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.
“The Newtown Creek Armada is an art installation that invites the public to explore the past, present and future of a contaminated New York City waterway. The Newtown Creek, a Superfund site bordering Brooklyn and Queens, is one of the most polluted bodies of water in the United States. Visitors to The Armada will pilot a fleet of artist-made, miniature, remote-controlled boats along the surface of the Newtown Creek while documenting the hidden world of its waters using waterproof cameras and microphones.”
Learn more tonight 8/30 at a Fundraising Happy Hour at The Diamond (43 Franklin St) from 7-8pm. The Opening Ceremony is Saturday, 9/8 at 1pm at the Newtown Creek Nature Walk in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.
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 →
These guys: (left to right) Rowland and Joe’s appropriately named canoe “Shart Attack” embarked from the Sewage Treatment Plant Nature Walk yesterday. The canoe was quite a looker on Driggs as they gave it a good scrub down. We couldn’t help but take a step back when they told us it just came out of the Newtown Creek. Rowland assured us it was a great ride and the water doesn’t look dirty. And, there were signs of life, fish, mussels, clams, ducks and cormorants.
“Did you wear life jackets?” “Yes.”
“Did you wash your hands yet?” “Not yet,” Joe said as he puffed a smoke.
But, just because it’s contaminated doesn’t mean we should give up on the Newtown Creek. As my Mom says, “use it or lose it!” The more we get out there and the more awareness we bring to the problems, the better chance we have of revitalizing the creek.