The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Pulaski Bridge

was invariable

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DUPBO, in LIC.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Down Under the Pulaski Bridge Onramp, or DUPBO in Long Island City, is pictured above. Recent endeavor found one wandering around this area just after sunset about a week ago, and one decided to get busy with the camera.

The Pulaski Bridge was built by the NYC DOT as a replacement to the older Vernon Avenue Bridge which was found about a block or so to the west. The old bridge connected LIC’s Vernon Blvd. with Greenpoint’s Manhattan Avenue, and there was a streetcar or trolley service which connected the two shorelines of Newtown Creek. The former Orchard Street (bet Greenpoint Avenue and the Creek) in Brooklyn was renamed “Manhattan Avenue” about 1915 (I believe, and that’s from memory so don’t trust me on that), as the LIC side offered proximity to the brand new IRT Flushing line (the 7) subway. The trolley stop in LIC, where the trolley came to rest, is the NYC Parks Dept.’s “Vernon Mall” today. Back then, you named streets for where they were going, today you give parks meaningless names which obfuscate the past, but that’s why Greenpoint’s Orchard Street is Manhattan Avenue today.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The derelict shoreline of LIC in DUPBO between the bridge and the Vernon street end is occupied and exploited by a colony of squatter boats these days. A hundred years ago, you would have been looking at a fleet of small tugs owned by the Newtown Creek Towing Company, whose HQ was found next door to an Ulmer Brewery Tap room on Vernon beneath the old bridge. Back then, modern day 54th and 53rd avenues were part of the LIRR Pigeon Street rail yard, which adjoined the Hunters Point Yard on the north and had tracks feeding into the Jack Frost sugar factory on the East River. The squatter boats are all blurry looking because they were rolling around on the wake of a tugboat and barge combo which had just navigated past.

The large structure on the Greenpoint side is the former Chelsea Fiber and Jute Mill at the end of Manhattan Avenue, which is known to modernity as the Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center – or GMDC.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As part of the post WW2 citywide expansion of arterial roadways, drawn up by and overseen by Robert Moses, the Pulaski Bridge was designed as a high draught drawbridge which would span the Newtown Creek and magnify the amount of traffic flow between the two boroughs. Both 11th street in LIC and what would come to be called McGuinness Blvd. in Greenpoint were widened to accommodate this extra traffic. From DUPBO, you may notice that the Pulaski sports what appears to be an unfinished traffic ramp which arcs off of the eastern or Queens bound side. I’ve never been able to confirm it definitively, but the general presumption I hold is that Moses and his crew once intended to connect the Pulaski’s “flow” with the Long Island Expressway.

A bascule drawbridge of paralell counterweight design and driven by electrical motors, construction of the Pulaski Bridge was overseen by the New York City Commissioner of Public Works – Frederick Zurmuhlen – and the general contractor employed in building it was the Horn Construction Company, with steel and expertise supplied by Bethlehem Steel. It opened in September of 1954 at a cost of $9,664,446.25 – and a reconstruction of the bridge in 1994 cost $40 million. It carries five lanes of vehicular traffic, as well as dedicated (and now separated) bicycle and pedestrian lanes, and it’s a primary crossing between north Brooklyn and western Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking eastwards along Newtown Creek, a tug and barge passed through this thirty second exposure, causing a colorful light show to appear on my camera’s sensor. I’m fascinated by this sort of time capture, incidentally. The normal procedure for photographically capturing the passage of time is to record video, of course, or even to fire off a burst of shots. One of the things that’s emerged during all of this night photo long exposure work I’ve been doing for awhile now is that I can reveal traffic patterns, the passage of normally invisible critters in the water, even the invisible currents of air if I set the camera up correctly. You can see the pathways of fish in the water, rendered out by the reflective streaks coming off of their scales, for instance.

If I was sure that I wouldn’t blow up Brooklyn or Queens (or the Buckeye Pipeline), I’d love to throw a block of magnesium into the water and photograph it as it sank and burned – illuminating the bed of the creek. Who can guess, all there is, that might be swimming around down there? Subaqueous features, sunken boats, Jimmy Hoffa?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the staircase leading up to the LIC side of the pedestrian walkway atop the Pulaski Bridge. One advises all not to hold onto the side rails unless they have to, as the Pulaski’s rafters are full of pigeons and the entire bridge is covered in layers of guano.

The lady on the bicycle annoyed me, incidentally. Seeing me standing there with a camera and tripod setup, she first stopped her bike literally two feet away and in front of me for an interval of playing with her phone. I gently asked “excuse me, miss, can I ask you to just move forward two feet so as you’re not in my shot?” to which she silently shot me back a look of annoyance and then rolled further into the shot and right in front of the stairs. So enthralled with her glowing piece of telecommunicative glass that bodily movements all but ceased, she appears in the shot above as a semi transparent statue. There’s a metaphor in there somewhere, but I wouldn’t want to trigger the “waiting to be offended” or “overly sensitive” millennial crowd.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking upwards at the control tower of the Pulaski Bridge from the waters edge, which is what you’re seeing. That’s where the various knobs, dials, buttons, and levers that open and close the thing are found.

These shots were gathered using my “minimal” carry setup (2 light lenses, cable release, air blower, couple of lens cloths, and that Ultrapod camera support gizmo), and I used the cheapo Canon “pancake” 24mm lens which I’ve mentioned in the past for all of them. For a variety of reasons, it doesn’t always work for me to grab the whole kit and kaboodle on my way out of HQ, and I’m also trying to carry a bit less around with me than I usually do at the moment in general. Also, not having zoom lenses and being “mission specific” forces me to think more about the “where” of my shots and there’s also the whole “be intentional” thing.

Also, lest I forget, “Pulaski Bridge” – Casimir Pulaski was a Polish military officer who joined General Washington’s Continental Army of the 13 colonies in order to assist in their war of rebellion against the Hanoverian Throne of England during the Revolutionary War. Google him, interesting person, and a Polish National Hero.

I have to don my monkey suit tonight and head off to the City for a party with the fancy folks on the Hudson side of things. I’ll be carrying the minimum kit again, so let’s see what I can get.


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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 blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 7, 2019 at 11:00 am

stout pillars

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DUPBO, Down Under the Pulaski Bridge Onramp.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

To begin with, when I was on site in Long Island City’s DUPBO section shooting these photos the other night, something so unique and novel occurred that I’m doubting the experience, so I’m going to be heading back sometime over the next few days when it’s light out to “get scientific” about the matter, and I’ll report it to you after a second observation and proper photo cataloguing but for now let’s just leave it hanging.

Mundane and material, that’s a late model Long Island Railroad engine sitting on a siding of the Lower Montauk tracks, awaiting orders.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is the spot I was in when the weird thing happened, a location I found myself in due to the attentions of an over zealous and probably bored security guard who decided that my activities were impeding on the grounds she protects. I wish she’d spend some time on the illegal dumping, homeless camps, or the flotilla of RV’s serving as domiciles here in DUPBO, but focusing in on middle aged men with cameras and tripods standing in a parking lot is clearly at the top of her threat chart.

This shot is looking northwards, towards the LIE and Queens Midtown Tunnel.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Shlepping towards HQ, and exiting the industrial area in pursuit of getting to the train station, the 19th avenue footbridge carried me over the LIRR tracks leading from Hunters Point into the Sunnyside Yards and then under the Long Island Expressway. This is quite a well used footpath, as a note, which connects Borden Avenue with 49th or Hunters Point Avenue where a stop on the #7 train can be accessed.


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Upcoming Tours and Events


Thursday, July 11, 7 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

“Infrastructure Creek” Walking Tour w Newtown Creek Alliance

If you want infrastructure, then meet NCA historian Mitch Waxman at the corner of Greenpoint Avenue and Kingsland Avenue in Brooklyn, and in just one a half miles he’ll show you the largest and newest of NYC’s 14 sewer plants, six bridges, a Superfund site, three rail yards with trains moving at street grade (which we will probably encounter at a crossing), a highway that carries 32 million vehicle trips a year 106 feet over water. The highway feeds into the Queens Midtown Tunnel, and we’ll end it all at the LIC ferry landing where folks are welcome to grab a drink and enjoy watching the sunset at the East River, as it lowers behind the midtown Manhattan skyline.

Click here for ticketing and more information.


Saturday, July 13, 10 a.m. – 12 p.m.

“Exploring the East River, From General Slocum Disaster
to Abandoned Islands” Boat Tour w NY Adventure Club

Onboard a Soundview route NYC Ferry – Join New York Adventure Club for a two-part aquatic adventure as we explore the General Slocum disaster, and historic sights and stories along the East River, all by NYC Ferry.

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.

professional duty

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Friggin Wednesdays…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One suspects that this will be a seldom read post, given that the vast majority of New Yorkers will be going somewhere else today. I plan on staying in Astoria, just to defend the neighborhood against burglars and sneak thiefs.

I also plan on walking out into the concrete devastations of Newtown Creek a few times, in pursuance of more nocturnal shots like the ones in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The City has been replacing its street light heads with cold colored LED luminaires in recent years, which are meant to provide brighter and more directed light onto roadways. The State is still using the old school sodium lights which produce a warm yellow-orange light.

A humble narrator is often fascinated by the spots where these two different colors of artificial light mix, as in the case of the shots above which is in DULIE – Down Under the Long Island Expressway – here in LIC.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As it happened, when I surmounted the Pulaski Bridge in pursuance of gathering a shot from the span (a photo which was unfortunately blurry due to the transmitted vibrations of passing traffic), workers from the NYC DOT Bridges unit shooed me back along the walkway so that they could safely open the draw bridge for a passing tugboat.

Wasn’t that nice of them?


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eleventh hour

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It remains National Creme Brulee Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

We’re breaking with normal Newtown Pentacle tradition today, as there were multiple posts sent your way, devoted to the seismic events on Newtown Creek which saw the central truss of the Kosciuszcko Bridge first lowered and then carted away. This second post carries some proper shots of the lowering action. In this morning’s post, a time lapse video of the lowering of the Kosciuszcko Bridge’s central truss was offered. This afternoon’s carried everything else I shot.

Here’s the last one, showing the Kosciuszcko Bridge exiting the Newtown Creek yesterday afternoon.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One arrived early to the Newtown Creek from “Point A” in Astoria, this time situating myself at the Newtown Creek Waste Water Treatment Plant Nature Walk. While I was waiting for the Kosciuszcko Bridge to show up, the usual maritime industrial show on the Creek was underway with a tug delivering a barge to SimsMetal. The tug cleared out, and few minutes later, the horns on the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge sounded…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

“Thar she blows” cried a humble narrator, as the truss slid into view.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned in earlier postings, there were actually two barges with a steel superstructure carrying the thing.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The sheer scale of all of this was staggering.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the tugs, pictured above, was operating in reverse. There was a second tug on the other side of the truss, and a third accompanying them. The two directly towing the barges were of the “push boat” typology.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just as with the lowering procedure, a crowd of people had gathered to watch and photograph the operation.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The barges with the Kosciuszcko Bridge truss headed west, and the Pulaski Bridge opened up to allow them egress.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The third tug got involved when they were about to enter the draw of the Pulaski, maneuvering the assemblage into optimal position and centering it in the channel.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So ended the seventy eight years that this structure has been on Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It was built as the New Meeker Avenue Bridge, and formally opened on August 23, 1939. A year later, in 1940, it was renamed Kosciuszcko Bridge to honor the large Polish community found in Maspeth and in Greenpoint. The barges carried the truss out onto the East River, and off to New Jersey where its steel would be harvested for recycling.

The end of an era for the Newtown Creek, and it all occurred on the 25th and 26th of July in 2017.

Documenting this project has been a long standing project of mine – this 2012 post tells you everything you could want to know about Robert Moses, Fiorella LaGuardia, and the origins of the 1939 model Kosciuszko Bridge. Just before construction started, I swept through both the Brooklyn and Queens sides of Newtown Creek in the area I call “DUKBO” – Down Under the Kosciuszko Bridge Onramp. Here’s a 2014 post, and another, showing what things used to look like on the Brooklyn side, and one dating back to 2010, and from 2012 discussing the Queens side – this. Construction started, and this 2014 post offers a look at things. There’s shots from the water of Newtown Creek, in this June 2015 post, and in this September 2015 post, which shows the bridge support towers rising. Additionally, this post from March of 2016 detailed the action on the Queens side. Most recently, here’s one from May of 2016, and one from June of the same year. Here’s one from August of 2016the December 2016 one, one from March of 2017 which discusses the demolition of the 1939 bridge.

Most recently – a post showing what I saw during a pre opening walk through in early April of 2017, and the fanfare surrounding the opening of half of the new bridge in April of 2017, and a walk through of the Brooklyn side job site in June of 2017. Lastly, here’s some night shots from early July of 2017.


Upcoming Tours and events

The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance – Saturday August 5th, 11 a.m. – 1;30 p.m.

Century old movable bridges, the remains of a 19th century highway between Brooklyn and Queens, and explore two of the lesser known tributaries of the troubled Newtown Creek watershed. For the vulgarly curious, Conrad Wissell’s Dead Animal and Night Soil wharf will be seen and described, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

Brooklyn Waterfront Boat Tour, with Working Harbor Committee – Saturday August 12th, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.

Explore the coastline of Brooklyn from Newtown Creek to Sunset Park, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman, Andrew Gustafson of Turnstile Tours, and Gordon Cooper of Working Harbor Committee on the narrating about Brooklyn’s industrial past and rapidly changing present. details here.

The Poison Cauldron of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance – Sunday August 13th, 11 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Explore the hellish waste transfer and petroleum districts of North Brooklyn on this daring walk towards the doomed Kosciuszko Bridge, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

Two Newtown Creek Boat Tours, with Newtown Creek Alliance and Open House NY – Wednesday August 16th, 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.

The neighborhoods surrounding Newtown Creek are home to the densest collection of these garbage facilities anywhere in the city and collectively, the waste transfer stations around and along Newtown Creek handle almost 40% of the waste that moves through New York. Join Newtown Creek Alliance’s Mitch Waxman and Willis Elkins  to learn about the ongoing efforts to address the environmental burden that this “clustering” has caused. details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

open window

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It’s National Police Day in the Arab Republic of Egypt.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Continuing a wintry night time walk to Brooklyn, one prepared to surmount the Pulaski Bridge over Newtown Creek. As you’d imagine, one spends quite a bit of his time walking back and forth over this crossing. Not only does the bridge rise to a fairly high altitude which allows for spectacular views of Newtown Creek, East River, and the skyline of the Shining City of Manhattan – the Pulaski Bridge walk is actually pretty good cardio.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Mentioned in yesterday’s post was the fact that I was employing my “night kit” lenses. Longtime and frequent commenter Georgtheatheist inquired as to the specifics of my kit, and wondered why I carried both the Sigma 50-100mm f 1.8 and a Canon 50mm f 1.8, given that they replicate each other’s range. Accordingly, I’m “lifting the hood” on today’s post, and talking a little bit about how the engine runs here at your Newtown Pentacle.

Short answer is this – the Sigma lens is BIG, and incredibly heavy. Being a large lens, it gathers a lot of attention to itself, which can be problematic when encountering baser members of the street population – that’s part of it. The other is purely ergonomic – as mentioned above it’s quite heavy, and gets in the way when I’m walking along at my usual brisk pace. George asked why I don’t just use an “extender” on the 50mm prime lens, and part of the answer is that I’d have to sacrifice some of the light gathering wide apertures of the lens if I did. The other is that I’ve timed myself and I can do a lens swap, from in the bag to triggering the shutter, in around 15-20 seconds.

There’s also a difference in the esthetic quality and rendering of the shots, as captured by the individual pieces of glass. The first shot in today’s post was captured using the aforementioned 50-100, while the one above was gathered using a wider angle Sigma lens – the 18-35 f 1.8. The one below is from the Canon 50mm. There are minor differences in exposure times on them, but shots 2 & 3 are within 1/75th of a second of each other, with identical ISO sensitivity and aperture. Just because two lenses have the same specifications doesn’t mean that the shots gathered with them look the same.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The whole point of what I’ve been working on for a while now is to capture a reasonable amount of image fidelity and quality in low light situations without using camera supports like a tripod. These are all hand held shots, gathered in the same manner which I would employ when the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself is bobbing around in the vault of the sky.

That “manner” is basically me walking along and saying “wow, look at that.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Where things get weird with this whole night shooting business is in an area described as “color temperature.” The new LED luminaire heads that NYC DOT has been installing around NYC throw off a bluish light that’s officially “4300 Kelvin” but which the camera will render as orange if you set it to that. In Canon camera world, that 4300K is best reset to about 3100K. If you’re in an area which has a monotypical series of these LED’s, the developing scenario is simple.

It’s when you see the old school sodium lamps on the same street as the LED’s that things go “ass over tits.” Check out the blue LED light meeting the orange sodium lamps in Greenpoint’s DUPBO – Down Under the Pulaski Bridge Onramp.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A digital image is composed of three “plates” which mix and form a color image. RGB as the color space is known, the Red and Green plates are supplying most of the color information to the image above, and the Blue is where the shadows are being formed. Because of the orange sodium light mixing with the “Pulaski Red” paint color of the bridge, when this image came off my camera card it was practically flourescent.

A problem inherent with high ISO images, this one is 6400, is image noise. It’s produced by the sensor itself during the gathering process, and most of it manifests on the red and green plates. Finding the right balance between color temperature at the time of capture versus the time of developing the digital negative – or RAW format – file is important. Beyond the technical stuff, it’s also important to remember what the subject actually looked like while you were shooting.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shot above, depicting a NYC DOT truck parked under the Pulaski, was a difficult one. It’s a yellow truck, bathed in orange sodium light, with blue LED street lights peeking in from behind the fences. The original RAW file was basically a study in orange and black. The color temperature was adjusted down, as was saturation and half a dozen other developing options.

Back tomorrow with something completely different, at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 25, 2017 at 1:00 pm

historical realities

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From the Magic Lantern show…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Welcome to DUPBO, Down Under the Pulaski Bridge Onramp.

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Upcoming Tours –

May 3, 2015 –
DUBPO, Down Under the Pulaski Bridge Onramp
with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, a free tour offered as part of Janeswalk 2015, click here for tickets.

May 16, 2015 –
13 Steps Around Dutch Kills with Atlas Obscura

with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, click here for details and tickets.

May 31, 2015 –
Newtown Creek Boat Tour
with Working Harbor Committee and Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, click here for tickets.

unwonted ripples

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Ahh, my beloved Creek… she never disappoints.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week, one found himself visiting the Vernon Avenue Street End in the company of a couple of friends who were busy talking shop. I was idle, and interfering with their conversations, and so went to the water’s edge. A fine view of DUPBO was being enjoyed when the NYC DEP’s Port Richmond Sludge Boat appeared.

“Oh happy day” thought I.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m fairly obsessed with the DEP’s Navy, and my interests in the fleet of sludge boats is well known to regular readers of this, your Newtown Pentacle. This is one of three brand new vessels, recently brought online, the Port Richmond. In the shot above, its doing what its designed to do, which is pass under the Pulaski Bridge without necessitating the draw bridge to open.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Port Richmond was coming from the Newtown Creek Waste Water Treatment Plant’s new dock facility along Newtown Creek’s Whale Creek tributary. It was likely headed for Wards Island, where the “honey” would be pumped out. Said “honey” will be centrifuged to remove as much water as possible, leaving behind sewage solids which have been described to me as having the consistency of wet polenta.

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