The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for May 21st, 2012

occasionally titanic

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Obsequious sarcasm will no doubt greet this posting, given the notion propagated by area wags that the Newtown Creek watershed is irrevocably poisoned, but early last week an expedition was mounted along the bulkheads whose express goal was to count and identify those avian lifeforms which inhabit its legend haunted shores.

Organized by the Newtown Creek Alliance Executive Director herself, our small party met in the wee hours of the morning at a coffee shop familiar to all residents of Long Island City and sallied forth.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Two field experts consented to this mission, both familiar with the mores of ornithological clade and classification. Our group visited several sites which have often displayed a surprising diversity of birds, and over the course of our little expedition they described eleven distinct specie.

Every time that your humble narrator attempts to name a bird, corrections flood in, and accordingly this link is offered to the blog by Shari Romar (who was one of the folks who undertook this trip) for genus, family, or common name. Additionally, Ross Diamond wrote a description of the day at this Newtown Creek Alliance page (wonder who that weirdo in the red baseball cap is, standing on the fence like he owns the place).

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the spots decided on for this mission was obvious, as the multiple decade long abandonment of the Maspeth Creek tributary by industrial interests has resulted in the formation of significant “habitat” along its wooded shorelines. Cursed by a large CSO (Combined Sewer Outfall) at its terminus, Maspeth Creek often exhibits large slicks of garbage, fats, and other sediments which find their way into the wastewater flow. Nevertheless, the decaying shorelines provide ample purchase for coastal grasses and other marsh plants to grow.

This vegetation, in turn, offers hiding places for small fish and crustacea which attract birds.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Maspeth Creek has been, and often still is, used as an illegal dump- of course. These sunken automobiles are de facto “iconic” Newtown Creek shots, and often photographed by thrill seeking urban explorers- including your humble narrator.

What made my morning, however, was the cormorant hunting in the waters amongst them. As described in earlier posts, and by all accounts, there is a startling diversity of benthic and littoral life to be found here- in waters recently described by at least one NY State environmental official as “anoxic, and a dead sea”.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Firmly held, your humble narrator clings to the belief that if the human infestation could only forget about finding new ways to exploit Newtown Creek and it’s tributaries- whether it be burning garbage to generate electricity, or the installation of vast new populations along its shores, or just finding a way to not have raw sewage belch filth directly into the water every time it rains– that nature itself would and could perform the necessary remediation of its poisons.

Adaptation and the evolutionary process, rather than some cold and industrial methodology, might be all that is required.

On the other hand, some mutant race of atavist cormorants might arise from the Newtown Creek, leading to the extinction of mankind itself so maybe we should just pave over the place- as suggested by certain members of the aforementioned community referred to as “area wags” at this, your Newtown Pentacle.

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