The Newtown Pentacle

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Friday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A few final Friday photos from the far away Gowanus greet you this morning. The shot above looks towards the Union Street Bridge from the Carroll Street Bridge.

Uncharacteristically, I’m sort of at a loss of words today. Obvious reasons, read the news. It’s not like this wasn’t obviously going to happen sooner or later.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s Carroll Street Bridge, which is one of only two retractile bridges in the entire City. The other is Borden Avenue Bridge, crossing the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek in Long Island City.

I cannot fathom the attempts on social media to rebrand the group of white supremacists who stormed the Capitol as “Antifa.” You broke it, you bought it. Assholes. When you lie down in the street with wild dogs, you get bit.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the way home, a quick stop was made to get the shot above, depicting three DSNY trucks on a ramp with the Gowanus Expressway in the background.

Good times, these.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the beginning of the week of Monday, January 4th. My plan is to continue doing my solo photo walks around LIC and the Newtown Creek in the dead of night as long as that’s feasible. If you continue to see regular updates here, that means everything is kosher as far as health and well being. If the blog stops updating, it means that things have gone badly for a humble narrator.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


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

January 8, 2021 at 2:00 pm

outrageous conclusions

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Thursday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A few more from the Gowanus Dredging operation today, and since the pursuance of getting these shots required no small amount of physical hardship for a humble narrator, we’re staying on the subject for a bit longer.

As mentioned earlier in the week, one woke up a couple of hours before sunrise in Astoria on the literal other side of a very Long Island, then suffered frigid middle December conditions on the East River to get here, and having dodged heavy trucks the entire morning on the streets of Red Hook and Sunset Park, the two eggs with ham and swiss on a roll which I had for breakfast had long ago burned away. It had also been multiple hours since I had drank anything, and the combination of fatigue and an empty fuel tank were beginning to set in. The diesel exhaust didn’t help.

I go to these places so you don’t have to, Lords and Ladies.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The material being scooped out of the Gowanus Canal gets shipped elsewhere for processing. The Superfund people at EPA aren’t exactly forthcoming about where the material gets sent, but I’d venture a guess about that as being somewhere in New Jersey and likely not too far from Bayonne. I can offer a conjectured description about what happens to it afterwards, though.

First, excess moisture will be mechanically removed either by centrifuge or compression. The freed liquid is fed into a wastewater treatment process, one not dissimilar to what happens at a sewer plant. Pollutants and contaminants are filtered out, the water is cleaned up, and then released. The filtered contaminants are combined with the dewatered solids. Secondly, the solids are sterilized, dried, and combined with an inert material like concrete. The concrete is formed into blocks, the blocks get shipped off somewhere for disposal. That somewhere is likely a tapped out underground mine which will be sealed off once full of these now inert blocks.

When Newtown Creek’s process begins to manifest physically, it will look a lot like the shots in this week’s post, just on a grander scale.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shot above is included, one which I’m fairly sure is of the Third Street Bridge, as I’ve never seen this particular span open before. This didn’t seem to be part of the dredge operation, rather it looked like the NYC DOT (owners of the thing) were performing some sort of maintenance on the thing.

A bit more of this Southwest Brooklyn action tomorrow.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the beginning of the week of Monday, January 4th. My plan is to continue doing my solo photo walks around LIC and the Newtown Creek in the dead of night as long as that’s feasible. If you continue to see regular updates here, that means everything is kosher as far as health and well being. If the blog stops updating, it means that things have gone badly for a humble narrator.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


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

January 7, 2021 at 11:00 am

beckoning vistas

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Wednesday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It took leaving HQ in Astoria at 5:30 in the morning, freezing my falafels off on a ferry in middle December, and then walking about a mile and a half but I managed to get to the Gowanus Canal while superfund dredging was actually happening. Pictured above is the Gowanus, as seen from the Hamilton Avenue Bridge under the Gowanus Expressway. Normal circumstance, if such a thing exists anymore, would have found me taking the G train to the elevated structure at the top of the shot – which is the Smith/9th street station. The draw bridge it overflies is the 9th street Bridge. The bucket barge and fuel barge/tug at lower left aren’t part of the dredge operations, as a note, they were there for other business.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Named to the Federal Environmental Protection Agency’s CERCLA or “Superfund” list at the same time as my beloved Newtown Creek, Gowanus Canal involves a significantly smaller geographical and simpler pollution problem to solve than Newtown Creek does. The Gowanus Canal is analogous in terms of scale and circumstance to the Long Island City tributary of Newtown Creek called Dutch Kills, in fact. Since the problem is smaller and somewhat simpler, Gowanus got to this part of the process first, whereas Newtown Creek is still several years away from dredging. Saying that, it’s a real mess down there at Gowanus, under the water.

Before you ask – it really didn’t smell that bad. The most miserable thing, odor wise, was experiencing the exhaust pouring out of the stacks of the Tugs and other equipment as they performed their tasks. You’d suddenly find yourself standing in a pall of blue diesel exhaust when the wind bent in your direction.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There were distinct units working on the various “locks” created by the street bridges crossing the Gowanus. Pictured above is the operation that was stationed between the 9th street and Union Street Bridges. Gowanus Bay narrows into the canal, and it’s crossed by seven bridges; Union Street, Carroll Street, Third Street, the New York City Subway’s Culver Viaduct (Smith 9th street station), Ninth Street, Hamilton Avenue, and the Gowanus Expressway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Dredging is something I usually see all the time, but I spend a lot of time on the water under normal circumstance. Maintenance of shipping channels in deeper water usually entails using a specialized rig with it’s own power plant that has steel “pods” which are lowered into the water and act as legs to stabilize the machine. What I saw at Gowanus were “materials handlers” with specialized grabbers on them, as pictured above.

The sediments are scooped off the bottom, the water is drained into one bucket barge, and then the solids go into another. It’s likely that the more liquid material will be decanted and then processed as wastewater or sewage would be.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the Hamilton Avenue lift bridge raising to allow a tug towing away one of those “solids” barges out of the canal. It’s called a lift bridge as the entire roadway lifts vertically to allow maritime egress.

As always – it doesn’t matter if the Tug is pushing, or pulling, or the barge is tied up “on the hip” it’s called “towing.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Same Tug, different bridge. This is the Hamilton Avenue Bridge, which you saw in the first shot from the other side. It’s a double bascule draw bridge, but the two movable sections are parallel to each other. A more traditional setup for this sort of structure would be the Pulaski Bridge at Newtown Creek, where the two bascules are in line with each other and form an arch when closed.

More tomorrow.

Note: I’m writing this and several of the posts you’re going to see for the next week at the beginning of the week of Monday, January 4th. My plan is to continue doing my solo photo walks around LIC and the Newtown Creek in the dead of night as long as that’s feasible. If you continue to see regular updates here, that means everything is kosher as far as health and well being. If the blog stops updating, it means that things have gone badly for a humble narrator.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


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

January 6, 2021 at 11:00 am

growing ferocity

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

As your humble narrator scuttles in palsied manner across the concrete devastations of the Newtown Creek watershed, observations have revealed that a sizable number of Federal employees are now employed and extant upon the water. Early phases of the process which these EPA contractors and supervisory staff are carrying out, they seek an answer to the burning question long offered at this- your Newtown Pentacle, “Who can guess, all there is, that might be buried down there?”.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Ignorant, and vulnerable to the pernicious rumormongering of area wags, your humble narrator has been attending and has in fact joined the “Newtown Creek CAG” in order to receive reports and breaking news about the progress of these Federal teams sent by the Environmental Protection Agency to examine the morass, stare into the abyss, and perform the field measurements of conditions upon and indeed within the Newtown Creek.

The CAG is intended to serve as a point of interaction between the agency and present community concerns, reactions, and requests or complaints arising from the community to the agency. Additionally, it will attempt to distribute and disseminate information which the EPA desires the public to know and or consider.

To that end, the EPA has made available these two documents:

US EPA’s presentation at the May 21 CAG meeting.

US EPA technical assistance in a nutshell, with details about Technical Assistance Grants (TAG) and the Technical Assistance Services for Communities (TASC) program.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Discussion at recent meetings have discussed the concerns of area businesses who have been experiencing difficulty with bank financing, queries about the methodology of epidemiological and health studies to be conducted in surrounding stakeholder communities, and a timeline was presented for the various phases of their mission. A series of laboratory tests, performed upon samples gathered from literally thousands of individual “sites”, are underway.

All summer, you will see these little workboats on the Creek, whose crews will be collecting, sampling, and recording data about the Newtown Creek.

Also:

June 16th, 2012- Newtown Creek Alliance Dutch Kills walk

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Newtown Creek Alliance has asked that, in my official capacity as group historian, a tour be conducted on the 16th of June- a Saturday. This walk will follow the Dutch Kills tributary, and will include a couple of guest speakers from the Alliance itself, which will provide welcome relief for tour goers from listening to me rattle on about Michael Degnon, Patrick “Battle Ax” Gleason, and a bunch of bridges that no one has ever heard of.

for June 16th tickets, click here for the Newtown Creek Alliance ticketing page

June 23rd, 2012- Atlas Obscura Thirteen Steps around Dutch Kills walk

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Additionally- the “Obscura Day” Thirteen Steps around Dutch Kills tour proved that the efficacy and charms of the Newtown Creek’s least known tributary, with its myriad points of interest, could cause a large group to overlook my various inadequacies and failings. The folks at Atlas Obscura, which is a fantastic website worthy of your attentions (btw), have asked me to repeat the tour on the 23rd of June- also a Saturday.

for June 23rd tickets, click here for the Atlas Obscura ticketing page

June 30th, 2012- Working Harbor Committee Kill Van Kull walk

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My various interests out on the sixth borough, NY Harbor, have brought me into association with the Working Harbor Committee. A member of the group’s Steering Committee- I also serve as the “official” group photographer, am chairman and principal narrator of their annual Newtown Creek Boat Tour, and occasionally speak on the microphone during other tours (mainly the Brooklyn one). This year, the group has branched out into terrestrial explorations to compliment the intense and extant schedule of boat tours, and I’m going to be leading a Kill Van Kull walking tour that should be a lot of fun.

The Kill Van Kull, or tugboat alley as its known to we harbor rats, is a tidal strait that defines the border of Staten Island and New Jersey. A busy and highly industrialized waterfront, Working Harbor’s popular “Hidden Harbor – Newark Bay” boat tours provide water access to the Kill, but what is it like on the landward side?

Starting at the St. George Staten Island Ferry terminal, join WHC Steering Committee member Mitch Waxman for a walk up the Kill Van Kull via Staten Islands Richmond Terrace. You’ll encounter unrivaled views of the maritime traffic on the Kill itself, as well as the hidden past of the maritime communities which line it’s shores. Surprising and historic neighborhoods, an abandoned railway, and tales of prohibition era bootleggers await.

The tour will start at 11, sharp, and you must be on (at least) the 10:30 AM Staten Island Ferry to meet the group at St. George. Again, plan for transportation changes and unexpected weirdness to be revealed to you at MTA.info.

For June 30th tickets, click here for the Working Harbor Committee ticketing page

warm and fragrant

with one comment

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An appointment in Greenpoint carried me across the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge last Tuesday, and as my habit is to be early to meetings, some time was available for photography. It was an unusual and foggy day, and the mists were creating an enormous depth of field atmospherically. Always a visual pleasure, the GPA bridge offers views of the former Tidewater pumping station on the Queens bank as well as the tank farms of Lukoil and Metro fuel on the Brooklyn bank- which are pictured above.

That’s when I noticed something disturbing.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

We are lucky that we live in the age we do, when an oil slick moving down the languorous Newtown Creek is a remarkable sight. Once upon a time, such visualizations were commonly extant and regularly observed. Luckily, due to regulation and improved industrial practices, such events happen far less frequently than they once did.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The standard protocol to follow when you observe an oil slick on the Newtown Creek, or anywhere in New York Harbor, is to first document it by taking a picture using your cell phone or digital camera. Make a note of your location and the time. Next, call 311 to alert city authorities, followed by a call to the State DEC spill hotline- 1 (800) 457-7362.

They take these matters quite seriously.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Take note of whether the tide is coming in or going out, as this will help authorities to pinpoint the source of the contaminants. On this day, the tide was ebbing and the oil slick was flowing toward the East River along the tepid current. It should be mentioned that the obvious petroleum industry presence found alongside the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge is maintained by fairly responsible parties in modernity, and the shot above is not meant to indite or should be viewed as indicative of being responsible for the event depicted in this post.

The slick was coming from the other direction, flowing east to west and traveling beneath the bridge toward them.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Later that afternoon, after having accomplished my intended goals in Greenpoint, and returning home via the Pulaski Bridge to Queens- a new feature on the lower Creek was noticed. A temporary or floating dock installed nearby the Vernon Avenue Street End, and one of two “work boats” was traveling eastward from it and moving under the Pulaski.

It moved too fast for me to ready the camera, but it bore the screed “spill response boat” upon it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Everybody’s friends at Riverkeeper, whom I informed of my observations upon returning home, made inquiries with DEC officials about the nature and extent of this possible spill event. DEC sent back word that the slick was no spill, rather it was likely a result of sediment sampling efforts being carried out by the Federal EPA as part of the ongoing discovery phase of the Superfund process. It seems that while dredging up small quantities of the so called “Black Mayonnaise” which lines the bed of the creek for study, some effluent might have been released into the waterway.

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