The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

hoary and sinister

with one comment

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned in prior postings, your humble narrator has been making a dedicated effort to visit and revisit certain sites along the Newtown Creek to which access was restricted during the long and icy winter. This springtime survey is referred to as “walking the beat” around HQ, although it really should be described as “scuttling the beat”. On March 19th, my camera and I found ourselves at the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant‘s Nature Walk.

Click here for more on the Nature Walk

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A surprisingly beautiful space, the Nature Walk is the safest and one of the most accessible vantage points along the infamous industrial waterway. Despite it’s relative remoteness, at the end of Paidge Avenue past the corner of Provost Street, people do find their way here. For some reason, I always find this surprising.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Newtown Creek has several access points, but most are pestilential street ends bordering industrial sites which are defended by dull eyed watchmen and aggressive private security guards. A few of them actually take you to the water’s edge, but you end up standing in contaminated mud amidst the rusting hubris of 150 years of breakneck industrial growth. The nice bit about the NCWWTP Nature Walk is that you are actually fairly safe (well… as safe as you ever are around the Creek…) and that it provides gorgeous wide open panoramas for the journeyman photographer.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The tributary which the sewer plant adjoins is Whale Creek. Once upon a time, this section of Greenpoint was the center of the lamp oil refinery trade, and said lamp oil was sourced from whale oil. Just down the main waterway from here were the shipyards of Neziah Bliss (and others) which supplied, augmented, and repaired the ships of New York’s whaling fleet. Additionally, the African slaves of Greenpoint and Newtown were known to join the crews of these ships, as 19th century whalers didn’t care about what color you were, just how hard you could work and how long you might survive.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The planters you see here are blocking the kayak launch, part of the controversial decision on the part of the City fathers to disallow boats to access the Creek from City property (obviously for liability reasons, in the wake of the Superfund announcement by the Federal Government). That decision has since been countermanded, and the launch is scheduled to reopen at the start of the “season” which greatly enhanced the happiness of those redoubtable kayakers emanating from the Long Island City Boathouse.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Personally, you couldn’t get me to interact with the water here even at gunpoint, but past postings have described the vast physical cowardice which cripples me. I can tell you, from everything I know about the Creek, that the water quality here isn’t “horrible”. It’s a little dirtier than the East River in this section, except after a rain event, which demands an interval of time to allow the bacterial and colorectal dumping of Combined Sewer Outfalls to dissipate. Luckily, radiation from the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself destroys most of these pathogens within a few days, and the focus shifts from bacterial to chemical contamination.

You are insane (or a Viking), though, if you spend much time beyond the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge or in Dutch Kills, Maspeth Creek, and especially English Kills. Lots of people are thusly “insane” however, and hardily survive the experience- so perhaps I’m being over cautious.

Time will tell, and cancer is patient.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Tomorrow, we’ll talk about the rest of the Nature Walk, and some of it’s more interesting features, but while viewing the shield wall of the Shining City with it’s titan blocks hurled at the sky- I noticed one of those small details which often escapes casual notice. Note the fencing in the lower left corner of the shot above, and the white placards affixed to it.

One of my pet peeves about the Newtown Creek watershed can be expanded upon here.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Three bits of signage, and I am assured by powers and potentates alike that these are strictly temporary, admonish and inform users of the waterfront access point about the esoteric dangers which one might encounter along the Creek. When an earlier posting at this, your Newtown Pentacle, warned the cadre of boaters docked at the Vernon Avenue Street end that they were placing themselves in “Mortal and Existential danger“- this is the sort of thing I was talking about.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My pet peeve, as it were, is that these signs are difficult to notice and written in English. Observations of who it is that actually fishes in Newtown Creek have revealed that it is mostly Spaniard and Slavic anglers that ply these waters- and the populations which line its Brooklyn banks are demographically disposed toward demonstrating literacy in the Spanish or Polish languages. Logic dictates, therefore, that this would be an excellent place for a multi-lingual bit of municipal signage.

As mentioned, I’ve been informed that such multilingual signage is “in the works”.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The English issue is something that I’m increasingly concerned about as we move into the Superfund era, and one that I’ve raised at the Newtown Creek Alliance meetings. If someone reading this posting is fluent in either Polish or Spanish, and wishes to “get involved”- please contact me here or swing over to the NCA website to find out more about the organization. My particular focus within the group is Queens, of course, but I see the communities surrounding the Creek as being more involved with each other (Long Island City and Greenpoint are ultimately one entity, despite political sophistry. Back in the day, they lived in Greenpoint and worked in LIC) than the neighborhoods surrounding them on the landward side.

Come to think of it, the Eels that this sign cautions against might explain those eyeless wriggling things that I’ve observed in Maspeth Creek- hmm.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Note: The following is a personal viewpoint, and doesn’t reflect the policies of any organization-

The world only makes sense when you force it to do so. Titanic forces and entities are on the move around the Newtown Creek, and the season of tumult and change upon the ancient waterway has begun. Whether the final shape of the place will be determined by outsiders or the community itself is ultimately up to us. The truth of Newtown Creek is that it is still one of the great economic engines of New York City, and one of the few places where someone without a collegiate degree can earn a decent living by the sweat of his brow. Do we want to lose this in the name of providing anchorages for some rich guy from Manhattan to park his yacht? What do you want the Newtown Creek to look like 20 years from now?

Paraphrasing Roger Waters- Are we destined to become a nation of waitresses, and waiters?

One Response

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  1. […] This was “the short tour”, which includes only the tiniest part of Greenpoint’s north side and includes the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant Nature Walk. […]

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