The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Joe Lentol

positive knowledge

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

On Friday the 26th of April in 2013, a gathering at the Newtown Creek Waste Water Treatment Plant Nature Walk occurred.

The occasion which drew this large group together was the commemoration of the founding of a “Friends of the Nature Walk” group which will sponsor and oversee the upkeep and improvement of New York City’s most unique public space (found in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.)

Pictured above is National Grid’s President Ken Daly presenting a symbolic check to Irene Klementowicz of the Newtown Creek Monitoring Committee.

The $50,000 check is addressed to the Open Space Alliance group, a North Brooklyn non-profit which will act as bursar for the funds.

from nyc.gov

NCMC is a committee of volunteers from the Greenpoint community of Brooklyn established in 1996 pursuant to a City Council resolution allowing the City to acquire property required for the upgrade of Newtown Creek WWTP. NCMC members are appointed by the local City Council member, the Brooklyn Borough President and Brooklyn Community Board #1. NCMC is one of the longest standing citizen oversight committees in New York City.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The “friends of” group will include other large corporate sponsors, and National Grid is the first to sign on and support the effort. The company, formerly known as Brooklyn Union Gas, maintains a large footprint at Newtown Creek. The corporation also brought along several of its employees to volunteer with plantings and clean up work at the Nature Walk, which was severely impacted by Hurricane Sandy.

In the shot above are members of the Newtown Creek Monitoring Committee (NCMC), various elected officials, employees of NYC DEP, and Ken Daly and other employees of National Grid.

from wikipedia

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NYCDEP) manages the city’s water supply, providing more than 1.1 billion US gallons (4,200,000 m3) of water each day to more than 9 million residents (including 8 million in the City of New York) through a complex network of nineteen reservoirs, three controlled lakes and 6,200 miles (10,000 km) of water pipes, tunnels and aqueducts. The DEP is also responsible for managing the city’s combined sewer system, which carries both storm water runoff and sanitary waste, and fourteen sewage treatment plants located throughout the city. The DEP carries out federal Clean Water Act rules and regulations, handles hazardous materials emergencies and toxic site remediation, oversees asbestos monitoring and removal, enforces the city’s air and noise codes, bills and collects on city water and sewer accounts, and manages citywide water conservation programs.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the few term limited politicians I’m sorry to see go, Borough President Marty Markowitz was there. The main reason I’m going to miss Marty is that I like taking pictures of him during speeches. Markowitz speaks “with his whole body” as my grandmother would have said, and is a pleasure to photograph.

Admittedly, he’s no Lindsay Lohan, but boy is it fun taking photos of him.

from wikipedia

Marty Markowitz (born February 14, 1945) is the Borough President of Brooklyn, New York City, the most populous borough in New York City with nearly 2.6 million residents. Markowitz was first elected borough president in 2001 after serving 23 years as a New York State Senator. His third term began in January, 2010.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Assemblyman Joe Lentol also gave a short speech. Joe is a great guy, always there to lend a hand with problems that develop around the Creek. I live in Queens, of course, but I’d vote for him if he were in my district. Joe’s alright.

from assembly.state.ny.us

Assemblyman Joseph R. Lentol has represented North Brooklyn in the New York State Legislature since 1972. He is a lifelong resident of New York City, whose father and grandfather both also served in the New York State Legislature.

An attorney by profession, Mr. Lentol was Assistant District Attorney in Kings County prior to holding elective office.

Since 1992, Mr. Lentol has been Chair of the Assembly’s Committee on Codes, which reviews and evaluates all criminal justice legislation in the State. He has been Chair of the Committee on Governmental Employees, which oversees the State’s pension and employee benefits. In that capacity, Mr. Lentol presided over the State’s divestiture of its pension fund’s investments in South Africa. He also chaired the Assembly’s Committee on Governmental Operations, which monitors the operations of State agencies and departments.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another speaker was Stephen Levin of the NYC City Council. He lives in Greenpoint, not too far from the Creek, and has been quite involved in the story and evolution of the place.

from council.nyc.gov

During his first term in the City Council, Stephen has proven to be a leader on education and early childhood issues, and an advocate for increased open space in our communities and transportation safety initiatives. He has passed legislation requiring the Dept. of Education to notify families and teachers about potential PCB contamination, and has sponsored resolutions calling for mandatory kindergarten and breakfast-in-the-classroom, as well as stronger standards for Rent Guidelines Board members.

In addition to serving as Chair of the Subcommittee on Planning, Dispositions and Concessions, Council Member Levin serves on the Education, Economic Development, Environmental Protection, General Welfare, Land Use, and Lower Manhattan Redevelopment committees.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Irene Klementowicz is a citizen activist hero in Greenpoint, a legend in the environmental community who has been fighting the “powers that be” since before I was born. I’ve seen her disassemble representatives of City Hall with just an icy stare, and you never ever want to find yourself on the opposite side of her in an argument or attempt to get something past her. The Nature Walk happened, in no small part, because of Irene.

from capitolwords.org

In the words of Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney-

“Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to Irene Klementowicz, a resident of my district who has fought hard to protect the environmental health of her community.

Ms. Klementowicz has actively worked to improve her community since she first arrived in Greenpoint. Among her many activities, she helped ensure that a local factory started implementing pollution controls. This was especially important since it was situated directly across from two schools.

This early activism led to an appointment to Community Board 1, where she continues to champion the health and safety of her district. Among her accomplishments, she can be credited with a hard-fought and successful campaign to shut down the Greenpoint incinerator, long a source of pollution and nuisance.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The $50,000 donated by National Grid is a down payment to the community, the start of a new era of stewardship over the Nature Walk which will- as the public space is expanded in coming years to wrap entirely around Whale Creek and connect Kingsland Avenue with Paidge- allow a regular schedule of gardening and maintenance to occur.

One step forward, Lords and Ladies, for this once and future King of the Creeks called Newtown.

Also: Upcoming Tours!

13 Steps around Dutch Kills Saturday, May 4, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets now on sale.

Parks and Petroleum- Sunday, May 12, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Newtown Creek Alliance, tickets now on sale.

The Insalubrious Valley Saturday, May 25, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets now on sale.

Hidden Harbor: Newtown Creek tour with Mitch Waxman – Sunday, May 26,2013
Boat tour presented by the Working Harbor Committee,
Limited seating available, order advance tickets now. Group rates available.

The Smelling Committee

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

As long time readers will recall, in the fall of 2010, the Newtown Creek Alliance and the Working Harbor Committee received a grant from the NYCEF fund of the Hudson River Foundation to conduct 4 boat tours of Newtown Creek. The plan was to do two ticketed tours for the public (the tickets were available at a steeply discounted rate), one for educators, and one for “the elected’s” of the watershed. The first three went off without a hitch, but the fourth was postponed due to the tragic helicopter crash on the East River which occurred just as we were about to board the boat.

Last Friday, the 4th of May, we accomplished the fourth tour with a modern day “Smelling Committee” onboard.

from “Annual Report of the Department of Health of the City of Brooklyn for the year 1895”, courtesy google books

Whereas, Complaint has been made to the Governor of the State of New York during the year 1894 by the citizens and residents of the Town of Newtown and the City of Brooklyn, relating to the existence of public nuisances on or near Newtown Creek, jeopardizing the health and comfort of the people in the vicinity thereof, and the Hon. Roswell P. Flower, Governor of the State of New York, did thereupon, on the 2d day of August, 1894, pursuant to Chapter 661, of the Laws of 1893, require, order and direct the State Board of Health to examine into the alleged nuiscances, and to report the result thereof…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Important to the mission was attendance of officials from both sides of the Creek. The “center of gravity” for the advocacy of the Newtown Creek has historically been in Greenpoint, but that doesn’t mean that the folks on the Queens side haven’t been paying attention. Pictured above are Michael Gianaris and Jimmy Van Bramer, and both were anxious to visit this hidden part of their districts.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As luck would have it, we passed by one of the many workboats which have been operating along the Newtown Creek of late. These workboats, hailing from Millers Launch on Staten Island, are carrying contractors and employees of the Federal Environmental Protection Agency who are collecting samples of the so called “black mayonnaise” sediments for laboratory analysis.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

You cannot fix something unless you understand it, and the EPA has scheduled an exhaustive “scoping period” during which a series of such tests will be performed. Since January, I have personally witnessed dozens of such operations- ranging from towing a sonar buoy up and down the waterway to establish a subsurface topographical map, to the group onboard this vessel who seemed to operating a hand operated dredge to bring materials up into the light.

Notice that the folks directly handling the sediments are wearing protective garments.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A Newtown Creek Alliance member, Phillip Musegaas of Riverkeeper fame came along to inform about and describe the legal and policy issues surrounding the Greenpoint Oil Spill, Superfund, or any of the myriad points of law which surround the Newtown Creek. That’s Phillip on the right.

I should mention that Council Member Stephen Levin of Greenpoint was onboard as well, but was forced to stay in the cabin and deal with urgent business in his district via phone.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A decision which I’ve been keeping to is to not bring “civilians” all the way back to English Kills on these boat tours, but this “Smelling Committee” was no mere interested group and accordingly we entered into the heart of darkness- God’s Gift to Pain itself. This is as bad as it gets along the Newtown Creek, a stinking and fetid miasma poisoned with sewage and urban runoff surrounded by waste transfer stations.

In the distance is one of the largest CSO’s in the entire city, and the Montrose Avenue Rail Bridge of the LIRR’s Bushwick Branch.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Not just elected officials were onboard, of course, representatives of a veritable alphabet soup of three lettered agencies were also invited. Additionally, local leaders- such as Tom Bornemann from the Ridgewood Democratic Club (pictured above, in sunglasses) accompanied the tour. The microphone was passed amongst us, with Kate Zidar (NCA’s executive director), Michael Heimbinder (NCA’s chair), Laura Hoffman (Newtown Creek Monitoring Committee), Phillip Musegaas (Riverkeeper), Penny Lee (City Planning), and myself narrating at various legs of the trip.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pictured above are Assemblyman Joe Lentol of Greenpoint, Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer of Queens, Working Harbor Development Director Meg Black, Council Member Diana Reyna of Brooklyn, a gentleman who I’m embarrassed to say I can’t identify, and State Senator Michael Gianaris.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Smelling Committee of 2012 encountered a Newtown Creek swollen by days of rain, replete with oil slicks and “floatables” contamination. The term floatables is used to describe everything from stray bits of lumber and tree limbs to cast off plastic bottles and wind blown trash carried in the water, by the way. The trip was 2 hours in length, and accomplished onboard a NY Water Taxi vessel. It left from Pier 17 in Manahattan at four in the afternoon and returned at six, proceeding some three and one half miles into the Newtown Creek and required the opening of the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Along the way, sites of legal or popular interest were pointed out- including the future of the Arch Street Yard, the Hunters Point South development, SimsMetal, the Newtown Creek Waste Water Treatment Plant, the Greenpoint petroleum district, the Blissville Oil spill, the Greenpoint Oil Spill, the Phelps Dodge site, the Kosciuszko Bridge, the CSO issue, the role of Newtown Creek as a mass employer, the maritime potential of the Creek and its potential for eliminating a significant amount of trucking activity, its myriad waste transfer stations, and the plans which EPA have for the place.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Crass observers in the antiquarian community and political operatives in both boroughs will sneer at efforts such as this, the aim of which was to create a common sense of purpose and to identify issues regarding the Creek for both the Queens and Brooklyn political establishments. Ridgewood and Bushwick, Maspeth and Greenpoint, Williamsburg and Long Island City- all parts of the Newtown Creek watershed have more in common with each other than they do with neighboring districts in either borough. They are blessed with one of the finest industrial waterfronts in the world, but cursed by its past. What the Newtown Creek will look like in fifty years time is beginning to be discussed, and it was time for this “congress of the creek” to be convened.

So much of what the people in high office know of this place is influenced by dire reportage and dry testimony, and it can be easy to overlook the past, present, and future of this maritime superhighway if you haven’t experienced it first hand.

Especially from the water.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Several times have I witnessed the effect that this place has on first time visitors, a transformation of expression and demeanor overtakes them.

Hardened New Yorkers all, the Newtown Creek nevertheless explodes all expectations and an expression of wonderment forms upon their faces. They come to see toxic waste dumps and oil spills, but instead find Herons, Egrets, and Cormorants nesting in the broken cement of abandoned industrial bulkheads. They witness the miles wide vistas and wide open view of the City of New York from its very navel, and are thunderstruck that such a place exists- this “Insalubrious Valley” of the Newtown Creek watershed.

Every time I start to narrate on one of these tours, my first utterance is always “this is not the world you know…”.

I’m happy to say that due to the Working Harbor Committee, Newtown Creek Alliance, and the NYCEF Fund of the Hudson River Foundation- the Smelling Committee of 2012 knows this corner of the world a little bit better.

What will come of it?

Others will have to answer that, for your humble narrator must remain without and is cursed to merely observe such matters. Always, an outsider.

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