The Newtown Creek forms the western portion of the border between Queens and Brooklyn. Since the early days of European settlement it’s been host to industrial sites along its banks. No surprise, then, that it’s also a superfund site, thanks largely to the country’s largest oil spill: up to 17 million estimated tons leaking into the soil beneath Greenpoint. The contamination announced itself in 1950 with a BOOM near the intersection of Manhattan Avenue and Huron Street where windows were shattered, manhole covers flew three stories in the air and a crater opened up when petroleum fumes ignited in the sewer system!
Word of the Day: Pollution
From Latin: polluere “to soil, defile, contaminate”
WOW! What a day! The weather could not have been more perfect!
We got off to a bit of a late start today as the Dental Van from NYU was busy working on some of the Ruff Ryder’s teeth but eventually we were able to get the lesson going. Today, the Ruff Ryder’s consisted of Steven Henriquez, Estuardo Bustamante, Ethan Cuevas, Michael Romero, Ontus Bangura, Sebastian Betancourt, and the only female rough rider, Alexis Reynolds. Unfortunately, Tuesday was Jenne’s last day so after some goodbyes, she had to head off. Regardless, the Ruff Ryders were ready for their ride! In our fifth ride of the season with this Ruff and Tough group we conquered our 4th borough, Brooklyn as we trekked over to Newtown Creek.
After the lesson, we walked our bikes to the East River at the 96th street entrance. We began pedaling south for a couple miles. The kids now easily handled obstacles in the past along the way, such as those steep steps around 70th street and that daunting incline near the dog park. All having been on at least one ride before, the kids handled the route like experts and a few even learned how to walk their bikes by the seat like Justin!
After a leisurely trek down the East River Palisade we reached the Queensboro! But have no fear, the Ruff Ryders where not going to be stopped today. The hold team made it over the whole bridge with minimal walking and no breaks. Great job guys but where only in Queens!
Following a quick stop at the Queensbridge Park to hand out the cameras, we took to the streets to head to Brooklyn. Luckily the traffic was light today and we quickly made it to Pulaski Bridge, which connects the two boroughs. Many years ago, it became known that several of the oil refineries in the area were leaking large amounts of oil into Creek leading to lots of pollution (our word of the day). We stopped across the Pulaski Bridge to observe the creek and we all took some pictures while the kids noted the darkness of the water… And that would be due to the “black mayonnaise” lurking at the bottom. We learned from Cappy that while the Newtown Creek is 40 ft. deep, 20 ft. of that is composed of all this sludge deemed “black mayonnaise.” It’s made up of various contaminants, largely due to the oil leakages and sewage. On Tuesday’s rainy ride with the Speed Dusters the oily rainbows were was visible on the surface because the streets runoff right into the creek. Today we saw lots of other waste floating around (the garbage of NYC)—it sure did not look like any place we’d want to swim, but we did see a crab desperately clinging to an old sour cream container.
But journey did not stop there! The good news is that the community (word of the day, week 3) and the federal government are working together to improve the health and usability of the area. As a superfund site, the creek is being remediated, and the Newtown Creek Nature Walk is an attempt to improve access to the water as a recreation site with some welcome greenery. In the Nature Walk we examined the etched granite surface that showed the historical footprint of the creek. While the original estuary was a network of channels that drained rainwater through the creek and into the East River, the creek is now a boxed-in channel lined by bulkheads that effectively turns it into a stagnant pool. We stopped at this diamond in the rough to enjoy some snacks. Today we had carrot sticks, nectarines, plums, and banana chips!
With some snacks in our stomachs, we began the ride home. We had a minor spill as Sebastian slid out around the tight turn at the end of the Queensboro but that wasn’t going to stop him! We continued on until we made it to the dog park, where we stopped to award our newest 25 milers, Alexis and Ontus! Great job guys! Riding along the crowded East River Promenade at the height of the afternoon brought a challenge for our riders. Ontus had some trouble and went down once, scraping his knee but he was quickly up and riding again. For his perseverance, he was awarded the spirit badge!
We made it back to the Stanley Issacs Center and the riders quickly uploaded their pictures and left their comments and we headed back up to the Beacon School. Another great ride in the books with only one week left. Get ready for Staten Island Ruff Ryders!!!
After this week, the Ruff Ryders have 10, 603 Points! WOW! GREAT WORK!
This trip was on August 15, 2013
Programming time: 6 hours
Ride time: 3.75 hours
Ride Distance: 14.1 miles
Walk Distance: 0.55 miles
Calories Burned: About 755 Calories
Leaders: Torin Barnes, Cappy Collins, Justin Downs, Dan Piening
View 2013.08.15 RR Newtown Creek in a larger map