The Newtown Pentacle

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spittle flecked

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It’s National Banana Split Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just a single shot today, depicting the Penny Bridge area of my beloved Newtown Creek and looking westwards across Greenpoint towards Manhattan. I’ll be conducting a walking tour of Dutch Kills in LIC tomorrow, link and details below, if you’d like to come along. Looks like it’s going to be a beautiful day to take a short walk along a long creek.


Upcoming Tours and events

America’s Workshop Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with Atlas Obscura – Saturday August 26th, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Explore the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek in Long Island City, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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Written by Mitch Waxman

August 25, 2017 at 1:46 pm

raiding contingent

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It’s National Sponge Cake Day, followed by the Night of the Living Dead, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A bit of a personal milestone is reached today, as I’ve now been amongst you all for some six hundred months. The last eighteen thousand two hundred and sixty three days have been a mixed bag, overall. Lots of boredom and pedantry, which has been punctuated by pulse pounding terror. Every now and then, one or two of the four hundred and thirty eight thousand, three hundred odd hours which I’ve experienced on this mortal coil hasn’t totally sucked. I’ve met good people, bad people, and have generally gone out of way to try and not hurt anyone who didn’t deserve it.

For all of those times when I’ve been a total asshole to someone during the roughly twenty six point three million minutes I’ve been on this planet, apologies are offered.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s lessons I’ve learned, and mistakes I’ve made which I strive not to repeat. When I was born, Lyndon Baines Johnson was President of the United States (I’ve got a certificate from the White House some where congratulating my parents on my arrival) and the Woodstock festival had just wrapped up. I clearly remember a moon landing, and the Watergate investigations being broadcast live on all three television networks.

I was a weird and lonely kid, and some things never change – even after nearly one point six billion seconds.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One is lost and deep in a “reminisce” today. Trying to remember their faces and to forget all the slings and arrows. Trying to appreciate what I’ve got, and lost, and the pageantry I’ve experienced. Overall I’ve been fairly lucky, as people of high quality who are “above my pay grade” are in my life. Also, I’m thinking about dead friends, and family.

Tonight is the Night of the Living Dead, so perhaps I’ll be seeing some of them as they try to batter in my door to feast.


Upcoming Tours and events

DUPBO Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with NYCH20 – Thursday August 24th, 7 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Explore Greenpoint and Hunters Point, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

America’s Workshop Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with Atlas Obscura – Saturday August 26th, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Explore the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek in Long Island City, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 23, 2017 at 12:00 pm

adjacent buildings

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It’s National “Eat A Peach” Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So, the world didn’t end yesterday – again – and Our Lady of the Pentacle and myself dragged our elderly dog Zuzu all the way down to the sub basements of our bunker in Astoria for nothing. Now, I’ve got an angry old dog. According to the weather reports, today is going to be fairly horrible as far as heat and humidity, but the heat should be breaking just in time for me to conduct a walking tour of DUPBO (Down Under the Pulaski Bridge Onramp) on Thursday for the NYCH20 outfit (link below, come with?). I’m doing another walking tour on Saturday with the Atlas Obscura folks, this time it’s LIC and the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek.

Pictured above is the 4 train entering the 59th/Lex subway complex, which has nothing to do with eclipses or Newtown Creek, I just like the shot.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Having come of age and attainment of cognizant knowledge of a world outside my parents and family during the 1970’s and 80’s, I was fairly certain that the world would end in my lifetime. Back then, the scenarios by which things would go “ass over tits” involved either a thermonuclear war with the Soviets or Red Chinese, or via the arrival of a new ice age which was meant to arrive concurrently with a floating hole in the atmospheric ozone layer that would allow beams of cosmic radiation to microwave the surface of the planet. Both events were meant to be caused by the propellants commonly used in aerosol cans at the time, known as “CFC’s.” I’ll never forget that night when I got home from work and threw on the family television to see the Berlin Wall coming down, and the realization that at least one of the doomsday scenarios I had grown up with had become highly unlikely. Simpler times, huh?

Other versions of the apocalypse were then developed, and their storylines propagated.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Doom, gloom, and the impending destruction of the American way of life are critical tools for the powers that be. Bread and circuses were the levers that the Romans pulled, here in North America it’s ginned up barbarian hordes and the threat of creeping moral degeneracy which drives the crowd. Remember the plots being prepared by Hassan Al Majood in 2007? How about the terror network of Mohammed Bin Tikriti in 2003? You shouldn’t, as I just made those up, but for a second there they kind of blended in with the rest of the national narrative, didn’t they?

Don’t think about international trade, wage stagnation, provable global climate change, or any of the host of truly existential issues facing our civilization. The world is going to end in tribulation and end time prophecy, so go get yours before somebody else claims it all. Consumers are meant to consume.


Upcoming Tours and events

DUPBO Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with NYCH20 – Thursday August 24th, 7 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Explore Greenpoint and Hunters Point, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

America’s Workshop Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with Atlas Obscura – Saturday August 26th, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Explore the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek in Long Island City, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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It’s National Pinot Noir Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A day late and a dollar short, that’s me. Here’s a picture of a big orange boat. See ya Monday.


Upcoming Tours and events

DUPBO Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with NYCH20 – Thursday August 24th, 7 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Explore Greenpoint and Hunters Point, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

America’s Workshop Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with Atlas Obscura – Saturday August 26th, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Explore the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek in Long Island City, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 18, 2017 at 3:21 pm

surgical instrumentation

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When a young but already humble narrator was but a boy, he lived in an apartment in southeast Brooklyn with a pair of parents who liked to fight and argue about every little thing. There was always a lot of yelling and screaming, as Mom and Pop would square off about the various issues and challenges facing them. Mom was always the superior tactician in these regular verbal battles. The old man was all about volume and anger, often demonstrating his frustration by putting his fist through a wall, whereas the old lady would go for the emotional jugular and work the guilt angle whenever she could. One of her techniques to wind the old man up would be flipping the subject mid fight, which forced him to suddenly wheel around and defend a previously unexposed flank. She would do this several times in rapid fire, which confused the hell out of Dad or whomever she was arguing with as she didn’t reserve her combative psyche for the household, but instead spread the enmity around to whoever was available in the neighborhood or reachable by telephone. 

Mom was kind of a jerk, and often initiated her wars due to personal insecurity and perceived slights which had little basis in reality. In many ways, she ruined her own life with this sort of behavior, alienating everyone around her – including myself, her sibling, and just about everybody she was related to didn’t want to be anywhere near her at the end. Even after she died, all that my family members could talk about was her constant bickering and invective reasoning, which means that she ultimately won her battle to dominate any and all conversation. We were continuing to argue about and with a dead woman. 

Mom was actually a genius on the arguing front, and she would skillfully obfuscate and steer the conversation and arguments she was engaged in away from whatever the original subject was. Her diversions would drive her opponents into blind fury and annoyed frustration. At the end of her tirades, she’d proclaim herself the victimized party, and then begin a multi day process of shaming and guilt towards her “victimizers.” 

Sound familiar? It’s exactly the sort of technique which the current President of the United States uses. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My Mom and Dad are no longer with us (except as regular voices in my inner dialogue) and the wasted family time, which was squandered in this ridiculous melodrama, weighs heavily upon me. So too does the time we are all wasting as a community discussing and arguing about “he who must not be named, for saying his name gives him power.” What would be expected of an American President after a race riot is a repudiation of the KKK and the white power crowd, but by prevaricating about the subject, the President has made his views and feelings a point of debate amongst both the press and people and is diverting attention away from actual events over to himself. His goal, which is to stand at center stage and have the only conversation be about him, has been achieved. He’s keeping our heads spinning with the bi weekly outrages, and in doing so, he dominates all discourse. Can you actually remember the outrages of February or March, or is your head spinning? Have you punched a wall yet? 

Even I’m talking about him right now, and this is hardly the only thing you’re going to read about him today. His strategy, like my Mom’s, is to keep himself as the central character of a shaped narrative and dramaturge. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – none of the words we use for political subjects have any meaning. In the last election, Hillary Clinton was the actual conservative and “he who must not be named” was not a “reformer.” Bill de Blasio is not a “Progressive,” as he has never once used the mid 20th century political term “Progress” in its proper context. None of these political brand marks mean anything anymore, and they were coined more than a century ago by people who meant something entirely different by them than modern usage. We don’t use Whig or Torie anymore, do we? 

You do have to hand it to the Nazi’s and Race Supremacists however, for evolving and adopting the techniques of “Identity Politics” as pioneered in the 1960’s to rebrand themselves and portray their “movement” as being something other than hooliganism and the “mob mentality” which Alexander Hamilton was so concerned about during his Federalist papers period. That’s pretty clever, and my Mom would likely have been impressed by the sheer ballsiness of it, but she was a cruel person who enjoyed other people’s misfortunes and enjoyed winding them up. 


Upcoming Tours and events

Two Newtown Creek Boat Tours, with Newtown Creek Alliance and Open House NY – Wednesday August 16th, 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.

The neighborhoods surrounding Newtown Creek are home to the densest collection of these garbage facilities anywhere in the city and collectively, the waste transfer stations around and along Newtown Creek handle almost 40% of the waste that moves through New York. Join Newtown Creek Alliance’s Mitch Waxman and Willis Elkins  to learn about the ongoing efforts to address the environmental burden that this “clustering” has caused. details here.

DUPBO Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with NYCH20 – Thursday August 24th, 7 p.m. – 9 p.m.

Explore Greenpoint and Hunters Point, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

America’s Workshop Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with Atlas Obscura – Saturday August 26th, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Explore the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek in Long Island City, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 16, 2017 at 1:00 pm

ancient mariners

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Eleven and a third (.35 actually) score years ago today, Alexander Hamilton and the Congress created what would become the United States Coast Guard. A humble narrator has never been one to omit offering a “happy birthday” salutation, and I don’t plan on starting now. I’ve probably had more contact with this branch of the military than any other over the years, and I can tell you – based on the sailors and officers I’ve met – the Coast Guard is staffed by some of the most dedicated and patriotic people I’ve ever met. Happy 227th Birthday!

from wikipedia

Created by Congress on 4 August 1790 at the request of Alexander Hamilton as the Revenue Marine, it is the oldest continuous seagoing service of the United States. As Secretary of the Treasury, Hamilton headed the Revenue Marine, whose original purpose was collecting customs duties in the nation’s seaports. By the 1860s, the service was known as the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service and the term Revenue Marine gradually fell into disuse.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In New York Harbor, the USCG vessels you’re most likely to see are the “SAFE” Boats which provide security to ferry and pleasure craft, as well as patrolling some of the more extant industrial and cargo port areas. They also work closely with NYPD’s harbor patrol in assisting boaters in distress. Maritime security in the age of terror is no laughing matter.

The hull colors of Coast Guard vessels indicate their missions. On the “ship” side; Black hull- aids to navigation, White hull- maritime law enforcement and other safety-at-sea missions, Red hull- icebreaking. All vessels under 65 feet in length are classified as “boats” and operate near shore and inland waterways, and are usually painted “Coast Guard Orange.”

from uscg.mil

The Coast Guard is the principal Federal agency responsible for maritime safety, security, and environmental stewardship in U.S. ports and waterways. In this capacity, the Coast Guard protects and defends more than 100,000 miles of U.S. coastline and inland waterways, and safeguards an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) encompassing 4.5 million square miles stretching from North of the Arctic Circle to South of the equator, from Puerto Rico to Guam, encompassing nine time zones – the largest EEZ in the world. As one of the five Armed Services of the United States, the Coast Guard is the only military branch within the Department of Homeland Security. In addition to its role as an Armed Service, the Coast Guard is a first responder and humanitarian service that provides aid to people in distress or impacted by natural and man-made disasters whether at sea or ashore. The Coast Guard is a member of the Intelligence Community, and is a law enforcement and regulatory agency with broad legal authorities associated with maritime transportation, hazardous materials shipping, bridge administration, oil spill response, pilotage, and vessel construction and operation.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the national conversations which we should be having, incidentally, involves the age and condition of USCG’s fleet. Most of the defense budget ends up flowing towards the “head of the spear” services like Air Force and Navy, Army and Marines. There are serious structural issues in several of the USCG’s older vessels due to age and weathering, and we need to begin the funding fleet replacement for them so as to continue their mission.

The Seneca, pictured above, is a relatively new ship for the Coast Guard – even though it was launched in 1984.


Upcoming Tours and events

We’re cancelling Saturday the 5th’s Insalubrious Valley tour due to a forecast of scattered thunderstorms with lightning expected.

The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance – Saturday August 5th, 11 a.m. – 1;30 p.m.

Century old movable bridges, the remains of a 19th century highway between Brooklyn and Queens, and explore two of the lesser known tributaries of the troubled Newtown Creek watershed. For the vulgarly curious, Conrad Wissell’s Dead Animal and Night Soil wharf will be seen and described, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

Brooklyn Waterfront Boat Tour, with Working Harbor Committee – Saturday August 12th, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.

Explore the coastline of Brooklyn from Newtown Creek to Sunset Park, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman, Andrew Gustafson of Turnstile Tours, and Gordon Cooper of Working Harbor Committee on the narrating about Brooklyn’s industrial past and rapidly changing present. details here.

The Poison Cauldron of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance – Sunday August 13th, 11 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Explore the hellish waste transfer and petroleum districts of North Brooklyn on this daring walk towards the doomed Kosciuszko Bridge, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

Two Newtown Creek Boat Tours, with Newtown Creek Alliance and Open House NY – Wednesday August 16th, 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.

The neighborhoods surrounding Newtown Creek are home to the densest collection of these garbage facilities anywhere in the city and collectively, the waste transfer stations around and along Newtown Creek handle almost 40% of the waste that moves through New York. Join Newtown Creek Alliance’s Mitch Waxman and Willis Elkins  to learn about the ongoing efforts to address the environmental burden that this “clustering” has caused. details here.

DUPBO Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with NYCH20 – Thursday August 24th, 7 p.m. – 9 p.m.

Explore Greenpoint and Hunters Point, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

unusually worried

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is how it all works, this municipal recycling business.

Pictured is the Sims Metal facility in Sunset Park Brooklyn. Department of Sanitation performs its collection task using packer trucks – which work curbside pickup routes, essentially – and then they head over to a transfer station of either terrestrial or marine nature. On their way in to the transfer station, they drive over a scale and are weighed.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Once the trucks get past the scale, they wait their turn to “tip” or deposit the cargo they’ve collected.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is done in a fairly orderly fashion, with a Sims Metal employee directing the DSNY operator to a certain spot where the driver activates the mechanisms within the truck which push the garbage out. My understanding is that the hidden internal machinery is driven by steel cables which tension pulls a plate forward from the back of the hopper, and that’s (plus the angled hopper for a gravity assist) what pushes the load out.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If the material was collected from Boroughs other than Brooklyn, it’s brought in by tug and barge from one of the other Sims facilities like the one found at Newtown Creek in Long Island City. According to one of the Sims people I met, they said a barge carries the equivalent of a hundred garbage trucks worth of recyclables all at once.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Once DSNY has handed off the recyclable waste, a bull dozer like unit moves it into a drop shaft which in turn feeds it into the highly automated processing room.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s optical equipment that sorts plastics and glass by type, as well as fairly esoteric bits of kit which feature magnetic or electrical flux fields which capture the metals like steel cans and aluminum foil.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shapes and sizes of these moving conveyor belts also figure into the sorting and handling typology of waste.

I was told that a lot of this technology has been adapted from the agricultural industry – Big Agra, as it’s known – and that the biggest “players” in this sector are German and Dutch manufacturers.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Once this mingled pile of waste products has been separated out into distinct types (including separating the different forms of plastic) they’ll be bundled up and be prepared for shipment.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Plastics and glass are fairly worthless, it should be noted. Low oil prices over the last decade or so has caused the price of chemical feedstock for plastic manufacturers to plummet, as said material is a byproduct of petroleum refining and manufacture. That makes it cheaper to make new plastic than it would be to recycle old plastic. Glass recycling carries a pretty high energy cost, in terms of making it molten, so it’s mainly used a crushed up fill material in concrete and asphalt. That’s why some roads and sidewalks appear to shimmer in the sun.

Paper pulp is quite valuable, and VERY recyclable. So is metal, especially aluminum and copper. That’s based on the expense of producing new pulp, or refining mined ore. Sims Metal Management is a global corporation, and participates in a commodities market for these recyclable materials, which it sells (hopefully) at a profit internationally.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The DSNY trucks, meanwhile, having emptied their cargo into the Sunset Park facility, follow a certain path back out.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It carries them onto a second scale, just like the one they encountered when entering Sims. The differential tonnage between the weighings is what Sims bills New York City for their services.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Presumptively, this truck will head back to wherever it’s stationed to take on fuel and new crew, and head back out to perform more collection duties. Additional presumption would offer that it would likely end its next shift right back here at Sims Metal.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Well… as I said at the top of the post – this is the way it all works. Also, let’s all try to use less stuff that we can only use one time before throwing it away. Can you just imagine what all of this costs?


Upcoming Tours and events

The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance – Saturday August 5th, 11 a.m. – 1;30 p.m.

Century old movable bridges, the remains of a 19th century highway between Brooklyn and Queens, and explore two of the lesser known tributaries of the troubled Newtown Creek watershed. For the vulgarly curious, Conrad Wissell’s Dead Animal and Night Soil wharf will be seen and described, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

Brooklyn Waterfront Boat Tour, with Working Harbor Committee – Saturday August 12th, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.

Explore the coastline of Brooklyn from Newtown Creek to Sunset Park, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman, Andrew Gustafson of Turnstile Tours, and Gordon Cooper of Working Harbor Committee on the narrating about Brooklyn’s industrial past and rapidly changing present. details here.

The Poison Cauldron of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance – Sunday August 13th, 11 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Explore the hellish waste transfer and petroleum districts of North Brooklyn on this daring walk towards the doomed Kosciuszko Bridge, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

Two Newtown Creek Boat Tours, with Newtown Creek Alliance and Open House NY – Wednesday August 16th, 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.

The neighborhoods surrounding Newtown Creek are home to the densest collection of these garbage facilities anywhere in the city and collectively, the waste transfer stations around and along Newtown Creek handle almost 40% of the waste that moves through New York. Join Newtown Creek Alliance’s Mitch Waxman and Willis Elkins  to learn about the ongoing efforts to address the environmental burden that this “clustering” has caused. details here.

DUPBO Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with NYCH20 – Thursday August 24th, 7 p.m. – 9 p.m.

Explore Greenpoint and Hunters Point, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 1, 2017 at 11:00 am

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