health hazards

Pastor Marries Choir Girl Who Swims In the Newtown Creek


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.

Annie Edson Taylor

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.

The New York State Department of Health and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry completed a public healthy assessment of the Newtown Creek. This is very important information considering the North Brooklyn Boat Club has been taking to the waters! (I just became a member, it’s $30.)

Today, May 4th is the deadline to comment by filling out this form.

Their key findings:

  • 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? 

Reference:

Vice’s Toxic: Brooklyn Series 2007
PBS Map of Newtown Creek
PBS Video Series: The City Concealed: Newtown Creek

Brooklyn Genealogy: City of Churches
Brooklyn Genealogy: The Eastern District of Brooklyn; The N Streets
Brooklyn Online: Historic Greenpoint

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