The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Tugboat

formula filled

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My creek also puts on a show when I’ve been away from her too long.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of my practices, developed over the last decade or so, is to take a Newtown Creek break periodically and “allow my liver to return to a normal size.” I’m joking about the liver, but one does enjoy a bit of detox occasionally, and allowing the poisons I’ve accrued a chance to leach out. This is a luxury one enjoys, as he doesn’t live along Newtown Creek, others aren’t so lucky. Pictured above is roll on/ roll off garbage truck carrying a bin, spotted at a waste transfer station owned by a friend of mine which fairly straddles the border of Brooklyn and Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Marching along Metropolitan Avenue, one squealed with delight as the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge began to open. This used to be quite a frequent occurrence “back in the day.” These days there’s only one regular maritime customer back here on the English Kills tributary, which is Bayside Fuel.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The timing of the bridge opening was bizarre, occurring at precisely the time of one of the heaviest traffic intervals in this section of North Brooklyn, about 6:30 p.m.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That odd timing, however, allowed one to stand in the middle of Metropolitan Avenue without getting squished.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I believe that the tug pictured above is the Mary H., which normally handles the Bayside duty, but it’s hard to say as I didn’t get any of its markings. I did manage to focus in on the captain in his wheelhouse, however, so “win.”

As a note, the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge spans the English Kills tributary of the larger Newtown Creek at a navigational mark 3.4 miles eastwards of the East River. Metropolitan Avenue was originally created as a private toll road about 1814, and was called the Williamsburgh and Jamaica Turnpike. The owners of the toll road, and the original bridge, were two brothers whose family name was Masters. That’s why you’ll occasionally see references to the road as the “Masters Turnpike” and the “Masters Bridge” in the historical record, if like me, you stay up until 4 in the morning reading old municipal journals and reports from the Chambers of Commerce of Brooklyn or Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My conceit is to call this area of Newtown Creek surrounding the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge “DUMABO.” That’s short for “Down Under the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge,” as I believe we need to be ahead of the real estate people on these sorts of things.


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It’s National Chocolates Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An often wished for super power would be the ability to simply become invisible, or undetectable by casual observers. Since that won’t happen, barring some revolution in technology based camouflage, one instead skulks around in plain sight. To be seen by so many diminishes me.

The new NYC Ferry service has really been occupying a bit of my skulking time of late, and it has increased geographic range quite a bit. They don’t exactly advertise it, but if you buy a ticket on… say the Astoria Line… you can go the onboard snack bar and request a transfer ticket to get on one of the other lines. This essentially makes it entirely possible to get to Rockaway from Western Queens for only $2.75 by water, which kind of rocks. Generally speaking, I’m on boats doing NY Harbor or Newtown Creek tours all summer long, but in recent years I’ve been tethered to the microphone while narrating the event and seldom get a minute to wave the camera around anymore. Whereas I literally “love” this sort of tour narrator occupation, it’s been really nice for the last few weeks to keep my mouth shut and just get down to shooting whenever I’m out on the water.

Just east of the Verrazano Bridge, this little quartet of working vessels was recently observed. From the left, that’s a Miller’s Launch work boat, the Scott Turecamo tugboat, the New Hampshire fuel barge, and the cargo ship is the Nave Ariadne fuel tanker.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has not exactly been shooting a lot of tugboats during the last year, as I’ve grown somewhat jaded to the splendor of the maritime industrial scene in recent months. There’s only so many ways you can frame a tugboat in your shot, after all, but I just couldn’t resist the view of the Marjorie B. McAllister tug in the shot above as it transited beneath the Brooklyn Bridge with the Statue of Liberty off in the distance.

Personally, I find the Statue aesthetically pleasing. How often can you say that about a French woman who sports a 354 foot waistline as well as a four and a half foot long nose?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator has been known to kill an entire day in recent weeks riding back and forth on the new NYC Ferry, transiting between Rockaway and Astoria. In subsequent intervals, one plans on actually debarking the boat at a few of its mid route destinations, with a visit to the dock at Sunset Park forming into a particular set of desires.

Weather depending, sometime soon I plan on waking up early to do a sunrise transit to Rockaway. Then I’ll take the boat to Sunset Park and spend the late morning and afternoon scuttling about, followed by a setting sun trip back to Astoria.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s a Bouchard tug spotted nearby Gerritsen Bay, just south east of the Verrazano Bridge. It’s an articulated fuel barge and tug, which means that there are cables full of electronic signaling equipment which run between the barge and tug in a “notch” engineered into the former, which the bow of the latter fits and connects into. It allows the crew to control the tug barge combination as if it was a cohesive and singular unit. As Bugs Bunny might have said: “dat’s Modern Design, ay?”.

Something I get, a lot, is: “Dude, how do you remember all of this stuff? You’ve just got it in your head.” I can report to you that I know less than 5% of all there is to know, just along the East River. There’s corridors on the water – Newtown Creek for instance – that I know a LOT about, but even there there’s always something new to glean.

I learn something new every single day. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m still figuring out the block I live on in Astoria, after all.

It’s been an odd few weeks here in the ancient village. The armies of chaos who transit through here on a regular basis have been shifting around a bit in size, character, and sort of late. Just heard a disturbing story last night which saw a female friend of mine show up at HQ with two black eyes, another last week from a local Pizza shop owner who found his shop in the middle of what he described as a “Mexican riot” at two in the morning, and large groups of teenagers have been riding bicycles together. Recently, I saw a baby who had one eyebrow that stretched from eye to eye right over the nose, and a pair of dogs who were wearing shoes and coats. I also saw someone walking a cat on a leash.

The world is a scary place, but I’m ok because I’m hiding behind a camera where nobody can see me.


Upcoming Tours and events

Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour, with Atlas Obscura – Sunday, December 10th, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Explore NYC history, hidden inside sculptural monuments and mafioso grave sites, as you take in iconic city views on this walking tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 29, 2017 at 11:00 am

doomed intuitions

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It’s National Chocolate Cupcake Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Legend has it that on one particular evening Mose the Fireboy, who was the legendary “sachem” and hero of the Bowery B’hoys gang in 19th century NYC, heard that a sea serpent had appeared on the East River. Mose, a giant whose legends are similar to those of the gargantuan lumberjack Paul Bunyan, rowed out onto the river and plucked the leviathan from the water with his bare hands. Strangling the monster in his iron grip, Mose then skinned the great beast and brought his prize to McGurk’s Suicide Parlor – a bar formerly found on the west side of the Bowery, nearby Cooper Square at east 4th street. It’s said that the skin hung over the bar afterwards, as a totem of the mysteries of the harbor and testament to the great strength and power of Mose. Mose supposedly could extinguish blazes by clapping his hands and was known to smoke three cigars at the same time. If his horse wasn’t pulling the fire wagon fast enough, Mose would pick up the horse in one hand and the wagon in the other and carry them. Mose the fireboy was apparently quite a fellow, so much so that he was a regular character appearing in Bowery theater productions centered around “life in our town.”

The largest known specie of eel, incidentally, is the European Conger, which is known to grow to lengths of nearly ten feet and achieve body weights of up to 240 pounds. They’re native to the eastern Atlantic Ocean and tend towards the European coastline. They’re carnivorous, feeding on all sorts of deep sea critters, and have been found at depths of up to 3,840 feet. The American Eel is a relative dwarf in comparison, achieving lengths of up to 4 feet and body weights of up to 17 pounds.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The largest living crab, and largest arthropod as well, is the Japanese Spider Crab. Large specimens can spread their clawed arms out to span 18 feet, and they can weigh as much as 42 pounds. Closer to home, the American Lobster (Homarus americanus) is known to achieve weights of 44 pounds and body lengths of two feet – excluding their claws. Both are members of the Malacostraca class of crustaceans, whose ancestors first appear in the fossil record during the Cambrian age. All sorts of large marine animals are spotted in the East River from time to time – including cetaceans like Whales and Dolphins, large bony fish and living fossils like the Sturgeon, and occasionally sea turtles.

The leatherback sea turtle is the largest extant turtle and fourth largest living reptile, and can be found in nearly all of the world’s ocean waters. Leatherbacks can grow to nearly seven feet in length and achieve body weights of up to 2,000 pounds. Sea Turtle ancestry dates back to the Triassic age.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In 1895, the NY Times offered reports of a sea serpent of more than 100 feet in length moving quickly through New York Harbor about a half mile from shore. According to the testimony of one Willard P. Shaw of Wall Street, it repeatedly raised its head out of the water more than ten feet above the waves. Shaw’s story was confirmed by other witnesses.

This sounds like the sort of thing we would need Mose the Fireboy to handle.

Who can guess, all there is, that might be sloshing and swimming around down there?


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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 18, 2017 at 1:00 pm

leaden coffin

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It’s National Pancake Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Note: Flickr seems to be having some issues today, so if the shots in today’s post don’t appear or display “broken” image link icons, it ain’t me.

Last week, I took a new friend over to “Skelson’s office” on the Staten Island side of the Kill Van Kull. My new pal, who is a photographer that I met during the lowering of the Koscisuzcko Bridge truss during the summer, had never been to Kill Van Kull and given that she’s into shooting the same sort of maritime industrial stuff that I am…

“Skelson’s office” is a section of the Staten Island shoreline that another photographer buddy of mine named John Skelson, who has left this world, used to haunt and this was officially his “spot.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

While we were at Skelson’s Office, the usual parade of tugs and barges sailed past, including the gargantua you see in today’s shots. That’s a Jersey City based Weeks Marine maritime crane, specifically the 533. Its boom is 210 feet long and it has a lifting capacity of 500 short tons. That’s 5,392 “regular people” gross tons if you’re curious. If you click over to the Weeks site via this link, you’ll see a space shuttle dangling off of it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There were two tugs guiding the crane along the Kill Van Kull, but the big one doing the actual towing was the Katherine, pictured above. My new pal had her mouth hanging open as this unit passed by, as you don’t see this sort of thing every day.

Well, I do, but there you go.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Found some garbage lying along the shoreline, and since I had to urinate, the big red letters made for a decent enough target. Great, again? America is great, now.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The show continued along the Kill Van Kull and we spent a couple of hours hanging out and photographing the tugs and barges and container ships passing by Skelson’s Office. If you want to see this sort of thing for yourself (I mean tugs and maritime industrial goodness, not me pissing on the word “Trump”) check out the link below for the recently announced Working Harbor Committee boat tour of both Kill Van Kull and Arthur Kill on October 15th.


Upcoming Tours and events

Exploring Long Island City, from Luxury Waterfront to Abandoned Factories Walking Tour,
with NY Adventure Club – Saturday, October 7th, 1 p.m. – 3 p.m.

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? With Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

The Hidden Harbors Of  Staten Island Boat Tour,
with Working Harbor Committee – Sunday, October 15th, 2 p.m. – 4 p.m.

A very cool boat tour that visits two of the maritime industrial waterways of New York Harbor which adjoin Staten Island and Bayonne in New Jersey – The Kill Van Kull and the Arthur Kill. There will be lots of tugboats, cargo docks, and you’ll get to see multiple bridges from the water – including the brand new Goethals Bridge. I’ll be on the mike, narrating with WHC board member Gordon Cooper details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 26, 2017 at 11:00 am

shrewd guessing

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It’s National Cream Filled Donut Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over the Labor Day weekend, on September the 3rd to be exact, our Working Harbor Committee presented the 25th Annual Great North River Tugboat Race and Competition on the Hudson River. It was raining at a pretty good clip, which kind of sucked, but… tugboat race. I mean… tugboat race.

That’s a brand new tug above, the Capt. Brian A. McAllister.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As is usual for the tug race (this is my seventh or eighth time photographing the event), I was onboard the “official” race boat, but due to the inclement weather and a variety of other conditions, one wasn’t in the best place to shoot the actual race this year. Normally, I like having Manhattan in the background, looking northwards across the competition. Construction barges and other maritime impediments forced the race to occur in the west channel of the river this year, so all you got for background is New Jersey.

No offense to New Jersey is intended, of course, but y’all haven’t got an Empire State Building on your side. It seems nice over there though.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My favorite part of the Tug Race, from a photographic perspective, has always been the line toss competition. That’s Donjon towing’s Mary Alice Tug in the shot above.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This rope was a thrown from a tug based at Millers Landing, the Susan Mller.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Mister T tug also gave it a go.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This one was hurled by a crewman of the tug James William.


Upcoming Tours and events

The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura – Saturday, September 23rd, 11 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Join us on the wrong side of the tracks for an exploration of the hidden industrial heartlands of Brooklyn and Queens, with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 14, 2017 at 11:00 am

raiding contingent

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It’s National Sponge Cake Day, followed by the Night of the Living Dead, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A bit of a personal milestone is reached today, as I’ve now been amongst you all for some six hundred months. The last eighteen thousand two hundred and sixty three days have been a mixed bag, overall. Lots of boredom and pedantry, which has been punctuated by pulse pounding terror. Every now and then, one or two of the four hundred and thirty eight thousand, three hundred odd hours which I’ve experienced on this mortal coil hasn’t totally sucked. I’ve met good people, bad people, and have generally gone out of way to try and not hurt anyone who didn’t deserve it.

For all of those times when I’ve been a total asshole to someone during the roughly twenty six point three million minutes I’ve been on this planet, apologies are offered.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s lessons I’ve learned, and mistakes I’ve made which I strive not to repeat. When I was born, Lyndon Baines Johnson was President of the United States (I’ve got a certificate from the White House some where congratulating my parents on my arrival) and the Woodstock festival had just wrapped up. I clearly remember a moon landing, and the Watergate investigations being broadcast live on all three television networks.

I was a weird and lonely kid, and some things never change – even after nearly one point six billion seconds.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One is lost and deep in a “reminisce” today. Trying to remember their faces and to forget all the slings and arrows. Trying to appreciate what I’ve got, and lost, and the pageantry I’ve experienced. Overall I’ve been fairly lucky, as people of high quality who are “above my pay grade” are in my life. Also, I’m thinking about dead friends, and family.

Tonight is the Night of the Living Dead, so perhaps I’ll be seeing some of them as they try to batter in my door to feast.


Upcoming Tours and events

DUPBO Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with NYCH20 – Thursday August 24th, 7 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Explore Greenpoint and Hunters Point, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

America’s Workshop Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with Atlas Obscura – Saturday August 26th, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Explore the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek in Long Island City, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 23, 2017 at 12:00 pm

surgical instrumentation

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It’s National Rum Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When a young but already humble narrator was but a boy, he lived in an apartment in southeast Brooklyn with a pair of parents who liked to fight and argue about every little thing. There was always a lot of yelling and screaming, as Mom and Pop would square off about the various issues and challenges facing them. Mom was always the superior tactician in these regular verbal battles. The old man was all about volume and anger, often demonstrating his frustration by putting his fist through a wall, whereas the old lady would go for the emotional jugular and work the guilt angle whenever she could. One of her techniques to wind the old man up would be flipping the subject mid fight, which forced him to suddenly wheel around and defend a previously unexposed flank. She would do this several times in rapid fire, which confused the hell out of Dad or whomever she was arguing with as she didn’t reserve her combative psyche for the household, but instead spread the enmity around to whoever was available in the neighborhood or reachable by telephone. 

Mom was kind of a jerk, and often initiated her wars due to personal insecurity and perceived slights which had little basis in reality. In many ways, she ruined her own life with this sort of behavior, alienating everyone around her – including myself, her sibling, and just about everybody she was related to didn’t want to be anywhere near her at the end. Even after she died, all that my family members could talk about was her constant bickering and invective reasoning, which means that she ultimately won her battle to dominate any and all conversation. We were continuing to argue about and with a dead woman. 

Mom was actually a genius on the arguing front, and she would skillfully obfuscate and steer the conversation and arguments she was engaged in away from whatever the original subject was. Her diversions would drive her opponents into blind fury and annoyed frustration. At the end of her tirades, she’d proclaim herself the victimized party, and then begin a multi day process of shaming and guilt towards her “victimizers.” 

Sound familiar? It’s exactly the sort of technique which the current President of the United States uses. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My Mom and Dad are no longer with us (except as regular voices in my inner dialogue) and the wasted family time, which was squandered in this ridiculous melodrama, weighs heavily upon me. So too does the time we are all wasting as a community discussing and arguing about “he who must not be named, for saying his name gives him power.” What would be expected of an American President after a race riot is a repudiation of the KKK and the white power crowd, but by prevaricating about the subject, the President has made his views and feelings a point of debate amongst both the press and people and is diverting attention away from actual events over to himself. His goal, which is to stand at center stage and have the only conversation be about him, has been achieved. He’s keeping our heads spinning with the bi weekly outrages, and in doing so, he dominates all discourse. Can you actually remember the outrages of February or March, or is your head spinning? Have you punched a wall yet? 

Even I’m talking about him right now, and this is hardly the only thing you’re going to read about him today. His strategy, like my Mom’s, is to keep himself as the central character of a shaped narrative and dramaturge. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – none of the words we use for political subjects have any meaning. In the last election, Hillary Clinton was the actual conservative and “he who must not be named” was not a “reformer.” Bill de Blasio is not a “Progressive,” as he has never once used the mid 20th century political term “Progress” in its proper context. None of these political brand marks mean anything anymore, and they were coined more than a century ago by people who meant something entirely different by them than modern usage. We don’t use Whig or Torie anymore, do we? 

You do have to hand it to the Nazi’s and Race Supremacists however, for evolving and adopting the techniques of “Identity Politics” as pioneered in the 1960’s to rebrand themselves and portray their “movement” as being something other than hooliganism and the “mob mentality” which Alexander Hamilton was so concerned about during his Federalist papers period. That’s pretty clever, and my Mom would likely have been impressed by the sheer ballsiness of it, but she was a cruel person who enjoyed other people’s misfortunes and enjoyed winding them up. 


Upcoming Tours and events

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.

DUPBO Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with NYCH20 – Thursday August 24th, 7 p.m. – 9 p.m.

Explore Greenpoint and Hunters Point, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

America’s Workshop Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with Atlas Obscura – Saturday August 26th, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Explore the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek in Long Island City, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 16, 2017 at 1:00 pm

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