishes the expurgation of Manhattan’s waste. Hidden behind masonry and cement, a multi million gallon tank allows for the orderly disposition of the waste water into the subaqueous piping which carries it across the East River and into Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Our group moved through the facility, visiting several specialized levels and chambers.

The guide for the journey was none other than Jim Pynn of the DEP, an engineer who is superintendent of the ongoing reconstruction project on the larger facility in Brooklyn.

from nyc.gov

Jim Pynn is the Plant Superintendent for the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment plant in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn. Jim, a lifelong Brooklynite, has worked at DEP for nearly 36 years. He enjoys the daily challenge of working at a venue that taps into his high energy and his ability to multi-task. There is no such thing as a routine day. “In addition to regular work with the staff here at the plant,” Jim said, “my day can begin with a meeting with construction contractors, engineers and architects, followed by a visit from a local school and end with a meeting with members of the community. I really enjoy the variety.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Ascending into it’s heights, Mr. Pynn described the function of the various caches of machinery we passed by, offering insight and experience gained during his long employment and familiarity with the construction, design, and function of the DEP infrastructure. A familiar face in Greenpoint, Mr. Pynn often leads the popular NCWWTP public tours of his plant, and he’s a charismatic and knowledgeable speaker.

He’s also a heck of a nice guy.

from nyc.gov

Although tours of the entire Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant facility are not available, we do have monthly public tours of the award-winning Digester Eggs. Please see our events calendar for the next scheduled tour.  Reservations are required.  To make a reservation on the next tour please email events@dep.nyc.gov.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Near the end of the tour, while instructing us on the electrical backup generators installed within the structure, he announced our next stop would be the so called “Surge Tower” whose entrance was located on the buildings paramount. He warned us to prepare ourselves, and to ensure that any jewelry or eyeglasses worn by members of the group be secured.

from wikipedia

Originally, the “Lower East Side” referred to the area alongside the East River from about the Manhattan Bridge and Canal Street up to 14th Street, and roughly bounded on the west by Broadway. It included areas known today as East Village, Alphabet City, Chinatown, Bowery, Little Italy, and NoLIta.

The exact western and southern boundaries of the neighborhood are a matter of perspective – New York natives and long-time neighborhood residents, especially the Puerto Rican and black community, and the Jewish community, don’t have East Village in their vocabulary, and refer to it as the Lower East Side. The so-called debate about naming conventions typically only applies to the post-gentrification crowd. Most recent arrivals to the area, including new visitors and residents prefer to call the area north of Houston Street the East Village – a name not coined until around 1960.

Although the term today refers to the area bounded to the north by East Houston Street, parts of the East Village are still known as Loisaida, a Latino pronunciation of “Lower East Side.” Avenue C is known directly as “Loisaida” and is home to the Loisaida Festival every summer.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The tower itself, viewed from its exterior, is polished aluminum and appears banal. The roof of the tower is equipped with specialized equipment designed to reduce and eliminate the infiltration of odors into the nearby residential complexes which distinguish this long troubled section of Manhattan, once known to all New Yorkers as “Alphabet City”. Our group circled around the great cylinder, entered into a doorway, and ascended a staircase which ended at a locked door.

Keys were produced, and we entered the “Surge Tower”.

from wikipedia

Until the early 19th century, much of what is now Alphabet City was an extensive salt marsh, a type of wetland that was part of the East River ecosystem. The wetland was drained, and a patch of the river bed reclaimed, by real estate developers in the early 19th century.

Like many other neighborhoods on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, Alphabet City became home to a succession of immigrant groups over the years. By the 1840s and 1850s, much of present-day Alphabet City had become known as “Kleindeutschland” or “Little Germany”; in the mid-19th century, many claimed New York to be the third-largest German-speaking city in the world, after Berlin and Vienna, with most of those German speakers residing in and around Alphabet City. In fact, Kleindeutschland is considered to have been the second substantial non-Anglophone urban ethnic enclave in United States history, after Germantown in Philadelphia.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Gaze into the maelstrom, lords and ladies, and imagine the crashing sound of water echoing within the metallic cylinder housing it. Little good can be achieved in attempting to describe its scent, which will be left unspoken. The bottom of this tank was invisible to the naked eye and swathed in primal darkness- only by setting my camera flash to its maximum setting and “throw” was the bottom rendered visible. The bright orbs you see in the shot are likely not spiritual ectoplasm nor evidence of some ghostly or supranormal presence, rather they are suspended dust and reflective particulate hanging in the air and illuminated by the actions of the strobe light.

from wikipedia

A maelstrom /ˈmeɪlstrɒm/ is a very powerful whirlpool; a large, swirling body of water. A free vortex, it has considerable downdraft. The power of tidal whirlpools tends to be exaggerated by laymen. There are virtually no stories of large ships ever being sucked into a maelstrom, although smaller craft are in danger and tsunami generated maelstroms may even threaten larger craft. Tales like those by Paul the Deacon, Jules Verne and Edgar Allan Poe are entirely fictional.

One of the earliest uses of the Scandinavian word (malström or malstrøm) was by Edgar Allan Poe in his story “A Descent into the Maelström” (1841). In turn, the Nordic word is derived from the Dutch maelstrom, modern spelling maalstroom, from malen (to grind) and stroom (stream), to form the meaning grinding current or literally “mill-stream”, in the sense of milling (grinding) grain.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Mr. Pynn and his associate, a fellow engineer named Basil, carefully vouchsafed us as we moved around this containerized cataract. Ichor collecting, this is the duodenum of Manhattan itself, and another of the vast and hidden works which allow the occupants of that unsustainable City to convince themselves that everything is just fine.

from “A Descent into the Maelström“, by Edgar Allen Poe, courtesy wikisource

In a few minutes more, there came over the scene another radical alteration. The general surface grew somewhat more smooth, and the whirlpools, one by one, disappeared, while prodigious streaks of foam became apparent where none had been seen before. These streaks, at length, spreading out to a great distance, and entering into combination, took unto themselves the gyratory motion of the subsided vortices, and seemed to form the germ of another more vast. Suddenly—very suddenly—this assumed a distinct and definite existence, in a circle of more than a mile in diameter. The edge of the whirl was represented by a broad belt of gleaming spray; but no particle of this slipped into the mouth of the terrific funnel, whose interior, as far as the eye could fathom it, was a smooth, shining, and jet-black wall of water, inclined to the horizon at an angle of some forty-five degrees, speeding dizzily round and round with a swaying and sweltering motion, and sending forth to the winds an appalling voice, half shriek, half roar, such as not even the mighty cataract of Niagara ever lifts up in its agony to Heaven.

The mountain trembled to its very base, and the rock rocked. I threw myself upon my face, and clung to the scant herbage in an excess of nervous agitation.

“This,” said I at length, to the old man—”this can be nothing else than the great whirlpool of the Maelström.”

Click for details on Mitch Waxman’s
Upcoming walking and boat tours of Newtown Creek, and Staten Island’s Kill Van Kull

June 23rd, 2012- Atlas Obscura Thirteen Steps around Dutch Kills walk (this Saturday)

for June 23rd tickets, click here for the Atlas Obscura ticketing page

June 30th, 2012- Working Harbor Committee Kill Van Kull walk

for June 30th tickets, click here for the Working Harbor Committee ticketing page

July 8th, 2012- Atlas Obscura Walking Tour- The Insalubrious Valley

for July 8th tickets, click here for the Atlas Obscura ticketing page

July 22nd, 2012- Working Harbor Committee Newtown Creek Boat Tour

needed adjustments

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recent opportunity found your humble narrator standing upon that painted lady of the archipelago named Manhattan, in front of one the Shining City’s newest accoutrements.

Originally built on the Lower East Side in 1965, the Manhattan Pump House acts as the central concentrating point for the waste water and sewage of a significant slice of the borough (basically everything below 79th street) and the point from which it is pumped to the Newtown Creek Waste Water Treatment Plant in Greenpoint from for processing.

from nyc.gov

Early Manhattan settlers obtained water for domestic purposes from shallow privately-owned wells. In 1677 the first public well was dug in front of the old fort at Bowling Green. In 1776, when the population reached approximately 22,000, a reservoir was constructed on the east side of Broadway between Pearl and White Streets. Water pumped from wells sunk near the Collect Pond, east of the reservoir, and from the pond itself, was distributed through hollow logs laid in the principal streets. In 1800 the Manhattan Company (now The Chase Manhattan Bank, N.A.) sank a well at Reade and Centre Streets, pumped water into reservoir on Chambers Street and distributed it through wooden mains to a portion of the community. In 1830 a tank for fire protection was constructed by the City at 13th Street and Broadway as was filled from a well. The water was distributed through 12-inch cast iron pipes. As the population of the City increased, the well water became polluted and supply was insufficient. The supply was supplemented by cisterns and water drawn from a few springs in upper Manhattan.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pictured above is a device which performs a rudimentary process upon the collected liquids, a screening mechanism designed to remove solids from the flow. Remember that what everybody’s friends at the NYC DEP are dealing with is not just that which one might flush down or wash away, but all that might find its way into a roadside sewer grate. Casual littering, when seen from a citywide point of view, creates enormous engineering concerns and generates tons of sewage borne trash.

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 throughout New York State 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 wastewater 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

Surprisingly, turtles often find themselves swept up in the flow, and the workers at this plant have set up a temporary habitat tank for their reptilian charges to recover from the ordeal of their journey here. After regaining their strength, the turtles are offered a new home in the wild, in an “undisclosed location” body of water owned and operated by the City Parks Department.

from wikipedia

The red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta elegans) is a semiaquatic turtle belonging to the family Emydidae. It is a subspecies of pond slider. It is the most popular pet turtle in the United States and also popular in the rest of the world. It is native only to the southern United States, but has become established in other places because of pet releases and has become an invasive species in many introduced areas, like California, where it outcompetes the native western pond turtle.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Something which often brings a tinge of warmth to my otherwise calcified and cynical outlook on the world is the way that workmen handle the animals who traverse and inhabit their facilities. These are busy, burly, often brusque men and women that work in dangerous and often unpleasant circumstance who nevertheless show their gentle and kind sides toward the lesser breeds. Whether it be rail yard, factory, or in this case- pump house- these folks always do their best to accommodate and care for strays, injured, or just lost animals.

Laudable, the entire human infestation of New York should take note of such efforts and attempt emulation.

from nyc.gov

Litter that washes down storm drains in the street can easily wind up in local waters and on City beaches. This unsightly pollution, called floatables, can kill birds, turtles and other marine animals that mistake trash – especially plastic – for food. Street litter that goes to the treatment plants must be separated from the wastewater so it won’t damage plant equipment. Litter can also clog storm drains and cause sewer backups and flooding.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This posting will be a two parter. Tomorrow, we will descend into the very bowels of New York City. Additionally, we will looking into a yawning black maelstrom, which when stared into…

from “Beyond Good and Evil, by Friedrich Nietzche” courtesy authorama.com

He who fights with monsters should be careful lest he thereby become a monster. And if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee.

Click for details on Mitch Waxman’s
Upcoming walking and boat tours of Newtown Creek, and Staten Island’s Kill Van Kull

June 23rd, 2012- Atlas Obscura Thirteen Steps around Dutch Kills walk (this Saturday)

for June 23rd tickets, click here for the Atlas Obscura ticketing page

June 30th, 2012- Working Harbor Committee Kill Van Kull walk

for June 30th tickets, click here for the Working Harbor Committee ticketing page

July 8th, 2012- Atlas Obscura Walking Tour- The Insalubrious Valley

for July 8th tickets, click here for the Atlas Obscura ticketing page

July 22nd, 2012- Working Harbor Committee Newtown Creek Boat Tour

darkly hidden

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

As described in the recent posting “Obscure World“, the location of Conrad Wissel’s notorious “Dead Animal and Night Soil Wharf” has been finally nailed down and confirmed by contmeporaneous maps and photographs. A lot of people ask me where I find my information about the oft occluded history of the Newtown Creek, and are surprised when informed about my methodology.

Basically, it all boils down to this- I’ll notice something hidden in plain sight while wandering around, take photos of it, and start researching when back at HQ. There’s a whole list of mysteries in my “to do” pile, and often the answer to what they were is presented while searching for something else entirely. It’s how the whole “missing Lamp Post of the Queensboro bridge thing” got started. Accordingly, whenever accusations of pursuing some political agenda are leveled at this- your Newtown Pentacle- great amusement ensues.

The utterly forgotten headquarters of the General Electric Vehicle Company of Long Island City, which had been staring me in the face for years, revealed itself in this manner. Easy to miss the third largest factory building in Queens, I guess, even if its painted with bright yellow and green stripes.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As detailed in the posting “uncommented masonry“, one was merely poking around for some information about the “Blissville Banshee“.

A supernatural phenomena, the Banshee was reported on in 1884 by the NY Times (she was described as red haired, blue eyed, and screaming “Oh Ho” like … well… a banshee), and was an obvious jab at the largely Irish and Catholic population of Blissville by Manhattan’s patrician “Nativists”. Racial or ethnic prejudice is commonly encountered in journalism of that era, and quite unsurprising to those familiar with reportage of the period. In the 1880’s, “politically correct” meant not shooting someone on sight.

What emerged about the structure above, however, was that in 1915- a quarter of the 40,000 or so trucks then plying the streets of New York City were electric (and participated in a rail based battery exchange program). Most of them were manufactured in Long Island City within the building pictured above, by the General Electric Vehicle Company.

This is my favorite sort of posting, a product of serendipity and pure discovery.

Which brings me to the Tammany men, and why there very well might be a horse buried in Calvary Cemetery.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Abbot” from January of 2010, described a chance sighting of a curious obelisk in Queens’s Calvary Cemetery.

By the time that I was done with this post, I had found the young J.J. Scannell and Richard Croker sitting out a sentence in Manhattan’s “Tombs”. Quite a propitious meeting- in retrospect, one with far reaching consequence.

These two men would rise to the top of Tammany Hall one day, preside over the consolidation of the City of Greater New York from the shadowed world of the “smoke filled room”, and grow filthy rich on a buttery diet of political corruption.

Think Boss Tweed was something? In that case, you’ve never heard of Scannell and Croker.

All this because I enjoy strolling through Calvary in the afternoon while the Dropkick Murphys are playing on my headphones.

incidentally, something recently discovered (see how it works?) were these portraits of Mr.’s Scannell and Croker- found in Moses King’s “Notable New Yorkers of 1896-1899, courtesy google books

– photo by Mitch Waxman

from some point in space“, another 2010 posting, showcases a shot of Dutch Kills acquired before a press conference which highly placed members of the Newtown Creek Alliance had asked me to represent them at (literally no one else from Queens was available).

My statement was prepared, thankfully, as I was standing next to and was introduced by Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney. Stage fright and hallucination inducing nervousness ruled my mood during the lead up.

To alleviate the anxiety while waiting for the event to begin… and as I happened to be standing in a south facing room within the Degnon Terminal’s former Loose Wiles building… which overlooks the waters of the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek- a window was soon roughly thrown open and I shot the image above.

As it happens, while attempting to research a group of heretical Quakers operating in the area just before the Revolutionary War, I came across the following image in another one of those “old and out of copyright” municipal journals which have found their way onto the web.

– Photo from 1921’s ”The Newtown Creek industrial district of New York City By Merchants’ Association of New York. Industrial Bureau”, courtesy google books

Cool, huh?

An August 2011 post, called the “the dark moor“, reversed the point of view and showed the view from infinite Brooklyn into Queens from atop the digester eggs of the Newtown Creek Waste Water Treatment Plant.

Click for details on Mitch Waxman’s
Upcoming walking and boat tours of Newtown Creek, and Staten Island’s Kill Van Kull

June 23rd, 2012- Atlas Obscura Thirteen Steps around Dutch Kills walk (this Saturday)

for June 23rd tickets, click here for the Atlas Obscura ticketing page

June 30th, 2012- Working Harbor Committee Kill Van Kull walk

for June 30th tickets, click here for the Working Harbor Committee ticketing page

July 8th, 2012- Atlas Obscura Walking Tour- The Insalubrious Valley

for July 8th tickets, click here for the Atlas Obscura ticketing page

July 22nd, 2012- Working Harbor Committee Newtown Creek Boat Tour

Announcement: Newtown Creek Boat Tour- July 22, 2012

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Many people know about the environmental issues facing Newtown Creek, but did you know that the Creek was once the busiest waterway in North America, carrying more industrial tonnage than the entire Mississippi River?

You’ll learn much more when Working Harbor Committee’s maritime historians and harbor experts
put it all in context during a Hidden Harbor Tours: Newtown Creek Exploration.

The heart of industrial New York, Newtown Creek was home port to hundreds of tugboats (one of which is the historic WO Decker). It was also an international destination for oceangoing ships and a vast intermodal shipping and manufacturing hub that employed hundreds of thousands of people. Forming the border of Brooklyn and Queens for nearly three miles, five great cities grew rich along the Newtown Creek’s bulkheads — Greenpoint, Willamsburg, Bushwick, Long Island City and Manhattan itself. The waterway is still a vital part of the harbor and the Working Harbor Committee (WHC) is proud to present this tour as part of the celebration of their tenth anniversary year.

Mitch Waxman, a member of WHC’s steering committee and the group’s official photographer, also serves with the Newtown Creek Alliance as its group Historian. In addition to working on WHC’s boat tours of the Creek, Mitch offers a regular lineup of popular walking tours, and presents a series of well-attended slideshows for political, governmental, antiquarian, historical and school groups. His website — newtownpentacle.com — chronicles his adventures along the Newtown Creek and in the greater Working Harbor.

He was recently profiled in the NY Times Metro section, check out the article here.

Upcoming tour: Hidden Harbor Tours: Newtown Creek Exploration.

On July 22nd, Mitch shares his unique point of view and deep understanding of the past, present and future conditions of the Newtown Creek as the narrator and expedition leader for this years Hidden Harbor Tours: Newtown Creek exploration.

Our NY Water Taxi leaves from South Street Seaport at 11 a.m. (sharp) on a three hour tour of the Newtown Creek. From the East River we’ll move into the Newtown Creek where we’ll explore explore vast amounts of maritime infrastructure, see many movable bridges and discover the very heart of the Hidden Harbor.

Limited seating available, get your tickets today.

Tickets $50, trip leaves Pier 17 at
South Street Seaport at 11a.m. sharp.

We will be traveling in a comfortable NY Water Taxi vessel with indoor and outdoor seating. There will be refreshments and snacks available for purchase at the bar.

_______________________________________________________________________________

Also:

June 23rd, 2012- Atlas Obscura Thirteen Steps around Dutch Kills walk

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The “Obscura Day” Thirteen Steps around Dutch Kills tour proved that the efficacy and charms of the Newtown Creek’s least known tributary, with its myriad points of interest, could cause a large group to overlook my various inadequacies and failings. The folks at Atlas Obscura, which is a fantastic website worthy of your attentions (btw), have asked me to repeat the tour on the 23rd of June- also a Saturday.

for June 23rd tickets, click here for the Atlas Obscura ticketing page

June 30th, 2012- Working Harbor Committee Kill Van Kull walk

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My various interests out on the sixth borough, NY Harbor, have brought me into association with the Working Harbor Committee. A member of the group’s Steering Committee- I also serve as the “official” group photographer, am chairman and principal narrator of their annual Newtown Creek Boat Tour, and occasionally speak on the microphone during other tours (mainly the Brooklyn one). This year, the group has branched out into terrestrial explorations to compliment the intense and extant schedule of boat tours, and I’m going to be leading a Kill Van Kull walking tour that should be a lot of fun.

The Kill Van Kull, or tugboat alley as its known to we harbor rats, is a tidal strait that defines the border of Staten Island and New Jersey. A busy and highly industrialized waterfront, Working Harbor’s popular “Hidden Harbor – Newark Bay” boat tours provide water access to the Kill, but what is it like on the landward side?

Starting at the St. George Staten Island Ferry terminal, join WHC Steering Committee member Mitch Waxman for a walk up the Kill Van Kull via Staten Islands Richmond Terrace. You’ll encounter unrivaled views of the maritime traffic on the Kill itself, as well as the hidden past of the maritime communities which line it’s shores. Surprising and historic neighborhoods, an abandoned railway, and tales of prohibition era bootleggers await.

The tour will start at 11, sharp, and you must be on (at least) the 10:30 AM Staten Island Ferry to meet the group at St. George. Again, plan for transportation changes and unexpected weirdness to be revealed to you at MTA.info.

for June 30th tickets, click here for the Working Harbor Committee ticketing page

July 8th, 2012- Atlas Obscura Walking Tour- The Insalubrious Valley

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Newtown Creek Alliance historian Mitch Waxman will be leading a walk through the industrial heartlands of New York City, exploring the insalubrious valley of the Newtown Creek.

The currently undefended border of Brooklyn and Queens, and the place where the Industrial Revolution actually happened, provides a dramatic and picturesque setting for this exploration. We’ll be visiting two movable bridges, the still standing remains of an early 19th century highway, and a forgotten tributary of the larger waterway. As we walk along the Newtown Creek and explore the “wrong side of the tracks” – you’ll hear tales of the early chemical industry, “Dead Animal and Night Soil Wharfs”, colonial era heretics and witches and the coming of the railroad. The tour concludes at the famed Clinton Diner in Maspeth- where scenes from the Martin Scorcese movie “Goodfellas” were shot. Lunch at Clinton Diner is included with the ticket.

Details/special instructions.

Meetup at the corner of Grand Street and Morgan Avenue in Brooklyn at 11 a.m. on July 8, 2012. The L train serves a station at Bushwick Avenue and Grand Street, and the Q54 and Q59 bus lines stop nearby as well. Check MTA.info as ongoing weekend construction often causes delays and interruptions. Drivers, it would be wise to leave your vehicle in the vicinity of the Clinton Diner in Maspeth, Queens or near the start of the walk at Grand St. and Morgan Avenue (you can pick up the bus to Brooklyn nearby the Clinton Diner).

Be prepared: We’ll be encountering broken pavement, sometimes heavy truck traffic as we move through a virtual urban desert. Dress and pack appropriately for hiking, closed-toe shoes are highly recommended.

Clinton Diner Menu:

  • Cheese burger deluxe
  • Grilled chicken over garden salad
  • Turkey BLT triple decker sandwich with fries
  • Spaghetti with tomato sauce or butter
  • Greek salad medium
  • Greek Salad wrap with French fries
  • Can of soda or 16oz bottle of Poland Spring

for July 8th tickets, click here for the Atlas Obscura ticketing page

strange wanderers

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Johnston Brothers were the proprietors of the J. & C. Johnston company, located ultimately at the corner of Broadway and 22nd street in Manhattan. They sold lady’s novelties, ribbons, parasols and other fripperies from their prestigious “ladies mile” location. Lady’s Mile was anchored on the busy industrial side by Union Square and Tammany Hall, and on the swank side by 23rd street with its new “department stores”.

Theodore Roosevelt was born a few blocks away, and the prestigious townhouses that still line the surrounding area speak to the former exclusivity and standing of the Manhattan neighborhood.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There were three brothers- John, Robert, and Charles. Charles died in 1864, John in 1887 (possibly of a suicide). Robert, reknowned as an unlettered yet expert scholar in the fields of literature, mathematics and history, was so consumed by grief and longing for his siblings that he lost the family business in 1888, and then retired to a country house at Mount St. Vincent on the Hudson (near a convent). During a later foreclosure on his properties- which he had financially mismanaged due to his grief, a fire broke out and nearly claimed Roberts life.

In the end he was found dying of pneumonia, and suffering from madness, in a Riverdale barn.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Like other immigrant industrialists, the Johnstons often reached out to contacts in their country of origin to recruit trustworthy laborers. Robert’s name appears as principal donor to the The Fermangh Relief society, offering to aid those deserving persons in destitute circumstance with the costs of emigration and freedom from the terror of landlords.

The Johnstons were also Tammany men.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Such is the story of the storied and somewhat forgotten Johnston Brothers (and just in the name of full disclosure- the core information offered above was originally presented in the August 2009 posting “Up and Through Calvary” at this- your Newtown Pentacle) who lie in the grandest of all the mausoleums in the Calvary Cemetery. The Johnston store would have been in the building that currently houses “Renovation Hardware” across the street from the Flatiron or Fuller Brush Building.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The funerary structure in Calvary was erected in 1873, and cost an outlandish $200,000.

That’s two hundred thousand in 1873 dollars mind you. According to an online tool designed to calculate monetary inflation over time, $200,000 of 1873 dollars would be worth: $3,846,153.85 in 2012.

The quality of the sculptural elements extant to casual perusal certainly speak to a high level of craftsmanship and developed skill, but the identity of the tomb’s architect and artisans continues to elude. One can only imagine what splendors adorn the central cavity of the building, wherein lie the brothers.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A shattered white bronze gate adorns the entrance, which is in turn blocked by a large block of marble. This is one tomb not intended for the inspection of passerby, unfortunately. Perhaps there are former groundskeepers or employees of the great cemetery that have been inside for maintenance or liturgical duties who can share their experiences with you- lords and ladies of Newtown- who might be reading this post and would be willing to bear witness.

If so, please do not hesitate to use the commenting link below, and indicate if you’d like me to have you appear “anonymous” or not.

_______________________________________________________________________________

Also:

June 16th, 2012- Newtown Creek Alliance Dutch Kills walk (tomorrow)

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Newtown Creek Alliance has asked that, in my official capacity as group historian, a tour be conducted on the 16th of June- a Saturday. This walk will follow the Dutch Kills tributary, and will include a couple of guest speakers from the Alliance itself, which will provide welcome relief for tour goers from listening to me rattle on about Michael Degnon, Patrick “Battle Ax” Gleason, and a bunch of bridges that no one has ever heard of.

for June 16th tickets, click here for the Newtown Creek Alliance ticketing page

June 23rd, 2012- Atlas Obscura Thirteen Steps around Dutch Kills walk

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Additionally- the “Obscura Day” Thirteen Steps around Dutch Kills tour proved that the efficacy and charms of the Newtown Creek’s least known tributary, with its myriad points of interest, could cause a large group to overlook my various inadequacies and failings. The folks at Atlas Obscura, which is a fantastic website worthy of your attentions (btw), have asked me to repeat the tour on the 23rd of June- also a Saturday.

for June 23rd tickets, click here for the Atlas Obscura ticketing page

June 30th, 2012- Working Harbor Committee Kill Van Kull walk

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My various interests out on the sixth borough, NY Harbor, have brought me into association with the Working Harbor Committee. A member of the group’s Steering Committee- I also serve as the “official” group photographer, am chairman and principal narrator of their annual Newtown Creek Boat Tour, and occasionally speak on the microphone during other tours (mainly the Brooklyn one). This year, the group has branched out into terrestrial explorations to compliment the intense and extant schedule of boat tours, and I’m going to be leading a Kill Van Kull walking tour that should be a lot of fun.

The Kill Van Kull, or tugboat alley as its known to we harbor rats, is a tidal strait that defines the border of Staten Island and New Jersey. A busy and highly industrialized waterfront, Working Harbor’s popular “Hidden Harbor – Newark Bay” boat tours provide water access to the Kill, but what is it like on the landward side?

Starting at the St. George Staten Island Ferry terminal, join WHC Steering Committee member Mitch Waxman for a walk up the Kill Van Kull via Staten Islands Richmond Terrace. You’ll encounter unrivaled views of the maritime traffic on the Kill itself, as well as the hidden past of the maritime communities which line it’s shores. Surprising and historic neighborhoods, an abandoned railway, and tales of prohibition era bootleggers await.

The tour will start at 11, sharp, and you must be on (at least) the 10:30 AM Staten Island Ferry to meet the group at St. George. Again, plan for transportation changes and unexpected weirdness to be revealed to you at MTA.info.

for June 30th tickets, click here for the Working Harbor Committee ticketing page

chaplet of vine

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

All roads lead to either Calvary Cemetery and its emerald devastations or to the Shining City of Manhattan.

Oddly, modernity has severed most of the connections between the two, but the Long Island Expressway will still allow you to shuttle back and forth between them. Your humble narrator, of course, scuttles along the sidewalk to the polyandrion while shunning the metropolis.

The former is visited enthusiastically, but the latter is entered only when necessity demands so.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Surrounded by expressways, heavy industry, and the languid mockeries of the Newtown Creek, Calvary Cemetery is 365 acres of silent and sanctified surcease from the urban milieu.

Here lie kings, gangsters, soldiers, governors, and the huddled masses whose yearnings carried them to this ultimate destination. Untold multitudes are interred in this hill of laurels, which may truly be called a home to the tomb legions of Dagger John.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A great working will begin soon, and a colossus will be be torn away from its long habitation. In its place will rise a new shaping of steel and cement. Dire prophecies, attributed to the forest aborigines of central America, declare that 2012 will be a year of tribulation for the world.

In the case of this great bridge over the Newtown Creek, it would appear that they were correct in their assertion.

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Also:

June 16th, 2012- Newtown Creek Alliance Dutch Kills walk (this Saturday)

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Newtown Creek Alliance has asked that, in my official capacity as group historian, a tour be conducted on the 16th of June- a Saturday. This walk will follow the Dutch Kills tributary, and will include a couple of guest speakers from the Alliance itself, which will provide welcome relief for tour goers from listening to me rattle on about Michael Degnon, Patrick “Battle Ax” Gleason, and a bunch of bridges that no one has ever heard of.

for June 16th tickets, click here for the Newtown Creek Alliance ticketing page

June 23rd, 2012- Atlas Obscura Thirteen Steps around Dutch Kills walk

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Additionally- the “Obscura Day” Thirteen Steps around Dutch Kills tour proved that the efficacy and charms of the Newtown Creek’s least known tributary, with its myriad points of interest, could cause a large group to overlook my various inadequacies and failings. The folks at Atlas Obscura, which is a fantastic website worthy of your attentions (btw), have asked me to repeat the tour on the 23rd of June- also a Saturday.

for June 23rd tickets, click here for the Atlas Obscura ticketing page

June 30th, 2012- Working Harbor Committee Kill Van Kull walk

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My various interests out on the sixth borough, NY Harbor, have brought me into association with the Working Harbor Committee. A member of the group’s Steering Committee- I also serve as the “official” group photographer, am chairman and principal narrator of their annual Newtown Creek Boat Tour, and occasionally speak on the microphone during other tours (mainly the Brooklyn one). This year, the group has branched out into terrestrial explorations to compliment the intense and extant schedule of boat tours, and I’m going to be leading a Kill Van Kull walking tour that should be a lot of fun.

The Kill Van Kull, or tugboat alley as its known to we harbor rats, is a tidal strait that defines the border of Staten Island and New Jersey. A busy and highly industrialized waterfront, Working Harbor’s popular “Hidden Harbor – Newark Bay” boat tours provide water access to the Kill, but what is it like on the landward side?

Starting at the St. George Staten Island Ferry terminal, join WHC Steering Committee member Mitch Waxman for a walk up the Kill Van Kull via Staten Islands Richmond Terrace. You’ll encounter unrivaled views of the maritime traffic on the Kill itself, as well as the hidden past of the maritime communities which line it’s shores. Surprising and historic neighborhoods, an abandoned railway, and tales of prohibition era bootleggers await.

The tour will start at 11, sharp, and you must be on (at least) the 10:30 AM Staten Island Ferry to meet the group at St. George. Again, plan for transportation changes and unexpected weirdness to be revealed to you at MTA.info.

for June 30th tickets, click here for the Working Harbor Committee ticketing page

laced apertures

with 3 comments

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An interval of soliloquy recently offered itself to your humble narrator, during a vast and shambling perambulation. Undertaken was a relaxed and lonely tour of the titan masonry which distinguishes the quite industrialized northern bank of the Newtown Creek, specifically in the hessian cursed hinterlands of Maspeth and Blissville.

Accessing obscure yet quite public locations, known to but a few, a thought occurred. Perhaps conventional wisdom is wrong, and the muddy sediments of the fabled industrial revolution- rich in all sorts of exotic materials- are actually what the great minds of earlier epochs were trying to achieve.

Could the Black Mayonnaise be some sort of vast environmental Peloid?

from wikipedia

Peloid is mud, or clay used therapeutically, as part of balneotherapy, or therapeutic bathing. Peloids consist of humus and minerals formed over many years by geological and biological, chemical and physical processes.

Numerous peloids are available today, of which the most popular are peat pulps, various medicinal clays, mined in various locations around the world, and a variety of plant substances. Also, health spas often use locally available lake and sea muds and clays. Peloid procedures are also various; the most common of them are peloid wraps, peloid baths, and peloid packs applied locally to the part of the body, which is being treated.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The grinding heel of finances, omnipresent and dire, drives one toward desperate fancies and fantastical schemes. Idiot plans, plots- even gambling- are possible when one’s outlook is grimly narrowed by looming disaster.

Moments so described will weigh heavily upon even those possessed of wholesome aspect and character, let alone a misshapen void in space in the approximate shape of a man that is a humble but quite disgusting narrator.

An unthinkable ideation… unknowable and indescribable… utterly and inconceivably hatched.

from wikipedia

Haitians consume a large variety of different non-traditional foods in an attempt to quelch hunger pains. Mud cakes are traditionally fashioned and consumed, but items such as clay and chalk can also be eaten. Due to recent increases in food prices and growing starvation in Haiti, this habit has been extended and received much media attention.

Outside of hunger, mud and dirt can be consumed accidentally during sports and other outdoor activities. This has led to dysphemisms for poor-tasting food such as “tastes like dirt”, based on the experience of getting mud, dirt, etc. in one’s teeth.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Clove like the belly of a rotten fish, or Zeus’s brow when Athena was explosively born, this extranormal notion flowered approximately three and one half inches behind my eyes.

Gaining the product would be laughably easy, one would suspect that officials and administrators would be overjoyed just to be rid of the stuff. Historical precedent exists. During the halcyon days of the Newtown Creek’s early chemical industry, when a byproduct of the large scale manufacture of sulphuric acid at the works of M. Kalbfleisch or William Henry Nichols – called sludge acid– was dumped directly into the water, kids would collect the stuff where it pooled up downstream (in glass lined buckets) and bring it to some small operators in the chemical business for use as raw material for distillation and refinement.

That’d be making lemonade, if handed lemons.

from hydroqual.com

The routing of potential Newtown Creek Flushing Tunnels along with the locations and sizes of the pumping stations were developed in a previous study (URS, 1994), which are shown on Figure 7-7. Two tunnels would be constructed, each with a water intake located along the East River. One tunnel would go to Dutch Kills and have a 70 cfs pumping station near the terminus at the head end of Dutch Kills. The other tunnel is proposed to go to English Kills and then on to East Branch with 150 cfs pumping stations near the head ends of each tributary. Both tunnels were routed as much as possible under existing rights-of-way to minimize the potential costs associated with easement acquisition. However, due to the number of dead end tributaries to Newtown Creek and their distance from the East River the flushing water option would require around three miles of tunnels, two water intakes, and three pumping stations. In addition, the background conditions in the East River are not substantially better than the target water quality and thus flushing requires larger flushing volumes.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Gaining financial freedom by mining the muds of Newtown Creek and offering it to the nations apothecaries as a miracle cure, growing rich off… a moment of lucid fantasy, then detonated and disintegrated with the force of an exploding bladder. These sediments were left here for a reason, laid down by the great and gregarious- men like Charles Pratt and Peter Cooper and John D. Rockefeller. These men were public benefactors, underwriters of great charities as well as medical and scholastic institutions, and hailed as exemplars by their contemporaries.

Surely there must something beneath the water, hidden away in subterrene pockets and masonry clad voids, something horribly and anomalously uncanny which spurred these titans of an earlier age to action and seal it in.

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

from wikipedia

A molehill (or mole-hill, mole mound) is a conical mound of loose soil raised by small burrowing mammals, including moles, but also similar animals such as mole-rats, marsupial moles and voles. They are often the only sign to indicate the presence of the animal.

_______________________________________________________________________________

Also:

June 16th, 2012- Newtown Creek Alliance Dutch Kills walk (this Saturday)

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Newtown Creek Alliance has asked that, in my official capacity as group historian, a tour be conducted on the 16th of June- a Saturday. This walk will follow the Dutch Kills tributary, and will include a couple of guest speakers from the Alliance itself, which will provide welcome relief for tour goers from listening to me rattle on about Michael Degnon, Patrick “Battle Ax” Gleason, and a bunch of bridges that no one has ever heard of.

for June 16th tickets, click here for the Newtown Creek Alliance ticketing page

June 23rd, 2012- Atlas Obscura Thirteen Steps around Dutch Kills walk

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Additionally- the “Obscura Day” Thirteen Steps around Dutch Kills tour proved that the efficacy and charms of the Newtown Creek’s least known tributary, with its myriad points of interest, could cause a large group to overlook my various inadequacies and failings. The folks at Atlas Obscura, which is a fantastic website worthy of your attentions (btw), have asked me to repeat the tour on the 23rd of June- also a Saturday.

for June 23rd tickets, click here for the Atlas Obscura ticketing page

June 30th, 2012- Working Harbor Committee Kill Van Kull walk

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My various interests out on the sixth borough, NY Harbor, have brought me into association with the Working Harbor Committee. A member of the group’s Steering Committee- I also serve as the “official” group photographer, am chairman and principal narrator of their annual Newtown Creek Boat Tour, and occasionally speak on the microphone during other tours (mainly the Brooklyn one). This year, the group has branched out into terrestrial explorations to compliment the intense and extant schedule of boat tours, and I’m going to be leading a Kill Van Kull walking tour that should be a lot of fun.

The Kill Van Kull, or tugboat alley as its known to we harbor rats, is a tidal strait that defines the border of Staten Island and New Jersey. A busy and highly industrialized waterfront, Working Harbor’s popular “Hidden Harbor – Newark Bay” boat tours provide water access to the Kill, but what is it like on the landward side?

Starting at the St. George Staten Island Ferry terminal, join WHC Steering Committee member Mitch Waxman for a walk up the Kill Van Kull via Staten Islands Richmond Terrace. You’ll encounter unrivaled views of the maritime traffic on the Kill itself, as well as the hidden past of the maritime communities which line it’s shores. Surprising and historic neighborhoods, an abandoned railway, and tales of prohibition era bootleggers await.

The tour will start at 11, sharp, and you must be on (at least) the 10:30 AM Staten Island Ferry to meet the group at St. George. Again, plan for transportation changes and unexpected weirdness to be revealed to you at MTA.info.

for June 30th tickets, click here for the Working Harbor Committee ticketing page

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