The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Posts Tagged ‘Williamsburg Bridge

wailing grew

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In the end, we’ll always have Wednesdays.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Single shots will greet you this week, as a humble narrator plays catch-up and also spends his time exploring and shooting rather than worrying about the weather and delivering posts. Regular posts will resume next week.

Pictured above is the Williamsburg Bridge, as seen from Corlears Hook in Manhattan, at night.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

July 3, 2019 at 11:00 am

nervous motion

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Brooklyn, Manhattan, Williamsburg.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned yesterday, one is taking a short break – hence the singular image which greets you above. Back soon with new stuff.

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October 7th, 2015
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Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour
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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 7, 2015 at 11:00 am

victoriously swept

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If the bridge wasn’t there, it would be impossible to recognize Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Mephitic vapors, the effluent of furnaces and forges, a vague scent of molasses, and the smell of freshly smoked crack cocaine used to be all you needed to recognize where you were when visiting Williamsburg. These days, all you’ve got is the visual cue offered by its eponymous bridge and the vague scent of high end Marijuana.

Occasion found me in the ancient village, and as I was headed for Manhattan to meet up with a boat later in the day, a scuttle across the bridge was called for.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A lot of people think this span is an architectural travesty, but I’ve never thought it was bad enough to to create a Municipal Arts Society over. There are “separate” pedestrian and bicycle paths, which aren’t really segregated from each other in any cohesive manner, but as one such as myself enjoys playing things “by the rules” – I found myself climbing the surprisingly steep ramp leading up from Brooklyn to the bridge itself. At least it provides for some fairly good “cardio.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Back in art school, the conventional wisdom imparted to me by a generation of instructors was that you can’t go wrong when there’s an umbrella in your shot. The reasoning is that the umbrella is an inherently interesting shape, and it breaks up the otherwise pedestrian points of view one normally encounters. It wasn’t raining, of course, and the umbrella was simply there to shield its wielder from the particularly powerful emanations of the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself whose gaze seemed fixed upon the bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

All the tourists seem to flock to the Brooklyn Bridge, and its pedestrian path offers one a frustrating and crowded experience. It’s a bit like a lunch line at a buffet, that walk, a slow shuffle while trapped in a queue. Vast preference for the less popular bridges like Queensboro, Williamsburg, and Manhattan is offered by your humble narrator. Crowds suck.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For this walk, I used my “crappy lens” – a 70-300 consumer level zoom. After the great camera disaster of July, wherein both camera body and my “best lens” were destroyed, I’ve been making it a point of mixing things up a bit. Thanks to many of you who donated money for replacement equipment to this blog, and both body and “best lens” have been replaced. Regardless, one tries to keep things fresh and the extra reach which the imperfect but serviceable “long lens” provides for slightly different perspectives and color rendition.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It would be utterly pedantic to go into the technical details on this subject, so suffice to say that each and every lens interprets the light moving through it in different ways. Certain lenses are great for portraits, others for landscapes. Camera settings can also affect color rendition as well – for instance, narrow apertures render the color blue in a certain way due to the clipping of upper and lower limits found in the blue light wave.

As I said, technical and pedantic.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Manhattan side of the Williamsburg Bridge, at Delancey Street, and looking back towards the infinity of Brooklyn.

The Williamsburg Bridge is 7,308 feet long (measuring between the cable anchor terminals) and the deck is some 118 feet wide. The height at the center of the bridge is 135 feet and each tower is 310 feet in height as measured from the East River’s high-water mark. It was originally called East River Bridge #3 when opened in 1903. Its architect was Henry Hornbostel, and the chief engineer who oversaw its construction was Leffert L. Buck.

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September 3rd, 2015
Newtown Creek Boat Tour
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Written by Mitch Waxman

August 25, 2015 at 11:00 am

the sullen shore

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

One such as myself is addled by detail and lost in the phantasmagoria of history, an unending torrent of dates and numbers. The “historians” of the world pride themselves on being able to pull such numerals out of a memorized hat, reciting them in the same manner that a rabid sports fan might describe the statistics of their favorite team. On some topics I can accomplish this, but as long time readers will attest- my brain works a bit differently than most.

To me, it’s the story that counts.

from wikipedia

This bridge and the Manhattan Bridge are the only suspension bridges in New York City that still carry both automobile and rail traffic. In addition to this two-track rail line, connecting the New York City Subway’s BMT Nassau Street Line and BMT Jamaica Line, there were once two sets of trolley tracks.

The Brooklyn landing is between Grand Street and Broadway, which both had ferries at the time. The five ferry routes operated from these landings withered and went out of business by 1908.

The bridge has been under reconstruction since the 1980s, largely to repair damage caused by decades of deferred maintenance. The bridge was completely shut down to motor vehicle traffic and subway trains on April 12, 1988 after inspectors discovered severe corrosion in a floor beam. The cast iron stairway on the Manhattan side, and the steep ramp from Driggs Avenue on the Williamsburg side to the footwalks, were replaced to allow handicapped access in the 1990s.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Mathematics has always been my particular failing, its abstractions and dry logic have always evaded me. During second grade, I had the pox upon me, and missed the introduction to long division- an illness with long term consequence as I’ve never really caught up. Often, I think that I suffer from some sort of numbers based form of dyslexia, which is as close as can be described to what happens to numerals as they swirl about in my head.

The calendrical information is far less important than “the story”. It’s best to refer to careful notes on minor details like day and year, and critical to commit context and theme to memory.

from Mayor Low’s administration in New York By City Club of New York, 1903, courtesy google books

The general plan of the bridge was adjopted by the East River bridge commission on August 19th, 1896, and filed in the department of public works of each of the two cities. In May, 1897, an amended plan was adopted and filed. The first actual work on the bridge was begun on the Manhattan tower foundation on October 28th, 1896.

The tower foundations on both sides of the river rest on solid rock. The north pier on the Manhattan side sinks to a depth of 56 feet below high water and the south pier 66 feet below high water. On the Brooklyn side the north pier extends to a maximum depth of about 101 feet below high water and the south pier to a maximum depth of about 90 feet below high water. The Manhattan anchorage rests on 3,500 piles driven through clay to a bed of sand overlying the rock. The Brooklyn anchorage rests on natural sand.

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Is it important to know what day the Williamsburg Bridge was erected, as compared to the tales of those early shipwrights, dry docks, and vast maritime complexes which it obliterated?

To me, it is far more interesting to chew on the fact that the massive shipyards, which included Novelty Iron works, between here and Corlears Hook spawned a lost and forgotten world amongst the wharves and birthed a unique culture whose hidden influence affects our world to this day..

For instance-

  • Legend has it that there were once so many ladies of the evening around Corlears Hook, servicing the sailors and working men employed at these yards, that the slang term “hookers” became ubiquitous with prostitution.
  • The earliest institutional ancestors of the the NYPD, addressed with the task of cleaning up the neighborhood, were forbidden to wear uniforms by State Law and would instead identify themselves as Police by displaying a six pointed badge made of copper- which is why we call them “Cops” to this day.

also from wikipedia

In 1638 the Dutch West India Company first purchased the area’s land from the local Native Americans. In 1661, the company chartered the Town of Boswijck, including land that would later become Williamsburg. After the English takeover of New Netherland in 1664, the town’s name was anglicized to Bushwick. During colonial times, villagers called the area “Bushwick Shore.” This name lasted for about 140 years. Bushwick Shore was cut off from the other villages in Bushwick by Bushwick Creek to the north and by Cripplebush, a region of thick, boggy shrub land which extended from Wallabout Creek to Newtown Creek, to the south and east. Bushwick residents called Bushwick Shore “the Strand.” Farmers and gardeners from the other Bushwick villages sent their goods to Bushwick Shore to be ferried across the East River to New York City for sale via a market at present day Grand Street. Bushwick Shore’s favorable location close to New York City led to the creation of several farming developments. In 1802, real estate speculator Richard M. Woodhull acquired 13 acres (53,000 m²) near what would become Metropolitan Avenue, then North 2nd Street. He had Colonel Jonathan Williams, a U.S. Engineer, survey the property, and named it Williamsburgh (with an h at the end) in his honor. Originally a 13-acre (53,000 m2) development within Bushwick Shore, Williamsburg rapidly expanded during the first half of the nineteenth century and eventually seceded from Bushwick and formed its own independent city.

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 14, 2012 at 1:58 am

old gardens

with 3 comments

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Williamsburg is iconic “Brooklyn”, but it was very much its own city until relatively late in the game. Technically, the city of Brooklyn ended at the Wallabout Creek, and that’s where the upstart city of Williamsburg began. Williamsburg had earlier broken away from the larger municipality of Bushwick which it had been a part of during the colonial era, when it was known as “The Strand”. During the terror induced walk which carried me from Manhattan back to Astoria in a somnambulist haze, Williamsburg was a magnetic pole which attracted a humble narrator, at least according to the images I found on my camera card.

Such folly amuses that thing which cannot exist in the Sapphire megalith of Queens, which neither thinks nor breathes but instead hungers.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A wasteland of nettles and thorns called the “cripplebush“, and both the Bushwick and Wallabout Creeks served to isolate the Strand from its neighbors in olden times. Accordingly the coastal town looked to New York, as Manhattan was called, for a trading partner. Williamsburg had natural advantages in the age of mercantile trade, deep water docks and such, and grew rapaciously.

At one time, this little city represented 10% of the wealth present in the entire United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When the Bridge came, Williamsburg had already been absorbed by the City of Brooklyn, and even the City of Brooklyn itself has been “consolidated” within the City of Greater New York (which began the period of Manhattancentric development and urban planning), but even then it didn’t quite fit into the “borough of churches and houses”. Williamsburg’s population were former Lower East Siders, born and bred in the mean streets of industrial Manhattan- unlike the baronial farmers of Flatbush or the staid German brewers of Bushwick.

Tenements went up, and great factory and mill complexes arose. Legendary fortunes were achieved, whether in the sugar business or petroleum or in garment manufacturing. The head count in Williamsburg kept on rising.

photo by Mitch Waxman

The first half of the 20th century saw Williamsburg become a smoking industrial center, with confluences of rail and harbor traffic which made it a difficult place to live. Again, the experiences of my own family are mentioned, who left the area for the southern and eastern districts of Brooklyn during the Great Depression. Owing to it’s heritage on Manhattan’s Delancey Street, the character of the neighborhood retained the familiar ethnic makeup of a few Germans, many Jews, and Italians.

A unique urban patois emerged in the locally accented form of english, the sound of which is best described as “Bugs Bunny has a Williamsburg accent”.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Grand street is named to match its counterpart on the New York side, and although its head is known as Borinquen Place in modernity, once this was the site of what we might describe as an intermodal transportation facility.

Robert Fulton’s Grand street ferry, a steam service, shuttled Brooklynites and Manhattanites back and forth across the East River. On the Williamsburg side, horse and electric streetcars waited to move passengers inland (the Q59 bus replicates one of these routes today). From here, you could reach Jamaica or Newtown if you needed to. If one desires to go to either location from this point today, you’re best served by heading back into Manhattan and routing from there.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Williamsburg always had a certain Jewish character to it, especially after the Bridge opened and the so called “Jewtown” or “Ghetto” of the Lower East Side began to deflate. The Hasidic population arrived mid century, when the neighborhood entered a period of hard times. Additionally, a new population of Caribbean islanders who had arrived contemporaneously in New York with the Hasidim (who favored cheap rent and pre war apartments to house enormous families)– the Puerto Ricans- began to leave the lower east side and cross into infinite Brooklyn.

Ethnic neighborhoods tended to move together- as a loose group, in my observation, during the late 20th century. My own family, with our Italian and Irish counterparts from the “old neighborhood”, continued moving eastward- my parents settled in Flatlands, and many members of the clan went first to Nassau and then Suffolk counties on Long Island.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In my panic induced stupor, I seem to have focused in on an amazing artifact at 455 Grand Street. Notice that the lock is in the center of the carved wood of the door? Unless this is a modern imposture, it would indicate that the wood in this door was harvested no less than century ago. The google tells me that the modern occupation of it’s surrounding structure houses a recording studio, and it’s historical occupants had some sort of plumbing problem in 1908.

Can anyone fill a humble narrator in on this plank of centuried goodness?

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 12, 2011 at 3:08 pm

mottled blossoms

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Continuing the “Grand walk” whose beginnings on the Lower East side of Manhattan at St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral were discussed in two prior postings… And as a note, the external shots of the Williamsburg Bridge were photographed on a separate occasion from the afore described narcoleptic perambulation and are included for the sake of “establishing shots”.

I quite obviously didn’t find myself bodily whirling around the Bridge, in the manner of a superhero.

from wikipedia

This bridge and the Manhattan Bridge are the only suspension bridges in New York City that still carry both automobile and rail traffic. In addition to this two-track rail line, connecting the New York City Subway’s BMT Nassau Street Line and BMT Jamaica Line, there were once two sets of trolley tracks.

The Brooklyn landing is between Grand Street and Broadway, which both had ferries at the time. The five ferry routes operated from these landings withered and went out of business by 1908.

The bridge has been under reconstruction since the 1980s, largely to repair damage caused by decades of deferred maintenance. The bridge was completely shut down to motor vehicle traffic and subway trains on April 12, 1988 after inspectors discovered severe corrosion in a floor beam. The cast iron stairway on the Manhattan side, and the steep ramp from Driggs Avenue on the Williamsburg side to the footwalks, were replaced to allow handicapped access in the 1990s.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Oh- would that I had born capable of such superhuman feats- stronger, more robust of mind and spirit, and not incarnated as the least of men. Were it not my lot to disappoint, discourage, and disabuse myself of opportunities to please others. When I stare in the mirror, an assassin of joy gazes back. I’m all ‘effed up.

Unfortunately, when “one of my states” comes upon me, any notion or pretense I might have of manhood goes out the window and a screeching ape like coward inhabits my mind. Full conviction is evinced that were I magically transported back to the New York City which saw this bridge go up in 1903, I would be consumed by its inmates within minutes.

from nyc.gov

The Williamsburg Bridge has served New York for over 100 years, but in 1988, age, weather, traffic volume increases and deferred maintenance finally caught up with the Bridge and it had to be temporarily closed. At that time, a technical advisory committee formed to decide the fate of the Williamsburg Bridge proposed three options:

  • Permanently close the bridge, which would shift traffic through local communities to one of the other already congested East River crossings.
  • Build a new bridge, which require locating bridge approaches, possibly through the acquisition of stores and residences. Plus, the existing bridge would still require repairs while the new bridge was being built.
  • Repair the existing bridge

Of those three options, the one with the least impact on drivers and local communities was the third. And in 1988, the decision was made to repair the Williamsburg Bridge while keeping it open. The Williamsburg Bridge Reconstruction Project is one of the most ambitious projects undertaken by the New York City Department of Transportation-Division of Bridges.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The tales of the “Fin de siècle” “Lower East Side” and it’s counterpart communities in Brooklyn, as transmitted by doting grandparents who sought to conceal the darker side of things from their fat American born families, are lost to time.

The New York City of the late 19th and early 20th century was peopled by a specie of predators according to published anecdote and municipal statistic alike, a population hardened and formed by harsh experience and ill fortune. They didn’t emigrate to the United States, they escaped to America.

Routine physical hardship, sickness, and unfairness were their lot upon arriving, and the gentle mannerisms so common to the 21st century were a luxury few could afford.

from Handbook of cost data for contractors and engineers By Halbert Powers Gillette, 1910, courtesy google books

The work here described consisted of sinking two large caissons. 63 x 79 ft. In size on the Brooklyn side of the Williamsburg Bridge to bed rock. In one case 86 ft. and in the other 110 ft below mean high water, filling same with concrete and building masonry piers upon this foundation inside of coffer dams up to elevation plus 23 ft. above M. H. W. All work was done by contract during the years 1897 to 1899.

The caissons were constructed of yellow pine timber at the site of the work, launched, floated Into place and sunk to the river bottom, which was about 55 ft. below M. H. W., by filling them with concrete.

Compressed air was then turned on, and the caissons were sunk to bed rock. The material encountered, consisting of river mud, sand, clay and rock, was excavated either by means of Moran patent material locks or by wet blow out; finally the working chamber was filled with concrete. While the caissons were being sunk, the coffer dams, which were attached to the caissons, were added in order to keep their tops above water, and inside of these coffer dams the masonry piers were built. During the sinking process the masonry was built only In sufficient quantity to give the weight necessary for sinking the caissons. After the caissons were sealed and the air taken off. the shafting and piping were removed, the spaces occupied by them filled with concrete, and the pier carried up to Its final elevation. The coffer dams were then removed.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The working people, whether they came from Sicilian village or the Jewish Shtetl, understood that America was a choice they made which would have to be lived with. There was no going back, at a time when the new political and economic theory called Capitalism could be best described as “predatory”.

The mills and factories were hellish, but reliably put bills to rest and provided a meager but steady series of meals for their families. The poorest of the poor were in Manhattan, a smoky warren of tenements and factories entirely ringed by the busiest waterfront on Earth. When and if savings were available, the aspiration of every tenement family was to move away and go live in the country- which was Brooklyn or Queens back then.

from Architecture: Volumes 7-8 – Page 104, 1903, courtesy google books

The Mayor appointed a Board of expert Bridge Engineers to examine the new plans, and their approval, together with that of the Municipal Art Commission, having been obtained, the city has accomplished something of which tew municipalities can boast.

Considering the Williamsburg Bridge first, its comparison with the old Brooklvn Bridge suffices to show how7 inartistic and reallv uglv it is, and how graceful and beautiful the older bridge appears. It is interesting to note that professional opinion has severely criticised the appearance of the Williamsburg Bridge, and that the city was willing to, and did, appropriate money to beautify this bridge.

Now, this sort of architectural padding or embellishment is the popular idea of an architect’s function in beautifying an engineering structure. “The bridge is built, happens to be ugly, employ an architect, and add some fancy features.” Or, the engineer makes the design, hands it to the architect to add a lantern or two, makes it fancy, and the artistic conscience of the interested community is at rest. The Williamsburg Bridge can never be made to look well, no matter how much it is padded; its angular lines may possiblv be softened, but that is about all that can be done.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Remember, the America which so many members of the body politic wistfully pine for was a divided society.

What has always struck your humble narrator comically, however, is that the division was not so simple as we believe in our comfortable and streamlined modernity. Efforts of mid 20th century educators, social reformers, and political factions defined the notion of an America divide that was simply “black or white”.

The reality was that it was the Protestant gentry (of strict Anglo Saxon, or Germanic descent with a pre Civil War arrival date) and everybody else. Even the French were seen as sub human, and you can just forget about what was said about the Irish, Italians, and Jews. In my readings, Eugenics comes up a lot, and those Protestant mission houses in the “Five Points” and “Jewtown” weren’t exactly benign entities- rather they were colonialist appendages of the upper class hoping to create better servants from the lesser breeds.

from Mayor Low’s administration in New York By City Club of New York, 1903, courtesy google books

The general plan of the bridge was adjopted by the East River bridge commission on August 19th, 1896, and filed in the department of public works of each of the two cities. In May, 1897, an amended plan was adopted and filed. The first actual work on the bridge was begun on the Manhattan tower foundation on October 28th, 1896.

The tower foundations on both sides of the river rest on solid rock. The north pier on the Manhattan side sinks to a depth of 56 feet below high water and the south pier 66 feet below high water. On the Brooklyn side the north pier extends to a maximum depth of about 101 feet below high water and the south pier to a maximum depth of about 90 feet below high water. The Manhattan anchorage rests on 3,500 piles driven through clay to a bed of sand overlying the rock. The Brooklyn anchorage rests on natural sand.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

What is interesting to me (and as a son of Brooklyn- beautiful) is the way in which the imperious bourgeois (called the Knickerbocracy at the time) ending up being supplanted in power and position by these lesser breeds.

A combination of luck, hard work, and business acumen resulted in vast fortunes agglutinating amongst the immigrant hordes. The reactionary “establishment” responded with tightened immigration laws, progressive movements whose goal was “slum clearance”, and in the case of the Five Points itself- physical eradication of the neighborhood. The Public Schools were not established out of municipal altruism, rather they were a reaction to the Roman Catholic church offering free education (what would someday be the Parochial Schools) to all who wished to attend, regardless of affiliation.

Contemporary opinion rendered this as a “Papish attempt to inculcate, infiltrate, and infect the Republic with the poisons of Europe”.

also from from Mayor Low’s administration in New York By City Club of New York, 1903, courtesy google books

Transportation on the Williamsburg bridge, especially the movement of trolley cars, will not have to contend with some of the obstacles that now conspire to impede traffic on the Brooklyn bridge. The roadways for vehicles on the Williamsburg bridge will be entirely separated from the railway tracks, both trolley and elevated. This will allow the trolley cars ample space, unobstructed by vehicular traffic. The terminals will also have adequate facilities for the trolley and elevated tracks and passengers, thus avoiding the congestion now witnessed at the Brooklyn bridge terminals.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

By the period which saw the East River bridges rise, the Dutch were largely gone save for a few hold outs from ancient times. The vast majority of their population was either bred out into English lines, or had gone into the west and north. New York was firmly in the hands of the Irish empowered Tammany Hall, and the landlords of the City had realized that they could earn more by illegally subdividing existing housing stock into smaller units called “tenements”.

Manhattan was dangerously overcrowded, and everybody agreed that someone should do something about it.

from The Williamsburg Bridge: an account of the ceremonies attending the formal opening of the structure, December the nineteenth, MDCCCCIII : together with an illustrated historical and descriptive sketch of the enterprise, courtesy google books

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Brooklyn Bridge, first of the East River bridges, had proven to be a great generator of wealth on both sides of the river despite it’s outlandish cost and efforts. Modern documents emanating from municipal sources and persoanlly witnessed have referred to the modern day “Williamsburg Bridge Financial Corridor”, an attempt to explain the rejuvenation of the neighborhood from the Bowery to East River along Delancey Street as a direct consequence of the new affluence that current day Williamsburg has come to represent due to its darling status for the Real Estate industry.

In a sense, it was the original “Brooklyn Bridge Financial Corridor” which ultimately put an end to the slums of lower Manhattan, and allowed it’s occupants a chance to escape into Brooklyn. Queens came later, of course.

also from The Williamsburg Bridge: an account of the ceremonies attending the formal opening of the structure, December the nineteenth, MDCCCCIII : together with an illustrated historical and descriptive sketch of the enterprise, courtesy google books

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Prior to the Williamsburg Bridge, there were two scheduled ferries one might utilize to transit from Manhattan to Williamsburg.

One was Robert Fulton’s “Grand Street Ferry”, which crossed between the Brooklyn and Manhattan roads of the same name, and a Houston street ferry made the trip albeit less frequently and with a smaller capacity of passengers. Additionally, hundreds of smaller vessels made the trip carrying some passengers, but mainly shuttling manufactured cargo or agricultural product between the coasts. An unpredictable eddy of currents and inclement weather often stranded passengers on one or the other sides of the river, sometimes for a day or more.

also from The Williamsburg Bridge: an account of the ceremonies attending the formal opening of the structure, December the nineteenth, MDCCCCIII : together with an illustrated historical and descriptive sketch of the enterprise, courtesy google books

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After the 2nd East River Bridge was completed, Brooklyn’s population began to grow exponentially. Always the junior member of the two great cities on the harbor, it nevertheless absorbed millions while Manhattan began to transform- transmogrify in fact- into the Shining City we know today. Blocks of tenements were cleared away, deep pilings sunk, and the office towers began to rise and scrape the sky. The 3rd and 4th bridges were already underway and discussion of crossing the Narrows was beginning.

Bridge Commissioner Lindenthal commented on the age he lived in as being unique, knowing that the resources to conceptualize and build projects of this size only come along once or twice in the history of any city, and described himself as living in “The Age of Iron”.

also from The Williamsburg Bridge: an account of the ceremonies attending the formal opening of the structure, December the nineteenth, MDCCCCIII : together with an illustrated historical and descriptive sketch of the enterprise, courtesy google books

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned at the beginning of this post, your humble narrator is composed of lesser stuff than most and certainly does not exhibit any of the qualities of iron besides corrosion. While examining the contents of my camera card, which bore hundreds of shots I did not remember taking, my hands began to shake as I saw this familiar scene…

…I had entered the truest place, and the ultimate reality…

…that pole of consciousness and latent possibility which all other locations are mere reflections of…

…the one place where “do or die” actually means something…

from wikipedia

Williamsburg is a neighborhood in the New York City borough of Brooklyn, bordering Greenpoint to the north, Bedford-Stuyvesant to the south, Bushwick to the east and the East River to the west. The neighborhood is part of Brooklyn Community Board 1. The neighborhood is served by the NYPD’s 90th Precinct. In the City Council the western and southern part of the neighborhood is represented by the 33rd District; and the eastern part of the neighborhood is represented by the 34th District.

Many ethnic groups have enclaves within Williamsburg, including Hasidic Jews, Italians, Puerto Ricans, and Dominicans. It is also an influential hub for indie rock, hipster culture, and the local art community, all of which are associated with one of its main thoroughfares, Bedford Avenue. The neighborhood is being redefined by a growing population and the rapid development of housing and retail space.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

…I had come to Infinite Brooklyn…

also from wikipedia

In 1638 the Dutch West India Company first purchased the area’s land from the local Native Americans. In 1661, the company chartered the Town of Boswijck, including land that would later become Williamsburg. After the English takeover of New Netherland in 1664, the town’s name was anglicized to Bushwick. During colonial times, villagers called the area “Bushwick Shore.” This name lasted for about 140 years. Bushwick Shore was cut off from the other villages in Bushwick by Bushwick Creek to the north and by Cripplebush, a region of thick, boggy shrub land which extended from Wallabout Creek to Newtown Creek, to the south and east. Bushwick residents called Bushwick Shore “the Strand.” Farmers and gardeners from the other Bushwick villages sent their goods to Bushwick Shore to be ferried across the East River to New York City for sale via a market at present day Grand Street. Bushwick Shore’s favorable location close to New York City led to the creation of several farming developments. In 1802, real estate speculator Richard M. Woodhull acquired 13 acres (53,000 m²) near what would become Metropolitan Avenue, then North 2nd Street. He had Colonel Jonathan Williams, a U.S. Engineer, survey the property, and named it Williamsburgh (with an h at the end) in his honor. Originally a 13-acre (53,000 m2) development within Bushwick Shore, Williamsburg rapidly expanded during the first half of the nineteenth century and eventually seceded from Bushwick and formed its own independent city.

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 9, 2011 at 3:16 am

grotesquely gnarled

with 3 comments

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As described in a prior posting– certain anonymous parties had contacted me about- and a meeting at St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral in Manhattan was arranged- to discuss and finally gain possession of information which would lead to a certain location in First Calvary Cemetery which has denied all attempts at discovery.

Arriving at the venerable church early, however, the individual with whom this appointment was arranged arrived with confederates of a seeming rough character, and the notion that I had stumbled into some sort of conspiratorial snare of malign intent terrified me. Your humble narrator fell into “one of my states”, and the scene was fled in a stuporous panic.

Several hours later, when able to recompose myself, it was discovered that the memory card of my camera was nearly full, and this is the second of a series of postings attempting to reconcile the hundreds of photos I found with my episode of “missing time”.

from wikipedia

Missing time is a proposed phenomenon reported by some people in connection with close encounters with UFOs and abduction phenomena. The term missing time refers to a gap in conscious memory relating to a specific period in time. The gap can last from several minutes to several days in length. The memory of what happened during the missing time reported is often recovered through hypnosis or during dreams.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Based on the series of photos, it is presumed that my route took me down Mulberry on a southern declination, before turning east on Kenmare and ultimately to Delancey. The warren of streets which defy and predate the Manhattan grid, which is two centuries old this year– I would add- have been massively altered from their historic patterns by the attentions of urban planners and DOT engineers since the time of the Bloody Sixth Ward.

Partially, this was to accommodate the “automobile city” of the early 20th century, but no small effort was spared to eliminate the alleyways and so called “courts” which denied easy policing and access by fire and sanitation inspectors in this region of the Shining City.

It was in these courts and alleys that the street gangs of the 19th century were allowed to fester and swell, an offensive and dangerous situation to the progressives and reformers of the post civil war era “City Beautiful”.

from wikipedia

The City Beautiful Movement was a reform philosophy concerning North American architecture and urban planning that flourished during the 1890s and 1900s with the intent of using beautification and monumental grandeur in cities. The philosophy, which was originally associated mainly with Chicago, Detroit, and Washington, D.C. allegedly promoted beauty not for its own sake, but rather to create moral and civic virtue among urban populations. Advocates of the philosophy believed that such beautification could thus promote a harmonious social order that would increase the quality of life.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My trusty camera seems to have been pointed in the direction of the 2nd of the three East River Bridges to have been erected, which we know as the Williamsburg. 100 years ago, I might have boarded a street car or horse drawn wagon to carry me over the span and boarded it at Bowery and Delancey. Were I cognizant of my surroundings, rather than stumbling in a panic, I might have caught an electric light rail- which is referred to as a “subway”- but instead and inexorably I marched forward into “Jewtown”.

from HOW THE OTHER HALF LIVES By JACOB A. RIIS, courtesy google books

THE tenements grow taller, and the gaps in their ranks close up rapidly as we cross the Bowery and, leaving Chinatown and the Italians behind, invade the Hebrew quarter. Baxter Street, with its interminable rows of old clothes shops and its brigades of pullers-in—nicknamed “the Bay ” in honor, perhaps, of the tars who lay to there after a cruise to stock up their togs, or maybe after the “schooners” of beer plentifully bespoke in that latitude— Bayard Street, with its synagogues and its crowds, gave us a foretaste of it. No need of asking here where we are. The jargon of the street, the signs of the sidewalk, the manner and dress of the people, their unmistakable physiognomy, betray their race at every step. Men with queer skull-caps, venerable beard, and the outlandish long-skirted kaftan of the Russian Jew, elbow the ugliest and the handsomest women in the land. The contrast is startling. The old women are hags; the young, houris. Wives and mothers at sixteen, at thirty they are old. So thoroughly has the chosen people crowded out the Gentiles in the Tenth Ward that, when the great Jewish holidays come around every year, the public schools in the district have practically to close up.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The politics of modern city dwellers prefers not to attach ethnic sobriquets to neighborhoods where any single population crowds out other mention anymore, but in the 19th century no such prohibition applies. Early subway maps refer to this section of Delancey east of the Bowery as “the Ghetto” for instance. Such description signifies the magnetic appeal of the tenement neighborhood to the vast Yiddish speaking populations which made good their escape from the “the Pale” in the 19th century.

These largely weren’t the Orthodox Jews of today, of course, as the Hasidic and Lubavitcher sects – typified by an outdated style of dress and clannish separation from their surrounding environs – are a fairly modern path which only began to gather real steam in the 19th century (just like most fundamentalist religions) and in the 20th century these groups still represent only a tiny fraction of the larger ethnic population.

Instead the majority were religious but secular peasants from the countryside, suddenly finding themselves in New York City living next door to a sophisticated citizen from the Austro Hungarian- or Russian- or Ottoman- empires. It was these transplanted urbanites who founded the Forverts and other Yiddish language newspapers.

from wikipedia

The Forward (Yiddish: פֿאָרווערטס; Forverts), commonly known as The Jewish Daily Forward, is a Jewish-American newspaper published in New York City. The publication began in 1897 as a Yiddish-language daily issued by dissidents from the Socialist Labor Party of Daniel DeLeon. As a privately-owned publication loosely affiliated with the Socialist Party of America, Forverts achieved massive circulation and considerable political influence during the first three decades of the 20th Century. The publication still exists as a weekly news magazine in parallel Yiddish (Yiddish Forward) and English editions (The Jewish Daily Forward).

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The synagogues of Eastern and Southern Europe which have survived into modernity have all the appearances of a fortified house or town, and go to some lengths to blend into the surrounding communities. In the United States, however, the desire to show off and build a palace to the almighty was not limited to the Catholics or Episcopalians. Such aspirations were present amongst the Jews as well.

On the corner of Delancey and Forsyth one may find the former “Forsyth Street Synagogue, Poel Zedek Anshei Illia (Doers of Good, People of Illia)“. In modernity, it serves as a place of worship for the Seventh Day Adventists, which grew out of the millennialist Millerites in the years following the “Great Disappointment” 1844.

from wikipedia

October 22, 1844, that day of great hope and promise, ended like any other day to the disappointment of the Millerites. Both Millerite leaders and followers were left generally bewildered and disillusioned. Responses varied: some Millerites continued to look daily for Christ’s return, others predicted different dates—among them April, July, and October 1845. Some theorized that the world had entered the seventh millennium, the “Great Sabbath”, and that, therefore, the saved should not work. Others acted as children, basing their belief on Jesus’ words in Mark 10:15, “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” O. J. D. Pickands used Revelation 14:14-16 to teach that Christ was now sitting on a white cloud, and must be prayed down. Probably the majority however, simply gave up their beliefs and attempted to rebuild their lives. Some members rejoined their previous denominations while a substantial number became Quakers.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An unknown structure to me, online accounts describe it as having passed from Hebraic hands during the long 20th century decline of the neighborhood and speak of its resurrection when it began to serve as a church to some of modern Christianity’s more charismatic adherents. It is odd to see the Mogen David bisected by the rood outside of the esoteric or gnostic traditions.

Delancey street, I would mention, always figured prominently in the adages and folkloric warnings that my grandmother would hand out when I was a young but already humble narrator. A product of the Pale herself, she found work in America in that jewish garment trade which once flourished here, and even into extreme old age she practiced her craft. She always referred to Delancey and the environs as a home to midwives and fortune tellers (kabbalists) and shmata men.

When queries as to how lucrative the shmata (rag) trade was, and who could possibly need enough rags to keep a merchant employed full time- her response was “vat doz yu tink yu viped yur arse mit? Dere vas no terlet papah beck den”.

from wikipedia

Adventism is a Christian movement which began in the 19th century, in the context of the Second Great Awakening revival in the United States. The name refers to belief in the imminent Second Coming (or “Second Advent”) of Jesus Christ. It was started by William Miller, whose followers became known as Millerites. Today, the largest church within the movement is the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

The Adventist family of churches are regarded today as conservative Protestants. While they hold much in common, their theology differs on whether the intermediate state is unconscious sleep or consciousness, whether the ultimate punishment of the wicked is annihilation or eternal torment, the nature of immortality, whether or not the wicked are resurrected, and whether the sanctuary of Daniel 8 refers to the one in heaven or on earth. The movement has encouraged the examination of the New Testament, leading them to observe the Sabbath.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Uncertainty exists in my mind as to whether or not my trance induced scuttling and the photographic record thereof bears any kind of narrative thread or not. It would seem that my subject matter and focal point of view remained steady with normal pursuits, chasing esoteric and disabused touchstones of the oft occluded past, and noticing the small details hidden amongst the centuries old tapestry.

One wonders if I might have wandered into this storefront psychic and what Gypsy legend would have been offered. Perhaps I did, but in my trance state, who can venture as to what might have occurred in the moments between photos?

from wikipedia

Romani mythology is the myth, folklore, religion, traditions, and legends of the Romani people (also known as Gypsies). The Romanies are a nomadic culture which originated in India during the Middle Ages. They migrated widely, particularly to Europe. Some legends (particularly from non-Romani peoples) say that certain Romanies are said to have passive psychic powers such as, empathy, precognition, retrocognition, or psychometry. Other legends include the ability to levitate, travel through astral projection by way of meditation, invoke curses or blessings, conjure/channel spirits, and skill with illusion-casting.

Burial: Romanies pushed steel or iron needles into the body’s heart and put pieces of steel in the mouth, over the eyes, ears, and between the fingers. Hawthorn was placed on the legs, or driven through the legs. They would also drive stakes, pour boiling water on the grave, and behead or burn the body. All this preparation was to ward off vampires.

Afterlife: Romanies had a concept of Good and Evil forces. Dead relatives were looked after loyally. The soul enters a world like the world of the living, except that death does not exist. The soul lingers near the body and sometimes wants to live again.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The River of Sound awaited, and a vast steel span was to be crossed.

Tomorrow is Williamsburg, where Brooklyn’s Grand Street will be attained and the puzzling series of shots found on my camera card will be further explored at this… Your Newtown Pentacle.

from medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com

compulsive walking

affected animals walk oblivious to their surroundings. They appear to be blind, walk into objects, headpress against them and stay in this position for long periods, are oblivious to danger and may die of misadventure. They may attempt to climb a wall and fall over backwards. Common causes are hepatic encephalopathy and increased intracranial pressure.

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