The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Power Plant

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Consolidated Edison facility on 13th street and avenue D in Manhattan famously exploded during Hurricane Sandy. Oddly, just a few months prior to this, I had found myself perched upon the DEP property across the street- when the shot above was captured. Embedded below is a video which seems to have been captured from a vantage in Long Island City (by someone else) which depicts the explosion.


Written by Mitch Waxman

November 17, 2012 at 4:14 pm

supposedly solid

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

The DEP Pump House described in yesterday’s posting, which is located in Manhattan’s “Alphabet City” neighborhood, is found across the street from Con Ed’s East River Generating Station. Both facilities are, in turn, surrounded by vast residential complexes which long time New Yorkers might refer to as “The Projects“.

Governmental officials would prefer the term “affordable housing“, of course, or at the very least- “The Jacob Riis Houses”.

from wikipedia

The New York City steam system is a district heating system which takes steam produced by steam generating stations and carries it under the streets of Manhattan to heat, cool, or supply power to high rise buildings and businesses. Some New York businesses and facilities also use the steam for cleaning, climate control and disinfection.

The New York Steam Company began providing service in lower Manhattan in 1882. Today, Consolidated Edison operates the largest commercial steam system in the United States. The organization within Con Edison that is responsible for the system’s operation is known as Steam Operations, providing steam service to nearly 1,800 customers and serving more than 100,000 commercial and residential establishments in Manhattan from Battery Park to 96th Street uptown on the West side and 89th Street on the East side of Manhattan. Roughly 30 billion lbs (just under 13.64 megatons) of steam flow through the system every year.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The subject of the post today has little to do with the aforementioned complex of buildings, they are mentioned strictly for contextual and geographic orientation of the Con Ed facility. My understanding is that this “cogeneration” facility is considered to be a desirable target to those ragged armies of third world sappers commonly referred to as “terrorists“, and several acquaintances and or friends have found themselves being interviewed by Police and Security personnel merely for having photographed the place.


In the grand tradition of the Jumbo dynamos, the six-story boilers installed at Fourteenth Street and East River were so large that a luncheon for nearly 100 people was served inside one of them before the renovated station went into operation in the late 1920s. During the opening day ceremony in 1926, Queen Marie of Rumania flipped the switch to start the 100,000 horsepower turbine generator.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The view in the first two shots are from the East River, captured while onboard aquatic vessels, and the shot above is actually from the roof of the DEP Pump house.

The housing complex in the shot above is not true “public housing”, rather it is the Stuyvesant Town property. After the second World War, “urban renewal” projects such as the Riis Houses and Stuyvesant Town were seen as the answer to the endemic poverty found around and propagated by tenement slums. Funding and political impetus for large scale developments such as these- inspired by the ideations of a cryptofascist architect, LeCorbusier, and his disastrous “Tower in a park” conception- were made possible by both Federal and entrepreneurial sources.


Located on the east side of Lower Manhattan, the 43,000-sq.-ft. facility produces electricity and steam for homes and businesses throughout New York City. The project was completed May.

To repower the 360-MW power plant, the project team is performing all civil, structural, electrical and mechanical work, including the installation of major equipment, such as two GE Frame 7FA gas turbines, two Vogt-NEM, Inc. heat recovery steam generators and three Atlas Copco gas compressors. More than 100,000 lin. ft. of process pipe will be installed.
Construction of a new, onsite water treatment plant is also a part of the contract. The new treatment plant will consist of a 9,000 GMP reverse osmosis system that will produce pure water for steam generation. Electrical work includes the installation of 77,000 lin. ft. of conduit, 15,000 lin. ft. of cable tray, 665,000 lin. ft. of power and control cable and 30,000 electrical terminations.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Historically, this area was known as the Gas House District, so named for an enormous number of multi story “high pressure” tanks and the hundreds of associated industrial buildings which serviced and supplied them. A network of pipes snaked out into Manhattan from the East River, supplying fuel to street lights, commercial customers, and even residences.

The adage “Don’t blow out the light” was displayed prominently in hotels and flop houses all over town during the 19th century, as newcomers to the City would often treat a gas light in the manner they would a candle- which would have disastrous, fatal, and often explosive results. The District followed the East River and extended from 14th to 27th streets.

The neighborhoods surrounding the Gas Light District was notorious for its violent crime.


Address: East 14th Street

Architect: Thomas E. Murray/Unknown

Date: 1926/1950s

The Consolidated Edison Company’s East River Generating Station dominates the eastern section of 14th Street, stretching from 13th and 17th Streets and between Avenue C and the East River. It was erected primarily in two phases, the first campaign completed in 1926 and the second in the 1950s. Because of its size and prominence, the East River Generating Station plays an important role in the history of the East River waterfront, as well as in the general evolution of power plant architecture in New York City. The widespread low-scale fabric of the Lower East Side, consisting mostly of tenement buildings, went generally unchanged for most of the nineteenth century and the early part of the twentieth century, while the rest of Manhattan was seeing the erection of skyscrapers and other tall buildings.

Driven by the increasing cost of power plant construction and the need to design “with an eye to the future,” the East River Generating Station of 1926 was designed to be less ostentatious than earlier stations that were typically of the Beaux-Arts Style, yet it was also less monolithic than contemporaries such as Hell Gate or Hudson Avenue Stations. The waterfront façade of this building was divided into three distinct bays in rectilinear form, a design scheme that allowed for easy expansion as need be. The building uses vertical fenestration and horizontal bands of limestone set within a field of dark red brick to give the façade a sense of visual excitement

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 22, 2012 at 12:15 am

hovering above

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recent business called for me to visit the facilities of a commercial printer which has established its physical plant in part of the former Degnon complex near Dutch Kills, which explains how and why I found myself on Monday morning enduring the single digit temperatures which made the day remarkable.

What was fascinating to the shivering photographer, lost in private reverie upon Hunters Point Avenue, was the realization that when it’s cold enough- the exhausts of our city’s power generating system are actually and entirely visible.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Normally, when temperatures are in the average seasonal mean, there might be a few hundred feet of exhaust visibly extant as it emanates. In extreme cold, however, one can observe long streams of heated gas pulsing upward at seemingly titanic pressure. Manmade clouds, these vertical columns retain integrity against horizontal wind shear until they achieve great height, and begin to disseminate into the swift currents of air which swirl about and over New York Harbor.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It is Western Queens which is the workshop of New York City, – you cannot have the Shining City of Manhattan without a Great Machine, a Newtown Creek, or a Big Allis.

Where transformer farms abound- usually at the edge of a residency zone-, an omnipresent electrical hum is detected, and all attempts to use otherwise reliable headphones with a portable music player result in static shocks and an odd crackling sound is present in the earbud monitors.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The chimney in the shot above is actually located at Roosevelt Island, some distance from my location near the 7 train and LIRR station on Hunters Point Avenue (about 2 blocks from the Pulaski Bridge). My understanding is that the gas it is emitting is actually waste steam generated from CONED‘s consolidated generating system at Big Allis, and it is included in this post purely for the extreme altitude of its projection, which- to my eye- looks to be 3 to 4 times the height of Queensboro’s highest point.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Rounding the corner from Hunters Point (or 49th Avenue) onto 21st street, the dragon herself comes into view.

Big Allis…

Wait… what was that? Dragon? Exaggerating again, making mountains from molehills again? Check out this piece which displays a graphic “heat map” of air pollution in NYC which originates in this PDF from Notice that brown area of specific density in the upper left corner of Queens?

That’s Big Allis.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

What I find interesting in these photos of vast agglutinations of heat and gas being propelled at high pressure into the atmosphere is not that they exist, or that the plumes of Big Allis rise beyond visibility to the undoubted mile high vaults of the sky.

The remarkable thing about the 6-8 degree (fahrenheit) temperature of the surrounding air is that one can clearly observe what is normally a largely invisible phenomena- due to condensation and the interaction between hot gas and cold air.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The far off plume in the shot above is rising from Astoria, where the shuttered Charles Polleti Power Plant shares a large industrial compound with six smaller and quite active ones. Astoria carries quite a load for the rest of the City, from a power generating point of view, with prerequisite tales of high childhood asthma rates and unusual concentrations of lung disease.

Luckily enough, the State of New York just approved an upgrade and expansion of one of those Power Plants on the northern rim of fabled Astoria. The report on that may be accessed here.

Written by Mitch Waxman

January 27, 2011 at 12:15 am

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