Newtown Creek is the a 3.8-mile-long waterway that runs between Brooklyn and Queens. It is one of the most polluted waterways in the country and is currently facing a long and complicated clean-up process.
As City Limits reported earlier this week, making the water cleaner is only part of the task the city faces at places like Newtown Creek, Jamaica Bay, the Bronx River, Gowanus Canal and others. There’s also the work of making the water accessible to the public. The Clean Water Act strives to make all waters in the United States fishable and swimmable, but meeting that goal requires more than merely an end to pollution. It means access points, safety features and systems to manage recreational uses alongside other activities on the water.
This work is, in some ways, already under way in Newtown. Willis Elkins from the Newtown Creek Alliance samples the water every week to monitor the health state of this unique waterbody of New York:
Elkins explains the major environmental issues facing the creek. While it looks quite natural, below the boat sit tons of toxic sediments:
The views from the creek are pretty impressive, almost metaphysical. Factories, refinery plants and bridges dot its edge. One striking view is of the Kosciuszko Bridge seen from below.
The creek is a very active waterway with barges going in and out at all times serving the different manufacturing industries located on the creek’s banks. In the future the clean-up process will have to take into account the working identity of the creek and reconcile it with environmental needs.
Despite its high level of pollution there is life in Newtown Creek, including this fish coming out of the water.