The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for January 17th, 2012

arduous detail

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

On Friday the 13th of January, your humble narrator was drawn inextricably to the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant’s Nature Walk. A friend, who is a faculty member of a CUNY institution familiar to all residents of Queens, had reported that she (and her students) had witnessed an extant slick of petroleum product while at the location.

So, despite inclement weather and biting cold, your humble narrator crossed the Pulaski from Queens to infinite Brooklyn to investigate.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just to be clear, the NCWWTP (oft referred to as the Temple of Cloacina) has nothing to do with petroleum. The mission of this futurist facility deals with a sticky black substance of entirely manmade origin, its collection and eventual disposition, but definitively not petroleum.

The Nature Walk, which is the subject of ironic humor and contextual mirth for many, is a lovely amenity required by the City’s “1% for art” rules. Designed by architect George Trakas, the NCWWTP Nature Walk offers panoramic views and public access to the nation’s most polluted waterway, and provides an island of calm for a section of Greenpoint sorely lacking in open space.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My friend, as mentioned, serves as a faculty member at the CUNY institution in Queens. For several years, she has been conducted a census and study of the micro organisms which find themselves swept into Newtown Creek on the shallow tide offered by the estuarine East River. Her findings are surprising, as observation and scientific method has revealed that a startling diversity of life somehow finds a way to organize and sustain their existence in the troubled waterway.

Pictured above are the “steps” at the Nature Walk during happier times.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Witnessed on this day in January were the tell tale leave behinds of the event, painted upon the self same steps illustrated in the shot above. Eyewitness description and anecdotal memories described the slick as both viscous and opaque, and occupying no small acreage of water.

Reports of floating “tar balls” accompany the tale of the slick, which was described as moving eastward- up the creek- with the rising tide from the East River.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As a note, the tidal action of the surrounding waters doesn’t really flow into the Newtown Creek so much as it forces the waterway to rise and fall in a vertical rather than lateral manner. This why the sedimentary process along the Creek is so onerous, as there is no “flushing action”.

Once something enters the Newtown Creek, it never leaves.

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