A black-crowned night heron. Several swallows, cormorants, and geese. One lone white duck. These were some of the birds seen on this Saturday’s canoe trip to Plank Road, which was a collaboration between the Newtown Creek Alliance (NCA) and the North Brooklyn Boat Club. The paddlers, many out for their first trip on New York’s waterways, remarked on the stunning juxtaposition of active and crumbling industrial sites alongside a very living, if troubled, ecosystem. They traveled up the Newtown Creek and met up with a land-based group to hear from historian Mitch Waxman about this peculiar site that the NCA is looking to revamp in the coming months.
Serious Coffee, Happy Anniversary, Man vs. Bus, Transfer Turmoil, Toxic Horror — The Hook-Up (10/28)
A couple who got married in Greenpoint in 1950 and were the first to celebrate their nuptials at the Our Lady of Snow Hall on Graham Avenue, just celebrated their 63rd wedding anniversary. Congratulations, Kay & Joe! (Greenpoint Gazette)
A 35 year old Greenpoint man lunged in front of a B43 bus this week on Manhattan Avenue and miraculously survived. (NY Post)
In case you thought everyone was happy about less garbage coming to Greenpoint, local trash collectors are upset about the reduction of capacity for transfer stations in such places as North Brooklyn. In all fairness, it doesn’t make sense to make it harder to get rid of trash in neighborhoods that are about to build monster condos filled with more rubbish makers. So, don’t build the towers and we’re good. (Craine’s NY)
And finally… Of all things Halloween in Greenpoint this year that I find the most intriguing and terrifying, it would be sitting in a canoe at night on a horror-themed Newton Creek, but that’s exactly what our friends at the North Brooklyn Boat Club are doing this October 31st. (NY Daily News)
Always classy New York Post did an article on new restaurants in Greenpoint. Actually, their choices were pretty good.
Read about the drama and hanky panky that transpired at Manhattan Avenue’s 19th century Edwards Hotel. (Brownstoner)
Greenpoint Landing now comes in two flavors: Sailboat Blue and Massacre Red. Did you read about the battle of the renderings?
There’s a Google Glass Art Stalker in Bushwick. (DNAInfo)
The NY Times did an article this week on the 190 member-strong North Brooklyn Boat Club.
Thanks to Newtown Creek Alliance and North Brooklyn Boat Club for organizing this fun canoe trip on the Newtown Creek. While nature in the way of lush forests and crystal clear running streams is far from the scenery along this industrial waterway, “nature has returned to the creek,” our guides explained, which is a good sign.
Among the many birds we spotted were cormorants, swallows, cardinals, a great egret, an entire flocks of cormorants, a catbird and a few geese who were demonstrating a curious behavior of swimming along the creek’s edge with their necks down low on the water.
We were very excited to also see blue crabs, oysters, small fish and jelly fish!
I won’t say it didn’t smell, in some parts worse than others. Mostly they were industrial gas and crude oil smells. There was a lot of garbage floating, capri sun containers, potato chips bags, tampons, and I won’t say that I didn’t cringe every time even the most minuscule drop splashed on my arm or even worse right near my lips.
When I asked Jens of NBBC what would be the protocol if someone fell in and swallowed a mouthful of water, he said he would recommend getting a Hepatitis test since the biggest pollutant on the creek nowadays is human excrement.
The most striking feature of the tour was when we canoed up to a partition between the creek and a combined sewage overflow, CSO area. That is where rainwater mixed with sewage from the treatment plant overflows after heavy rain. The water on our side of the partition was very clear, protected from – wait for it – “floatables.” On the other side, where an unknowing egret was hunting, was thick putrid sludge leading from the huge overflow pipe.
When we returned to the boat club dock I was never so excited to wash my hands, especially the spot of water that turned brown on my arm.
Canoeing up the creek is something that everyone should experience, at least once. If not for the birds – for the reality check. Modern conveniences like toilets and sanitation make us forget the impact we have on our own environment. While the creek is on its way to becoming a less vile place, it’s still the toilet of NYC, and we shouldn’t turn a blind eye to it, especially since it is becoming a viable place for our own native fauna.
Bonus: Laura Hoffman, locally famous environmental hero for Greenpoint, who was a plaintiff in a 2004 lawsuit against ExxonMobil for contamination of Greenpoint and the Newtown Creek that won $19million for an environmental projects fund, was on the same canoe trip! I was honored to finally meet her.
This article made possible by a donation to our Writer’s Fund from local reader donations!
Things are looking up for the North Brooklyn Boat Club. Even a hurricane couldn’t wipe the polish off their first year in the water, which took the group from mere plans and papers to a modest 20-vessel navy regularly plying the local waters. On April 2nd the group met again to kick off their second season as a fully-operational club, and the message of the night was simple: let’s get more butts in boats.
The key points made at the meeting all supported this theme. Membership fees are effectively reduced by $20 for the year: last year members were asked to contribute $30 to the club and needed a separate $30 membership to the American Canoe Association in order to be covered by that group’s trip insurance. This year the club has a blanket policy with them so a $40 fee paid to the NBBC directly obviates the need for individual ACA membership. Members were also encouraged to start down the safety training path that will result in access to club boats outside of scheduled group excursions, helping to foster a feeling of individual access to the water. Finally, opportunities abound for individuals to get involved in a number of ways: besides the obvious operational groups, subcommittees are working on gardening and green roofs for the space, woodworking and boat-building, and citizen science related to water quality and biology, just to name a few, providing niches for almost any related skill.
If you’re interested, there is still plenty of time this season to join up and get involved. Check out their website, follow the group on the various social media, or just look for smoke coming from the waterfront fire pit and introduce yourself.
On a dark Tuesday night, I walked down Kent and pushed through a doorway obscured with old burlap sacks to reveal a room full of energetic sailors, paddlers, and waterfolk. Over a round of Dark n’ Stormies – a requisite nautical drink of Gosling’s rum, lime, and ginger beer – introductions were made, and it was hard not to feel a lively mood in the attendees at this meeting of the North Brooklyn Boat Club (NBBC).
They had a right to be upbeat – several million dollars have recently been green-lighted for the refurbishment of a bulkhead and 8,000-square-foot boathouse in northern Greenpoint, at the mouth of the Newtown Creek, and the NBBC is heading up the efforts to design the space and programming.
The group is well picked for the task. In attendance was a healthy array of experienced seagoers, including kayak guides, sailors of both the river and the bounding main, and a boat builder. All are excited to be presented with a space to share their love of the water with the community, and anyone living in Greenpoint with a hand to lend to the space should definitely keep an eye on their website and attend the next meeting, the details of which are below. Discussed at the meeting:
-Safety is a major concern for all involved. While these folks are no stranger to a good time, they take their roles as teachers and stewards of the waterfront very seriously, and discussions of the exact certifications to acquire are becoming more important as the hope is to have hulls in the water this coming spring.
-Water quality issues are, of course, a concern. However, the point was raised that the water quality at the mouth of the creek is similar to that of the East River as a whole, and those who decide to ply the inland waters can be educated and suitably protected from associated risks. The question of water aeration (conducted on the Newtown Creek to increase dissolved oxygen, necessary for many types of marine life) possibly causing pollutants to become airborne was raised; however, at this time, there’s no scientific evidence supporting or disproving this concern.
-Other boathouses in NYC that can be used as models.
-The importance of including all members of the community who want to use the waterfront, including fisherwomen/fishermen
-If you’re a landlubber built like a T-rex – tiny arms and giant legs – play bike polo. If, however, you’re built like Popeye and similarly unsinkable, consider kayak polo:
Also, exceptional navy-strength gin was drunk.
I’m very excited by the prospect of a Greenpoint boat house and plan on lending my hand to the efforts to get this going. If you’re interested in becoming involved, come to the next meeting of the NBBC, to be held at:
Brooklyn Rod & Gun Club
Kent Ave. btw. N. 11th and N. 10th
8:30 pm, Tuesday, December 6th.