There are many walking tours to go on in NYC – food tours, ethnic history tours, neighborhood tours, Central Park tours, Wall Street tours, etc, etc. This past Saturday morning we took a walking tour in Greenpoint, which took place just on the other side of the Newtown Creek from Queens – and not in the part of Greenpoint that people generally want to visit. Part of the area sits under the Kosciuszko Bridge, which connects Queens and Brooklyn via the BQE, and the neighborhood is currently home to diverse companies, most of which focus on either transportation or recycling.
The focus of the tour was the environmental effects of Greenpoint’s industrial history. Beginning in the 19th century and continuing into the 20th, Standard Oil and its successor companies have had a major presence in Greenpoint. ExxonMobil, BP, Texaco and others are still in the neighborhood.
In addition to doing business here, they are here to remove the thousands of gallons of oil that are in the ground from epic oil spills that happened over time in this area; their effects remain significant. There has been federal and state litigation surrounding the oil cleanup and there is much work still to be done. NYS Department of Environmental Conservation is tasked with monitoring remediation progress.There are also a number of community organizations working towards building public awareness and support for more cleanup.
Mitch Waxman, the publisher of The Newtown Pentacle blog and an active participant in the Newtown Creek Alliance, was our tour guide. The tour started at the corner of Kingsland and Norman Avenues. The route was a loop of just under two miles.
We made our way down Bridgewater Street. This is the corner of Apollo and Bridgewater.
We walked to the end of Apollo Street, which is a dead end that overlooks the creek. This is one of the few places on the Brooklyn side where you can get really close to it. Queens and Manhattan are in the background.
ExxonMobil drains water in to the creek here.
There is a great view an abandoned factory across the creek in Queens.
And the edge of Maspeth’s Calvery Cemetery is visible across the water on the hillside.
After the stop on Apollo Street, we walked some more. We passed an ExxonMobil remediation plant. There’s a recovery well inside this building.
We turned the corner at Meeker Avenue to see the Kosciuszko Bridge span.
Under the bridge there are quite a number of recycling plants. Our attention shifted quickly from yesterday’s oil spills to the realities of today’s recycling. This place is loud and dirty.
Making our way past the recycling plants, we got a great view of the underbelly of the bridge. We stopped to contemplate what would become of these recycling businesses when the $800 million construction project starts next year to replace the bridge.
Next, we turned up Lombardy Street, along side of the National Grid liquified natural gas tanks. These things are enormous. This site is unfortunately also contaminated, with coal tar instead of oil.
Photo source: Habitat Map
And, incredibly, just a block off from the entrance to natural gas tanks, is charming Beadel Street, which led us back to Kingsland Avenue.
We made our way up Kingsland to McGolrick Park, which was the end point of our tour. The park had wonderful benches in the shade and it was a good place to sit, absorb, and review the enormity of what was covered in this less than 2 mile walking tour.
Photo Source: NYC