The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘NYC DOT

dark nether

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They brought the show to me!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator spends a great deal of time and effort trying to find something interesting to take pictures of. Often, upon stumbling across an interesting scene, one has to think fast about how to manipulate the camera in unfamiliar settings. Imagine then, my happiness when the most familiar of settings – the stretch of Broadway here in Astoria that I live along – was suddenly plastered with orange signs proclaiming that a road paving operation was nigh.

The shots in the embedded YouTube video above were gathered over the course of a few nights. Terrifically dusty and noisy, the first night saw a road milling contractor at work scratching away the asphalt roadbed of Broadway. On two subsequent evenings, workers of the NYC DOT arrived with a lot of heavy equipment to lay down a new asphalt roadbed. They were pretty noisy as well, and then there’s that delicious hot asphalt smell…

No sound on the slideshow video above, so no need to listen for something. Not yet, anyway. Hint, hint.


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Upcoming Tours and Events


Thursday, July 25, 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

Greenpoint Walking Tour w NYCH20

Explore Greenpoint’s post industrial landscape and waterfront with Newtown Creek Alliance historian Mitch Waxman.

Click here for ticketing and more information.


Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 19, 2019 at 11:00 am

primal farmyard

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Today is the day, in 1909, that Geronimo died. His real name was Goyaałé.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Owing to other obligations and piss poor weather conditions for the last couple of weeks, one hasn’t got anything new to show you for this week. Accordingly, it has been decided to instead present a few archive shots of the various branches of NYC government which make life liveable for us here in “Home Sweet Hell.”

Today, the focus is on the NYC DOT – the bewildering New York City Department of Transportation, whom, as you might discern from some of their assets pictured above, are showoffs.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

NYC DOT handles and oversees NYC’s streets, highways, 788 roadway and pedestrian bridges (both major and minor, and with 25 of them moveable), and sidewalks. DOT also does street signs, traffic signals, street lights, street resurfacing, pothole repair, parking meters, and manages municipal parking. They’re also in charge of bike lanes, regulate private bus services, and spend about $700 million bucks a year doing all this – last time I checked.

They also run that big orange boat you see in the shot above. Money well spent, no?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Of course, there’s a lot of purely mundane stuff they do. With the help of a couple of large contractors, notably Weisbach, DOT oversees the care and maintenance of those fancy new parking meter kiosks, street lights, and road paving. They also work with and augment the DSNY during snow events with plows and road salt.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 17, 2017 at 1:00 pm

impelled forward

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I want one.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the Caterpillar AP 1055f Track Asphalt Paver you see in the shot above, which was adorned with stickers indicating its owner (or lessee) was the NYC DOT. One was scuttling around on Broadway on a recent afternoon, heading towards Jackson Heights via Woodside, and this baby was just sitting there waiting to be recorded.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My instincts tell me that with just a few modifications, this would be an efficacious device to have in case of a zombie outbreak, but the pedants at the DOT was predictably using it for the purpose that it was actually engineered for – road grading and repair.

Combine this gizmo with a couple of those street trenchers I showed you last winter, you’ve got yourself a pretty formidable defense against the undead hordes – imho.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The manufacturer of this wonderfully complex bit of kit is the Caterpillar company, who build all sorts of giant machines. Their site hosts this page which describes the capabilities, mechanical qualities, and advantages which the device offers – which includes a heated seat for the operator.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I could not stop myself from thinking about the Cat in the Hat’s “moss-covered three-handled family gradunza” from the Dr. Seuss cartoons when I saw this puppy.

I’m all ‘effed up, of course.

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Upcoming Tours –

September 20th, 2015
Glittering Realms Walking Tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, click here for details and tickets

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 15, 2015 at 11:00 am

out into

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The Ninth Street Bridge, over the Gowanus Canal, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Yesterday, the Hamilton Avenue drawbridge which provides entry to and from the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn was described. Last Sunday, a humble narrator found his way on to an Open House NY boat trip to the troubled waterway, which penetrated as far back as the Fifth Street Basin.

from nyc.gov

This lift bridge replaced a bascule span that was in an advanced state of deterioration. The current structure provides an improved wider channel in the canal for unobstructed vessel passage. The bridge has state-of-the-art, electronically-controlled lifting machinery that should provide 50 years of reliable service. The bridge carries 3 lanes of traffic; 2 lanes westbound and 1 eastbound.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Special attention was paid to the opening and closing of the two drawbridges encountered. There are five movable bridges over the Gowanus, as well as two static ones.

There’s actually two bridges in these shots, as the Ninth Street Bridge is overflown by the Smith 9th Street Subway station viaduct.

from wikipedia

The opaqueness of the Gowanus water obstructs sunlight to one third of the six feet needed for aquatic plant growth. Rising gas bubbles betray the decomposition of sewage sludge that on a warm, sultry day produces the canal’s notable ripe stench. The murky depths of the canal conceal the remnants of its industrial past: cement, oil, mercury, lead, multiple volatile organic compounds,[10] PCBs, coal tar, and other contaminants. A 2007 Science Line report found gonorrhea  and unidentified organisms in the canal. In 1951, with the opening of the elevated Gowanus Expressway over the waterway, easy access for trucks and cars catalyzed industry slightly, but with 150,000 vehicles passing overhead each day, the expressway also deposits tons of toxic emissions into the air and water beneath.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Ninth Street span is a lift bridge, which replaced a failing drawbridge that occupied this spot for decades. The construction of all this gear was pretty recent.

from schiavoneconstruction.com

Reconstruction included demolition, removal and disposal of existing rolling leaf bascule bridge superstructure, machinery and controls, piers and abutments. Construction of new lift bridge included superstructure, machinery, control house, fender system, piers and abutments. Twenty stepped diameter caissons were installed to rock depths of up to 180 feet. All work had to be performed beneath existing NYCT elevated structure requiring temporary support of existing columns.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It was pretty exciting seeing the roadway just take off and start rising. The operation was nowhere near as noisy as I would have thought, but then again, I was on an idling ferry boat and the sounds of the nearby Gowanus Expressway really travel across this former floodplain.

from epa.gov

There are five east–west bridge crossings over the canal, at Union Street, Carroll Street, Third Street, Ninth Street, and Hamilton Avenue. The Gowanus Expressway and the Culver Line of the New York City Subway pass overhead. The canal is located in a mixed residential-commercial-industrial area, and it borders several residential neighborhoods, including Gowanus, Park Slope, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, and Red Hook. The waterfront properties abutting the canal are primarily commercial and industrial.

Environmental sampling performed before this RI revealed that the sediments throughout the Gowanus Canal are contaminated with a variety of pollutants, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and heavy metals (USACE, 2004, 2006; GEI, 2007). No environmental remediation activities have been performed to date.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Self confessed and avowed as an infrastructure freak, seeing the cable mechanisms climbing the towers was actually kind of thrilling. This is the sort of thing you normally observe from the landward side.

from wikipedia

A vertical-lift bridge or lift bridge is a type of movable bridge in which a span rises vertically while remaining parallel with the deck.

The vertical lift offers several benefits over other movable bridges such as the bascule and swing-span bridge. Generally speaking they cost less to build for longer moveable spans. The counterweights in a vertical lift are only required to be equal to the weight of the deck, whereas bascule bridge counterweights must weigh several times as much as the span being lifted. As a result, heavier materials can be used in the deck, and so this type of bridge is especially suited for heavy railroad use.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Brooklyn kid that I once was, one has imagined it would be great fun to ride the roadway of one of these lift bridges as it ascended. Turns out that would be foolhardy in the extreme, as the actual tonnages and pressures being levered around are positively cyclopean and could easily squish a man flat.

Last year, in East Boston, one of these lift bridges actually ate somebody.

from nydailynews.com

Police say the woman was crossing the Meridian Street Bridge, which spans East Boston and Chelsea, at about 12:21 p.m. Tuesday. As she started across, the lift operator opened the bridge so a boat could pass beneath the span, the Boston Globe reported.

The movement jolted the unidentified woman off her feet, leaving her hanging from one open end of the bridge, cops say. The woman began screaming for help and the operator, cops say, closed the span in response. Instead of helping, the woman was crushed to death between the massive steel plates.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For some reason, the NYC DOT is rather vague about certain things.

Once upon a time, they’d brag to anybody that would listen about how many thousands of times a drawbridge opened or closed, citing the smooth exchange of maritime and vehicular traffic streams as a proof of public monies being well invested. These days, they proudly proclaim automotive traffic numbers, as in this 2010 report which describes the Ninth Street Lift Bridge as having allowed some 13,362 toll free automotive crossings.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

May of 1910 saw a true conflagration right around here. A 4 alarm fire erupted at the Cranford Company, immolating oil and gasoline tanks, which drew the attentions of both terrestrial and maritime firefighter. Check out the NY Times piece below for all the sordid details. The losses are described as $150,000, which would be around $3,695,387.30 today.

from at nytimes.com

Firemen from engine companies responding to four alarms and the members of three fireboat companies last night fought a blaze which completely destroyed the building of the Cranford Company, contractors in asphalt and tar work, at Ninth Street and the Gowanus Canal, Brooklyn.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As far as I’ve been able to dope out, the spot that this Ninth Street Bridge occupies is in the vicinity of where the colonial era “Cole’s Mill” was located. A mill and mill pond supposedly built by John Rapelye and an army of slaves out of the aboriginal marshlands, it then came into the possession of a fellow named Jordan Cole – hence “Cole’s Mill.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

More recently, roughly a century ago, we’d be enjoying a nice view of the Tartar Chemical Company’s works.

Tartar is something that most modern people would associate with a sauce used on fried fish, but it was one of the wonder chemicals of the 19th century. Essentially, the Tartar Chemical works were an acid factory.

from 1909’s “Contributions From The Sanitary Research Laboratory And Sewage Experiment Station,” courtesy google books

The upper part of the canal is badly polluted by sewage. At the lower end the pollution is largely industrial wastes mixed with more or less sewage.

As a rule the amount of nitrogen present varies directly with the amount of sewage. The other constituents of sewage vary with the nitrogen. Therefore when the nitrogen is greatly increased without a corresponding increase in the other sewage substances it is an indication of industrial wastes. This is exactly what happens in that portion of the canal opposite the Tartar Chemical Company. On talking with one of their employees, we learned that crude argol is digested with sulphuric acid, and that the waste product is an acid sludge running high in sulphates and nitrogen.

In the first series below, Ninth Street the oxygen consumed curve went up rapidly. In the second series the curve had a downward tendency. The starch factory, not running on Sunday, had no waste to discharge at that time. The abnormal values for the oxygen consumed are probably due to gluten in the wastes discharged by the starch factory.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Three out of five down. Guess that we’re heading over to Third Street, on foot this time, in tomorrow’s post.

from wikipedia

Tartaric acid and its derivatives have a plethora of uses in the field of pharmaceuticals. For example, tartaric acid has been used in the production of effervescent salts, in combination with citric acid, in order to improve the taste of oral medications. The potassium antimonyl derivative of the acid known as tartar emetic is included, in small doses, in cough syrup as an expectorant.

Tartaric acid also has several applications for industrial use. The acid has been observed to chelate metal ions such as calcium and magnesium. Therefore, the acid has served in the farming and metal industries as a chelating agent for complexing micronutrients in soil fertilizer and for cleaning metal surfaces consisting of aluminum, copper, iron, and alloys of these metals, respectively.

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There’s a Newtown Creek walking tour, and a Magic Lantern show, coming up.

Saturday, June 7th, 13 Steps around Dutch Kills with Atlas Obscura.
Click here for tickets and more info.

Wednesday, June 11th, Newtown Creek Magic Lantern Show with Brooklyn Brainery.
Click here for tickets and more info.

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 5, 2014 at 11:00 am

old native

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The Carroll Street Bridge, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve said it so many times on the Newtown Creek “Dutch Kills” tours that I’ve conducted – “The Borden Street Bridge is one of just two retractable bridges in NYC, the other is on Carroll Street over the Gowanus.” Then I go on to talk about Chicago and what a retractable bridge does and why its special, but it occurred to me that I’ve never done a post on the Carroll Street span. Today, the remedy.

Also, just as a note, I’ll be repeating the above quotation on this coming Saturday’s tour, see the link at the bottom of this post for details.

from nyc.gov

The Carroll Street Bridge is a retractile bridge crossing the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn. The bridge, which was opened to traffic in 1889, supports a 17 foot wide roadway and two 4.5 foot sidewalks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

What’s super cool about the Carroll Street span is the wooden road surfacing that allows vehicular egress over this section of the Gowanus Canal. There’s still one more bridge before the Gowanus reaches its inevitable conclusion, Union Street Bridge, but Carroll is where the industrial canal seems to shallow out and is one of the places where its entire “raison d’être” seems to have been forgotten.

from wikipedia

Retractable bridges date back to medieval times. Due to the large dedicated area required for this type of bridge, this design is not common. A retractable design may be considered when the maximum horizontal clearance is required (for example over a canal).

Two remaining examples exist in New York City (the Carroll Street Bridge (built 1889) in Brooklyn and the Borden Avenue Bridge in Queens).

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pictured above are the pulleys and gears which provide locomotive force to the structure, and the aperture into which the roadway actually retracts to allow theoretical maritime egress. The Gowanus Dredgers boat club is nearby, and I suspect that they can tell you everything you’d want to know about the mores and habits exhibited by the NYC DOT engineers who care for and maintain the structure. Business has called me to South Brooklyn all year, and one of the more interesting “Gowanus People” I’ve met is a fellow named Joseph Alexiou, who provides a satisfying historical narrative for the Gowanus.

from tedxgowanus.com

A journalist and history buff, Joseph Alexiou is writing a book about the Gowanus Canal. He is the author of Paris for Dummies and contributing author to Frommer’s Paris 2012 and has written for New York, the New York Press,  New York Observer, Gothamist and Paper Magazine.  He is a former associate editor at Out magazine and has a master’s degree from the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Somebody else from the Gowanus crew that has impressed the heck out of me is Eymund Diegel. His knowledge of the Gowanus and its hydrology, history, and personality is staggering. Be forewarned and forearmed though, for if you seek his wisdom, bring a notepad or recording device with you – as the cascade of information he offers can be a bit overwhelming.

also from tedxgowanus.com

Eymund Diegel is the chair of Public Laboratory, a citizen science group partnered with the Gowanus Canal Conservancy’s Grassroots Aerial Photography program, where local citizen’s insights help improve Google Earth and City mapping of the neighborhood. As a Gowanus resident, he also helps out at the Hall of the Gowanus, a community historic research resource. Trained as an urban planner with a focus on watershed and environmental planning, he works with other local residents who have been tying digital cameras to kites and balloons to map and reconstruct the Gowanus Canal’s “ghost stream” network.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

There’s a Newtown Creek walking tour, and a Magic Lantern show, coming up.

Saturday, June 7th, 13 Steps around Dutch Kills with Atlas Obscura.
Click here for tickets and more info.

Wednesday, June 11th, Newtown Creek Magic Lantern Show with Brooklyn Brainery.
Click here for tickets and more info.

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 3, 2014 at 11:00 am

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