Warning: These photos are horrifying.

Dog Swimming in Newtown Creek Off Newtown Creek Nature Center

When I came across these images on the Facebook feed of local environmental activist Laura Hofman, depicting a couple playing fetch with their dog off the Newtown Creek Nature Center, I was shocked and naturally disgusted. My first reaction was – Animal Abuse! Call the ASPCA.  

Couples Playing Fetch With Dog In Newtown Creek

After reading the comments, it was noted that these folks were themselves “wading” in the toxic waterway, too.  Could they not be aware of the dangers the water poses to themselves and their pet? Or maybe they just don’t care? Or don’t know really how bad it is?

We should all be aware that the Newtown Creek is a Superfund Site – and raw sewage from the treatment plant flows into the creek, which is also contaminated with pharmaceuticals, toxic metals, petroleum products, dioxins, PCBs and pathogenic microorganisms.

“I believe the creek even has Typhus in it,” Laura told me over a Facebook chat. I couldn’t control my gag reflex as I imagined the poor animal swallowing the contaminated water.


While the kayak launch at the Nature Center almost invites wading in its design, there are signs that warn against swimming, but Laura reminded me that:

There are signs. But they are in English. I have no idea if those people were English speaking people. Who knows if they noticed the signs or if they truly understand the issue. How many people know that smoking is bad for you but in reality don’t get how bad it is for you. The creek looks clean there at times. It’s decieving.

This brings up a MUCH bigger issue and the reason why I am posting these photos on the blog. As long as environmental agencies ignore the fact that people do take these risk and use the waterway in this capacity, knowingly or unknowingly, they will not feel the sense of urgency to take action.

Laura said that, “the issue with the agencies is that they don’t acknowledge that swimming is going on and will not take every effort to ensure the creek is cleaned up to a better standard.”

Perhaps these photos will convince them otherwise. In the meantime I am posting them here as a reminder to all Greenpointers – be safe and do not swim in the creek.

Join the Conversation


  1. Great post. I once saw a Chinese guy fishing and wondered the same thing–whether he didn’t care or could not understand the signs, which are in English only.

  2. As a public service, maybe some multilingual resident of Greenpoint would be willing to post an addendum to the English-only version? Looks like there is plenty of room to tack a new sign on below. Not suggesting anyone deface the sign itself, but adding more info below what’s there now could help. Admittedly, the symbols and language there now don’t communicate any sense of urgency. I mean, what’s the uninversal symbol for “toxic”? A skull and crossbones doesn’t seem out of place here. Or maybe a pile of poo?

  3. While the Newtown Creek Nature Walk was built by the City to “explore and learn about wastewater treatment, harbor water quality, and the history of New York City”, to the uneducated visitor, it just looks like an invitation to interact with the water.

  4. “and raw sewage from the treatment plant flows into the creek”

    so that big new treatment plant isn’t actually doing anything? This statement is only true during heavy rainfall, so its false the majority of the time.

    1. 100% of the time it is dangerous to your health to swim in the creek.

      “In a very informative talk given by Ate Atema, which you can watch here, he explains how over 50% of rainfalls in NYC trigger CSOs and that our outdated one pipe system that accepts both rain and sewage is vulnerable but would be almost impossible to retrofit.”


      VIDEO: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fblhKo4V3C8

      That’s a bad batting average.

  5. I agree wholeheartedly with Razor Don’s comment. How can people come to a new country, live there and NOT LEARN THE LANGUAGE?!!??

    1. I guess Laura and Razor’s interpretation of “freedom of speech” is really the “freedom to speak only American english”.

      If we take their logic at face value and if Laura and Razor live in Greenpoint they should learn Polish and Spanish and probably a dozen other languages.

      YAY! to knee jerk reactionists

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