The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Hurricane Sandy

slight remainder

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Notice: the November 9th Magic Lantern Show with Atlas Obscura is cancelled for now. We hope to reschedule for sometime during the winter. Observatory, where the event is scheduled to take place, has been damaged by Hurricane Sandy and flooding.

Alternatively, it has been decided to move forward with this Sunday’s Newtown Creek “SideTour” Poison Cauldron walking tour in Greenpoint, details are found at the bottom of this posting.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Having moved through one of my regular “routes” from Astoria to Greenpoint to catalog the so called lower reaches of the Newtown Creek, it was time to return via another well explored and familiar pathway back to Queens. Over the Pulaski Bridge, into Long Island City, and ultimately up Skillman Avenue back to my neighborhood. On the Pulaski, I noted that one of the many undocumented sailboats which enjoys free berth on the Queens side had sunken, as you will discern in the lower right corner of the shot above.

The other locations and concurrent postings in this series exploring the post Hurricane Sandy conditions found around the Newtown Creek are Borden Avenue Bridge in open place, The Dutch Kills turning basin in dark moor, Calvary Cemetery in solid stones, The Maspeth Plank Road in sinister swamp, The Grand Street Bridge in shallow mud, English Kills in stranger whence, and Blissville to Greenpoint in vaguer recollection.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Descending down into Queens via the Pulaski stairs, where an eerie quiet was experienced. Again, this section of my survey was accomplished on Sunday the 4th, coincidentally the day which the NYC Marathon would normally have been conducted and ran across the Bridge, and the guys with the dirty fingernails who are the motive force in LIC had been hard at work cleaning up for the better part of week at this point.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Evidence of sedimentation escaping the Creek’s bulkheads was apparent, evinced at street corner sewer grates as in the shot above. That sidewalk isn’t wet, that’s oil. An unrelated trip just two days ago revealed the corner to be in the same condition, but this is the definition of “wrong side of the tracks” down here and the larger City has bigger problems right now than some piddly corner hidden away in an industrial backwater.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Stalwart, the Long Island Rail Road yard at Hunters Point was in fine fettle, despite the orange hue which their rails had taken on, no doubt due to immersion in salt water. This was a commonality shared by all rail tracks observed around the Creek which were flooded, but remember that the historic facility at Hunters Point has survived through flood and fire since 1870, and that Sandy was hardly their first rodeo.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The big story down here, beyond the flooding in the residential sections of Tower Town along 2nd and Center Streets- which I am not going to discuss- was the flooding of the Midtown Tunnel. According to the AP and WCBS, as well as official statements from the MTA, the water in the Queens Midtown Tunnel flooded in from the Queens side and emanated from Newtown Creek.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Anecdotal stories transmitted to me described Dutch Kills breaching its banks and flowing down Borden Avenue which met with surge waters that rose over the bulkheads from the Creeks junction at East River. So far, no photos or video of the flooding have reached me. I understand that large scale pumping operations are still underway, and that the tunnel is now passable but only by buses.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

This flooding of the Midtown Tunnel is the reason why the Long Island Expressway is being diverted onto local streets after Greenpoint Avenue (at least as of a couple of days ago) and describes one of the larger casualties of Hurricane Sandy in western Queens. We got fairly lucky around these parts, as compared to southeastern districts like the Rockaways and Howard Beach.

Again, in the shot above, notice that fresh orange patina on the tracks.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Noticing the large piles of trash along the rail tracks, conversation was struck up with a local woman named Marti. She maintains a small community garden alongside the fence line and revealed that she had been cleaning this mess up for days with the help of a few sympathetic laborers. All of this flotsam ended up plastered along the fence from the westerly flow moving down Borden Avenue.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The businesses along Borden, as mentioned in the first posting in this series, all experienced flooding in at least their basements. Enormous losses of vehicles and equipment notwithstanding, they were back at work on this day.

Of course, this is what Long Island City does, which is getting back to work.

Upcoming Newtown Creek tours and events:

Note: there are just 4 tickets left on this one, which is likely the last walking tour I’ll be conducting in 2012.

for an expanded description of the November 11th Newtown Creek tour, please click here

vaguer recollection

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Notice: the November 9th Magic Lantern Show with Atlas Obscura is cancelled for now. We hope to reschedule for sometime during the winter. Observatory, where the event is scheduled to take place, has been damaged by Hurricane Sandy and flooding.

Alternatively, it has been decided to move forward with this Sunday’s Newtown Creek “SideTour” Poison Cauldron walking tour in Greenpoint, details are found at the bottom of this posting.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Amongst the oddest things I’ve witnessed around the Newtown Creek in the wake of Hurricane Sandy is a Long Island Expressway (ok, technically Queens Midtown Expressway) completely devoid of Manhattan bound traffic. This is, of course, on account of the fact that Newtown Creek is actually being pumped out from inside the Queens Midtown Tunnel, which is where the sky flung viaduct leads to.

Regardless, it is irregular.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The shots in this post, and tomorrow’s as well, we’re captured last Sunday while on foot. Hank the Elevator Guy, who accompanied and drove me around for the shots presented for the last few days, was absent. His is a life of ups and downs, and thinking outside the box. That’s elevator humor, btw. Your humble narrator, alone as he should be, marched involuntarily across Greenpoint Avenue toward the bridge for named for it, and the loquacious Newtown Creek.

Thankfully, the Tidewater building seemed no worse for wear.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

On the Brooklyn side, which I am told was quite submerged, visible damage from the flooding was everywhere. On the street, it was small- a knocked down street sign caked in muck, a high water mark on the cement wall of a factory building, a car whose windows showed condensation on the passenger cabin side.

There was little pumping still going on, but there was a great deal of sweeping and heavy equipment was observed moving piles of garbage about.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

At the corner of Paidge and Provost, nearby the shuttered Newtown Creek Nature Walk, an area where I have been told that the water was some seven feet deep, petroleum residue was all over the sidewalk and the smell of fuel hung heavily in the air. Both corporate and municipal assets in the area were heavily damaged by the flooding, and in some cases a total loss of vehicular fleets was suffered.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned in the past, one of the groups who tolerate my presence is the Newtown Creek Alliance, and early on in the Hurricane Sandy story, the group’s Executive Director Kate Zidar advised that it would be a good idea to not wear the shoes utilized to walk around in the contaminated areas within ones home. Here is a visible example of why, and your humble narrator reiterates and endorses this simple precaution.

Who can guess, all there is, that came bubbling up from down there?

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Moving from Paidge in the direction of the staircase adorning the Pulaski Bridge, which would carry me back into Queens, I noticed this petroleum distributor had a significant amount of earth moving equipment on site. They are one of the dozens of distribution depots which were laid low by rising waters, critical infrastructure dependent on maritime access.

When this facility, and all the others like it, are back online- the current fuel shortages will become a distant memory.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The North Brooklyn Boat Club, where I’ve spent many happy afternoons this summer, was stricken hard by the flooding. Luckily- redoubtable devotees of the institution like T. Willis Elkins, Fung Lim, Leif Percifeld, and Dewey Thompson will not let their dreams drown, and a massive cleanup of their lot has been underway. The DOT yard next door also received a pungent bath when the Newtown Creek, unfettered, roared across their property.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The thing though, and it’s always hardest to remember this when you’re flat on your back and bleeding from the ears, is that NYC will ALWAYS rebuild. Stronger, better, faster. There will be fighting, and scandal, and horrible truths will be uncovered- but this is a once in a lifetime chance to reform the City.

Tomorrow, we return to the Queens side and Borden Avenue, and end our survey of the aftermath.

Upcoming Newtown Creek tours and events:

Note: there are just 4 tickets left on this one, which is likely the last walking tour I’ll be conducting in 2012.

for an expanded description of the November 11th Newtown Creek tour, please click here

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 7, 2012 at 12:15 am

stranger whence

with one comment

Notice: the November 9th Magic Lantern Show with Atlas Obscura is cancelled for now. We hope to reschedule for sometime during the winter. Observatory, where the event is scheduled to take place, has been damaged by Hurricane Sandy and flooding.

Alternatively, it has been decided to move forward with this Sunday’s Newtown Creek “SideTour” Poison Cauldron walking tour in Greenpoint, details are found at the bottom of this posting.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Completing the survey of the distaff tributaries of the fabled Newtown Creek in the aftermath of the so called Frankenstorm, Hurricane Sandy, my stalwart companion Hank The Elevator Guy and your humble narrator proceeded to the heart of darkness itself, the malign English Kills which runs along the borderland of Bushwick, Williamsburg, Greenpoint, and Ridgewood.

There are few casual visitors to this spot, and those of us who are familiar with this section of the Creek make attempts to limit our exposure to it.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Reports from those who live nearby, and don’t enjoy the measured luxury of choosing how often to breathe the unique perfumes of English Kills, indicated that significant flooding occurred here. The water was meant to have infiltrated out from the bulkheads, overflowing the tracks of the LIRR’s Bushwick Branch, and onto both Morgan and Johnson Avenue.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The shells of bivalves were extant upon the moist ground. Can it be possible that they were deposited by the tidal surge? One thing which should be noted is that the smell one normally associates with this area, something not dissimilar to a turtle’s aquarium tank, was absent. Everything smelled… well, wet.

Only way to describe it.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Everywhere that I’ve seen exposed rail tracks around the Creek, they all exhibit this fresh patina of orange corrosion. Causation does not equal correlation, however, if you were to compare them to the shots in the Newtown Pentacle posting from March of this year “approaching locomotive” you will notice a distinct change in color which your humble narrator would ascribe to immersion in brackish water.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The water in English Kills, as always, was horrible to behold. It was a bit murkier than usual, as would be suspected, and a large amount of floatable trash was observed. Again, not unsurprising. There is a reason that my old pal Bernie Ente called this spot “the heart of darkness” and why I use “gods gift to pain“.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

This is a pretty well established spot for homeless shanties and sometimes full blown camps to be established. It’s hidden and far enough away from “civilization” for no one to complain about a camp fire, after all.

This shanty was smashed, no doubt by heavy winds.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The CSO at the end of the Newtown Creek’s furthest extant. One can only imagine what was erupting from it during the storm surge.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The larger Homeless shanty dwelling atop the CSO seems to have survived the storm, and they are flying the flag.

Notice the storm debris hanging from the plants along the banks, no doubt left behind as the waters receded, sucking along anything that was submerged or floating in it on the way back into the waterway.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Your humble narrator has been in contact with certain members of the government about oil sheens and petroleum residues observed around the Newtown Creek on this survey. They assured me, and asked that I pass along that they will be back on the beat with us as soon as they clear up the disastrous situation in the Rockaways, Staten Island, and especially the Arthur Kill. They have asked that if anybody in the area spots oil, especially after the coming storm on Wednesday, that you call the NYS DEC Spills Hotline, open 24 hours a day at 1-800-457-7362.

Tomorrow, I’ll be tying things up with a visit to Greenpoint and Hunters Point made on Saturday, sans the services of Hank the Elevator Guy.

Upcoming Newtown Creek tours and events:

Note: there are just 4 tickets left on this one, which is likely the last walking tour I’ll be conducting in 2012.

for an expanded description of the November 11th Newtown Creek tour, please click here

shallow mud

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Notice: the November 9th Magic Lantern Show with Atlas Obscura is cancelled for now. We hope to reschedule for sometime during the winter. Observatory, where the event is scheduled to take place, has been damaged by Hurricane Sandy and flooding.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Hank the Elevator Guy and I next proceeded to the Grand Street Bridge in our survey of the Newtown Creek watershed, post Hurricane Sandy. Reports during the storm itself described the area as impassible, and knowing that the low lying areas around Metropolitan and Flushing Avenues are normally prone to flooding, it was with no small amount of trepidation that we approached DUGSBO.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

On the Brooklyn side of the Grand Street Bridge, there was evidence of washouts and sedimentation from the banks, and a pile of rubble and even a wooden staircase was piled up against the fence which separates the street from the bulkheads of Newtown Creek’s East Branch.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Additionally, the fire hydrant at the foot of the bridge was painted with muck and mire, indicating that the water overflowing the banks rose to at least its height. This is startling, as it is close to 15 feet over the normal waterline. However, given the presence of the enormous CSO back on Metropolitan Avenue, it would reasonable to assume that the surge rose from two directions here, one traveling eastward along the Creek from the East River, and another rising from the multiple vaults underlying Metropolitan.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Clearly affected by the flooding, this low lying yard which houses a school bus company was hard at work. Most of the buses had their engine hoods open, and mechanics were seen tinkering with the machinery therein. Additionally, there were people inside the buses working with cloths and mops. Another one of the subjects which I’ll likely be called to task for in the future by political wonks and area wags, one only hopes that an enormous amount of bleach will be expended by these laborers, before children are allowed onto these buses when schools open next week.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

It should be noted, and admitted to you lords and ladies, that your humble narrator is embroiled by controversy and derision these days. Unsought but uncomfortably accepted notoriety has brought no small amount of joy to me, but there is a dark side to this as well. My notably unpleasant personality and aberrant disobedience to social norms, it would seem, is best taken in small doses. Fair enough, one must always remain and function as an outsider, for this is where I belong.

solid stones

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Notice: the November 9th Magic Lantern Show with Atlas Obscura is cancelled for now. We hope to reschedule for sometime during the winter. Observatory, where the event is scheduled to take place, has been damaged by Hurricane Sandy and flooding. 

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Continuing our survey of the Creeklands in the immediate wake of Hurricane Sandy, Hank the Elevator Guy and I entered venerable Calvary Cemetery in Blissville. Truly, I did not expect to see what was evident there, which was virtually zero impact from the storm.

Not a downed headstone nor anything larger than a fallen tree limb betrayed the tumult.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Not sure of how this was possible, given the exposure and high elevations of the place. Wherever you are along the Newtown Creek, the highest natural elevations visible are Calvary (Laurel Hill) and the hill next to it (Berlin). It is certainly the highest point between Flushing Avenue in Ridgewood and the East River, and is an unstructured hill well planted with trees.

The majority of the monuments merely sit upon the ground and have no foundation other than a stripe of poured concrete.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

One truly expected to find the place laid low, with grounds crews attempting to right the stones and clear away fallen trees. How strange. It is almost as if someone was looking out for the cemetery and steering the destruction away from it. Sunnyside, which is at a slightly lower declination than Calvary, suffered massive losses of trees. So did Maspeth proper which is at an even higher elevation.

I guess Dagger John knew how to pick a piece of land…

open place

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned in yesterday’s posting, an effort was made to get out and survey the various parts of the Newtown Creek and her tributaries which are normally focused upon at this, your Newtown Pentacle. Luckily, a friend- Hank the Elevator Guy- offered to drive me around. This simplified my life immensely and allowed me to cover several of the rather further flung sections which one would normally have to walk to.

Pictured above, for instance, are workers pumping out the Queens Midtown Tunnel on the corner of Vernon and Borden.

from jimmyvanbramer.com

Along both Center and Vernon Boulevards I visited businesses that experienced significant flooding damage as a result of Hurricane Sandy. In an effort to help them recover and reopen. I will be delivering FEMA Disaster Assistance forms to businesses. This information will help those affected on their way toward a full recovery.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

This post will concern what was witnessed along Borden Avenue, and subsequent postings for the next few days will highlight other sections of the Newtown Creek. All along Borden, a flurry of activity was underway, and nearly every street level door was opened and featured a flexible pipe carrying water out to the curb. The good news is that Long Island City seems to have rolled up its sleeves and is getting back to work, something which will act as a “force multiplier” for those sections of the City which weren’t so lucky.

from dnainfo.com

A storm surge that flooded “hundreds of properties” with Newtown Creek’s water carries intense economic and environmental repercussions, advocates warned.

“All waterfront properties took water, hundreds of properties,” said the Newtown Creek Alliance’s director Kate Zidar after surveying the scene by the highly polluted creek Tuesday. “The standing water and residue that came from the creek should not be considered clean.”

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The Borden Avenue Bridge, as you’d imagine, survived the hurricane in apparently fine fettle, although the lots surrounding it showed signs of flooding and wash outs. WCBS, today, reported that Newtown Creek breached its bulkheads in LIC flooding the surrounding area- including the Midtown Tunnel.

Based on what I’ve seen and heard here though, the surge was as severe in LIC as it was over in residential Greenpoint over in Brooklyn.

from newtowncreekalliance.org

Sandy Flooding Impacts Waterfront Properties on Newtown Creek

During the peak of the storm, Newtown Creek flooded throughout Zones A, B and C, and some waterfront areas experienced several feet of water. Luckily, waters receded quickly for the most part. Check out our photos from the storm, and our brief recap from Wednesday. If you are looking to volunteer with cleanup, send us an email at info@newtowncreekalliance.org.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Unfortunately there was quite a bit of petroleum in the water, as evinced by not just olfactory evidence, but the presence of a rainbow sheen on the water. Instruction offered by officials of the DEC in the past has opined that the presence of such multicolored refraction indicates a fresh spill of “product”. Quite obviously, however, the sheer number of submerged automobiles and home heating oil tanks in the greater New York area means that there are literally tens of thousands of “non point” sources for such pollution.

from huffingtonpost.com

According to the Office of Response and Restoration at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Coast Guard had requested scientific support from NOAA’s Emergency Response Division for three separate oil spills in Arthur Kill, as well as “reports of several orphan containers, and many potential hazmat targets.”

The so-called “products of concern” include 8,300 barrels — or about 349,000 gallons — of diesel, bio-diesel and slop oil, according to NOAA.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of the smell, the ineffable odor of raw sewage was omnipresent, also an expected consequence of the disaster. As mentioned in prior postings, your humble narrator has grown quite inured to the smell over the years, and it was pointed out by Hank the Elevator Guy as his eyes began to water. Such inability to perceive environmental factors is known as “adaptation”, which is something I think we are all going to be getting familiar with in the coming months and years.

from petervallone.com

·Tap water is safe to drink.

·Do not use generators or grills indoors. Carbon monoxide poisoning is a serious threat when these devices are used indoors. They should only be used outside and kept away from windows and vents. Everyone should possess and use battery-operated carbon monoxide alarms. Test the batteries if possible.

·If someone experiences sleepiness, dizziness, headaches, confusion, weakness, or if the carbon monoxide alarm sounds, they should immediately seek fresh air and call the poison control center at 212–POISONS (212-764-7667). They can also call 911, since poisoning is life threatening.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The water in Dutch Kills was actually quite active, but it was still fairly windy when these shots were taken. Under normal circumstance, this tributary of Newtown Creek is an unbroken mirror- surreal. There were tons of “floatables” in the water, flotsam and jetsam and wind blown trash and debris. I didn’t witness many birds, other than a seagull (a bird which is not commonly observed at the Creek, they like Astoria Park on Hell Gate, don’t ask me why) which was loudly announcing itself.

The chemistry in the air, which as mentioned was tainted by sewage, smelled not unlike the shop floor of any mid sized automobile mechanic.

from facebook.com/joelentol

SAVE THE DATE! Assemblyman Joe Lentol and District Dog will be partnering for a hurricane relief event on Sunday November 11th to collect goods for Brooklyn residents and animal rescue organizations that have suffered as a result of Hurricane Sandy.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Under emergency conditions such as those which have shattered New York City, unthinkable things are now essential to recovery. Under normal circumstances, visible “product” floating around in any amount- let alone the enormous volume in these shots- would engender an enormous response from environmental watchdogs inside and outside of government.  What you see here is unimportant right now, from a big picture pov.

There are kids out there- in the dark and cold.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Saying that, it will be a long haul to “get back to normal”, or it was so called eleven years ago – the “new normal”. Also, I cannot imagine how tired the same folks who always take it on the chin for the rest of us – cops, firemen, ambulance emt- must be. I’m sure it’s no joke for all the other services, who must have been “on” non stop for the last week with no end in sight.

For the rest of us, NYC will soon be operating under an entirely new rule book.

from greenpointers.com

At this point, there’s not a whole lot that can be done to prevent the Newtown Creek from overflowing.  I was down there at noon today and the bulkhead at GMDC was already under water, and the water was a couple of feet short of overflowing onto Manhattan Ave.  We are expecting a high tide tonight to coincide with the storm surge and that could mean a storm surge of 8-11 feet at Newtown Creek, which would obviously put Manhattan Ave under water.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The Blue Crow’s shack, a homeless shanty which been encamped on the Borden Avenue Bridge for several years that has withstood blizzards and storms, is smashed. I called out to him in English and Spanish, but there was no answer. Hopefully, the fellow found some sort of alternative shelter before the winds took his home.

from observer.com

“As long as you stay indoors, you’re probably safe,” Mayor Bloomberg told the reporters at this evening’s latest press conference. But what about the people for whom it isn’t that simple? The Observer is getting reports that even as Sandy roars our way, some of the city’s most vulnerable–the homeless–are still outside.

As late as this evening, an Observer source found a group of people at Eighth Street and Second Avenue with no plans to leave for a drop-in or emergency center. ”We got shelter right here,” one man told her.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m sort of worried about the situation of the various homeless camps around the Newtown Creek. There are a substantial number of people who exist in the cracks and narrow spaces here, sleeping along fence lines and along industrial sidewalls. One cannot imagine their lives during normal circumstance, let alone Hurricane Sandy.

from housingworks.org

With the mess of Hurricane Sandy in New York City over the last few days, we have been hearing a lot about mandatory evacuations for people in Zone A: areas in Staten Island, lower Manhattan, and eastern Brooklyn (Red Hook and Greenpoint especially). To meet the needs of these Sandy evacuees, Bloomberg opened 65 additional shelters across the five boroughs, stocking these makeshift shelters—high schools, middle schools, etc.—with food, water, blankets, and pet food.

The strongest part of this evacuation plan is that it’s a piece of a larger puzzle, and that these shelters are only a detour until these people can return to their homes. But for the 50,000 people in New York City who are homeless and need shelter every night, they simply are not given the same thought-out consideration or planning, at least not outside of weather emergencies. Certainly, we must commend those who were on the front line of the storm over the last few nights, reaching out to the homeless across New York City and even into New Jersey (well done, Cory Booker) and encouraging them to seek shelter, but where’s the same outreach and energy on an average NYC night? Where is the long-term solution for the population that is the same as Hempstead, NY?

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Having thoroughly documented the area around the Borden Avenue Bridge, Hank the Elevator Guy and I got back in his truck and headed off for points east. More tomorrow at this, your Newtown Pentacle.

from riverkeeper.org

In addition to the extraordinary impacts to our homes and public infrastructure, Superstorm Sandy also had an extraordinary impact to our environment. Riverkeeper has sounded the alarm about widespread pollution in the Hudson River and New York Harbor by a variety of toxic chemicals, including petroleum and fluids from cars and boats; contaminants from flooded subways, roads, parking lots and tunnels; and contaminants washed from shoreline industrial sites, as well as commercial and residential buildings. Our message is being heard, as the press reports on widespread pollution, as well as specific waterways, from the Gowanus Canal to the Rondout Creek.

You can do a service for our water by helping Riverkeeper to document this pollution. Where possible, we will take action with environmental agencies to remedy pollution. In all instances, documenting pollution will help us understand the impacts of this extraordinary storm surge, so we can advocate for actions that will lessen or eliminate impacts from the next storm. When you see something, take photos, and note the location, time and conditions, as well as any other necessary information.

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