The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Verrazano Narrows Bridge

emotional need

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Thursday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sentimental reminiscing is on the menu for me these days, as we head into what is going to be my last summer in New York City. I’ve been here my entire life, and every single corner of the City that I’ve inhabited for the last half century just bleeds with memories of times good and bad.

The best of the urban mythologies from the old neighborhood revolved around the supposed corpses of construction workers, who were killed during construction of the Verrazzano Bridge, whose corpses sunk into the still liquid concrete never to be seen again. This is an urban myth, by the way. The structural integrity of the bridge’s footings would be compromised by the voids created by those bodies.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Rockaway Ferry gives you a pretty cool set of views of Coney Island on the way. That’s the Steeplechase Park section. Coney’s were a smallish representative of the rabbit family endemic to the area when the English speaking Europeans arrived, and that’s where the name “Coney Island” comes from. Most of the large scale apartment buildings were constructed by Gambino adjacent real estate powers like Fred Trump and the Waubassie Brothers (I’m probably spelling the second name wrong, btw.)

Coney Island meant a lot to my depression era parents, but back in the 1980’s it was synonymous with hookers and crack and crime for my generation. The Russians arriving here, and in Brighton Beach, back in the 1990’s changed the place, and some of the old veneer has returned to Coney, but underneath the surface there’s still a lot of weirdness waiting to boil over in these parts.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Wonder Wheel and the Cyclone roller coaster are what most think of when they mention Coney Island, along with Nathan’s Hot Dogs.

It goes to show how ossified the culture of NYC has become in recent decades, that the “cultural show pieces” all date back to a century or more ago.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Along the way, you get a good view of Queens’ Breezy Point and how thoroughly doomed this part of the City is once the waters begin to rise in the next twenty to thirty years. No flood insurance for you, and “managed retreat” is a phrase to start getting used to.

Really, a big part of why I’m leaving NYC is a conviction that it’s time to start moving away from the Atlantic Coast.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the other bridge on Flatbush Avenue, the Gil Hodges Marine Parkway Bridge. On the Brooklyn side, it leads to the part of Brooklyn I’m from – the Canarsie, Flatlands, Mill Basin area. The Queens side let’s you make a right and go to the gated community of Breezy Point, or go straight towards Riis Park, or make a left and head over to Rockaway, Far Rockaway, or even Long Beach.

The NYC Ferry dock isn’t too far away from this bridge, about 15 minutes or so.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I don’t see that everyday, an A train traveling along the waterfront, so I took a picture. Lasts longer.

More tomorrow.


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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

June 23, 2022 at 11:00 am

likewise inaccessible

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Thursday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Earlier this week, one met up with his pal Val and we jumped into her shiny Valmobile with the singular intention of shooting ships. Accordingly, Val oriented the Valmobile in the direction of… Staten Island. After all these months of quarantine/pandemic walks around LIC and Newtown Creek, a humble narrator was positively squeaking with excitement as we heroically mounted the Verazzano Bridge and headed towards the Kill Van Kull waterway.

Adventure, excitement… a Jedi craves not these things, but I ain’t no Jedi.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Our first stop was at “Skelson’s Office,” where my old and dearly departed pal John Skelson used to spend his time. This is a spot along the old and abandoned Vanderbilt Staten Island Railroad tracks which follow Kill Van Kull. KVK is often mentioned here during normal times, but for anyone not clued in – it’s a tidal strait that connects the lower harbor of New York with Newark Bay and another strait called Arthur Kill.

Kill Van Kull is the preferred approach route to the New York Container Terminal on Staten Island and the Global Marine/Port Elizabeth Newark complex in Bayonne, New Jersey for maritime shipping. For enthusiasts like my pal Val and myself, it’s “tugboat alley.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The show started as soon as we arrived at Skelson’s Office.

Our efforts later in the day found us over in Bayonne, and along the Hackensack and Passaic rivers. One thing that emerged during that part of the day was a sincere desire to find out more about the industrial sections of this section of New Jersey. I mentioned several times that I wished we were in a boat on the water, and that I was also anxious to find an analogue of Newtown Creek Alliance for this area to introduce me to the place.

A third person was in the Valmobile with us, my friend Scott, but he’s a Libertarian so we didn’t pay attention to anything he had to say. 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, August 17th. 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

August 20, 2020 at 2:30 pm

thing depicted

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Happy Birthday Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

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

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

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

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


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Limited Time 25% off sale – use code “gifts25” at checkout.

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

November 21, 2019 at 1:00 pm

no business

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

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Before I offer a conspiracy theory in today’s post, lets instead start with a bit of NY Harbor trivia – the height of all ships doing business within the Port of New York and New Jersey is governed by the height of the Verrazano Bridge’s span, as relative to the water. All cargo, military, and cruise ships which can be anticipated to someday enter NY harbor are actually designed with the Verrazano’s height in mind.

That means, ultimately, that this last exemplar of the House of Robert Moses erected in 1964, which sets a maximum height limit of exactly 228 feet over the water (at high tide), controls the design of a good chunk of the planet’s shipping fleets (although you’d be scraping the Verrazano’s deck at 228′ so they build them a bit shorter). A somewhat contemporaneous counterpart to the Verrazano is the Puente de las Américas (Bridge of the Americas) over the Panama Canal, which also plays a major role in the design of maritime vessels, setting a height limit of 201 feet over high water for any and all vessels using the crossing. The other approach to the Port of New York and New Jersey is governed by the Goethals Bridge over the Arthur Kill, which offers 135 feet of clearance, just to be entirely anal retentive about things.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Verrazano Bridge is startlingly enormous, with a main span over the narrows stretching out for nearly a mile at 4,260 feet. Engineer Othmar Amman always liked to point out that his team had to take the curvature of the Earth itself into account when designing and placing the towers, which are off parallel to each other by 1.625 inches. When you add in the approaches on either side to the bridge, the entire thing is some 13,700 feet in length – roughly 2.6 miles. It’s now the 11th largest suspension bridge in the world, and the longest found on either American continent.

There are 143,000 miles of wire incorporated into its cables, enough to wrap around the earth’ equator 5.74 times or stretch half way to the moon. Its towers are 649.68 feet tall, making them the tallest structures outside of Manhattan in all of New York City. It carries nearly 190,000 vehicle trips a day, 69.35 million annually. The best estimates I’ve been able to find suggest that the combined steel of the bridge weighs some 1,265,000 tons.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Verrazano Bridge, due to its position and height, is affected by weather more heavily than any other span in New York Harbor. The roadway will actually sag down about a dozen feet during the summer months due to heat expansion, and the winds one encounter on the upper roadway preclude any discussion of pedestrian or bicycle paths being established. One can personally report that while driving over the thing during storms, my automobile was being rocked from side to side by heavy gusts of wind. The bridge is owned and operated by the MTA Bridges and Tunnels division, which is what Governor Nelson Rockefeller turned Robert Moses’s old Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority into.

The people at Bridges and Tunnels have a set of rules and customs governing the bridge during harsh weather conditions, which all depend on whether or not the roadways are wet or not, and whether the winds are either sustained or gusting. Speed restrictions begin to apply at 30 mph sustained winds and wet roads, while wet conditions coupled with sustained wind over 40 mph might trigger restrictions on crossings by motorcycles, mini buses, tractor trailers and other types of vehicles.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve noticed, over the years, that all of NYC’s bridges are possessed of a certain and unique to the span harmonic. Partially, it’s how the structure of the bridge interacts environmentally and also because of the sound of the vehicles running over it cause a vibration as their tires spin against the decks. To my hearing, the Verrazano makes a “wmmm-mmm-mhoooooosh-shhh” sound, but that could just be the particular interaction with the roadway of the vehicles which a humble narrator crosses the thing within, which have always been passenger cars. It’s efficacious to close your windows on the bridge no matter what, lest a torrent of air suddenly swirl into the passenger cabin, causing disarray and a tumult. I’ll leave it to musicians to tell you what key the Verazzano Bridge is in.

Like all MTA Bridges and Tunnel crossings, certain types of vehicles are forbidden. These types of vehicles (amongst others) include steam rollers, vehicles loaded with unconfined animals or poultry, wheelbarrows, and velocipedes.

Yes, they specifically mention velocipedes in the rules.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve always thought, with the born and raised in Brooklyn perspective that I am possessed by, that the bridge is actually some sort of giant shackle forcing the former City of Richmond or… Staten Island… not to secede from the City of Greater New York and join up with New Jersey instead. A mass exodus of Brooklynites, including my own parents, occurred during the late 1980’s and 90’s to Staten Island over the thing. Most of them, to quote my Dad, were “sick of this shit, and wanted to get the ‘eff out of here,” referring to the colloquialized “old neighborhood” which was “better back then.” I still don’t believe the old adage about being able to leave your door unlocked at night. Rent was a bit cheaper on Staten Island however, my parents perception of crime was far lower, and the semi suburban lifestyle encountered on Staten Island appealed to them in their retirement and dotage. They were also one step closer to Atlantic City where they liked to go on weekends away.

Staten Island is “car country,” unlike the city center neighborhood of Astoria, Queens where I now live. Mass transit (other than the ferry, I mean) exists but… you kind of need to have a car on Staten Island.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Now for the conspiracy theory: A humble narrator is an idiot, of course, and has always cherished a personal theory that Robert Moses knew something more about NYC than he was letting on. Famously, before beginning his government career, Moses wandered the countryside on foot. Robert Caro suggests that even at a young age, he was planning highways and parks. Pffft… who does that at an early age? Moses was monster hunting, obviously, and he must have found something terrifying during his wanderings. I mean… c’mon… that’s fairly obvious, right?

Why else would he have built a steel and concrete cage around New York Harbor? Would old Bob Moses really have gone out of his way to destroy the coastal wetlands, swamps, and tidal marshes (which are precisely the sort of places you’d find monsters like “Grendels Mother” lurking) of New York Harbor for no reason other than malice? After conquering the human/fish hybrids at Hells Gate with his mighty Triborough, he set about the process of creating the world’s biggest padlock here in the narrows to close the door on his monstrous gate.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Who can guess, all there is, that might be imprisoned down there beneath the 1,265,000 tons of steel? Is the arterial highway and bridge crossing system of New York City actually some sort of great barrier designed to keep slime dripping colossi in check? Is there some dark secret which will be held forever unknowable and immobile by the Verazzano Bridge?

What hidden and occult knowledge did Robert Moses take to the grave with him?


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mad spaces

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

An upcoming walking tour, the Kill Van Kull walk for the Working Harbor Committee on June 30th, has called for repeated journeys to… Staten Island… to be undertaken by a humble narrator. Operations of the Staten Island Ferry make this possible, of course, and provide ample opportunity for the wandering photographer to gather interesting maritime shots.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Goliath hulks like the fuel tanker in the shot above are commonly seen awaiting favorable tide or berthing around this boundary between Upper and Lower Harbors, but off in the distance is one of the true monsters of the sea.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the Dockwise Heavy Lift Ship Swan, which is basically a floating dry dock, and those are tugboats on its deck.

Far Eastern correspondent Armstrong, who has been writing the Working Harbor Committee blog for a while now, offered:

A heavy lift ship is designed to move large loads that can’t be handled by normally equipped ships. They are two types: semi-submerging – able to sink down into the water to lift ships and other heavy cargo onto deck for transport; and vessels that supplement unloading facilities at ports with inadequate equipment.
Swan is a semi-submersible heavy load vessel. The ship is 592 feet long (180.5m) and 105 feet wide (32.3m). The Swan’s massive deck is 416 x 103 feet (126.8m x 31.6m) and can handle a deck load of 56.616-20 tonnes/sq.m which translates to about 25,000 tons of heavy cargo.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Apologies are offered for Image fidelity outside of the normal mean, but this ship was FAR away, and these are actual pixel, 100% pixel size and highly “cropped in” shots which represent less than a 10th of the total image originally captured. It was also kind of misty.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Surprises like the Swan often lurk just off the shore of… Staten Island… The waters surrounding it provide egress to the cargo docks of Port Elizabeth Newark, especially the busy Kill Van Kull.

_______________________________________________________________________________

Also:

June 16th, 2012- Newtown Creek Alliance Dutch Kills walk (this Saturday)

– 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

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 14, 2012 at 12:15 am

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