The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

a creeping run

with one comment

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Of late, when staring into the occluded depths of those waters which line the littoral rim of western Queens and north Brooklyn, ones’ fancies dwell on exactly what it might be that could be down there.

While my wild speculations and bizarre imaginings are fixed upon robotic submersibles and benthic monstrosities, the reality of those things which dwell below the sun kissed surface is vast. Great and metropolitan, the community of flora and fauna which underlies the harbor know nothing of political boundaries, and spread into every available crevice.

also from nycedc.com

Two separate but intermingled benthic invertebrate subcommunities have been identified in the East River on the basis of sediment hardness (Hazen and Sawyer 1983).

The hard substrate community is characterized by organisms that are either firmly attached to rocks and other hard objects (e.g., mussels or barnacles) or that build or live in tubes. Other species of polychaetes and amphipods also occur on the hard bottom surfaces, and several species utilize the East River’s hard bottoms and rapid currents by colonizing the abandoned tubes or shells of other species. The soft substrate community occurs in the more protected areas within the East River where detritus, clay, silt, and sand have accumulated in shallow, lower velocity areas near piers and pilings. Common soft substrate organisms include oligochaete worms, the soft-shelled clam Mya arenaria, and a variety of flatworms, nemerteans, polychaetes, and crustaceans (Hazen and Sawyer 1985).

– photo by Mitch Waxman

These creatures, which flip and flop and crawl through the contamination and filth at the bottom- a sort of natural selection is at work which will only allow those that might thrive in such a chemically complex environment to multiply and dominate their individual niches. Said niches, mind you, very well might be a sewer pipe, pier, or a masonry seawall concealing long forgotten chemical tanks and pipelines.

One wonders… Darwinian theory states that these environmentally catastrophic chemicals loosed in our waters are acting in a selective manner- weeding out the so called weak in favor of the so called strong, and if so- what might be evolving that can thrive in Benzene or other Petroleum products?

from nycedc.com

The hard substrate community is characterized by organisms that are either firmly attached to rocks and other hard objects (e.g., mussels or barnacles) or that build or live in tubes. Other species of polychaetes and amphipods also occur on the hard bottom surfaces, and several species utilize the East River’s hard bottoms and rapid currents by colonizing the abandoned tubes or shells of other species. The soft substrate community occurs in the more protected areas within the East River where detritus, clay, silt, and sand have accumulated in shallow, lower velocity areas near piers and pilings. Common soft substrate organisms include oligochaete worms, the soft-shelled clam Mya arenaria, and a variety of flatworms, nemerteans, polychaetes, and crustaceans (Hazen and Sawyer 1985).

In 2003, DSNY conducted field studies for the marine transfer station sites (MTS) as part of the environmental evaluation of the New York City Comprehensive Solid Waste Management Plan (DSNY 2005). Streblospio benedicti (oligochaete) was the most abundant infaunal macroinvertebrate collected in the bottom sediment of Newtown Creek near the Greenpoint MTS, with a density of 80,000 individuals per square meter. The dominant epifaunal macroinvertebrates included Corophium insidiosum (amphipods), Molgula manhattensis (sea grape), and Polydora species (polychaete worms), as well as hydrozoans, and mud and algal film. All of these organisms are tolerant of degraded environments.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Will the future consider this barrage of environmental stressors- the PCB’s and VOC’s and PAH’s and TPH and all the rest- to have been an attempt at some kind of selective breeding- or will their children just take for granted whatever debased life is witnessed in the water in the same way that we think Cows and Chickens somehow resemble their progenitors?

Rapid environmental change leads to catastrophic extinction events, but the altered environment favors those who are left behind with little or no competition. Look at the odd species of chemosynthesizing bacteria that thrive around deep sea vents, or the bizarre Archaea speciations for examples of such specialization and deviation from the orthodox cycles of more wholesome life.

Who can guess what it is, that might be breeding down there, in the methanogenic waters of the cuprous Newtown Creek?

from epa.gov

EPA conducted an Expanded Site Investigation (ESI) of Newtown Creek in 2009 as part of the Hazard Ranking System scoring process for NPL listing under Superfund. Based on the ESI, which was focused on Newtown Creek itself and not its tributaries, EPA concluded that metals, volatile organic compounds, and semi-volatile organic compounds (including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and polychlorinated biphenyls) were present in Creek sediments at elevated concentrations. The variety and distribution of the detected contaminants suggests that they originated from a variety of sources. Previous environmental investigations of Newtown Creek, or specific portions of the Creek, also disclosed that sediments in Newtown Creek are contaminated by a wide variety of hazardous substances. Environmental investigations of upland parcels adjacent to or nearby the Creek have disclosed contamination of those parcels by hazardous substances similar to hazardous substances found in sediments in Newtown Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Certain components of the liquid (English Kills is pictured above, but the water quality all along the Newtown Creek displays disturbingly heterogeneous qualities) found in Newtown Creek (the Anilines and Bromines in particular, but all the base analogs which might alter genetic structure are extant in the depths) are known to be mutagens.

A mutagen, incidentally, doesn’t simply give you cancer, nor does it turn you into an X-Man- it garbles genetic reproduction and causes errors to appear in DNA by chemically substituting one molecule for another. It turns “Newtown Creek” into “Newton Cweerk” as replication errors occur, and can ultimately spawn entirely new species over the course of a few generations.

Umm… mutagens also do cause cancer.

from The Eastern District of Brooklyn By Eugene L. Armbruster, via google books

BEYOND THE NEWTOWN CREEK

In the olden times the lands on both sides of Newtown Creek were most intimately connected. County lines were unknown, the creeks were dividing lines between the several plantations, for the reason that lands near a creek were taken up in preference to others, and the creeks were used in place of roads to transport the produce of the farms to the river, and thus it was made possible to reach the fort on Manhattan Island.

The territory along the Newtown Creek, as far as “Old Calvary Cemetery” and along the East River to a point about where the river is now crossed by the Queensboro bridge and following the line of the bridge past the plaza, was known as Dutch Kills. On the other side of Old Calvary was a settlement of men from New England and, therefore, named English Kills. The Dutch Kills and the English Kills, as well as the rest of the out-plantations along the East River, were settlements politically independent of each other and subject only to the Director-General and Council at Manhattan Island, but became some time later parts of the town of Newtown.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Organochemistry is a subject I failed in high school, as my mathematic abilities are underdeveloped and weak. A layman’s understanding, however, is still able to conceive of certain possibilities and potentialities which can occur in the industrial witches brew of pharmaceuticals, sewage, and chemical pollution which swirls along the slime coating the Newtown Creek’s bed. There is 20 feet of the worst stuff imaginable down there, along with those blind things which wriggle about in the so called “Black Mayonnaise”. What will be found when the Federal authorities begin their work in earnest is enough to make me shudder.

Another disconcerting observation are the little bits of sawed bone and scraps of flesh I’ve been noticing along area pathways of late- all within 100 feet of the waterline- a new and enigmatic horror, here in the Newtown Pentacle.

from nytimes.com

Long Island City is in trouble, and fully 2,000 of her citizens are almost staring death in the face. The explanation is simple. Along the line of Jackson-avenue and Newtown Creek are several bone-boiling, fertilizer, and bad-smell factories which make no pretense of conforming to sanitary laws and regulations.

Written by Mitch Waxman

January 3, 2011 at 12:58 pm

One Response

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  1. […] the sickly trees adorning the filth bearing shore and began thinking about the posting “a creeping run” which was presented here- at your Newtown Pentacle- just days […]


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