The Newtown Pentacle

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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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Upcoming Tours and events –

October 7th, 2015
Our Polluted History:
A Non-Toxic & Fascinating Forum on Greenpoint’s Environmental Past panel discussion

with GWAPP, click here for details

October 10th, 2015
Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour
with Atlas Obscura, click here for details and tickets

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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Upcoming Tours –

September 3rd, 2015
Newtown Creek Boat Tour
with Open House NY, click here for details and tickets.

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

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– 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

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