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.
Last Saturday was a day on which my body cried out for the waterfront. The weather turned the simplest tasks into moist ordeals, so after my second mechanical failure of the day – the right pedal of my bike followed my sunglasses in simply falling to pieces during normal use – I was more than ready to view Brooklyn from afar for a couple hours. I headed up to the North Brooklyn Boat Club‘s space up on Ash street, where I met up with the group heading out for what was the club’s very first public paddle. Continue reading →
People are truly fascinated with water. As Greenpointers we have great views of the East River. Here are a few shots with smoke stacks in the background.
Make sure you add to the Greenpointers Flickr Pool and be sure to tag #greenpointers on Instagram.
Everyone gives me crap for not being a “real” Greenpointer, but my great grandfather G. Clement Edson was the pastor of the Noble Street Presbyterian Church (1907-1911) and my grandmother Isabelle was born on Noble St. Why does this matter?
Great Grandpa’s wedding to his new wife, Gertrude, a choir girl, after his first wife, who was my biological Grandmother died, caused major drama in Greenpoint. The old ladies of the church had another dame picked out for him, but old Clem knew who he wanted. A headline in the Brooklyn Eagle read, Pastor Marries Chorus Girl, which is very different from a choir girl. 20th Century Greenpoint gossip! While I need to do some digging in the Brooklyn Eagle archives, the story even made it into the NY Times.
And aside from personal validation, my great grandmother Gertrude used to swim in the Newtown Creek! Explains a lot, right? We can imagine it was a beautiful and natural place back then.
This is not the first instance of a ballsy female ancestor taking risks with water. I’m also related to the infamous Annie Edson Taylor, who went over Niagara Falls in a barrel. Today, I would do that before taking a plunge into the Newtown Creek.
These days if you see someone swimming in the Newtown Creek, (after you lol,) call 911.
1. DON’T EAT ANYTHING OUT OF THE NEWTOWN CREEK! “Eating fish and crabs taken from Newtown Creek could harm people’s health, due to the chemical contaminants. Women under 50 years old and children under 15 years old should not eat any fish or crabs from these waters. Others should follow the State Health Department advisories for eating fish and crabs taken from this and other waterways. There is currently a fish consumption advisory for Newtown Creek.”
2. DON’T SWIM IN THE NEWTOWN CREEK! “Swimming, scuba diving and wind surfing (with full body immersion) could harm people’s health, due to biological contaminants and physical hazards (underwater debris, commercial boat traffic).”
3. YOU CAN TOUCH IT, BUT WASH YOUR HANDS! “Canoeing, kayaking, boat touring and catch-and-release fishing are not expected to harm people’s health, if people use precautions (properly washing their hands) to avoid swallowing biological contaminants from surface water.
This is an important step for public safety information. Is there any hope for the Newtown Creek? Can it ever be cleaned up back to the time when Great Grandma Gertrude swam there?
If Greenpoint could get any more awesome, there is a boat house in the works at the tip of Manhattan Ave. Greenpointers was at the first meeting and ALOT has happened since then. This crew doesn’t drag it’s feet and already have been taking to the waters. Board member Jens Rasmussen gave us some updates.
If you want to learn more or join the club, attend the meeting tonight, Tuesday April 3rd, 2012, 8pm at the Brooklyn Rod and Gun Club (59 Kent Ave.)
GP: What is the overall goal for the boat club? Jens: Have fun and make the world a better place.
GP: What is your role in the boat club?
Jens: I’m a board member, steering committee member, and facilitator for the communications group. (I’m also restoring a 1930 wood canvas Old Town Canoe.)
GP: How is planning coming along? Jens: Amazing! Superb! and many other superlatives. We are thrilled and honored with the support that we’re receiving from local residents, business owners, foundations, and other community organizations. They’ve all provided the foundation for us to be able to build quickly on.