The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Staten Island

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Happy Birthday Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One will not assert that the Verrazzano is in fact a giant cage designed to contain a Lenape earth monster submerged in NY Harbor. Instead, the focus is on the engineering achievements of Othmar Amman and the organizational prowess of Robert Moses – the two fellas who are primarily responsible for the Verrazzano opening on November 21, 1964.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator will avoid rattling on about how in just five years Moses’ crews of more than 12,000 laborers constructed the thing, nor about its various statistics and cyclopean size. One will mention that the 228 feet of clearance over high water offered by the Verrazzano Narrows Bridge is the governing height used by maritime engineers for how high to build all sorts of shipping. Sooner or later, every ship on the planet will theoretically enter NY Harbor, and the Verrazzano is the gatekeeper.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The only mistake in this fairly sublime structure’s design was the omission of a mass transit trackway between Brooklyn and Staten Island, in my opinion. The upper deck opened on this day in 1964, but the lower roadway was still under construction and wouldn’t be available for use until June 28 of 1969.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My pal Kevin Walsh of Forgotten-NY, whose childhood in Brooklyn’s Bay Ridge section was framed by construction of the Verrazzano, gave a talk last night at the Bay Ridge Historical Society about the span. I wasn’t able to attend, but I’ve also been privileged to receive his remembrances about the thing in person.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It seems that the towers of the Verrazzano are fairly infested with nesting Peregrine Falcons, so it can rightfully be referred to as an aerie. Down below, on the water, it’s a maritime superhighway, as the Ambrose Channel leads commercial shipping into NY Harbor towards Port Elizabeth Newark under the bridge. Suffice to say that a significant number of sensors and scanners are secreted and secured to the span, searching for various security threats which might be carried in to the inner harbor on these ships.

Friends in the maritime industrial world have opined, regarding these devices and technologies which they can’t talk about, that “it’s like Star Trek.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Today marks 55 years for the Verrazzano. As far as the “mythological” senses shattering behemoth that the Lenape whispered of as being “the grandfather of turtles,” which the Verrazzano’s great weight keeps locked in a primeval prison, the less said the better.

There are also things dwelling in the waters on the… Staten Island… side of the narrows which we must not ever talk about, lest they arise.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 21, 2019 at 1:00 pm

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Arthur Kill with the USACE, in todays post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As described yesterday, I was invited to join with about a hundred other water facing activists and government officials aboard the MCV Hayward for the United States Army Corps of Engineers annual inspection of NY Harbor. This time around, the USACE wanted to discuss their projects and initiatives playing out on Staten Island and at the Port facilities in Newark Bay. After navigating beneath the Verrazano Bridge, the Hayward entered the Arthur Kill – a roughly ten mile long tidal strait which forms Staten Island’s border with New Jersey.

That’s the NJ side tower of the Outerbridge Crossing pictured above, a 1928 suspension cantilever bridge (thx Dan S) operated by the Port Authority. It connects NY route 440 with NJ route 440, offers a 143 foot clearance over the water, and with its approaches the Outerbridge Crossing is just over three miles long. It’s named for “Gene” Eugenius Outerbridge, who was the first chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For somebody with my interests, Arthur Kill is a wonderland of maritime industrial splendors. Given that it’s fairly difficult to get here by boat, given the distance and time/fuel equation, it’s a rare treat for me to be waving the camera around while moving north along it. Also compounding the treat aspect is the time of year (early autumn light in NY Harbor is at the perfect relative angle) and of course there was also the company. While I was shooting this, I was joking around with members of the EPA team from the Newtown Creek Superfund, who are normally quite staid and maintain a “professional” demeanor in our usual encounters. I also got to hang out with the Deputy Commissioner of the DEP, a few people I know from the City Planning arm of NYC Government, and a gaggle of Graduate students and their Professors who are studying various aspects of the harbor. Good times.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

To my eye, that’s a former coaling station on the New Jersey side of Arthur Kill. I could be wrong, but I don’t want to inquire too deeply as it’s important to me that there’s still things out there in the Harbor that I don’t know everything about. The New Jersey side of Arthur Kill is often called “the Chemical Coast,” due to a rail line just upland called the “Conrail Chemical Coast Line” which is part of the PANYNJ expressrail system at Port Elizabeth Newark.

The Chemical Coast moniker first appeared in the late 19th century, when the colorants and dyes industry began to base themselves in this section of New Jersey. These industrialists took advantage of the abundance of manufactured gas byproducts being produced around NY Harbor. The red in the American flag, and the blue, are after products of gas manufacturing. Those businesses got forced out when Standard Oil took over the NJ side coastline, and the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey was established. SOCONJ eventually changed its name to ESSO and later to EXXON.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There are numerous tributaries and secondary waterways feeding into Arthur Kill – on the New Jersey side you’ve got the Elizabeth, Rahway, Passaic, and Hackensack Rivers (I met citizen activist counterparts for Newtown Creek Alliance from each onboard) as well as the Morse’s and Piles Creek. On Staten Island, you’ve got Lemon, Old Place, Sawmill, and Bridge creeks. Also on Staten Island, you’ve got the infamous Fresh Kills.

That’s the Dann Towing tug Ruby M navigating past the largest man made object on the planet, which is in Staten Island and which the Fresh Kill still flows through. Draining most of the western half of the island, Fresh Kill was designated as NYC’s primary garbage dump and landfill by Robert Moses back in 1947. Between 1948 and 2001, 20 barges a day of garbage – some 650 tons per day – was layered into the pile at the Fresh Kills landfill. NYC Parks took it over in 2006, and converted the now covered mound into a park. Fresh Kills instantly increased NYC parkland by one third.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the future projects which USACE discussed onboard was doing something about the old Witte Ship’s graveyard just north of Fresh Kills. A maritime scrap yard established in 1930, which is a shadow of its former self, the Witte graveyard is nowadays owned by the DonJon towing company. The Army Corps folks discussed their concerns about slicks of unknown composition they’ve observed coming from the wrecks, and the nuances of what would essentially be an excavation job to clean up and remediate the area.

Cotter Dams were mentioned, as well as an extremely large number of dollars.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Moving northwards along Arthur Kill, we slotted into the channel under the brand new and recently opened Goethals Bridge replacement. The original Goethals was built at the same time as Outerbridge Crossing, 1928. Named for the first supervising engineer of the Port Authority – Gen. George Washington Goethals (who also happened to be the construction supervisor of the Panama Canal) – the original bridge offered two lanes in each direction. The new model sports three traffic lanes, is meant to have a pedestrian and bicycle lane, and the engineers built the thing with the capability of eventually carrying a mass transit light rail line, should the need arise sometime in the next century.

More tomorrow.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 1, 2019 at 11:30 am

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Cool stuff I get to do, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As far as the fellow pictured above, I’d normally reference Captain America, but in the case of Thomas Asbery it’s Colonel America. Col. Asbery is the commandant of West Point and heads up the United States Army Corps of Engineers in the NYC region. He’s an immensely nice and friendly guy, and last Wednesday was the second time that I got invited out on his boat with a bunch of other activists, officials, and water facing people to do a harbor inspection. Last year, we went out to Jamaica Bay so that the Colonel and his staff could show off some of the shoreline resiliency projects they were working on. This year, we headed off in a different direction – for a circumnavigation of Staten Island.

A number of post Hurricane Sandy USACE shoreline projects which have been planned in the interim are about to start playing out in Richmond County, and which are designed to protect upland neighborhoods and businesses from future storms, and also to prepare NYC – proactively – for rising sea levels in the 21st century. Whatever your politics are on the subject of climate change are is immaterial to the engineers and soldiers of the USACE – they have a job to do and that’s protecting the citizenry.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

About a hundred of us gathered on the west side of lower Manhattan, a couple of blocks away from the World Trade Center site. We boarded the vessel pictured above, the DCV Hayward. A drift collection vessel, Hayward is one of several boats operated by the USACE that performs maintenance functions in NY Harbor. You can read a bit more about her mission and function here.

If you didn’t click through, Hayward and it’s crew remove flotsam and jetsam and any other navigational hazards which might interfere with maritime traffic from the water. Hence the big crane.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Hayward first navigated eastwards and then moved in a southern direction along the coast of Brooklyn for a bit, then began the southwest journey towards Staten Island. Along the way, Col. Asbery and his staff told the assembled guests about various efforts they were involved in executing, and we were treated to the usual variety show that NY Harbor offers.

It was medium early in the morning – or late afternoon by military or maritime standard – we left the dock at 9 a.m. There were articulated tug and barge combos everywhere, as well as standard harbor tugs performing various duties.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the tug Shawn Miller, towing a flat top barge that had two semi tractor trailer trucks on it, as well as a statue of a horse festooned with “Longines” logos. Doesn’t matter if the tug is pulling, pushing, or tied up “on the hip,” it’s called towing.

Tug companies in NY Harbor generally name their boats after family members. The tug pictured above is owned by a family owned company. Obviously, the family surname is Miller.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Hayward navigated into the section of the Narrows between Brooklyn’s Bay Ridge and Staten Island. Gerritsen Bay is the official nomenclature for this section of the water, and our course carried us directly under the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. Notice the low lying shoreline above?

The section of Staten Island between the Bridge and the Arthur Kill were amongst the most heavily flooded sections of the City during Sandy, back in 2012, and the USACE has designed a plan to keep that from happening again. The beaches along Father Cappodano Blvd. on this coast are going to completely redone, we were told, with a sloping sandy berm and a Rockaway Beach style boardwalk designed to structurally support it. Most of the drowning deaths associated with the storm occurred in the neighborhoods (Arrochar, South Beach, Ocean Breeze, Midland Beach, and New Dorp Beach) found along this shoreline.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Photographically speaking the shoreline mentioned above is fairly “meh,” as it’s a residential and wooded area. A humble narrator began to perk up when the Hayward entered the maritime channel on the western shoreline of Staten Island known simply as the Arthur Kill. That’s the Port Authority’s Outerbridge Crossing bridge pictured above.

More tomorrow, at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


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Kitty!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m continuing my little summer vacation this week, which actually hasn’t been much of a vacation – truth be told. A couple of projects have landed on my desk, which is good, as my landlord likes it when I pay my rent. Bad, however, as I really just wanted to go out and aimlessly wander around Queens and have some fun for once. There you are. Being busy is a problem you actually want to have.

Single images will be found here, refreshed daily, until Monday the 26th when I’ll resume my complaining and kvetching.


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

August 20, 2019 at 11:00 am

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Friday odds and ends.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When the discount Chinese restaurant near your house is doing some sort of repair job in their basement, it’s best to remain ignorant of what they’re doing. This is related to the old adage about not wanting to know how sausages are made. It’s preferential to pretend that whatever is happening down there is salubrious, and doesn’t resemble the movie “Ratatouille” at all. Personally, I’ve sworn off the nasty variant of Chinese take out available in Astoria, as I’ve been to Flushing quite a few times in the last six months and what we’ve got locally just doesn’t compare to the good stuff that’s found to the east.

Still, as far as my current desire to shoot a few “minimalist” shots a week, this one fits the bill. I don’t want to imagine what’s going on down there.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Those are collapsed docks and piers at Shooters Island above, a landform which sits at the junction of Arthur Kill, Kill Van Kull, and Newark Bay. For a little spit of land, Shooters Island is a fairly interesting spot. George Washington’s spy network would use the place for meetups during the American Revolution (British HQ was on Staten Island), it used to be owned by Standard Oil, and legendarily – Teddy Roosevelt and Kaiser Wilhelm once started a yacht race with a couple of the Vanderbilt Brothers from it “back in the day.”

These days it’s a bird sanctuary owned by the NYC Parks Dept.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week, I had to go to Queens Borough Hall to get sworn in as a member of Astoria’s Community Board 1. I’ve since been informed that I’m being assigned to the Environmental and Transportation Committees, which kind of makes sense. As part of the swearing in ceremony, which was led by BP Melinda Katz, we were given a multi hour series of presentations and training sessions by various members of the City government. One of the things that stuck with me was when they were describing an exact dollar figure at which point a gift is considered a bribe or inducement ($50) which would then trigger an investigation by the ethics people. They also discussed “talking to the press” and public statements, so…

As those of you who have come on my various tours over the years have heard me state at the start of the excursion – unless I’m specifically stating “Newtown Creek Alliance says” or “Access Queens wants” or whatever, the words coming out of my mouth are my words. Views and opinions are my own and do not represent the official opinions or stances of organizations or groups with whom I work or I might be a member of.

As an example; if I describe Mayor De Blasio as “the Dope from Park Slope” or describe him as an atavistic and dangerous throwback to Tammany Hall style corruption, or deride his vainglorious Presidential ambitions by pointing out his campaign pledge to “Make America Late Again,” or mock his desire to eliminate America’s Ground Hog infestation once and for all…

Well, you must presume that’s me talking as your neighbor and friend, and not describing an official position of NCA, or AQ, or the Community Board. If that’s not the case, I’ll let you know.


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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

May 10, 2019 at 12:00 pm

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Post Cards memorial, Staten Island

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator has nothing new to show you this week, so archived shots are on offer. Fear not, as you’re receiving this, one is running about the City whilst the camera is clicking and whirring away. In the meantime, enjoy yourself, as it’s probably a lot later than you think.

Paper cuts can be far more dangerous than conventionally thought.


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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

March 13, 2019 at 11:00 am

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Everything backfires, all the time.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After crossing over that primal mystery through which even thought cannot penetrate which are the waters of New York Harbor, and arriving on… Staten Island… one got busy with the tripod and camera. I was in pursuit of some iteration of the shot above, which I would mention I’m not 100% satisfied by, depicting the whole shebang visible from St. George. Jersey City in the left of the shot, Manhattan in the middle, and the East River on the right. This is just about twenty minutes after sunset, incidentally. I plan on heading back out there when the skies, and the stars, are right.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shot I was most happy with, and which sort of made the entire journey to… Staten Island… worth it was the one above, which is a long exposure looking westwards towards the Kill Van Kull. That concrete thingamabob is the 2004 “Postcards” 911 memorial, if your curious, commemorating the memories of the 274 Staten Islanders who lost their lives in the 1993 and 2001 World Trade Center attacks. The Postcards monument is shaped like a combination of two wings and a pair of hands praying, and there are profile sculptures of the victims inside it with their names, birth dates, and where they worked.

I, for one, don’t want to be remembered for where I worked but rather for where I lived.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Arriving back in Manhattan, my pathway home involved the MTA, and wouldn’t you know it… It took close to forty minutes for this work train to clear itself out of the South Ferry station, which in turn allowed the “R” line to transit through from Brooklyn and get me back to Astoria. Life is a joy, in a city which never sleeps.

As I’ve said many times, the “A” in “MTA” is for “Adventure.”


Upcoming Tours and Events

June 9th – Exploring Long Island City – with NY Adventure Club.

Long Island City is a tale of two cities; one filled with glittering water-front skyscrapers and manicured parks, and the other, a highly active ground transportation & distribution zone vital to the New York economy — which will prevail?

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