The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Staten Island

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It’s National Peach Ice Cream Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One believes that if you’ve got a problem to solve, the first step towards “victory state” over it involves wrapping your head around the problem and “getting smart.” I like to be fairly well educated about the nature of things before opening the hood and tinkering around with the engine, basically.

The subject of the MTA, or Metropolitan Transit Authority (a public benefit corporation), has been in the news quite a bit of late. The subways have been the particular focus, but the question a friend asked me the other night is what caused today’s post to come into existence.

What, exactly, is the MTA? Well, it’s complicated.

from wikipedia

Chartered by the New York State Legislature in 1965 as the Metropolitan Commuter Transportation Authority(MCTA), it was initially created by Governor Nelson Rockefeller to purchase and operate the bankrupt Long Island Rail Road. The MCTA dropped the word “Commuter” from its name and became the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) on March 1, 1968 when it took over operations of the New York City Transit Authority (NYCTA) (now MTA New York City Transit (NYCT)) and Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority(TBTA) (now MTA Bridges and Tunnels (B&T)). The construction of two bridges over the Long Island Sound was put under the jurisdiction of the MTA.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

To begin with, there’s just over 70,000 employees on the MTA’s payroll. MTA operates, ultimately, in the most densely populated sections of three states with the Shining City of Manhattan as the titular center and bullseye destination for its trains, automotive bridges and tunnels, and multiple fleets of buses.

Nearly all of the MTA train lines were originally built and owned by private businesses (with a significant public investment in the case of the subways) either during the late 19th or early 20th century, but bankruptcies and public foreclosures brought them into government hands. Private bus companies were acquired and folded into the Authority over the decades, along with bridges and tunnels that were formally owned and operated by seperate entities. Today, all of these operations are handled by the individual divisions of the MTA and overseen by a 17 member board of directors (who are all political appointees with virtually zero experience in transportation matters, incidentally).

from wikipedia

The Long Island Rail Road (reporting mark LI), legally known as the Long Island Rail Road Company and often abbreviated as the LIRR, is a commuter rail system in the southeastern part of the U.S. state of New York, stretching from Manhattan to the eastern tip of Suffolk County on Long Island. With an average weekday ridership of 337,800 passengers in 2014, it is the busiest commuter railroad in North America. It is also one of the world’s few commuter systems that runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, year-round. It is publicly owned by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which refers to it as MTA Long Island Rail Road.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Capital Construction is where all the money disappears into, basically. Pictured above is the Second Avenue Subway under construction, and however much I wish that I could show you a shot from the East Side Access project – I haven’t managed to find a way to get my camera down there, yet. The MTA is ostensibly meant to be self funding, through bonds it issues and through fare revenue, but it seldom works out that way and both State and City end up sending a significant amount of tax revenue their way to handle deficits.

Everybody asks why it is that these mega projects orchestrated by Capital Construction have the political support that they do while the wheels are falling off the buses and subways. Short answer is that a shot of a politician watching some mechanic turn a wrench while repairing a track switch is a lot less compelling an image, electoral politics wise, than one showing the same politician cutting a ribbon at the opening ceremony of a fancy new subway stop in the richest section of Manhattan on the Uppper East Side.

Capital Construction, like all of MTA’s divisions, is a vertical silo with its own hierarchy and political patronage. They do what they do, and compete for funding with the other divisions.

from wikipedia

MTA Capital Construction is a subsidiary agency of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), formed in July 2003 to manage the MTA’s major capital projects in the New York metropolitan area. It mainly focuses on improving transportation infrastructure and facilities in New York City, the Hudson Valley, and Long Island areas. Funding primarily comes from local, state, and national bond sales and budgets. As of April 2017, the current MTA Capital Construction president is Janno Lieber.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Long Island Railroad, for instance, is a vertically integrated “thing” all of its own. If someone from the Metro North side of MTA calls in sick, they don’t send LIRR employees upstate to fill in the slack. It doesn’t share “synergies” with Metro North (repair facilities, union contracts etc.) or with the New York City Transit Authority (subways). This situation is owed partially to the formerly seperate corporate entities that created the original lines.

Metro North is the grandchild of the old New York Central Railroad passenger service, and the LIRR is the child of Central’s arch rival and adversarial enemy – the Pennsylvania Railroad Company.

I’m no expert on this subject, so, I reached out to a buddy who is one of my “rail rabbis” and he anonymously offered this statement and assessment of the situation involving Metro North and LIRR, which – despite logic and what you might think, don’t use the same trains nor operate in common fashion or custom.

“Metro-North Railroad is made up of three distinct operations. Two of these operate out of Grand Central Terminal, the third operates out of Hoboken Terminal.

Hudson and Harlem lines are the remnants of the New York Central Railroad (Vanderbilt), out of Grand Central Terminal.

The New Haven line is the former New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad (New Haven for short).

The New Haven was unique in that they operated commuter trains out of Grand Central Terminal and their long distance trains out of Penn Station. The line over Hell Gate was financed by the New York Connecting Railroad, which was a paper railroad business agreement between the New Haven and the Pennsylvania Railroads.

The third operation is frequently overlooked. it is the former Erie Railroad (Jay Gould, THE robber baron), later Erie Lacawanna Railroad operation to Port Jervis New York. MTA pays for the New York portion, while New Jersey Transit pays for the New Jersey operation. This operates out of Hoboken Terminal.

The New York Central and Pennsylvania Railroad merged in 1968 into the Penn Central (Good book to read is “The Wreck of the Penn Central” by Joseph R. Daughen and Peter Binzen).

It was an unhappy merger, with battles between the two different management ideologies. It ended up with the US Government creation of Conrail in 1976 to salvage what remained of several north east railroad operations (Including Penn Central).

Conrail operated many commuter railroads, which received state subsidies for commuter operations. (Amtrak was formed in 1971 for intercity/long distance passenger trains, not the many commuter operations) Conrail wanted out of commuter operations at its founding and in 1983, it was NY States turn and Metro North was created.

The LIRR and Metro North are two distinct systems, with the only real compatible technology being the train couplings and the gauge of the trains.

Metro North utilizes an under-running third rail and the LIRR utilizes an over running third rail. Diesel locomotives and diesel hauled electric passenger cars also weigh different, with Metro North being able to haul heavier equipment, Long Island bridges are load limited. The Park Avenue Tunnels on Metro North and the East River Tunnels on the Long Island also limit the interchangeability of some equipment. Signal systems are also different.

The Electric Multiple Unit (MU) trains of Metro North and LIRR look similar and are ordered from the same vendor/companies, but they are configured to operate on their respective systems. They are not freely interchangeable. The Arch Street shop of the LIRR is a warranty shop for the recent purchase of the M-7 MU’s. Metro north ships them there for work, but not before all the third rail shoes are removed, and they have to travel over the Hell Gate from New Rochelle, NY. (The Ventilation system vents on the Metro North Roofs won’t fit in the LIRR East River Tunnels).

The LIRR bilevel cars will not fit in the Park Avenue tunnels.

Metro North diesel locomotives are too heavy for the bridges on the eastern end of Long Island.”

from wikipedia

The Metro-North Commuter Railroad (reporting mark MNCW), trading as MTA Metro-North Railroad or simply Metro-North, is a suburban commuter rail service run by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), a public authority of the state of New York. With an average weekday ridership of 298,900 in 2014, it is the second-busiest commuter railroad in North America in terms of annual ridership, behind its sister railroad, the Long Island Rail Road. Metro-North runs service between New York City and its northern suburbs in New York and Connecticut, including Port Jervis, Spring Valley, Poughkeepsie, White Plains, and Wassaic in New York and New Canaan, Danbury, Waterbury, and New Haven in Connecticut. Metro-North also provides local rail service within New York City at a reduced fare. There are 124 stations on Metro-North Railroad’s five active lines (plus the Meadowlands Rail Line), which operate on more than 775 miles (1,247 km) of track, with the passenger railroad system totaling 385 miles (620 km) of route.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another vertical silo at MTA is the Bridges and Tunnels group. This is Robert Moses’ old Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority empire, rebranded and “nationalized” by Nelson Rockefeller back in the late 1960’s. TBTA has always been, and always will be, its own fiefdom.

For those of you not familiar with the terms “vertical silo” or “synergies,” that’s a fairly archaic series of terms used in the investment banking industry to describe business units within a corporate structure. When a corporate merger occurs, the investment bankers will often try to “flatten” these silos and merge them with other units to avoid redundancy, which saves them money and ostensibly streamlines an operation. This is not how Government people think, btw. If the MTA was a company and got taken over by another corporation, the VERY first thing the new owners would do is try to flatten these silos and eliminate the wasteful or redundant departments.

MTA, for instance, has multiple divisions of armed police and guardsmen. There’s TBTA cops, MTA cops, MTA Operations armed guards, a whole seperate department of MTA Security… and they’re all operating under different rules, jurisprudence, and circumstance.

It’s all very complicated.

from wikipedia

The Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, doing business as MTA Bridges and Tunnels, is an affiliate agency of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority that operates seven intrastate toll bridges and two tunnels in New York City. In terms of traffic volume, it is the largest bridge and tunnel toll agency in the United States, serving more than a million people each day and generating more than $1.5 billion in toll revenue annually as of 2012.

The seven bridges are:

  • Triborough Bridge (officially Robert F. Kennedy Bridge), the agency’s original namesake and flagship crossing, connecting Manhattan, the Bronx, and Queens, via Randalls and Wards Islands
  • Bronx–Whitestone Bridge, connecting the Bronx and Queens
  • Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, connecting Brooklyn and Staten Island
  • Throgs Neck Bridge, connecting the Bronx and Queens
  • Henry Hudson Bridge, connecting Manhattan and the BronxMarine Parkway–Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge, connecting Brooklyn and the Rockaways (Queens)
  • Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge, connecting Broad Channel to the Rockaways (Queens)

The two tunnels are:

  • Brooklyn–Battery Tunnel (officially Hugh L. Carey Tunnel), connecting Brooklyn and Manhattan
  • Queens–Midtown Tunnel, connecting Queens and Manhattan

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The focus of public ennui these days is generally related to the subway system, although this summer the LIRR situation has gathered a lot of storm clouds to the Long Island Railroad. What New Yorker hasn’t stood there on some subway platform and exhorted “EFF YOU, MTA” at least once?

My rail rabbi quoted above offers this, on the subject of the “switch problems” and the MTA’s promises that modernizing them will fix everything wrong with the subways:

“One thing we mentioned about “outdated signal systems” with regard to the subway is that the 100 year old signal, while worn out, allow better utilization of the tracks. As I understand it, typical headways on the NYC subway system are four to seven minutes at rush hour. As a comparison, newer fully automated systems, like BART in San Francisco, WAMATA in Washington DC and MARTA in Atlanta can’t beat seven minutes, with ten minutes being the normal.”

A humble narrator has been getting increasingly involved with transit issues in recent years, and I’ve joined the steering committee of Access Queens, a community organization led by Sunnyside’s Melissa Orlando, which grew out of the “7 train blues” Facebook group. I won’t bore you with the usual song you’ve read everywhere else about switches, overcrowding, deferred maintenance, and aging tracks – instead I’d ask for you to click through to the Access Queens site and see what our group has been working on.

It may be the “Summer of Hell” for the LIRR, but it’s always transit hell in Queens.

from wikipedia

The New York City Transit Authority (also known as NYCTA, The TA or simply Transit, and branded as MTA New York City Transit) is a public authority in the U.S. state of New York that operates public transportation in New York City. Part of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the busiest and largest transit system in North America, the NYCTA has a daily ridership of 7 million trips (over 2 billion annually).

The NYCTA operates the following systems:

  • New York City Subway, a rapid transit system in Manhattan, The Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens.
  • Staten Island Railway, a rapid transit line in Staten Island (operated by the Staten Island Rapid Transit Operating Authority, a NYCTA subsidiary)
  • New York City Bus, an extensive bus network serving all five boroughs, managed by MTA Regional Bus Operations.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The MTA Bus company is part of NYCTA, or New York City Transit Authority, but that’s not all of it. There’s tons of bus lines in Nassau and Suffolk Counties, Yonkers, and even Westchester which MTA operates. Buses aren’t the sexiest way to get around, of course, but when it’s raining a bus is always superior to walking. Unfortunately, the vertical silo of the bus company seldom coordinates with the NYCTA subway company during outages and planned work, nor coordinates their schedule with them.

from wikipedia

MTA Regional Bus Operations (RBO) is the surface transit division of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), created in 2008 to consolidate all bus operations in New York City operated by the MTA.


Upcoming Tours and events

The Poison Cauldron of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with Atlas Obscura – July 22nd, 11 a.m. – 2 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.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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Written by Mitch Waxman

July 17, 2017 at 11:00 am

bearded colleague

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Kitteh, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m taking a short break this week, and offering single images of the Internet’s favorite critter. These are all ferals, encountered in the nooks and crannies of NYC which I wander through. Have a great Thanksgiving.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 21, 2016 at 11:00 am

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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.

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Bayonne Bridge progress, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Bayonne Bridge spans the Kill Van Kull waterway, connecting Staten Island with Bayonne, New Jersey. The fourth largest steel arch bridge upon the earth, it was designed by Othmar Amman.

Bayonne Bridge’s origins were commemorated in this 2010 post. The Bayonne Bridge, and the Frederick E Bouchard tug, were discussed in this 2012 post. Also back in 2012, I walked over the original Bayonne Bridge for the last time. In August of last year, I gathered the shots featured in this 2015 post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A new class of cargo ships, the Panamax, will soon become standard for global trade. These gargantua have necessitated the widening of the Panama Canal, and will be too large to fit under the Bayonne Bridge in its original configuration at high tide. Given that Port Elizabeth Newark is found just beyond the Bayonne Bridge, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has been forced to take steps.

Very expensive steps.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A seperate project is underway to increase the draught of NY Harbor’s Ambrose Channel and Kill Van Kull to fifty feet instead of forty via dredging, but the roadway of the Bayonne Bridge is being replaced by a new one which will be high enough to accommodate the new class of cargo ships.

–  photo by Mitch Waxman

In the shot above, you can see the project is well underway. The shots in today’s post were captured from the waters of the Kill Van Kull in May of 2016, btw. The new roadway is quite a bit higher than the original, and the older one is slated to be demolished.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Unlike the Kosciuszko Bridge at Newtown Creek (which is being fully replaced), the project engineers have decided to retain the original steel arch structure and approaches to the span. Also, unlike the Kosciuszko project, I have no special access or knowledge of the project beyond some water access.

I can tell you that certain harbor and shipping industry magnates I know favored demolishing the span entirely, reasoning that another class of mega cargo ships is inevitable, and that access to Newark Bay is paramount for the economy of the Northeastern United States. Right now, Port Elizabeth Newark is the second largest port facility in the USA’s part of North America. Bayonne Bridge provides a critical vehicular path to Staten Island and Brooklyn via the Verrazano Bridge for the trade items which arrive there.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

From a purely esthetic point of view, the composition and positioning of the new roadway is pretty “fugly.” Amman is turning in his grave, I’m sure.

Upcoming Events and Tours

Saturday, June 4, 11:00 a.m. -1:30 p.m. –
DUPBO: Down Under the Pulaski Bridge Onramp,
with Brooklyn Brainery. Click here for more details.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

June 1, 2016 at 11:00 am

along with

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I like a good door, me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One could bore you endlessly with the metaphorical and philosophical significance of doors. They keep you in, or keep you out, in their simplest function. A lot of the doors in today’s post are simply gone, such as the one pictured above which used to found in Queens Plaza along Jackson Avenue.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Hunterspoint Steel literally left their building in Queens well more than a decade ago, but their portal and signage nevertheless remained. Found just east of the Dutch Kills Tributary of Newtown Creek and Hunters Point Avenue Bridge, the old factory building has become home to a plumbing supply company in recent years – but their sign typography is nowhere near as cool as Hunterspoint Steel’s was. They also replaced the old yellow door with some modern piece of “store bought.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over in Brooklyn, at the Greenpoint Terminal Market, this second story number once connected with another building. That building burned away in the largest fire since 911, which – luckily enough – made lots of room available for the development of luxury condos on its lot.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In lower Manhattan’s Alphabet City, there’s a church which celebrates the Hispanic Mozarabic Rite of the Western Orthodox Catholic tradition. No, really. I did a whole post on this church back in August of 2012.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over on… Staten Island… there’s a bar on Richmond Terrace where you’ll find the front door always open, and within there’s a phone booth. If it looks familiar, that’s because it’s where Madonna called Danny Aiello from in the “Papa don’t preach” music video back in the 1980’s.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In Queens, over in Ridgewood, there’s a pretty ancient set of doors you can walk through at the Onderdonk House. If you’re tall, you might want to duck down a bit while walking through, as our colonial ancestors didn’t necessarily possess the same stature which we assign to them.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In Queens’s Woodside, along Broadway, there’s a church which is fairly well vouchsafed against Vampires. Of course, Woodside doesn’t have too much of an infestation – nosferatu wise. For a good chance of encountering Vampires, you’d want to go to Red Hook (under the Gowanus Expressway is a good bet). As a note, Vampires avoid this particular corner anyway, as there’s a Sikh temple on the opposite corner.

You don’t screw around with the Sikhs.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There aren’t that many burial grounds in Lower Manhattan, but you can bet that when you do find one it will be vouchsafed by stout iron doors. Whether it’s to keep the Wall Street types from robbing the graves, or to keep the dead from exacting vengeance upon the living – who cares, it’s Manhattan.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Hidden doors are my favorites, of course. In Brooklyn’s Greenwood Cemetery, there’s hundreds of hidden doors designed to both protect and control the tomb legions.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My favorite doors are actually the elaborate bronze portal covers you’ll find adorning the Mausolea at one of the four Calvary Cemeteries here in Western Queens. Just look at that example above. Woof.

Upcoming Events and Tours

Thursday, May 26th at 6 p.m. –

Brooklyn Waterfront: Past & Present Boat Tour,
with Working Harbor Committee. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 23, 2016 at 11:00 am

unlimited demand

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Me? I like a good arch.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In glorious Astoria, Queens, you’ll notice that the neighborhood hosts a rail viaduct which carries the New York Connecting Railroad tracks to the Hell Gate Bridge, and that the cyclopean concrete structure uses a series of arches to carry the load. Whenever I’m out shooting, a point is made to photograph arches whenever they’re encountered, strictly in the name of “framing” for the composition. These tracks have been here since 1917, and opened in March, or possibly July of that year.

The arch is actually a relatively modern “thing” as far as human history goes, and began turning up in the built environment roughly 4,000 years ago in Mesopotamia.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Romans are famous for their usage of the arch and created several twists on the structural element. They would line up a series of arches to create an arcade, or twist them around a focal point to build domes. They also came up with the idea for triumphal arches, like the one you’ll find on the Canal Street side of the Manhattan Bridge, which also has a colonnade.

In case you were wondering – the Manhattan Bridge arch and colonnade were opened for inspection some five years after the bridge itself premiered. It was in 1910, a year after the bridge opened, that the architectural firm Carrère and Hastings drew the plans for the arch, and it was sculpted by Carl A. Heber. There’s also a sculptural frieze called “Buffalo Hunt” by a fellow named Charles Rumsey.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of arches and the New York Connecting Railroad, as well as Astoria, you’d be remiss not mention the treasure of treasures which is Hell Gate. Lindenthal and Horbostel designed the great rail bridge, which is actually a series of bridges when you get down to it. The main attraction is an inverted bow spring arch.

Technically speaking, it’s called the East River Arch Bridge.

The New York Connecting Railroad Bridge, aka the East River Arch Bridge- or commonly the Hell Gate Bridge- is estimated to be the most permanent of all the structures garlanding NY Harbor. According to Discover Magazine’s Feburary 2005 issue – it would take a millennium of environmental decay for Hell Gate’s steel to fail and collapse as compared to a mere 300 years for the other East River crossings. A target of no small strategic importance, Hell Gate was a mission objective for the Nazi saboteurs who were landed in Amagansett, Long Island by a Submarine (U-Boat 202– the Innsbruck) during the second World War’s Operation Pastorius. The legal consequences of Pastorius, by the way, are the precedent setting United States Supreme Court decision of Ex Parte Quinn.

Ex Parte Quinn is the legal pretext that underpins the detention of and trial, by military tribunals, of “foreign combatants” in the United States – a central tenet of our modern Terror War.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My favorite arches can be found at my favorite place, of course. The Greenpoint Avenue Bridge over Newtown Creek is featured above. There have been multiple bridges erected at this location over the years, but the first one was known as the “Blissville Bridge” and it was erected in 1850.

from the DOT website:

The Greenpoint Avenue Bridge is a double-leaf trunnion bascule, with 21.3m wide leaves. This bridge is a steel girder structure with a filled grid deck. The bridge provides a channel with a horizontal clearance of 45.4m and in the closed position a vertical clearance of 7.9m at MHW and 9.4m at MLW. The bridge structure carries a four-lane two-way vehicular roadway with a 1.2m striped median and sidewalks on either side. The roadway width is 8.6m and the sidewalks are 4.0m and 3.7m for the north and south sidewalk respectively. The approach roadways are narrower than the bridge roadway. The west approach and east approach roadways are 17.1m (including 1.4m center median) and 11.9m respectively.

Greenpoint Avenue Bridge is also known as the J.J. Byrne memorial bridge. Who was Byrne? Long story, click here to learn more.

 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over in Staten Island, the Bayonne Bridge opened for use to the general public was 28,856 days ago, on November 15th, 1931 at 5 A.M. Bayonne is the fourth longest steel arch bridge upon the entire planet, and was designed by Othmar Amman. Click here for more on the Bayonne Bridge, and the construction project underway which is raising its roadway to accommodate a new class of cargo vessel.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 29, 2016 at 1:00 pm

squamous aspiration

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Constantly disappointing, and complaining, that’s me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Winter boredom is anathema to one such as myself. The cold and dark, the thirty five pounds of insulation, the constant flux between the dry and cold air of the out of doors contrasted with the high temperature and humidity found within. The constancy of a drippy nose. Bah.

It’s always been a bit of a mystery to me why some feel the need to jack the heat up to the mid 80’s inside of structures, knowing full well that inhabitants and visitors will be wearing clothing appropriate for the out of doors. The worst culprit on this front seems to be the subway system, where you’ll step off of a station platform whose atmospheric temperature is commensurate with the freezing of water and suddenly find yourself in a hurtling metal box whose ambient air mass is heated to something approaching that of an afternoon in July. Add in the sniffling, coughing, and dripping orifices of the mob…

Well, I’ve often opined that what this City needs is a good plague – and I’m fairly certain that one will eventually start on a Subway in Queens during middle January. Don’t touch that subway pole, if you can help it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Ultimately, one is awaiting a particularly personal moment which occurs every year, when a humble narrator’s boredom grows so intense that he has little choice but to brave the cold and head back outside. At this juncture, however, the moment hasn’t arrived, and one has been spending his time reading about the Second Empire period of French history, Otto Von Bismarck, and researching the chemicals which the seething cauldrons of industry produce that are classified as petroleum or coal distillates. One does a lot of reading during this time of the year.

I’ve also read up a bit on Kazakhstan, the Crimean Tartars, and the Deccan Plain on the Indian subcontinent. Briefly, I also looked into the Chicago stock yards and the post civil war meat packing industry as well as the suffragettes of 19th century Brooklyn Heights. I continue to study the rise and fall of the Roman Catholic empire in New York City, which is fascinating. Also reiterated will be the fact that if you enjoy gelatin based desserts – never, ever, inquire too deeply as to what gelatin actually is nor how it is produced for you will never, ever, eat it afterwards. Jello brand gelatin was invented by Peter Cooper in a glue factory on Newtown Creek in the 19th century, which is all you really need to know about it. Isenglass is also soul chilling.

Sexy stuff, I know, but the so called “fin de siècle” of the late 19th and early 20th centuries are when the foundations of our modern civilization were laid down and it remains a certain benchmark from a cultural point of view. Labor unions, representative government (both socialist and capitalist), industrial warfare – all of it was imagined up back then. It’s also when the environment surrounding us began to die off due to anthropogenic reasons. The dominoes were lined up, quite unconsciously, back then for the end of our world.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

“Fin de siècle” is a French expression which gained popularity in the first decade of the 20th century, a part of the run up to the Great War, which indicated that the “end of the cycle” or “end of an age” was apparent. It’s part of a phenomena known as millennial fatalism, wherein a culture believes that the “end of the world” nears. It’s difficult to not think that our culture may have reached its breaking point, given what we see on the nightly news. The fatalism and general horror which the various news organizations pump into our heads is, of course, not accidental. Don’t forget that most of the news gathering and dissemination companies are owned and operated by defense contractors.

I’ve always been an optimist, however. What other choice have you got, ultimately? Winter will come and go, and then… flowers and puppies. That’s the way that the wheel of the year spins, after all.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

January 11, 2016 at 11:00 am

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