The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘NYPD Harbor Unit

adroitly pumped

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Wednesday has happened again.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Still on Randalls/Wards Island, but looking wistfully towards Astoria Park and Queens whilst under the Triborough Bridge, imagine my joy at the sudden arrival of an NYPD Harbor Unit vessel which pushed through the scene. There’s a base and berth for the gendarmes on the Harlem River side of the island, but I don’t know if that’s where they coming from or going to.

One refuses to use the secondary name for Triborough Bridge, or for the Queensboro, until they rename the Brooklyn Bridge as the Michael Bloomberg Bridge. Sounds crazy, huh? Renaming Mighty Triborough or the majestic Queensboro after other politicians doesn’t? No respect, I tell ya, no respect.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s no possibility that something like what you see above can cross in front of my lens with me not being drawn to capture it. I’ve talked about this many times during tours conducted on the Soundview Ferry line, but Triborough is one of the great historical feats of civil engineering and industrial power. There’s a theory which postulates that this bridge is the reason that WW2 went as well as it did for the United States, offering that the Triborough operations orders for steel alone restarted that entire sector of the American economy during the darkest years of the Great Depression. Factor in the labor, the concrete, the forest of wood needed for scaffolds…

That’s something to consider, while looking forward at the next few years.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Randalls/Wards Island offers an up close and personal look at another one of NYC’s wonders, the Hells Gate Bridge. Carrying railroad tracks rather than vehicle lanes, as Triborough does, this arch bridge is thought to be the most permanent structure in the entire city. Supposedly, long after the Empire State Building has collapsed and the other East River bridges have been reduced down to masonry piers with no span between them, the Hells Gate will still be more or less intact.

In the foot steps of giants we do walk.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the beginning of the week of Monday, July 20th. My plan is to continue doing my solo photo walks around LIC and the Newtown Creek in the dead of night as long as that’s feasible. If you continue to see regular updates here, that means everything is kosher as far as health and well being. If the blog stops updating, it means that things have gone badly for a humble narrator.

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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 for $30.

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Now there’s something you don’t see every day.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A recent Working Harbor Committee excursion to Gowanus Bay saw our vessel plying the Buttermilk Channel section of the East River, which is found between Red Hook and Governors Island. The legend about how this section of the river ended up being called Buttermilk Channel states that back in colonial times, it was so shallow at low tide that Red Hook farmers would herd cattle over to the island for safe keeping and free grazing. Dredging projects in the industrial era lowered the depth hereabouts, creating a shipping channel.

As our vessel moved along, a big orange boat called the Staten Island Ferry entered into Buttermilk, which is pretty unusual. Incidentally, despite its size, the Ferry is a boat. If it could launch a boat, it would be a ship, but since it can’t, it’s a boat. Life boats don’t count, I’m told.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It was actually a dredging project that caused the anomaly. New York Harbor is an estuary situated between a giant conveyor belt for silt and soil called the Hudson River and the estuarial waters of Jamaica Bay and Long Island Sound. The back and forth tidal action of the East River, coupled with the titanic flow of the Hudson, causes the harbor floor to build up constantly and channel maintenance is an expensive but necessary activity ordained and financed by the ports people.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just as we were leaving Buttermilk Channel on our way to Erie Basin and Gowanus Bay, the NYPD Harbor Patrol came splashing by, offering themselves up with an iconic backdrop.

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sluggish river

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Maritime Sunday witnesses a somber duty.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The infamous Newtown Creek, at its junction with the East River, flows languidly between Greenpoint in Brooklyn and Long Island City in Queens. This post is being written on Friday the 18th, and at the time of this writing, a young fellow named Avonte is still missing. Avonte Oquendo, a 14 year old Autistic boy, wandered out of his school in LIC on October 4th and has been missing ever since. To their credit, the NYPD is leaving no stone unturned in the search for the kid, which includes my beloved Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Patrol Boat 315, a SAFE boat, was recently observed combing the shoreline. One of my informants on the Brooklyn side told me that they had witnessed NYPD individually checking the private boats which proliferate on the Queens side as part of the so called “Vernon Boat Sanctuary.” Descriptions of uniformed patrol units working in concert with the harbor units have all reached my ears. The sky has been alive with helicopters as well, which I can personally attest to.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Today’s Maritime Sunday shout out goes to the uniformed crew of 315, tirelessly searching Newtown Creek for a local kid who’s in trouble. If you’ve got any info about Avonte or his whereabouts, his family is absolutely sick with worry. Avonte is described as 5-foot-3 and weighs about 125 pounds. He was last seen wearing a grey striped shirt and black jeans.

Those with information are asked to contact the NYPD at 800-577-TIPS.

chiseled likeness

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recently observed patrolling the languid expanses of the Newtown Creek, the NYPD Harbor Unit’s “Lt. Federico Narvaez”. The coppers name their boats after fallen comrades. There is also a playground in Brooklyn named after the departed officer.


Police Lieutenant Federico Narvaez (1956-1996), who was born in Brooklyn and died in the vicinity of this Flatbush playground. Following his graduation from high school in Williamsburg, Narvaez studied business at Baruch College, where he met his wife, Marilyn. The two married in 1980 and had one child, Katrina. Appointed to the Police Department in 1979, Narvaez served at the 25th, 34th and 23rd Precincts before his promotion to Lieutenant in 1993. In addition, Narvaez had tours of duty with the Narcotics Division, the Warrant Division and the Civilian Complaint Review Board.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The story of the fallen officer is told at the “NYPD Angels” site, linked to below. This is a message board frequented by the members of the force, and often displays a “pulls no punches” manner- so be warned if you click through. Launch 3 is technically a ship, not a boat. It’s a ship because it can launch a boat, which is one of those little bits of maritime knowledge you pick up hanging around sailors. There are enormous vessels out there- Tugs come to mind- which cannot launch a boat. It’s one of those minor points…


Lieutenant Narvaez was shot and killed after being flagged down by a female pedestrian. The pedestrian told him that she was being stalked and Lieutenant Narvaez approached the man after calling for backup. The man turned and fired, striking Lieutenant Narvaez in the face. The man ran down a street but was stopped by other responding units. He was told to drop his gun but fired at the units and was shot and killed.

Lieutenant Narvaez had been on the job for 17 years.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This Police ship, not boat, is actually pretty large. Most of the NYPD vessels you see are actually rather small, built for speed rather than capacity. On the day which these shots were captured, I was waiting for a group to arrive (who were running late) and whatever the Cops were doing on the Creek, they were back there for a good hour or more before I saw them heading back out to the East River.

from wikipedia

Commanding Officer of Harbor Unit – Deputy Inspector David Driscoll

On March 15, 1858, five members of the New York City Police Department rowed out into New York Harbor to combat piracy aboard merchant ships lying at anchor. The NYPD Harbor Unit has existed ever since, protecting life and property. With hundreds of miles of inland waterways to cover, the unit operates 27 boats from three bases.

For underwater work, the department used to contract with private diving companies when weapons or other evidence had to be recovered from the bottom of New York’s many rivers and waterways. In the early 1970s, however, the Harbor Unit formed a specialized scuba team that today numbers around 30 officers. Unlike many police dive units, whose members dive only part-time, NYPD divers are assigned to the unit full-time. (The exception are some scuba-trained officers in regular patrol units who are detailed to the team temporarily during the busy summer months.) In addition to the normal duties of evidence recovery, the Scuba Team’s mission has expanded since 9/11 to include a counter-terrorism role. For air-sea rescue work, the Harbor Unit keeps two divers assigned to the Aviation Unit 24 hours a day, seven days per week, all year round. These divers will work with their counterparts in the FDNY, who arrive at incidents by fireboat or rescue company.

image from wikipedia


Upcoming Walking Tour- The Poison Cauldron, with Atlas Obscura

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Meetup at the corner of Kingsland and Norman Avenues in Greenpoint at 11 on Saturday, August 25th.

We will be exploring the petroleum and waste transfer districts of the Newtown Creek watershed in North Brooklyn. Heavily industrialized, the area we will be walking through is the heart of the Greenpoint Oil Spill and home to scores of waste transfer stations and other heavy industries. We will be heading for the thrice damned Kosciuszko Bridge, which is scheduled for a demolition and replacement project which will be starting in 2013. Photographers, in particular, will find this an interesting walk through a little known and quite obscure section of New York City.

Be prepared: We’ll be encountering broken pavement, sometimes heavy truck traffic, and experiencing a virtual urban desert as we move through the concrete devastations of North Brooklyn. Dress and pack appropriately for hiking, closed toe shoes are highly recommended- as are a hat or parasol to shield you from the sun.

Bathroom opportunities will be found only at the start of the walk, which will be around three hours long and cover approximately three miles of ground. Drivers, it would be wise to leave your cars in the vicinity of McGolrick Park in Greenpoint.

Click here for tickets, and as always- a limited number of walk ups will be welcomed- but for safety reasons we need to limit the group to a manageable size. Contact me at this email if you desire further details.

time and magnitude

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

A quick one for this week’s “Maritime Sunday”, depicting the “P.O. Kenny Hansen” Launch No. 4 of the redoubtable NYPD Harbor Unit as it patrolled the Kill Van Kull. Named for a young officer who lost his life in the line of duty, as are all Police boats, wherever the crew was going- they were heading there fast.


Officer Kenneth Hansen, 26, drowned after apparently suffering a leg cramp while posing as a victim during an air-sea rescue training operation in the water off Battery Park. He was wearing street clothes and no life vest when he disappeared beneath the murky water while waiting for a lifeline from a helicopter hovering overhead. Officer Hansen was reported missing and his body was recovered from New York Harbor in Lower Manhattan the next day.

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