The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Sludge Boat

indelible mark

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Some new gear on display in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One is always hunting around on camera oriented websites for new bits of gear, lenses, gew gaws, doohickeys, and or doodads which might make my life a bit more interesting as I wander around the City of Greater New York with a camera. There’s a couple of Chinese camera sites that I keep an eye on, which are really hit and miss on the “get what you pay for” front, but recently I decided to take a chance on a manual focus lens which promised a built in series of polarizing filters that would produce an extraordinary result. This is a 65mm prime, with a decidedly small aperture (f4-11) range, but it’s optical formula and clever mechanical plan is designed to allow the user to see both above and below the surface of water bodies at the same time. It’s offered by a company I never heard of before – the Mumma Cei, Xi, & Akkuseh (MCXA) group and is manufactured by something called the Szeihaloud Cooperative. Google translate tells me that Szeihaloud means “great maker” or something, and that their glass factory is located in the dry regions of northwest China. That’s odd, normally electronics gear comes from the coastal cities of the south, but nothing ventured nothing gained. MCXA’s site claims that there’s something special in the mineralogy of the sands of the region they’re located in which lends unique qualities to their ground glass products. At least that’s what I think they’re saying… Chinese website version of English, if y’know what I’m saying…

What the heck, it was only a hundred bucks. I’m glad that I ordered the thing.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

First – MCXA’s 65mm lens, which they call the X-51, is an ergonomic nightmare. It’s got all these jangly little knobs on it for independently manipulating the eight linear polarizer filters housed within the barrel. Said barrel is plastic, and when I unwrapped my little care package from the Silk Road region the interior of the box actually had some kind of orange powdery substance which smelled vaguely of cinnamon mixed with saffron inside of it, a scent that made me a bit woozy. The lens was packed in a sealed plastic bag so that wasn’t too much of an issue. The glass itself was nice and sharp, which was surprising, once I got it past f 5.6. It’s pretty heavy, and manual focus is a chore, especially with those eight knobs arrayed around the focus ring.

The startling part was that the thing actually worked as promised, allowing me to photograph both the surface details of the waters of the East River (pictured above) and provided visual egress to that which lurks below while I was riding on a NYC Ferry last week. I look forward to putting the thing on a tripod and seeing what can be revealed at Newtown Creek.

Of course, the lens and camera were set for a daylight exposure formula, so sub surface features were darkened.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

MCXA has another bizarre lens I’m now interested in, which promises Flouroscope like qualities, allowing you to peer “under the surface” and revealing the internal structures of both animals and plants. They call it the “God Emperor of lenses,” or at least that’s what Google Translate says the series of Chinese characters on its offer page means. I tell you, the Chinese century looks like it’s going to be a lot of fun. As is my habit, new glass and other camera gear is typically acquired during the tax filing season of the early spring.

I usually like to add a new lens to my kit every April, and especially so on April the 1st.


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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

April 1, 2019 at 1:00 pm

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It’s Tag des Deutschen Apfels (German Apples) day in the Bundesrepublik Deutschland.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The bright passage, it’s a not unlikely spot to find a group of cultists dropping a bizarre golden diadem into the water hoping to contact those who might lie below the seething waters. Hells Gate, with its bizarre and blasted subterrene topography, cannot possibly host a race of non human intelligences, can it? That would be crazy.

I mean, is this Queens or Innsmouth?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of alien intelligences with unintelligible plans for the future, the DEP’s MV Red Hook sludge boat slid through the bright passage while one was contemplating what sort of life might inhabit the craggy bottom. Between the strong cross currents of the tide, all the endemic pollution… it boggles.

It’s almost as if the area is being terra formed for a different and quite alien species.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One was pleased that a concurrence of maritime and locomotive subject matter occurred as Amtrak’s Acella came rolling by on the Hell Gate bridge at the same time as Buchanan 1 tug slid through the Hells Gate narrows of the East River. When I left the house this day, I rued not having the time to visit Staten Island and the Kill Van Kull – my original intention for the afternoon. What with the sun setting in the late afternoon, it’s kind of difficult to complete that journey from Point A in Astoria while the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself is still hanging in the sky.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Back to worrying about the ones who cannot possibly exist in the deepest waters of Hells Gate, and their land dwelling acolytes who surreptitiously accompanied the wholesome Hellenes during their 1970’s migration to Astoria, did a humble narrator’s thoughts turn.

There are too many individual and quite minor clues to mention which lend credence to the theory of their presence – odd smells and sounds, brief flashes of unrecognizable shapes seen when walking past closing doors, the popularity of Bosnian cuisine, bizarre chanting. This is an entirely different “thing” than the occluded witch cult operating out of St. Michael’s cemetery, incidentally, but perhaps I’ve already said too much.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The sound of chitinous scratching on my second floor garret window will no doubt resume after this posting, and the whispered calls to leave this life behind and to either go into the water or dance with the night ghouls of Nephren Ka across the rooftops and tombstones of western Queens will no doubt follow.

Who can guess, all there is, that might be buried down there, beneath the waters of the Bright Passage?


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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 11, 2017 at 11:00 am

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Sludge Boats, baby, Sludge Boats.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

These shots are actually from the height of that shoulder injury period last month, and represent a desperate desire one acted upon to “shake it off” by indulging in a bit of exercise. The weather was less than cooperative from a light point of view, and the affected limb was less than pleased at the rest of my body moving around, so I decided that since I was in the “hell of pain” I’d simply head over to Hells Gate and indulge the horror.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Luckily for my diversion starved and somewhat depressed state of mind, the MV Red Hook was observed while debarking from the Wards Island dewatering facility across the river. Wards Island is the end point for the sewage sludge process, which is operated by the NYC DEP. Centrifugal machines are fed the material, which has the consistency of syrup or warm honey at the end of the thickening process at the various neighborhood sewer plants, which is carried here by the DEP’s fleet of “Honey” or Sludge boats. The dewatered material is compressed into “cakes” and sold for use as fertilizer on non food crops such as cotton and Christmas Trees.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

MV Red Hook is one of NYC’s older generation of Sludge Boats, although it’s the newest of its type – having come online in 2012. The newer class of Sludge Boats has been discussed here at Newtown Pentacle before.

from NYC.gov

The Red Hook sludge vessel was built over a three-year period in Brownsville, Texas by Keppel AmFELS. Once completed, it took seven days to make its way to New York City, arriving on November 19, 2008. The vessel has recently completed post-delivery dry-dock inspections and adjustments at the Brooklyn Navy Yard and is ready for service. Each six-person crew consists of a captain, chief engineer, assistant engineer, mate and two mariners. Crews work a 40-hour week divided into 14, 13, and 13 hour shifts. The Red Hook is slightly over 350 feet long, about 53 feet wide, with a depth of slightly over 21 feet. It has eight storage tanks with 150,000 cubic foot capacity equivalent to 1.2 million gallons. The Red Hook weighs over 2,098 long tons and is designed to travel at 12.75 knots or approximately 15 miles per hour. On a typical week, each vessel makes 14 round trips and visits eight wastewater treatment plants.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

All of the DEP’s honey boats will find themselves heading to or from Wards Island periodically, after making their rounds at one of the City’s 14 sewer plants. Hells Gate is a great place to spot them, and Shore Road along Astoria Park is a great place to observe Hells Gate.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There are many who would agree with me, in my assertion that the view from Shore Road rocks.

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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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delighted astonishment

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A short trip off of a Long Island to… Staten Island.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over at the St. George Ferry terminal, on the… Staten Island… side of the harbor, one is treated to magnificent views of Lower Manhattan and it’s a pretty sure bet that you’ll see some maritime traffic. Pictured above is the Vane Brothers Sassafras towing a fuel barge, for instance.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One such as myself is always eager to witness a DEP Sludge Boat splashing by. That’s the MV North River heading towards the Port Richmond sewer plant found a mile or so up the Kill Van Kull.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Marjorie B. McAllister also happened by, and the bright red tug was towing a fuel barge. Even when it seems that a tug is pushing a barge, it’s still called “towing.”

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Just a short one today, but… Sludge Boat, baby, Sludge Boat!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week, while on a ferry to Red Hook, (long story) the Port Richmond Sludge Boat was spotted. You might recall a recent post which described the christening and official launch of the three new exemplars of the NYC DEP’s sludge collection vessels, but if you don’t – here’s a link to a 2014 Newtown Pentacle post that discusses it. Long time readers know that I’m a bit obsessed with sludge boats, for some reason.

These boats are “MV’s” or municipal vehicles, which means that you and I own them. They are ours. Now if only DEP would lend me the keys.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

All three examples of this new class were designed with Newtown Creek in mind, as this kind of MV’s can pass under the Pulaski Bridge at high tide, without requiring the drawbridge to open. Gross tonnage is 2,772 on these vessels, they’re 290 feet long with a draught of 4.3m. There’s three of them operating in NY Harbor now – Hunts Point, Rockaway, and as pictured above Port Richmond.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 14, 2015 at 12:30 pm

faint draft

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Sludge Boats, baby, Sludge Boats…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For those two weeks which formed the end of November, a humble narrator was enjoying a vacation from all things with the Missus. In fact, for about half of our vacation time, Our Lady of the Pentacle and myself weren’t even on the North American continent. The week of Thanksgiving, we were back, but maintained a low profile.

One thing which drew me and the camera out of our splendid seclusion, however, was the news that the NYC DEP would be holding a ceremony to christen the fleet of three new sludge boats over at their Wards Island facility. How could I resist… I mean… Sludge Boats.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

MV’s (municipal vehicles) Rockaway, Port Richmond, and Hunts Point have been shaking down in NY Harbor all year. Remember, back in the beginning of 2014, when a humble narrator braved the chill climes of a polar vortex at the Brooklyn Navy Yard to bring you images of Hunts Point?

You’ll say “jump” and I’ll say “how high” when the subject of Sludge Boats is at hand. Height is what these boats are designed around, incidentally. This new class of MV’s can pass under the Pulaski Bridge, spanning my beloved Newtown Creek at high tide, without requiring the drawbridge to open.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The lady in the center of the shot is DEP Commissioner Emily Lloyd, incidentally, with Deputy Commissioner Angella Locata to her left. I don’t know who the lady on the right is, but I led this post off with her christening the Hunts Point, so there you are.

There were lots and lots of important folks at Wards Island – brass from DEP and City Hall, Press, even a press Helicopter – as well as a whole gaggle of us from the Newtown Creek Monitoring Committee. NCMC is a community group that performs citizen oversight on the multi billion dollar construction efforts at the Newtown Creek Waste Water Treatment Plant over in Greenpoint, and the delivery of these three new Sludge Boats are a sign that the decades long project is nearing completion.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After the ceremonial events were accomplished, the DEP welcomed all onboard the Hunts Point, allowing an opportunity for inspection and observation.

The Port Richmond peeled out of the dock early, probably because it had “shit to do.” Get it? Shit to do? Sludge Boat… Shit… Ahhh, nevermind. Port Richmond headed south toward the Triborough Bridge through the Hells Gate section of the estimable East River.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Exploration of the boat brought me to the big chair up on the bridge, and although no one would have let me start the engine and put Hunts Point through her paces, I did stand there murmuring “vroom vroom” until such time as I was asked to stop doing so. I did manage to say “make it so” and “ahead warp factor 3, Mr. Sulu” as well. One thinks that being so close to the very locus of Robert Moses’s power base on Wards Island causes odd concatenations in the thought process.

Alternatively, actually getting on a Sludge Boat after all these years simply made me giddy with delight. A big Mazel Tov goes out to the NYC DEP on the occasion of the birth of their new triplets.

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