The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘ny harbor

never cease

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Out on the water with the Working Harbor Committee, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A recent Working Harbor Committee excursion was billed as presenting “Brooklyn waterfront, past and present” and I was on the microphone for a good stretch of the trip. I was sharing the narration duty with my pal, Capt. Margaret Flanagan of the Waterfont Alliance organization, who I told point blank before the trip started that once the boat got past Red Hook “I got nothing.” Not a problem for Capt. Flanagan at all, as her able narration and vast knowledge of all things NY Harbor allowed me to slip away from the proverbial pulpit and shoot a few photos.

One bad thing about being one of the tour leaders for these excursions is that it has really cut into the amount of time I have to shoot, and since I’m Working Harbor’s official photographer – this has created a shortage of photos.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A full harvest moon rose while we were out, and the shot above was captured while our vessel – a NY Waterways ferry – was plying the rippling surface of Gowanus Bay in South Brooklyn. As is often opined, the best times of year in NYC for photography are in the late spring and early fall, when the angle of the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself in relation to the City is quite efficacious. Obviously, these shots were captured at sunset and dusk.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has a tremendous desire to just get out on a boat and shoot for hours and hours during these intervals, and record the glorious parade of maritime industrial splendor out on the sixth borough. I took the East River Ferry to Manhattan’s Pier 11 from LIC to meet the Working Harbor chartered vessel in the City, but since the ER Ferry service concludes its schedule in the early evening, one was forced to enter the sweating concrete bunkers of the Subway system to get back to almond eyed Astoria.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

At 59th street, one encountered this fellow, who seemed intent on blowing his own horn.

Upcoming tours and events:


“The Untold History of the Newtown Creek (aka Insalubrious Valley)” walking tour
with New York Adventure Club, Saturday, October 1st from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Click here for tickets.


“First Calvary Cemetery” walking tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, Saturday, October 8th from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Click here for tickets.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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Tugboat action on part of America’s Maritime Superhighway, Newtown Creek, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Chickity check yo ass, if you think that new school Newtown Creek is a punk in New York Harbor. Obama and his crew down in D.C. call the Creek a “SMIA” or “Significant Maritime Infrastructure Area.” Dope tugboats can be seen rolling through here all the time.

That’s the Dann Towing company’s Ruby M slipping by and flying its colors.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Awesome, Ruby M is a 48 year old crusher, bro. She’s a hundred feet long with a beam of 28 feet, and Dann’s Ruby M only needs 12 feet of draft to fire up those 1,750 HP twin steel screws. She was crunching a fuel barge down the Creek, but needed the bitchin’ Pulaski Bridge to pop open before she could thrash through to the east.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Woe to you, oh earth and sea, if you don’t acknowledge the inherent wonders of Newtown Creek. Above, the latest entrant in the Creek’s pageant of wonders enters the frame as the tug Helen Laraway plies its gelatinous waters. A twin screw, steel hulled push boat, Helen Laraway was built in 1957 and can muster up 2,000 HP to power its twin screws.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Newtown Creek once hosted the most valuable maritime industrial bulkheads on the entire Earth. The unfortunate truth of the modern age is that only a small percentage of the owners of the waterfront properties hereabouts use their bulkheads. A single barge carries the equivalent cargo of 38 heavy trucks.

Upcoming Events and Tours

Sunday, August 21, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
Poison Cauldron Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 28, 2016 at 11:00 am

intact copy

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A short aside on the Arthur Kill, and a look at the Goethals Bridge project.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For the last few days, I’ve been describing a day trip to South East Brooklyn, which we’ll return to later on, but for today’s post I want to show you what’s going on at the veritable edge of NYC on the western end of… Staten Island… at the Arthur Kill waterway. That’s the Goethals Bridge construction project you’re looking at, which is another one of the three mega projects involving bridges going on in NYC at the moment.

I was actually “at work” when these shots were captured, conducting a corporate boat excursion for a group that wanted to “see something different” than what you normally get on a harbor cruise. They were all eating lunch on another deck as we passed by the Goethals so I grabbed my camera and got busy.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m nowhere near as familiar with Goethals as I am with the Kosciuszcko Bridge over my beloved Newtown Creek,  of course, but I can tell you that the span overflying the water is 672 feet long. With its approaches, which connect Elizabeth, New Jersey (and the NJ Turnpike) to… Staten Island… the structure is actually some 7,109 feet long. It’s 62 feet wide, 135 feet over the Arthur Kill, and carries about 80,000 vehicles a day.

Goethals opened in June of 1928, and along with the nearby Outerbridge Crossing, was the inaugural project for a newly created organization known to modernity as the Port Authority of New and New Jersey.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Like several of the depression era bridges in NYC, Goethals has been deemed as being insufficient for the amount of traffic it carries, and it has developed some structural issues over the last century. Port Authority is building a replacement bridge, which will be a cable stay type span. It’s going to be wider, have modern traffic lanes, and incorporate both bicycle and pedestrian access into its design. It’s also meant to be a “smart bridge” which will utilize active sensor technologies to monitor traffic and structural integrity.

The PANYNJ has also left room in their designs for future modifications to the span like adding a rapid transit line. The blue bridge you see just north east of the Goethals is a railroad lift bridge which connects New Jersey’s CSX rail lines to the New York Container Terminal port facility on the… Staten Island… side. It’s called the “Arthur Kill Vertical Lift Railroad Bridge,” for the curious.

The part of… Staten Island… where all this is happening is called “Howland Hook.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the Elizabeth, New Jersey side, where the Goethals connects to New Jersey’s “Chemical Coast.” It’s called that for the enormous presence of the petroleum industry in Elizabeth. This area was formerly the property of the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey.

SOCONJ retained the corporate branding of the Standard Oil trust after the Sherman anti trust act was invoked by President Teddy Roosevelt back in 1911. That branding was “S.O.,” which over the course of the 20th century first became “ESSO” and then later became “EXXON.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The new Goethals Bridge is meant to be ready for use in 2018, at which point the PANYNJ will begin the demolition project to get rid of the original. The 1928 steel truss cantilever bridge was designed by a fellow named John Alexander Low Waddell, who also designed the nearby Outerbridge Crossing. As a note, Outerbridge Crossing is not called that due to it being the furthest out bridge, as colloquially believed. It’s named for a a guy named Eugenius Harvey Outerbridge, and I’m friends with his grandson Tom.

The Goethals Bridge(s) is named for General George Washington Goethals, superviser of construction for the Panama Canal, and first consulting engineer of the Port Authority of New and New Jersey.

The PANYNJ has a neat website set up for the project which includes live construction webcams, check it out here.

Upcoming Events and Tours

Saturday, July 23, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
Calvary Cemetery Walking tour,
with Brooklyn Brainery. Click here for more details.

Tuesday, July 26, 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. –
Glittering Realms Walking tour,
with NYC H2O. Click here for more details.

Wednesday, July 27, 1st trip – 4:50 p.m. 2nd trip – 6:50 p.m. –
2 Newtown Creek Boat Tours,
with Open House NY. Click here for more details.

Saturday, July 30, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
DUPBO Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura. Click here for more details.

Sunday, August 21, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
Poison Cauldron Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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There’s a lot of things I don’t want to think about.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For the last decade or so, one has been overly concerned with all things maritime. An area of particular study has been NY Harbor, and one of the subjects which I’ve been curious about is the bottom of it. Anything hidden seems to draw my attention, after all. There are rumors, and carefully occluded “pregnant” statements, which have reached me in recent years – some of which are specific, others quite vague – and appropriately so.

The one that the security apparatus of our fair City is heavily invested in submersible drones is one rumor. I’ve also been told that there are esoteric state of the art sensors hidden around the harbor – slung from the bottom of bridges and other water facing perches – that scan for radioactive and chemical signatures emanating from passing maritime traffic. This is – of course – another rumor.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A friend and former colleague recently commented to me that she was on the Staten Island Ferry and was surprised at the presence of a heavily armed Coast Guard vessel that was following it. I informed her – and this is no rumor – that the Staten Island Ferry looms large as a potential terrorist target and that both the Coast Guard and NYPD Harbor Patrol have stepped up security coverage for the service since 2001. At any given time on the Ferry, there are several uniformed Police onboard, armed with standard firearms. The cops you see are supposedly just the public face, and rumor has it that there are heavily armed combat ready gendarmes onboard as well.

The rumor involving the Ferry is not about the security personnel whom you see, but rather the security equipment, drones, and personnel that you don’t see.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The subject I’m super curious about involves the Subways, of course, and the sort of gizmos and weaponry deployed down in the sweating concrete bunkers underlying the City. I can usually spot an undercover cop at around 20 paces, due to certain “tells.” There’s a certain gait which the Police develop, certainly due to wearing that heavy equipment belt and being on your feet a lot, as well as a particular demeanor. I see them all the time on the train, but again, I know what to look for. Officers, nobody wears knit polo shirts anymore. Also, if you’re dressed up to appear homeless, don’t be clean shaven.

Upcoming Events and Tours

Saturday, July 16, 11:15 a.m. – 12:45 p.m. –
FREE Newtown Creek Boat Tour,
with Waterfront Alliance (note- WA usually releases tix in batches).
Click here for more details.

Saturday, July 23, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
Calvary Cemetery Walking tour,
with Brooklyn Brainery. Click here for more details.

Tuesday, July 26, 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. –
Glittering Realms Walking tour,
with NYC H2O. Click here for more details.

Wednesday, July 27, 1st trip – 4:50 p.m. 2nd trip – 6:50 p.m. –
2 Newtown Creek Boat Tours,
with Open House NY. Click here for more details.

Saturday, July 30, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
DUPBO Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura. Click here for more details.

Sunday, August 21, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
Poison Cauldron Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 15, 2016 at 11:00 am

vacant box

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Back to Hells Gate, where I belong.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned in Moday’s post, a humble narrator found himself lurking in fear along the Western Queens waterfront recently, specifically the legend choked narrows of the East River which nearly four centuries of European mariners have called the “Hellegaat” or “Hells Gate.” It was late in the day, and the flood tide was heading out towards Bowery Bay and Long Island Sound.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A succession of tug and barge combinations were taking advantage of the titanic flow, heading north and then perhaps east. I had a meeting to attend, so I only stuck around for two of the vessel transits.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The first was Sea Lion, towing a seemingly empty barge meant for the transport of recyclable materials. Notice the mesh fencing on the lip of the thing, a device contrived to avoid having materials within the barge swept up on the wind and into the water.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sea Lion, famously, found itself in a bit of trouble off a different coast of Long Island back in January of 2014, when it sunk off of Atlantic Beach. There were injuries, but as far as I know, no fatalities – thank goodness.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Bouchard transport is a historical star in the NY Harbor family, with the company having been founded nearly a century ago by Capt. Fred Bouchard in 1918. That’s a fuel barge being towed in the shot above, incidentally.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The tug is the Ellen S. Bouchard, a 3,900 HP boat. You can read about her history at this page found at the ever reliable tugboatinformation.com.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s it for a somewhat maritime focused week at this, your Newtown Pentacle, see you Monday with something completely different. There’s still a few spots left for the Insalubrious Valley tour with Brooklyn Brainery, btw, come with? The Calvary walk is sold out, but it looks like we’ll be doing it again sometime soon.

Upcoming Events and Tours

Saturday, June 25, 10:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek,
with Brooklyn Brainery. Click here for more details.

Sunday, June 26, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 24, 2016 at 12:00 pm

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It’s complicated, man…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator is known for his somewhat quixotic inflections of mood by those who know him privately. It’s not exactly “manic depressive” in the clinical sense, but it often doesn’t seem far off. With me, it’s more “happily content and patient / consumed with red hot anger and resentment.” I don’t know why, maybe my parents loved me too much, or not enough. Can’t say.

Either way, I’m often a hot mess and the only way out of feeling bad is to get out and do something. Work, hard work, is the answer to almost every problem – as I see it. In many ways, I’m a lot like that horse Boxer from Orwell’s “Animal Farm.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Since nothing grinds my gears worse than a summer cold, an experience which I recently suffered through, one has been hitting the terrestrial pavement and the deck plates of boats as hard as I can for the last couple of weeks in pursuance of working harder. Now, the odd thing is this – I haven’t been to the Newtown Creek.

Normally, Newtown Creek is my happy place. Also, being exposed to that waterway bolsters my immune system and generally keeps me from getting sick and or contracting a summer cold. Oddly, however, I haven’t felt Queens calling for me to go there in a few weeks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s not that I’m bored with the place – far from it. There’s just some little bird chirping away inside my  “happily content and patient / consumed with red hot anger and resentment” state of mind that’s saying “explore” and is thinking about the far horizons.

Upcoming Events and Tours

Saturday, June 25, 10:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek,
with Brooklyn Brainery. Click here for more details.

Sunday, June 26, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 21, 2016 at 2:30 pm

shaken open

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From Hells Gate… in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The titular centennial for the Hell Gate bridge, one of the prides of Astoria, will be occurring shortly. Accordingly, the “powers that be” hereabouts have begun to gather and plan for a community celebration. A meeting was called recently, and one marched over to the forbidden northern coast of Queens to participate. This particular meeting was the moment when the centennial efforts got serious, as none other than Peter Vallone Sr. was in the room. If you don’t who that is, or what it means when the great man himself is present, you don’t know much about Astoria.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As is my habit, I left a LOT earlier than I needed to, and walked to the meeting location “the long way.” The “short way” takes about 25-30 minutes, the “long way” is a meandering but somewhat photogenic path that’s more like 90 minutes. My chosen path would, I hoped, allow me to catch some maritime traffic taking advantage of the flood tide on the East River for transiting to the north and east. I wasn’t disappointed, but I’ll show you that later in the week. That’s a Dann towing company tug in the shot above, incidentally.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The “long way” involves me walking from HQ on the south eastern side of Astoria, where we share borders with Woodside and Sunnyside, down Broadway and then following the East River north in the direction of Astoria Park. That’s where I encountered this scene above, which is a great example of why I love living in this neighborhood.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

“I like the way you think” is what I told the fellow in the Lay-Z-Boy on Shore Blvd. I also assured him that if he were to run for elected office, he could count on my support. He encouraged me to take his photo, incidentally, as his innovative notion of what a “folding chair” is was something wonderful.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ll show you some of the maritime traffic I spotted along Hell Gate in a post later on this week.

Upcoming Events and Tours

Saturday, June 25, 10:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek,
with Brooklyn Brainery. Click here for more details.

Sunday, June 26, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 20, 2016 at 1:30 pm

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