On Sunday, we joined over 140 people aboard a New York Water Taxi for the Working Harbor Committee’s tour of Newtown Creek. The tour was narrated by Mitch Waxman whose encyclopedic knowledge and passion for the area can be seen on his blog The Newtown Pentacle, and on his tours and work as the historian for the Newtown Creek Alliance. See more photos after the break.
We’re going to recap what we learned on the tour, as well as relay some of our impressions and thoughts. So, if anyone has thoughts about the facts presented here, or sees things differently than we do, please write them in the comments.
Touring the Newtown Creek is like looking at the ghost of American industry. A place that ties back into a time when Greenpoint and Williamsburg, had 10% of the country’s wealth, where Peter Cooper (Cooper Union) had his glue factory (think Jello), Charles Pratt (Pratt University) had his oil company which later became part of Rockefeller’s Standard Oil. There were also a whole host of Dickensian sounding industrial activities like nightsoil, tallow rendering, and yeast plants. Just sixty years ago it was the busiest industrial port in the country. It made Manhattan possible and carries the scars from that effort.
It is a place that still houses many businesses like the Fresh Direct warehouse, scrap metal, and petro-chemical plants. Around and along the Creek are 18 state superfund sites, 19 waste transfer stations, the largest sewage treatment plant in the city, and hundreds of brownfields. It is a place that played a part in the Battle of New York during the revolutionary war, and a place where there were plans to park battleships during WWII (accounting for why the LIE is so high when it crosses over the creek). A place that cuts through Greenpoint, Bushwick, Hunter’s Point in LIC, Maspeth, and Ridgewood, areas filling with artists, and grand development plans. An amazing and toxic place best seen from a boat and with a great tour guide like Mitch. There is a 1/4 mile “nature” walk that goes along the Creek at the Newtown Creek Wastewater treatment plant in Greenpoint. It offers some cool views, directions to it are linked here.
Greenpoint Design Center
Boats moored on the Queens side. Smart and sneaky free parking except they get a lot of sewage outflow when it rains
North Brooklyn Community Boat House
Nice place for a picnic.
Fresh Direct Warehouse. They will be moving to Hunt’s Point in the Bronx as the LIRR turns this space back into a railyard
A few of the many fuel tanks lining the Creek.
LIE over Newtown Creek
Cars being recycled and loaded on to a barge
Barges tied up on either side of the Creek looking West
Maspeth Creek looking East
Passed these two at one of the only Queen’s side access points. The wood pilings in the water date from 1876. They may have been near the corner of 58th Road and 47th Street
One of the many overflow pipes into the Newtown Creek. According to Mitch one of the best things a NY’er can do to help clean up the water around the city is not flush their toilets during a rain storm.
A lot of beer and liquor distributors have their warehouses on land bordering the Creek.
Bucolic Scene with terrible smelling toxic Water
The Grand Street Bridge and the end of the line for the tour. The smell was intense here and Mitch said going further would expose us to too much toxicity.