The Newtown Pentacle

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evasive outlines

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recently, your humble narrator was assisting a colleague in the execution of a walking tour of the Newtown Creek when this tug and barge were spotted sliding across the water.

This was “the short tour”, which includes only the tiniest part of Greenpoint’s north side and includes the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant Nature Walk.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Esteemed, the person whom I was helping out has a rock solid grasp on the science and politics of the area, but had asked me to come along just in case anyone wanted to know who Provost Street or Kingsland Avenue are named for. That’s when I spotted this handsome scion of the McAllister towing company engaging in its occupation advancing down the Newtown Creek toward the East River.

The tugboat Resolute, side hitched to a fuel barge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An oft repeated but seldom comprehended statement which those of us involved with the story of this place like to throw out is “a century ago, this was the busiest waterway in North America, and the Creek carried more shipping traffic than the entire Mississippi river”. The official date for that high water mark is actually 1912, so next year we will be correct when saying century.

Your humble narrator, of course, will use the word “centuried” simply because it sounds creepy and cool.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In times past, it wasn’t just fuel barges mind you- vast amounts of mineral products destined for manufacturers like Phelps Dodge, or barge loads of putrescents destined for corporations like Van Iderstines were common sights as late as the 1970’s along the Newtown Creek.

But- like everywhere else in New York City- nobody really makes anything these days, and even the fuel which the Resolute’s barge carries is refined elsewhere.

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