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.
Plank Road is an interesting site. Technically, it’s a street end – in the 1800s, a wooden bridge crossed the creek at this point, parts of which can still be seen in the intertidal zones. It represents one of the very few city-owned places where one can reach the Newtown Creek without crossing private property. The bridge’s creation and removal is closely tied in with the rise and fall of the area as an industrial powerhouse, and the modern state of the property has been one of neglect until recently. Plantings, better drainage, and other improvements are planned to make this spot one that nearby workers, bird watchers, and the public in general can actually enjoy.
One can’t go deeper into New York City than Plank Road – it’s at the geographic center of the city, a mere block or two from the place that Waxman delights in saying would be the turning point were the city a plate that one could spin.
For more information about the plan for Plank Road, check out the Newtown Creek Alliance page here. If you’d like to get out on the water yourself, the North Brooklyn Boat Club is a great public resource, offering a variety of trips including free public paddles on summer weekends.