The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

closely questioned

with 6 comments

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The last few weeks have seen your humble narrator not so humbly leading groups of enthusiasts around the Newtown Creek on walking tours. This is a tremendous exertion for one such as myself, for to be seen by so many diminishes me. Unfortunately, a lot of the places I’d really like to show off are remotely located, with limited if any access. One of these spots is Maspeth Creek.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Once a major tributary, and now quite minor, Maspeth Creek has been largely abandoned by industry. It’s depth is shallow, and is beset by an enormous CSO (Combined Sewer Outfall) at its terminus. A “floatables boom” cuts it off from the main body of the Newtown Creek and causes great amalgamations of trash to agglutinate in shallows and along its banks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Somehow, despite the endemic pollution in the sediments and mud and the constant flow of sewage, nature has begun to take the waterway back unto itself. My understanding is that the sediments here are teeming with invertebrates, worms and crabs and the like, which draw in exotic fauna like the Cormorants in the first shot and the Kingfisher Yellow-crowned Night Heron pictured above. One of the more disturbing aspects of a recently announced DEP/DEC plan to install aeration wands here (to raise the levels of dissolved oxygen in the water) is that the project will most likely obliterate this colony of birds.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I have personally observed fish and eels swimming in the water here, which is quite obviously what has drawn these breeding colonies of birds to the spot. Cormorants in particular are diving birds which eat fish and crabs, which indicates that there is enough oxygen in the water to support… fish and crabs. How I wish that some of the dozens of people who I’ve had the pleasure of sharing the Creek with in the last few weeks were the engineers in Albany and Manhattan who cook up these plans, but they don’t seem to be interested in coming here.


– photo by Mitch Waxman

An NCA event, which I for one am pretty stoked about:

April NCA meeting hosts Dr. Eric Sanderson

Tonight. Thursday, April 26, 2012 at 6pm

Ridgewood Democratic Club, 
6070 Putnam Avenue, 
Ridgewood, NY 11385

In addition to important updates from our members – in particular the Bioremedition Workgroup has been very busy! – we will be hosting a special presentation on the “Historical Ecology of Newtown Creek”.

Dr. Eric Sanderson, senior conservation ecologist at the Wildlife Conservation Society and author of “Mannahatta: A Natural History of New York City” (Abrams, 2009), will describe recent studies of the historical ecology of Newtown Creek, describing the original wetlands, creek channels, topography and vegetation of the area. He will show a series of 18th and 19th century maps of the watershed of the creek and discuss the process of synthesizing them into an integrated ecological picture that can be used to inform and inspire natural restoration and cultural appreciation of the Newtown Creek watershed. This work is part of the Welikia Project (, an investigation into the historical ecology of the five boroughs of New York City and surrounding waters. The Welikia Project on Newtown Creek is funded by The NYCEF Newtown Creek Fund of the Hudson River Foundation.

And this Saturday,

Obscura Day 2012, Thirteen Steps around Dutch Kills

Saturday April 28th, 10 a.m.

Your humble narrator will be narrating humbly at this year’s Obscura Day event on April 28th, leading a walking tour of Dutch Kills. There are a few tickets left, so grab them while you can.

“Found less than one mile from the East River, Dutch Kills is home to four movable (and one fixed span) bridges, including one of only two retractible bridges remaining in New York City. Dutch Kills is considered to be the central artery of industrial Long Island City and is ringed with enormous factory buildings, titan rail yards — it’s where the industrial revolution actually happened. Bring your camera, as the tour will be revealing an incredible landscape along this section of the troubled Newtown Creek Watershed.”

For tickets and full details, click here :

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 26, 2012 at 12:15 am

6 Responses

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  1. That bird is a yellow-crowned night heron, not a kingfisher.

    Christina Wilkinson

    April 26, 2012 at 6:39 am

  2. Mitch – I also enjoy the industrial parts of our city that have gone to the wild. The kingfisher is actually a black crowned night heron. You’ll see these guys in darkish places during the day. They let out a wonderful aaahhck when you surprise them. They are most active at either end of the day. They have pink eyes.
    Best Pamela

    Pamela Hepburn

    April 26, 2012 at 7:48 am

  3. Sorry to disagree, but that’s definitely a yellow-crowned night heron, not black.

    Christina Wilkinson

    April 26, 2012 at 1:21 pm

  4. […] Waxman of the Newtown Pentacle writes about a little know place called Maspeth Creek. It looks pretty awesome. Waxman writes: […]

  5. […] Maspeth Creek cormorants. credit: Mitch Waxman […]

  6. […] time that your humble narrator attempts to name a bird, corrections flood in, and accordingly this link is offered to the blog by […]

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