The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘ny harbor

subaqueous civilization 

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The camera was desperate for an adventure last week, so a humble narrator acquiesced and took it out on the water for the Working Harbor Committee‘s Education tour. The Education tour is a private event, a boat trip which is conducted for school groups that culminates a program of classroom instruction on the subject of the harbor of New York and New Jersey. There’s a lot of great jobs at the Port, and for some reason most New Yorkers don’t consider it an option when they’re looking for work.

It ain’t just longshoremen or sailor type stuff either, as Ed Kelly from the Maritime Association and Andrew Genn from the NYC EDC explained to the hundred or so high school students who were onboard.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Unfortunately, one had to cross through the cursed earth of Manhattan to get to the WHC boat at Pier 11, which is roughly in line with Governeur Lane down in the financial district. This was in the midst of that sudden three day heat wave last week, so rather than walk in to town from Astoria or take the Ferry from LIC (my preference for such excursions) I just jumped on the subway. Why it takes so long to get from “a to b” these days is a complete mystery to me, as the trip ultimately resolves down to around 8 miles.

The good news is that on the way home, I used the Citywide ferry service to return to the blessed and heavy metals rich soil of Queens. I’m planning on hitting the new Rockaway Route soon, btw, as soon as my schedule allows it. It has been a very, very busy month of May for a humble narrator.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of the new Citywide Ferry service, I still haven’t ridden on one of the new Hornblower model ferries. The one that met me for the trip home was an older but super reliable NY Waterways version, the model which has been servicing the East River route for several years now. While the boat was making its regular stops, I spotted this little push boat tug towing a barge which had a crane set upon it. Couldn’t resist popping out a few shots of the thing.

The camera slept well that night, after having gotten some exercise and a bit of a workout on the water.


Upcoming Tours and events

Newtown Creek Alliance and Riverkeeper Visioning, June 3rd, 1-4 p.m..

Imagine the future of Newtown Creek with Riverkeeper and NCA at the Kingsland Wildfowers Green Roof (520 Kingsland Avenue in Greenpoint) details here.

Newtown Creek Alliance History lecture with NCA historian Mitch Waxman, June 3rd, 7 p.m.

An hour long lecture and slideshow about Newtown Creek’s incredible history at the gorgeous Kingsland Wildfowers Green Roof (520 Kingsland Avenue in Greenpoint).


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

country seat

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It’s National Turkey Neck Soup Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Racing thoughts, cold sweats, night terrors, or existential anxieties notwithstanding – one is happy to report that the Hell Gate Bridge Centennial has been marked. Last weekend, one attended a walk conducted by the estimable Richard Melnick of Greater Astoria Historical Society celebrating the event. Mr. Melnick was joined by Dave Frieder, a photographer and bridge expert, as well as around fifty enthusiasts. For me, it was nice just to be around people who weren’t chasing or deriding.

Pictured above, a CSX freight train heading eastwards over the bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

While following our course, the usual grand panoply of sights were encountered along the east river, including the transit of an articulated tug and barge – the Bouchard corporation’s “Evening Star” tug towing a fuel barge… It’s all so depressing, really.

As always, one reminds that whether they’re pulling or pushing, Tugboats are always “towing.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Hell Gate bridge overflies Astoria Park, of course, and one spotted the curious tableau seen above while there.

I’ve been warning all of you about Lovecraftian phenomena occurring in Queens for years, and now at last I can demonstrate the presence of the Shoggoths amongst us.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This looked like the kind of fun I would have enjoyed having as a child, in those halcyon days before my soul had been blackened to a crisp by the unrelenting fires of adulthood. Life – it’s become a neutral gray for me nowadays – banal, ashen, joyless.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Greater Astoria Historic Society has a full calendar of Hell Gate related programming coming up, and this summer the folks who live in “Astoria, Astoria” or plainly Astoria’s north side are planning a few summertime celebrations for Lindenthal’s triumphant arch bridge over the East River.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

March 30, 2017 at 1:00 pm

luring skyline

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It’s Christmas Eve, if you’re Russian Orthodox, and Christmas Day if you’re Armenian Orthodox.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself dipped behind New Jersey, whilst on my way to that Holiday party in Hells Kitchen I’ve been talking about all week, I was reminded of something about myself. I’m lucky. Despite the objectionable nature of my personality, the disgusting personal habits I readily display, my sloth, bizarre opinions loudly repeated, and everything else which causes those who know me to curl their upper lips up in disgust – I’m lucky. I also need to get out more often.

As I was passing by the Circle Line at 42nd street and found myself approaching Pier 84, I noticed a series of maritime cranes and tugs at work.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It was DonJon towing doing the work – the Sarah Ann and Brian Nicholas tugs were quite busy. You don’t get to see much maritime industrial stuff going on at the Hudson River coastline of Manhattan, in this century at least.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The DonJon tugs were “wrassling” two barges into place, one carried a maritime crane, the other was full of what I originally perceived as being scrap. Couldn’t have been more wrong, as it turned out.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Longtime readers of this – your Newtown Pentacle – know that I have a certain fascination with the DonJon towing company, who operate regularly on my beloved Newtown Creek. They have wonderful toys, DonJon does.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The flat top barge was carrying huge “lomticks” of steel, which conversation with one of many “hard hats” on the pier described as being destined for the Hudson Yards project. Scrap indeed.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Part of the reason that I originally thought the flat top barge was handling scrap was the significant tonnage of the stuff that I normally observe the DonJon people moving around the harbor. This post from 2012 follows the DonJon Tug Sarah Ann, pictured above, towing metal and employed by the recycling people.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The other DonJon towing vessel on duty was the Brian Nicholas, discussed in another 2012 post, one which also happens to carry one of my all time favorite “tugboat on Newtown Creek” shots.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The location which the steel was being delivered to is a fairly narrow channel that’s normally used to launch human powered boats by the Manhattan Kayak club people, adjoins Hudson River Park, and it neighbors the Intrepid Air and Space museum. This location is analogous to the Manhattan street grid as being 44th street.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The crane barge is DonJon’s Columbia New York. She’s got a 140 foot long boom, dates back to the 1970’s, and can lift 310 short tons while its base is revolving. Everything you’d care to know about the thing can be found here.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The entire operation slowed down to a crawl as they approached the Manhattan bulkheads. A small workboat was zipping around, and everywhere you looked on the vessels there were sailors peering over the sides communicating on walkie talkies. I guess they didn’t want to scratch the Intrepid or something.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Brian Nicholas hung back as the crane and flat top barges moved into position.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The crane barge began lowering its “spuds,” which are long steel bars that extend down to the bottom of the river and act as stabilizers (think table legs). While that was happening, ropes were flung around and tied off to bollards.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Having successfully killed the time between leaving Point A (Astoria) and that Holiday party in Hells Kitchen by walking through LIC, taking the 7 to Hudson Yards, checking out the Hudson Yards megaproject from the High Line, and then luckily running into this maritime industrial display – it was actually now time for me to begin heading there directly.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Couldn’t resist one or two more shots, however.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s some of the structural steel being delivered to the Hudson Yards project, in a somewhat elevated shot gathered from a pedestrian bridge at West Street between 45 & 46th streets.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

From the same elevated position, and from a bit of a distance, you can get a better idea of the size of the crane.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

While all this was going on, rush hour was playing out on West Street.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So, that’s the story about all the stuff I saw because I got invited to a holiday party in Hells Kitchen. I should leave the house more often, I guess. See what happened the next time I went out, next week at this – your Newtown Pentacle.

Also, Merry Christmas to all you orthodox Russians and Armenians. Sunday the 7th is “Gristmas,” btw, or Greek Orthodox Christmas.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

January 6, 2017 at 11:00 am

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

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