Word of the day: Pollution
Presence in or introduction into the environment of a substance or thing that has harmful or poisonous effects. From the root “pollueur” meaning to soil, defile, contaminate.
The word of the day for today’s ride was “pollution”. As the riders correctly put it, pollution is something that is introduced to the environment that is either harmful or poisonous. The word originates from “polluer”, a French word meaning ‘to soil, defile, contaminate.’ Some important examples of pollution that the riders gave were those such as water, air, and other forms of environmental pollution. “Pollution” was chosen as the word of the day because of our destination: Newtown Creek.
The creek was once a naturally flowing body of water, but it was made into a channel during the industrial era and became heavily by both New York and New Jersey. So, the creek was also used as a waste dumping site, which undoubtedly polluted its waters, with waste and toxins amounting to nearly thirty million gallons of spilt oils. Not surprisingly, the oil has formed a layer up to twenty-five feet deep on the creek floor known as “black mayonnaise”, which is made up of accumulated waste, oil, feces, and other unpleasant substances.
Once hearing the origins of “black mayonnaise”, the riders were eager to get on the road and collect a sample for themselves!
Newtown Creek Ride:
For our fifth ride of the season, we were joined by riders Clarence and Samyra. Following the lesson for the day, we made our way to the East River Esplanade, and rode down the path towards the Queensboro Bridge. After the slow and 048long ascent onto the bridge, we finally made it to Queens!
Once in Queens, we continued our ride onto the Pulaski Bridge that would take us to our second borough: Brooklyn. Specifically, we rode through Greenpoint, and made our first stop in a neighborhood that was once burned down by a large fire back in 1919. This fire was one of the most damaging and enormous of fire disasters in Brooklyn’s history! The explosion that had started the fire came from gas buildup underground by some fifty-five thousand gallons of gasoline. The fire was so large and powerful that the entire neighborhood had to be evacuated, and it even engulfed the bridge that connected Greenpoint to Long Island City. In all, the fire proved to be one of the more catastrophic events to ever hit Brooklyn, which left everything in ash and ruin and hundreds homeless.
After our stop for a brief history lesson, we finally reached our destination of Newtown Creek. We cooled off in the shade to enjoy lunch by the river, which was quiet except for the occasional passing boat. After eating, we attempted to collect some Black Mayonnaise – remnants on the seafloor of the seventeen million gallon oil spill in Greenpoint from the 1970s. Although our attempts were not completely successful, we appreciated the rich history of Greenpoint and its importance as an industrial hub to the city of New York.
With some time on our hands, we biked back upward, crossing the Pulaski Bridge, towards Long Island City. We reached the beautiful Hunters Point South Park and spent some time relaxing from the heat and re-hydrating. The riders enjoyed catching the various Pokemon roaming around in the park, as well as the stream of music playing from the pier.
All in all, it was a productive day well spent. We biked back north to re-cross the Queensboro bridge back to Manhattan, and simply rode straight up 1st Avenue back to school on East 96th street and 3rd Ave. Although the heat was quite incredible and the day involved traversing many bridges, we all made it back in one piece and were content with our day’s accomplishments.
Alberto Rivero, Cappy Collins, Akeem Williams, Lauren Lee, Celeste Matsui, JiaMei Huang
Program time (hours): 7 hours
Ride time (hours): 5 hours
Water Quality Monitoring Results
Estimates based on 100lbs, 5′ 2″ ht, 13 yo, average between male and female.