The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

peace rests nevermore

with 6 comments

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Area wags were abuzz in the days leading up to Wednesday the 17th of November, as a hush hush series of emails suggested that on the morning of the 17th an important and remarkable moment in the long history of Newtown Creek would occur. Your humble narrator braved the stinging winds tormenting the megalopolis that day, and perambulated from raven tressed Astoria to hoary Greenpoint in record time.

Your eyes aren’t fooling you either, those are actual white cap waves on Newtown Creek.


Newtown Creek has a length of four miles. Its natural depth was 12 feet, falling to four feet at the head of navigation. In the early days its shores presented a beautiful sight. In the background were the hills covered with trees. In the swamps below, the stream and its tributaries had their rise. Broadening on its way, the stream flowed quietly between wooded elevations and further along lowlands until it mingled its waters with the salt of the East River. When the tides met, the backing up of these tides caused the stream to overflow the marshes, and this fact led the Indians to name the waterway “Mispat”, that is, an overflowing tidal stream. An ancient deed from the Indians calls Maspet Kills “Quandoequareous”. The creek abounded with seafood and was also a favorite swimming spot.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Borough President of infinite Brooklyn, Marty Markowitz suddenly appeared and “turned on the high beams”, meeting and greeting with the various dignitaries who were arriving.

from wikipedia

Marty Markowitz (born February 14, 1945) is the Borough President of Brooklyn, New York City, the most populous borough in New York City with nearly 2.6 million residents. Markowitz was first elected borough president in 2001 after serving 23 years as a New York State Senator. His third term began in January, 2010.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Shmoozing while waiting for the event to begin, from left is Paul Gallay, Markowitz, and Senator Martin Malave Dilan. At the far right, seated, is Riverkeeper’s Philip Musegrass.


Elected to the New York State Senate in November, 2002, Martin Malave Dilan is serving his fourth term in the 17th Senatorial District. In an unusual twist for a Senate freshman, Senator Dilan was appointed the Assistant Minority Leader of Conference Operations. In 2007, Senator Dilan was appointed Chairman of the Minority Conference. Continuing his role as a leader, in 2009, Senator Dilan was appointment Senior Assistant Majority Leader. As a Senator representing Brooklyn, Senator Dilan continues his extraordinary career in public service. The 17th Senate District encompasses the North Brooklyn communities of Bushwick, Williamsburg, Greenpoint, Cypress Hills, City-Line, East New York, Bedford-Stuyvesant, and Brownsville.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Then the Governor-Elect of New York State, current Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, arrived.

from wikipedia

Andrew Mark Cuomo (pronounced /ˈkwoʊmoʊ/; born December 6, 1957) is the governor-elect of New York State. He is the 64th New York State Attorney General, in office since January 1, 2007; and was the 11th United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Born in Queens, New York, he is the son of Mario Cuomo, the 52nd Governor of New York (1983–1994). Cuomo graduated from Archbishop Molloy High School in 1975 and went on to Fordham University and Albany Law School. A member of the Democratic Party, he was a top aide to his father during his 1982 campaign for Governor. He then joined the Governor’s staff as one of his father’s top policy advisors, a position he filled on and off during his father’s 12-year governorship. In 1993, he was appointed as an Assistant Secretary in the Department of Housing and Urban Development under President Bill Clinton. He was promoted to Secretary in 1997.

In 2002, Cuomo led an unsuccessful primary campaign for governor of New York, which he withdrew from at the last minute. In 2006 he successfully ran for New York Attorney General, replacing Eliot Spitzer, who won the governorship during the same election. In 2010, Cuomo ran for governor on the Democratic ticket with Rochester Mayor Robert Duffy. On November 2, Cuomo won the election, receiving 62% of the vote.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I believe this person is Mylan Denerstein (but I may be wrong), a member of AG Cuomo’s team. She introduced the subject of the day, which was that a settlement with Exxon-Mobil had been reached concerning the extent and cost of cleaning up the Greenpoint Oil Spill.


The Newtown Creek Alliance is happy to announce that the lawsuits brought by the Hudson Riverkeeper and the New York State Attorney General’s Office against ExxonMobil relating to the Greenpoint Oil Spill were settled today.  In a press conference held at the Manhattan Avenue Street End Park, Governor Elect Cuomo announced that the settlement will provide $19,500,000 in community benefit money, $5,500,000 in other penalties that will in large part compensate the state for past and future environmental improvements along the creek, a rigorous remediation plan that includes sediments, groundwater, and soil vapor, and strong enforcement provisions.

This settlement agreement is a giant step forward and reflects respect for a community that has been environmentally overburdened for a very long time. The Newtown Creek Alliance is optimistic that this settlement will mark the beginning of a speedy and inclusive environmental cleanup of the ExxonMobil Newtown Creek oil spill.The Newtown Creek Alliance would like to thank the attorneys at the Hudson Riverkeeper, the Pace Environmental Law Clinic, and the New York State Attorney General’s Office, who have secured this strong settlement agreement for Newtown Creek and its neighborhoods and businesses.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Next up was Paul Gallay, of Riverkeeper.


Paul has worked for over 25 years to protect the environment and support local communities, as a non-profit executive, public official and educator.

During his thirteen years of service with New York State’s Attorney General and Department of Environmental Conservation, Paul and his colleagues, often working with local watchdogs, shut down unrepentant polluters; expanded programs to reduce contamination in the Hudson; forced sewage plants, landfills and other public facilities to cut pollution and improve management practices; protected Long Island’s drinking water aquifers; and helped transform a former Con Ed brownfield into a major regional paper recycling plant.

After leaving government, Paul served as Westchester Land Trust’s executive director from 2000 to 2008. He and his WLT colleagues helped create the Westchester Open Space Alliance, whose more than two-dozen grass-roots member organizations successfully lobbied for over $45 million in parkland and preserve funding. At the same time, WLT helped protect thousands of acres of sensitive land and successfully pushed for sounder, more sustainable development practices. In 2008, Contribute New York magazine named WLT its top-rated environmental charity in the metropolitan area, for fundraising efficiency, program focus and fiscal soundness.

Before joining Riverkeeper in July 2010, Paul served nearly two years as president of Maine Coast Heritage Trust. During this time, MCHT earned widespread approval for deepening its connection with local communities, supporting coastal entrepreneurs, adding new members and increasing access to its preserves.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Christine Holowacz spoke next…

from nag-brooklyn

Christine Holowacz immigrated to the United States from Poland in 1972. She became involved in environmental issues in the Greenpoint community during the 1980s. President of the Greenpoint Property Owners since 1989, Christine devotes much of her time to issues concerning senior citizen homeowners. She is also the Church of St. Cecilia political and housing coordinator. Christine served on the Greenpoint Community Board #1’s 197a Committee as well as its Rezoning and Kosciusko Bridge upgrade Task Forces. She initiated the first meeting in the successful fight against the proposed Key Span/Con Edison power plant in Greenpoint, leading to the founding of GWAPP, which she co-chairs. She is currently part of the Greenpoint Coalition, St Nicholas Preservation and the Greenpoint Williamsburg Waterfront Task Force, and is the Community Liaison at the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment plant for the Newntown Creek Monitor Committee (NCMC). Christine received the Woman of the Millennium and the Carmine “Dusty” De Chair Community awards from the Seneca Club, (2001 & 2002) for her work with GWAPP and a Citation in 2002 from the Borough President for her work in the Polish Community. She holds a BA in Economics and Accounting from Brooklyn College.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Followed by the big man himself, Andrew Cuomo.


NEW YORK, N.Y. (November 17, 2010) – Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced a settlement that commits ExxonMobil Corporation (NYSE: XOM) (“ExxonMobil”) to perform a full clean up of its oil spill as well as any related environmental contamination in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. The massive spill has been a source of contamination in the Greenpoint community for decades.

The settlement was filed today in Federal Court in the Eastern District and requires ExxonMobil to pay for the costs of cleaning up the Greenpoint oil spill.

The settlement requires ExxonMobil to conduct a comprehensive cleanup of its oil and related contamination at its Greenpoint facility and in the surrounding community, including oil floating on top of the water table, contaminated groundwater, soil as well as soil vapors. The settlement requires ExxonMobil to keep the cleanup moving forward expeditiously, including specific milestones such as:

  • A plan for identifying the scope of the contamination involving oil, groundwater, soil and soil vapor problems must be created within 90 days of the agreement.
  • A report on groundwater problems must be done within 120 days.
  • A report on soil problems must be done within 180 days.A plan to involve the community must be submitted within 90 days.
  • A report on the status and progress of the cleanup effort must be submitted quarterly and annually.
  • An evaluation of new technology that could be used to speed up the cleanup of the oil must be done within one year.

In addition, the company must also pay approximately $25 million for penalties, costs and improving the local environment. This amount includes a payment of $19.5 million for environmental projects that will benefit the Greenpoint community, which is the largest single payment of its kind in New York’s history.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Governor Elect waxed enthusiastic about the settlement, claiming it to be a landmark.

also from

“For far too long, residents of Greenpoint have been forced to live with an environmental nightmare lurking just beneath their homes, their businesses and their community,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “With this settlement, ExxonMobil will be held accountable for fully cleaning up this environmental disaster. This settlement also repairs the damage to the community and will help make it a cleaner and healthier place to live.”

In the late 1970s, oil spills from ExxonMobil’s Greenpoint refinery and storage facility were discovered seeping into Newtown Creek, creating a plume of oil floating on top of the water table. Some of the oil dissolved in the groundwater and contaminated surrounding soil. It is estimated that at least 17 million gallons of oil were released underneath Greenpoint and that at least 55 acres of the community are now contaminated as a result.

The approximately $25 million that ExxonMobil will pay under the settlement will be distributed as follows:

  • $19.5 million will fund “Environmental Benefit Projects” that will benefit the environment in Greenpoint.
  • $1.5 million will go to New York State to compensate for past cleanup costs related to the spill.
  • $3.5 million will be available for future oversight costs.
  • $250,000 in penalties will be deposited in New York’s Oil Spill Cleanup Fund and Marine Resources Account.
  • $250,000 in damages will be used to fund projects to compensate for the damaged natural resources in Greenpoint.

An independent outreach coordinator will be hired to ensure community participation in identifying priorities for the local environmental benefits projects to be funded.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

also from

This settlement with ExxonMobil does not incorporate the investigation and cleanup of Newtown Creek because it is a federally-designated Superfund site and is therefore being addressed by the Federal government. The state does, however, reserve all of it rights with respect to the Newtown Creek.

Attorney General Cuomo thanked Riverkeeper, community groups, and officials whose commitment to the cleanup of the ExxonMobil spill and the Greenpoint community set the stage for today’s settlement.

Congresswoman Nydia M. Velazquez said, “I am proud to join Attorney General Cuomo today to share this great news for our community. For too long, Newtown Creek has been a symbol of environmental catastrophe, and many had written it off as a lost cause. Today however, we are turning this into a symbol of hope, restoration and community partnership. Along with my colleagues here today, I will continue fighting for the people of the 12th Congressional District to protect our environment and our neighborhoods.”

Congressman Anthony Weiner said, “This is a victory for the environment, our community and the rule of law. The responsibility for this mess is firmly and finally placed where it should be.”
State Senator Martin Malav* Dilan said, “I applaud Attorney General Cuomo for fighting the good fight and holding those responsible for this pollution accountable. Throughout my entire career, I have been a strong supporter of environmental causes. I am proud of the community for banding together and standing behind Greenpoint and Newtown Creek, as we worked to change the tide of more than a century of industrial negligence. I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues and Attorney General Cuomo as we begin to clean up Newtown Creek and return it to Greenpoint, cleaner and safer for future generations”

Assemblyman Joseph R. Lentol said, “Attorney General Cuomo has done our community a great service by holding ExxonMobil accountable for its pollution in Greenpoint. We must protect our waterfronts and ensure that future generations are able to enjoy our community’s full potential. I thank Attorney General Cuomo for his service and look forward to working with him in the future.”
Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz said, “I commend our Attorney General and next Governor, Andrew Cuomo, for joining us in this fight to hold ExxonMobil accountable and for standing up for Brooklyn and protecting our environment. In 2006, I was proud to join Riverkeeper, local activists and elected officials in a legal action against ExxonMobil over the massive Greenpoint oil spill, and I am pleased that the lawsuit-and the subsequent action taken by the Attorney General-led to the superfund designation earlier this year.”

Acting Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation Peter Iwanowicz said, “This was the largest oil spill in New York state history and this settlement mandates a comprehensive cleanup for the first time ever in this long-running saga. Previous actions addressed only the underground oil. But, now ExxonMobil must not only continue to pump out the oil but also address all ‘media’ groundwater, soil and air. Further, the settlement also means that ExxonMobil will fund the largest Environmental Benefit Project in state history — bringing tangible improvements directly to the Greenpoint area. My thanks to all the DEC and Attorney General’s staff that worked diligently to bring this to fruition”

Executive Director of Hudson Riverkeeper Paul Gallay said, “Today marks an historic turning point for the people of Greenpoint in their long struggle to reclaim their neighborhood from its legacy of industrial pollution. This cleanup agreement is the result of a strong partnership between Riverkeeper and the Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic, who first brought attention to the oil spill, Attorney General Cuomo whose actions were critical to settling these lawsuits, and of course dedicated Greenpoint residents and local elected officials, who supported us over the last eight years.”

Co-Chair of Greenpoint Waterfront Association for Parks and Planning (GWAPP) Christine Holowacz said, “As a longtime resident of Greenpoint, I am thankful to Attorney General Cuomo for reaching such a landmark settlement. The Attorney General’s settlement not only makes ExxonMobil pay to clean up their toxic mess, but it will also empower local citizens to work cooperatively toward the restoration of their community.”

Director of the Newtown Creek Alliance Katie Schmid said, “This settlement agreement is a giant step forward and reflects respect for a community that has been environmentally overburdened for a very long time. The agreement promises funding for community supported environmental projects, a thorough remediation of the oil spill and substantive mechanisms for enforcement. The Newtown Creek Alliance is optimistic that this settlement will mark the beginning of a speedy and inclusive environmental cleanup of ExxonMobil’s Greenpoint oil spill. We appreciate the hard work and dedication of the Office of the Attorney General and the Hudson Riverkeeper, which have secured this strong settlement agreement for Newtown Creek and its neighborhoods and businesses.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

also from

This settlement will resolve claims from a lawsuit Attorney General Cuomo initiated against ExxonMobil in July 2007 for their violation of the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the federal Clean Water Act, and state law with respect to the Greenpoint oil spill. The settlement is subject to final review by U.S. District Judge Kiyo Matsumoto of the Eastern District of New York.

The Office of the Attorney General will hold a public meeting to discuss the settlement at the Polish Slavic Center (176 Java St., Brooklyn) on November 23 from 6:30 to 9 p.m.

This case was handled by Acting New York City Chief of the Environmental Protection Bureau Eugene Leff, Assistant Attorney General Todd Ommen, and New York City Chief Scientist Jodi Feld, under the supervision of Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice Mylan Denerstein. Department of Environmental Conservation Executive Deputy Commissioner Stuart Gruskin and General Counsels Benjamin Conlon and Alison Crocker assisted with the case.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The ceremony over, the attending politicians gathered into a group for the attendant cadre of professional press and photographers to create a record of the event.

from wikipedia

A photo op (sometimes written as photo opp), short for photograph opportunity (photo opportunity), originally referred to an opportunity to take a memorable and effective photograph of a politician, a celebrity, or a notable event. Among amateur photographers, the term is used to refer to any opportunity to take good photos.

The term was coined by the administration of US President Richard Nixon. William Safire credited its coinage to Bruce Whelihan, an aide to Nixon Press Secretary Ron Ziegler. Ziegler would say Get ’em in for a picture, and Whelihan would dutifully announce to the White House press room, There will be a photo opportunity in the Oval Office. The term has acquired a negative connotation, referring to a carefully planned pseudo-event, often masqueraded as news. It is associated with politicians who perform tasks such as planting trees, picking up litter, and visiting senior citizens, often during election cycles, with the intent of photographers catching the events on film, generating positive publicity.

Among nearly ritual photo ops are those when participants of a summit get out of their cars, shake hands or kiss, or sign a document. Formal, pre-planned photography sessions in the White House date back to the 1930s, when Franklin Roosevelt’s press secretary advised photographers to avoid taking photos of the President in a wheelchair.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The center of attention, of course, was on the Governor Elect, and he was shortly surrounded by cameras and microphones. The other politicians slipped away, undoubtedly to other obligations. The press began peppering him with questions, many of which had nothing to do Newtown Creek or the agreement with ExxonMobil.

from wikipedia

The Exxon Mobil Corporation, or ExxonMobil, is an American multinational oil and gas corporation. It is a direct descendant of John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil company, and was formed on November 30, 1999, by the merger of Exxon and Mobil. Its headquarters are located in Irving, Texas.ExxonMobil is one of the largest publicly traded companies in the world, having been ranked either #1 or #2 for the past 5 years. However they are currently 4th according to Forbes Global 2000. Exxon Mobil’s reserves were 72 billion oil-equivalent barrels at the end of 2007 and, at then (2007) rates of production, are expected to last over 14 years. With 37 oil refineries in 21 countries constituting a combined daily refining capacity of 6.3 million barrels, Exxon Mobil is the largest refiner in the world, a title that was also associated with Standard Oil since its incorporation in 1870.

ExxonMobil is the largest of the six oil supermajors with daily production of 3.921 million BOE (barrels of oil equivalent). In 2008, this was approximately 3% of world production, which is less than several of the largest state-owned petroleum companies. When ranked by oil and gas reserves it is 14th in the world with less than 1% of the total.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The 4th estate crowded in around the current Attorney General, and I began to lose interest as the questions turned to appointments in his forthcoming Gubernatorial administration and requests for commentary on various State and City issues.


Area Characterization and Spill History: The northeast area of Greenpoint, the northwestern-most community in Brooklyn, New York has been heavily industrialized and the site of various petroleum industries for more than 140 years. The industrial history of this section of Brooklyn dates back to the 1830s. Large quantity petroleum storage and refining were some of the predominant activities in this area in the 1860s. An 1844 map of the area shows where Newtown Creek had been partially filled, and much of the area that has been historically used for oil storage and refinery operations is located on this fill. Petroleum refining within the Greenpoint area began in approximately 1866. By 1870 more than 50 refineries were located along the banks of Newtown Creek. This tidal area of salt marshes along the creek was reportedly severely impacted and saturated by the waste discharges of the industries and refineries in the area in the late 1800s.

In 1892, the majority of the area refineries were purchased and consolidated into the Standard Oil Trust. Following the breakup of the Trust in 1911, ownership of the refinery property in Greenpoint reverted to the Standard Oil Company of New York (SOCONY), and these operations became the SOCONY Brooklyn Refinery. SOCONY later became Mobil Oil Corporation, which later became Exxon/Mobil Corporation, referred to below as Exxon/Mobil. Refinery operations at the former Mobil Brooklyn Refinery ceased in 1966. The refinery was subsequently demolished, and significant portions of the refinery property were sold. Several of the subdivided lots were retained by Mobil Oil Corporation, while the other lots were sold to Amoco Oil Company and others. The lots retained by Mobil were utilized as a petroleum bulk storage terminal until 1993, when storage operations ceased at the property. Amoco Oil Company (currently BP, referred to below as BP/Amoco) constructed a bulk fuel storage terminal on its portion of the property that began operation in late 1969 and which continues in operation today. In addition to the petroleum facilities on the former Mobil site, the Paragon Oil Company occupied a portion of the site. Paragon Oil was a wholly-owned subsidiary of Texaco Oil, now Chevron Corporation (ChevronTexaco). Paragon operated an oil storage terminal at this location until approximately 1969, when Peerless Importers purchased the property and constructed a warehouse for its operations.

Prior to 1947, the ground water under Brooklyn was the sole source of the Brooklyn Municipal Water System. This system pumped huge quantities of water and caused a significant decline in ground water levels in that area. The pumping was so heavy that it created a large “cone of depression” (an area where the ground water levels are depressed due to pumping) in the ground water and is believed to have reversed the direction of flow of ground water away from Newtown Creek toward the pumping station. In the past 60 years since the pumping station closed down, the ground water levels have recovered and the direction of the flow has reversed back toward Newtown Creek. Since 1947 the ground water in Brooklyn has not been used as a source of public drinking water.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s when this tugboat, the Brian Nicholas oozed into the scene, and it smoothly navigated the lugubrious waters of the Newtown Creek. Some 75 feet long, with a gross tonnage of 104 GRT, the Brian Nicholas is a creature of DonJon towing whose motive power is supplied by 2 850 HP engines that was built in 1966 and retrofitted in 2010.


This past June, Donjon completed the top-to-bottom refit and replacement of the main engines, generators, gears and related equipment of its tug Brian icholas. The refit was performed in house at Donjon’s Port Newark, New Jersey facility under the supervision of Donjon’s Gabe Yandoli and Robert Stickles. As a result of the refit, the Brian Nicholas is now a “green” tug, compliant with all applicable EPA and Tier 2 marine emissions regulations.

The rebuild included a repowering of the main propulsion with Cummins K38-M Marine engines, which were specifically developed by Cummins to meet EPA and Tier 2 marine emissions regulations. The new engines also meet the IMO, MARPOL and EU Stage 3A requirements. Similarly, the generators were upgraded to incorporate John Deere 4045TFM75 engines, also Tier 2 compliant. In addition to the replacement of the aforementioned engines, the project required virtually total replacement of exhaust lines and routing of new control lines and panels in the engine room and wheelhouse.

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 22, 2010 at 4:46 pm

6 Responses

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  1. […] Read the original: peace rests nevermore […]

  2. “Fool that I was to plunge with such unsanctioned frensy into mysteries no man was meant to penetrate…”


    November 29, 2010 at 6:32 pm

  3. […] on behalf of New York State against Exxon-Mobil which involved the Greenpoint Oil Spill. “Peace rests nevermore” […]

  4. […] Creek, from the Pulaski Bridge east to Meeker Avenue was once oil country, home to a series of Standard Oil (SOCONY) refineries and distribution facilities. The industry’s footprint in the area began to shrink […]

  5. […] last time that I saw Mr. Cuomo hereabouts was back in November of 2010, when he (as Attorney General of NYS) announced the settlement of the ExxonMobil/Greenpoint Oil […]

  6. […] on Newtown Creek was nearing an end and my pal Carter captained us back toward Greenpoint, and the Manhattan Avenue Street End where he picked us up earlier in the day. A humble narrator was on an emotional roller coaster, it […]

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