The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘photowalk

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

inviolably private

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Continuing from a visit to Coney Island, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Described laboriously in prior posts, one took the Brighton (or Q) Line Subway from Astoria, Queens to the former site of the Dreamland Amusement Park in Brooklyn’s Coney Island, which has housed the NY Aquarium since 1957, and then decided to turn east in a moment of whimsy.

I was headed for Ocean Parkway and Brighton Beach Avenue when I encountered something kind of odd in the grassy border of the Coney Island Boardwalk along Surf Avenue just before it loops into Ocean Parkway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An enormous concrete sculpture of a giant squid, with its tentacles playing out over a fish.

In the shot above, Im standing on the squid.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Oddly enough since its in a NYC Parks Dept. property, and I looked around quite a bit for information on this item, I couldn’t find any sort of documentation on it. It had all the appearances of emanating from the Parks playground design people employed by Robert Moses back in the 1950’s and 60’s – concrete construction and all, but there’s “bupkis” online information about it. That’s weird.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Some enterprising Brooklynite has painted the fish caught in the squid’s tentacles to resemble the Nemo character from the Disney “Finding Nemo” movie franchise.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If anybody out there knows anything about this, and Andrea Coyle of GANYC or Sergey Kadinsky – I think Im talking to one of you, please share.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One was now on a mission in South East Brooklyn, which carried me in a generally eastern direction, and I soon found myself turning onto Brighton Beach Avenue and under the elevated tracks of the Brighton Line.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Famously, this area has become overwhelmingly Russian in the last few decades, and the storefront signs were all in Cyrillic. Brighton Beach wasn’t my destination, of course, and I was just passing through the community on my way to another one of my old haunts.

More on that in a future post, at this – your Newtown Pentacle.

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

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 20, 2016 at 11:00 am

wrenching sound

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Coney Island Aquarium, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The NY Aquarium is based in Coney Island, Brooklyn.

It is the very definition of the “House of Moses” as it was NYC’s master builder Robert Moses who actually created the modern institution. Moses had ousted the Aquarium from its former home on the Battery in Manhattan, at Castle Clinton, when he was pushing to build his Brooklyn Battery Bridge (one of his few defeats, but he got to take over the tunnel project instead) back in 1941. In early June of 1957, Moses unveiled the NY Aquarium here in South Eastern Brooklyn, right next door to the landmarked “Cyclone” roller coaster which predated it by around thirty years and which is pictured above.

As an aside, the Aquarium is the former location of the semi legendary “Dreamland” Amusement park.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Currently operated by the Wildlife Conservation Society, which manages all of NYC’s premiere animal prisons, the Aquarium was hit hard by Hurricane Sandy and is frankly a shadow of its former self. The good news is that there’s a significant amount of construction going on at the site, which should restore the place to its former glory, but there’s not all that much to see hereabouts at the moment. Regardless, due to my NYCID card granted free membership to all the WCS managed properties, I had free admission, so in I went.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The bathysphere located outside the Aquarium has to have had every Brooklyn school kid of the last sixty years climb on it.

It’s an artifact of the 1930’s, this pressure capsule, and was used by a zoologist name Beebe and an engineer named Barton (who designed, built, and maintained the thing) to “deep dive” and observe critters in the depths of the sea. It set records for depth back in 1934, as a point of interest, and the bathysphere is said to have descended some 3,028 feet down into the water.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just after entering, you encounter a dark chamber filled with tanks of various sorts of itchyan critters. It’s pretty darkly lit in there, and as the room is packed with little kids losing their minds at the sights, you need to be pretty careful where you step to avoid squishing any of the kids as they bounce off the walls.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m no ichthyologist, but I’m pretty sure that’s a ray. This critter was in the largest of the tanks. One is curious about the “behind the scenes” stuff maintaining these tanks – the filters, aeration, and circulation systems alone must represent a volume of water 2/3 larger than what you see in the tank. There were pretty big populations of fish swimming around in these displays, so there has to be some pretty interesting plumbing connected to it, IMHO.

It’s a pretty challenging environment to shoot inside the Aquarium, incidentally, as the tank walls seem to be composed of some sort of thick plastic which created a lot of visual artifacts and light refraction. It’s also, as mentioned, fairly dark in there, and the light levels are set for the comfort of the inhabitants of the tanks rather than for their observers.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My “bright lens” which is capable of large apertures such as f1.8 was deployed, and I used one hand as both a light baffle and pad for the lens as I brought it nearly up to the tank. The light baffle part was to control reflection from light sources behind the camera, the “pad” was to avoid directly touching the glass. I had autofocus on, and was “spraying and praying” the shots. Worked out fairly well, with a roughly 40% success rate, as far as image fidelity goes.

That’s some sort of weird tentacle monster above, might be related to certain star spawned deities who are both the key and the gate, and in whom all are one. Y’know, the thousand faced goat from the woods.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In another of the tanks there were what looked like schools of Cichlids, in sort of simulated lake environment. That’s what they looked like to me at least, but as mentioned, I’m no ichthyologist.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Some truly enormous river fish were observed in another tank. I’ve seen smaller specimens of this critter on sale at tropical fish stores in the past, and they’re all jaw.

One of my college jobs, incidentally, was working as an Aquarium Service technician. I’d show up in rich guy’s manhattan offices who had contracted with my boss, and I’d do all the fish tank maintenance chores for them (deep filtering, water change, chemical tests for ph and ammonia levels, assess fish health, mechanics of tank, etc.) I did a couple of Chinese restaurants in midtown as well, which were huge all day jobs on 500 gallon custom salt water tanks. Back in college, I was also a fine art mover, a clerk at a fotomat, a dishwasher – pretty much anything I could do for money I did. Once I took a job shoveling poop.

Told you that visiting this part of Brooklyn made me nostalgic.

Outside of the interior section of the Aquarium, there was a lonely looking and somewhat shy harbor seal, an otter, and a pack of penguins. The Walrus had the day off, according to the signage. Frankly they weren’t too active and nothing interesting happened when I pointed a camera at them, so…

Sharks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A temporary tank is housing the Aquarium’s collection of various shark specie.

Were Sharks capable of any thought beyond “kill” or “hunt” I might feel sorry for them, but they’re not, so I don’t. Apparently a new Shark enclosure is under construction which should make them as happy as Sharks are capable of being when they’re not killing.

Affordable housing for Sharks, this?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The only thought going through my head while struggling to get a few decent shots of these predators was the movie character “Dr. Evil” asking his henchmen to outfit his sharks with “fricking Lasers.” Like tigers, we must maintain the Shark specie in case Aliens ever invade the Earth. The Tigers will be ridden by Russian Special Forces Soldiers, of course, and will shot at the arriving fleet of starships in the warheads of missiles to greet the arriving conquerors with the unique brand of hospitality that Russians offer to invaders. I also like to think that it will be Maori Warriors from New Zealand who will ride laser and space suit equipped sharks into battle with the extraterrestrial armies. I should mention that while I was shooting the Sharks, I was listening to Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper,” so…

Personally speaking, a welcome will be offered to our new overlords, as the only mount I have to ride into battle on would be an increasingly lazy dog named Zuzu.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Remember my little explanation of how to guard against backlit reflections in photo situations like these?

This is what happens when you don’t do that, but I thought it made for a neat effect. Almost looks like a double exposure, but it’s just the reflection on the curved glass as the killers slipped by.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Having accomplished a minor goal, one’s spirits were high and an exit through the Aquarium’s Coney Island Boardwalk portal was engaged. All told, I was at the facility for about an hour.

It was fun, and a I look forward to returning when the WCS has built the new enclosures and fully recovered from Sandy.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Trying to decide what to do with myself, as I’d just spent equal amounts of time at the Aquarium and on the train ride to Coney Island from Astoria, a definite course of action was decided upon.

Before you ask, those box thingies on the stilts in the shot above house the Beach’s “comfort stations” and provide the Parks Dept. folks with offices. They run taxpayers about $2 million each, and these are two of the 35 of them being installed on city beaches. They’re built by the Deluxe Building Systems Corp., have galvanized steel frames to withstand the salty atmosphere and weather events, and are brand spanking new.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I turned eastwards, as a silly idea suddenly occurred to me, and the desire for luncheon began to rumble.

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

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 19, 2016 at 11:00 am

attic seclusion

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A travlin’ man, that’s me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pictured above is Astoria, Queens’s 31st street and the elevated subway tracks which both distinguish and curse the spot once known to a newly consolidated City of Greater New York as Second Avenue, and to the Village of Astoria section of an independent municipality called Long Island City as Debevoise Street. These particular tracks, which are known to the MTA as the IRT Astoria Line, opened for business back in February of 1917, and today carry the N and Q lines between Ditmars Blvd. and the Queensboro Bridge.

Saying that, the predecessor of what we know as the Q Line (which is part of MTA’s “B” Division’s BMT service) began coming to Astoria at the end of April of back in 1950, after the purpose built IRT platforms were modified to accept the BMT trains.

It’s actually called the Brighton Line, the Q, and that should tell you everything about where I was going last Monday morning.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

According to the MTA website, it was only going to take me 45 minutes to cross the western tip of a Long Island, from North to South by South East. This calculation proved somewhat true, and the journey took me around 50-55 minutes. On the way, I listened to an audiobook of H.P. Lovecraft’s “Call of Cthulhu” just to get into the mood.

One had finally found the time, you see.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the other side of my journey from Astoria, the first thing I noticed were the elevated tracks which lead to the Coney Island Stillwell Terminal. Normal people call that the F, but not me. What I see are the tracks of the IND Culver line, and a rapid transit connection that runs between southeast Brooklyn and Jamaica, Queens.

So… lessee… that means that even without the proposed BQX streetcar system, you can connect from two wildly separate sections of Queens to the same locus point in Brooklyn. It also suggests that since you can go further and faster using this already extant path… bah, what does logic have to do with De Blasio’s New York?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Back in the 1980’s, when a humble narrator was still a youth, this was one of the best spots in the City to spot graffiti clad subway cars, as they exited out of the terminal. This was also an area infamous for the presence of crack dealers and prostitutes. It wasn’t quite “do or die” around here, but the area in which “The Donald’s Dad” Fred Trump made his fortune was pretty rough “back in the day.”

And that’s before the Russian mobsters arrived.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My little journey was spurred on by the NYCID card which was obtained back during the winter, and more than once at this – your Newtown Pentacle – you’ve read of my desire to visit all of NYC’s premiere animal prisons. In particular, the one that’s found here in Southeast Brooklyn which I haven’t visited since grade school.

This area, less than an hour from home in Astoria (where I’ve lived for around a third of my life), is close to the part of Brooklyn which I spent the first third of my life in and is the outer edge of my old stomping grounds. Specifically speaking, my family lived about 2-3 miles east of here at the Canarsie/Flatlands border, but in the broader sense – I felt like was returning to my home town.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Lenape tribe which lived here called this barrier island “Narrioch,” which means “land without shadows.” Given that I spend most of my time in North Brooklyn and Western Queens along a waterway which the Lenape referred to as “Hohosboco” or “the bad water place” and which modernity refers to as the Newtown Creek – seeing Jamaica Bay rising on the horizon beyond Coney Island… it got me all nostalgic.

That’s when I dropped the Lovecraft audiobook and started listening to Iron Maiden.

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

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 18, 2016 at 11:00 am

private hospital

with one comment

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

violet litten

with 2 comments

Seriously, how much can one guy take?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Often, and in excruciating detail, have I been told how annoying my company actually is. Noticing every little detail as I move around is one reason I’m so aberrant a fellow, forcing people to listen to me rattling on about my trivial observations is another. More often than not, it’s a habit of relaying unpleasant facts about activities which my companions and myself are engaging in which pisses folks off. Talking about my mother’s cousin Melvin, whose grisly death occurred after he fell off a moving boat and was sliced up by the propellor back during the 1960’s, or the actual process of drowning, described while riding onboard a boat are two. Talking about human decay processes while in cemeteries is yet another.

You never want to hear me say anything about escalators, btw. Deadly things – my buddy Hank the elevator guy shudders whenever the subject comes up, and he’s a guy who regularly dangles from ropes in elevator shafts. Long story short – hamburger meat. Escalators are meat grinders. Brrrr. Don’t ask.

Here’s a few other things nobody asked me about…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A scene from de Blasio’s New York, specifically the foot of the Pulaski Bridge on Jackson Avenue in LIC. The guy with his hat out has turned up in recent days, and made this the spot at which he goes to every car that’s leaving Brooklyn asking for spare change.

It is only a matter of time before we click fully back into the Dinkins era and this dude finds himself a squeegee.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The neighbors hereabouts in Astoria all seem to hail from places where the accepted custom is to hurl any unwanted or used items directly into the street. When it rains…

Jesus, what the hell is wrong with you people? Give a hoot, don’t pollute. Find a god damned trash bin, they’re all over the place, even if they’re filled with household trash from illegal sublets.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This one actually blew my mind when it was explained to me. It’s the window of a fancy shmancey supermarket over in the newly built up waterfront section of Hunters Point – tower town, as I call it.

The “out of respect for our customers” prohibitions against “photography” and “organized tours” got me curious. My thoughts of “are Jack Eichenbaum or Kevin Walsh doing LIC supermarket tours now? Wow, wonder if I can get in on that?” were immediately quashed by a long time friend who lives nearby.

She explained that realtors will often bring groups of prospective condo buyers into the local supermarkets and shops to demonstrate that there are – in fact – places to shop in Long Island City. So many buyers have moved through their doors that the shops and supermarkets have had to set rules.

Sigh…

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.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

nail biting

with one comment

A bit of Newtown Creek “now and then,” in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has been at work on several subjects regarding that fabulously decadent cataract of Municpal neglect known to all as the Newtown Creek. It’s kind of big picture stuff, which requires a “long tail” of research on and about certain industries. You can’t understand something modern unless you understand its past, I always say.

For example – If I want to describe the Brooklyn Union Gas Manufactured Gas plant on Newtown Creek in Greenpoint (which is now the National Grid LNG plant on Varick), I need to possess an at least topical amount of knowledge regarding the history and technology of the 19th century Manufactured Gas Industry in New York City.

Actually, that’s not an example, it’s precisely the thing I’ve been working on – to develop an understanding of. Manufactured Gas Plants – or MGP’s as they’re known in the environmental community.

Harper_s_Weekly_hp001a_S_

– from Harper’s Weekly, August 6th, 1881 (courtesy google books)

This sort of research always turns up a few surprises, and for an area like Newtown Creek – which is of truly national importance in the story of the second industrial revolution, but for which scant historical visual documentation exists – it’s sometimes pretty interesting. Harper’s Weekly was on quite a tear about my beloved Creek back in the summer of 1881, and presented a few illustrations of “the horror” interspersed with texts describing the oil drenched mud and stinking waters of Newtown Creek.

Here’s my speculation as to what I think we are seeing in these drawings. Educated guesses, btw., that’s all.

Nowadays, the outline of Newtown Creek barely resembles what it looked like back in 1881 – there used to be a couple of islands in the Maspeth Creek/Turning Basin area for instance – but there are few historical constancies with which you can reckon location around the creek when old photos or even illustrations are presented. The LIRR tracks are one of them, and another is the Maspeth Avenue Plank Road.

In the shot above, that pile of piles on the shoreline in the center of the shot? The smokestacks on the far shore? The gas holder tanks on the horizon?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I think that the illustrator was sitting right about where I was last winter, at the shoreline intersection of industrial Maspeth’s 58th road with Newtown Creek, looking south west towards Greenpoint’s National Grid LNG site with the ruins of the Maspeth Avenue Plank Road directly in front of me.

Harper_s_Weekly_hp001b_S_

– from Harper’s Weekly, August 6th, 1881 (courtesy google books)

The view above has railroad tracks in it, ones which follow a certain curve, one that has remained fundamentally the same since the LIRR laid them down in the late 1860’s. The tall smokestacks at the left of the shot are likely those of Phelps Dodge. The ones off in the distance are probably the Haberman rendering plant. Calvary cemetery would be to your left, and I have a sneaking suspicion that the illustrator set up his tripod at Penny Bridge – which is the modern day spot that Review Avenue transmogrifies into Laurel Hill Blvd.

That would put the illustrators point of view somewhere on the eastern side of Blissville, looking eastward towards Maspeth.

photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m of the belief that this is the same shoreline seen in the left side of the shot above, although my photo was captured from out in the middle of the channel while onboard a boat. The masonry on the lower right – or Brooklyn side – of the shot is what’s left of old Penny Bridge, and the 1939 model Penny Bridge (Kosciuszcko) is right where that divot on the shoreline is in the 1881 illustration from Harper’s Weekly. Phelps Dodge would have been found on the east side of the Kosciuszcko Bridge, and their property included the gray building with the blue stripe (the modern day Restaurant Depot).

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.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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