The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Posts Tagged ‘Tugboat

rotting ossuaries

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A dollar short and a day late…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I seem to be about twelve hours behind on my scheduling today, due to a very busy week. Thusly, a single image of a DonJon Tug moving barges about on Newtown Creek greets you in this very late post. Back tomorrow with something decidedly meatier for you to sink your teeth into, lords and ladies.


Upcoming Tours and Events

Monday, October 1st, 6:30 p.m. – Infrastructure Creek – with Atlas Obscura.

Join Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman as he leads an exploration of the city’s largest sewer plant, tunnels, draw and truss bridges, rail yards, and a highway that carries 32 million vehicle-trips a year over flowing water.

Tix and more details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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Written by Mitch Waxman

September 27, 2018 at 1:59 pm

cluster around

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Happy Labor Day.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator is taking a break this week, and single images will be greeting you sans the verbose drivel they’re normally accompanied by. It’s a rather busy week that I have ahead of me, but look for a strange old man wandering about the concrete devastations of the Newtown Creek with a camera. That’ll likely be me.


Tours and Events


Dutch Kills Dérive. Free!
Saturday, September 8, 2018, 9:30 AM – 12:30 PM with Flux Factory

Drowning in our own muck and mire, modern society must transmute its existence into that of an allegorical baptism in order to emerge a society of water protectors. The historic facts of exactly how our civilization has transformed the historic Dutch Kill waterway into a sewershed will act as both a numbing analgesic and a point of illumination. Tickets here.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

September 3, 2018 at 1:00 pm

corridor outside

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Remember, remember…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On this day, June 15th in 1904, the General Slocum excursion boat left its dock at Peck Slip in Manhattan at ten in the morning with just over 1,000 people onboard – most of whom were women and children. It caught fire as it moved north on the East River, and reports of smoke below deck reached the wheelhouse as it was passing 97th street in Manhattan. It didn’t take long for the wood hulled boat to catch fire. It was a product of Tammany’s NYC, where safety inspectors could be convinced to overlook violations for a small sum, which is why the life vests were filled with sawdust and powdered cork and the fire hoses onboard were either non existent or rotted. Most of the crew abandoned ship, leaving the passengers to fend for themselves. By the time it grounded at North Brother Island, the official death toll was 1,021. Bodies were washing onshore at Hells Gate for days.

Today is the anniversary of the day that Lassez Faire capitalism and local control of the ferry industry ended in NYC, and why the United States Coast Guard was given broad oversight powers regarding safety onboard vessels in NY Harbor.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After the Slocum disaster, which scored the largest death toll of any single event in NYC until the September 11th attacks in 2001, the Coast Guard instituted regulations and rules for all shipping in NY Harbor which they enforce with military discipline. It’s why you hear an announcement on every ferry trip telling you where floatation devices can be found onboard, and why private pleasure and fishing vessels in the harbor are often “pulled over” by USCG for safety inspections.

It’s also one of the arguments I make when talking politics, with my friends who identify as “Conservative,” in defense of what they describe as “job killing regulatory oversight.” There is a staggering amount of inefficiency and an abundance of stupid rules in Government, but we also haven’t had anything like a General Slocum disaster in what… 114 years?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Given the focus point of my historical interests, which can be somewhat summed up as “maritime industrial history of NYC from the colonial to WW2 periods,” there’s a lot of horror stories which I’ve stumbled across. 95% of the environmental issues in NYC were caused by unfettered and unregulated industrial operations which, prior to 1972 and the Federal Clean Water and Clean Air acts, had zero obligation not to dump acid into rivers and streams or pulse metric shit tons of poison into the air. A disaster can occur in any era, but the needless deaths of 1,021 women and children onboard an excursion boat leaving from lower Manhattan to attend a picnic on Long Island? Unthinkable in the modern era.

All that is due to a regulatory regime for the maritime industry which was largely created and coded into law by Republican Party politicians led by Teddy Roosevelt. Dump acid into the water, or spew sulphur compounds into the sky? Also impossible thanks to a Republican named Richard Nixon. Give credit where credit is due, I say. I also question why the politics of the modern day has members of the same political party chipping away at the achievements of their historical forebears who ensured that you could just mindlessly walk onto a ferry without thinking about the General Slocum


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Written by Mitch Waxman

June 15, 2018 at 1:00 pm

thunderous remoteness

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File this one under “You don’t see that every day.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the Guy V. Molinari, part of the Staten Island Ferry fleet, in a shot from 2012. The boat is the first of its class and design, and the photo above is a fairly typical rendering of what you’d normally get to see of the boat, sans the atmospherics and dusky lighting, which was pure serendipity for a humble narrator.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The other day, while onboard a slow boat cruising along the Kill Van Kull, I was looking at the Caddell Dry Dock facility and what do I see floating there but the Guy V. Molinari up on jacks. For you longtime readers, I’ve mentioned Caddell before, but if you need a refresher course – click here for a 2012 post about the company and their floating dry dock business. Just for giggles, here’s another one from 2014 when the USS Slater was there.

from wikipedia

The MV Guy V. Molinari, MV Senator John J. Marchi, and MV Spirit of America, known as the “Molinari class”, carry a maximum of 4,427 passengers and up to 30 vehicles. Each boat is 310 feet (94 m) long by 70 feet (21 m) wide and has a draft of 13 feet 10 inches (4.22 m), tonnage of 2,794 gross tons, service speed of 16 knots (30 km/h), and engines of 9,000 horsepower (6.7 MW). 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For those of you who didn’t bother to click through, a floating dry dock is a maritime structure capable of submersing part of its superstructure, allowing vessels to inch into it. The floating dry dock then rises back up, picking up the vessel with it. This allows free floating structures to be lifted out of the water so that workers can perform maintenance tasks on the hull and other normally inaccessible areas.

Cool, huh?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has seen a lot of things over the years on NY Harbor: the nose of a submarine being barged under the Williamsburg Bridge, an experimental military attack boat at Hells Gate, a space shuttle dangling from a crane, the list goes on and on. I’ve never seen a Staten Island Ferry up on blocks before.

As a note, scenery like the stuff you’re looking at today will be on display the evening of May 17th when I’m on the microphone for Working Harbor Committee’s Newark Bay tour, ticketing link at bottom of post. Come with?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As always, Kill Van Kull was putting on the maritime industrial tour even as the boat I was on headed back out towards its eventual port of call on the Hudson River side of Manhattan Island. The whole Bayonne Bridge reconstruction project seems to be winding up, and there were crews demolishing the old concrete piers which supported the original roadway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking forward to spending a bit more time on the water, a humble narrator is.

I never got to take that vacation I was moaning about all winter, probably the best I can do for the summer is to try and not be on solid land as much as I possibly can be.


Upcoming Tours and Events

May 12th   RESCHEDULED for 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?

Tickets and more details
here.

May 17th – Port Newark Boat Tour – with Working Harbor Committee.

For an exciting adventure, go behind the scenes of the bustling Port of NY & NJ on our Hidden Harbor Tour® of Port Newark! Get an insider’s view of the 3rd largest port in the nation, where container ships dock and unload their goods from around the world. See how the working harbor really works and learn about what all those ships and tugs do. See giant container terminals, oil docks, dry dock repair, and more! Tickets and more details here.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

May 11, 2018 at 11:00 am

formula filled

with one comment

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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evidently not

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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.


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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?


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 18, 2017 at 1:00 pm

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