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Friday, June 13, 2014

Urban Gadabout: Is this or is this not a gorgeous photo? Take a gander at Mitch Waxman's beloved Astoria at twilight

You can click on the photo to enlarge it, but better still is to look at it a photographer Mitch Waxman's intended size and resolution on his Newtown Pentacle blog.

by Ken

I've written before about my happy tramping around NYC with Mitch Waxman (like this June 2012 piece about a visit to the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek, at just the time when Mitch was the subject of a big feature piece in the New York Times, "Your Guide to a Tour of Decay," including video). I've done walks with Mitch from Staten Island to the urban wilds of the basic surrounding Newtown Creek (Mitch is the official historian for the Newtown Creek Alliance), and just recently had the pleasure of rejoining Mitch and his frequent tour colleague Mai Whitman (whose tireless blogs for the Working Harbor Committee blog we frequently eavesdrop on here) for another walk to what is now known as the Plank Road clean-up site on Newtown Creek's eastern reaches, in Maspeth, Queen. (When we got to the site, I realized I'd already been there, on an earlier, more extensive walk with Mitch -- and Mai.)

One thing you learn quickly when you walk with Mitch is that he's never without his trusty camera. In a former life he was, as he describes it, "a comic-book guy," and that visual sense seems to have heightened as he's taken to walking the city -- especially parts of it that not a lot of photographers frequent. The result is an amazing quantity of amazing pictures, like the, well, amazing Astoria-at-twilight photo I've poached above. (Again, do check it out in Mitch's own posting.) I should note that this gorgeous photo accompanies a blogpost in which Mitch laments the fatiguingly high background-noise level in "my beloved Astoria.")

One happy result of reconnecting with Mitch (for ages now when I've known about an upcoming walk he was doing, I always had schedule conflicts) was a reminder about The Newtown Pentacle, which among other things is a great place to start to see some of Mitch's pictures. (It's also the best place to get current information about his tour plans with the various organizations he works with.) One photo that really caught my eye, even before I had any idea what indeed makes it so unusual among Mitch's pictures, was this one (click to enlarge):

It turns out that this was indeed a rare vantage point for Mitch -- it was taken while riding in a car over "the high flying Kosciuszko Bridge" over Newtown Creek. As he explains in this post (and again, you should really look at the version of the photo there):
Not once, but twice, have I been invited to ride along with people in their automobiles in the last week. Motor coaches were once a significant part of a humble narrators life, when jaunts and journeys would carry one across the megalopolis, but my current incarnation is that of the pedestrian so when an opportunity to hurtle along in a steel motor box comes along – I take it. Of course, that doesn’t stop me from waving the camera around. Pictured above, the Penny Bridge section of my beloved Newtown Creek as witnessed from the high flying Kosciuszko Bridge captured while traveling at about 30 mph.
For reference, here's a pair of shots of Mitch's of the Kosciuszko Bridge itself, taken from opposite directions (again, click to enlarge):

These photos were included in a Newtown Pentacle post from April 11, 2011, "Happy Birthday, Kosciuszko Bridge," in which Mitch offered "a virtual guarantee" --
that this is the only posting you will see today commemorating and wishing the Kosciuszko Bridge a happy 72nd birthday. Some 26,298 days ago, Robert Moses saw the first link in a crazy idea of his which would one day be called the “Brooklyn Queens Connecting Highway” open for business.

The Meeker Avenue Bridge opened on August 23rd, 1939 (renamed in 1940 as the Kosciuszko Bridge) –- some 631, 152 hours ago. It was promised to allow easy egress to the World’s Fair, and was a showpiece project for the Great Builder.
This poor bridge has taken varous sorts of poundings, not least from its heavy daily traffic volume, and is now scheduled for replacement, known the the NYS Dept. of Transportation as the Kosciuszko Bridge Project, which at $550 is described by the NYSDOT as "the largest single contract NYSDOT has ever undertaken."

Friday, June 06, 2014

Here's your chance to name the Governors Island composting goats -- plus notes on the 2014 Governors Island season

You have till June 11 to tweet your suggestions for names for the four-week-old female goats who will be in residence this summer on Governors Island.

"The goats are a great way to bring attention to the importance of composting. Food scraps are a resource, not garbage."
-- Marisa DeDominicis, director of Governors Island's
Earth Matter Composting Learning Center

by Ken

"A pair of cute kids living on Governors Island this summer need some help — with their names," declares DNAinfo New York's Irene Plagianos in the lead of her report today, "Help Name Governors Island's Composting Baby Goats"

We'll get back to the baby goats, but let's take a moment to note the progress of Governors Island, the small (but much less small thanks to lots of landfill) island off the southern tip of Manhattan Island, across Buttermilk Channel from Brooklyn. Since the island -- once home to various government entities, including most recently the U.S. Coast Guard -- was opened to the public for summer weekends, each summer has brought a major increase over the previous one in facilities and activities.

Decisions remain to be made about actual development in the northern half of the island, the part that has traditionally hosted the headquarters of whoever was using the island, which includes a large number of buildings that are already landmarked or otherwise targeted for retention and repurposing. But the range and quantity of exhibitions and activities, which has been increasing significantly each year, has seen one of its largest-ever increases. And this year marks the opening of a good deal more of the park -- some 30 new acres -- that's being constructed in the southern (i.e, landfill) half of the island. The park's rolling hills have started to take shape, with some serious elevations, in recognition of the island's flood-prone position, sitting barely above sea level in the heart of New York Harbor.
The new 30 acres of park include Liggett Terrace, a sunny, six-acre plaza with seasonal plantings, seating, water features and public art; Hammock Grove, a sunny ten-acre space that is home to 1,500 new trees, play areas and 50 hammocks; and the Play Lawn, 14 acres for play and relaxation that includes two natural turf ball fields sized for adult softball and Little League baseball. In addition, new welcome areas have been added at the Island’s ferry landings, as have key visitor amenities, including lighting, seating and signage throughout the Historic District.

Trust for Governors Island caption for this construction photo: "Detail of Hammock Grove, with The Hills rising in the distance. Over 1,500 trees have been planted in the first 30 acres of new park." (Yes, there are actual hammocks for visitors to use.)


Probably the biggest development this year is that for the first time Governors Island is open to visitors seven days a week, with additional ferry service in place. In addition to the ferries that have been running for years on weekends from both Manhattan's Battery Maritime Building (a bit to the east of the Staten Island Ferry Terminal) and the Brooklyn ferry slip at the Atlantic Avenue end of Brooklyn Bridge Park, regular Monday-Friday ferry service will be available from Manhattan. For the first time there will be a charge for the ferries -- a whopping $2 round trip (no extra charge for bikes), with kids under 12 riding free (and everybody riding free in the morning) and seniors riding half-price. There's also a new program in place for making free bicycles available to visitors on a limited basis. (Bikes have long been available for rental, and many visitors bring their own.) Given the spectacular views of the harbor, it's a great place to bicycle.


They're a pair of four-week-old female goats, a dark brown Nubian and a white Alpine-Saanen mix, on loan from Long Island's Goodale Farms, which last year supplied two goats who were named Patches and Cream. The Trust for Governors Island is inviting tweeters to suggest names for the new goats, who will be in residence at the island's Earth Matter Composting Learning Center this season, where they will be dining on visitors' food leavings.

"Tweet name ideas to @Gov_Island by June 11," Irene Plagiano writes in her DNAinfo New York report, "and a winner will be chosen by the end of that day, the Trust said."
So far, suggestions for the 4-week-old goats — a dark brown Nubian and a white Alpine-Saanen mix — include Ebony and Ivory, from @TheGitch, as well as Sansa and Arya, a pair of sisters from the show “Game of Thrones,” and Hop and Scotch. . . .

The goats will join two bunnies, 15 chicks, 40 chickens, worms and bees at the Earth Matter Composting Learning Center, said Marisa DeDominicis, the center’s director.

This is the third year the center is housing goats, which like to chow down stray branches, leaves and weeds — which helps the Trust maintain the grounds — along with leftover food.

The young goats are still being fed with milk bottles, but they have already starting chomping on food scraps and greenery as well, DeDominicis said.

Visitors to the center, which is located just off the newly opened Play Lawn, can pet and help feed the goats every Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m.

“The goats are a great way to bring attention to the importance of composting,” said DeDominicis. “Food scraps are a resource, not garbage.”

DeDominicis said there are 15 brown cans throughout the island labeled for composting, which are collected for the goats.

After the season, the yet-unnamed goats will head back to the farm, where they’ll be used as dairy goats, for education about farming — and for visitors to pet.