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, manhold 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”
Whew! It feels great to be indoors and dry after a wet, but fun ride!
Today marked the fifth official Cyclopedia ride with the Speed Dusters. Priscilla Adopo, Aaron Edwards, Jeremy Williams, and perfect attendee, Kayelah Brown, joined us on our ride to see Newtown Creek in Brooklyn. Despite the rain and chilly weather, the Speed Dusters powered through the afternoon and proved to us just how “intrepid” (week 4’s word of the day) they are.
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 did not let the rain stop them! Kayelah even made a makeshift headscarf out of an extra Cyclopedia penny she found to keep her hair dry under her helmet!
Ahh… the Queensboro Bridge. Though we took a few extra safety precautions because of the rain, like avoiding riding over metal plates and braking slowly, the kids showed the weather up and took the bridge by storm! We barely had to stop for any breaks along the way! Impressive, to say the least…
After we crossed the Queensboro and were just a little bit more wet (we were drenched!), we met up with Cappy’s cousin, Justin Downs. With Justin being a Brooklyn resident and bike expert, it was a treat to have him back as one of our leaders for the day.
The kids recognized our location in Long Island City, Queens, since we had been there a few weeks before on our ride to the 5 Pointz Graffiti site. But, realizing we had to get to another borough, Brooklyn, we kept pedaling to the Pulaski Bridge, which connects the two boroughs. We noticed on our route all of the “rainbows” on the ground, one of the many consequences of the local oil leakages. Many years ago, it became known that several of the oil refineries in the area were leaking large amounts of oil. While it may look pretty on the ground, the kids were the first to note the pollution (word of the day) around us. We stopped across the Pulaski Bridge to observe our destination point, the Newtown Creek! We all took some pictures and 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. Oil was visibly floating along the river, and it sure did not look like any place we’d want to swim. Aaron rightly commented, “What have they done to my poor Brooklyn!”
But the adventure 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. As the riders explored the recesses of the winding Nature Walk path, we noticed all these orange markers in the water that look like the top lining of a net or some sort of tank. Justin taught us that the surrounding boats, as well as the various contraptions in the water, are supposed to filter the dirty water that comes in before letting it back out into the creek. However, its efficacy can be debated.
Our stomachs grumbled a little bit, so we decided to seek some shelter under the bridge and enjoy a healthy snack. We had our pick of carrot sticks, nectarines, plums, granola bars and cashews. Ironically, it stopped raining momentarily while we were under the bridge, but started up again the moment we went to ride back home!
Though we may have gotten the Stanley Isaac’s Center a little bit wet, the kids wrote their comments and posted their photos very efficiently today. Despite the rain, we all had a great time! The Speed Dusters continue to impress us with their courage and perseverance! Keep up the good work and GO SPEED DUSTERS! We can’t forget Crissy, one of the leaders today. Thank you for your positive attitude and help along the way!
This trip was on August 13, 2013
Programming time: 4.5 hours
Ride time: 3.5 hours
Distance Riding: 14.2 miles riding
Distance Walking: 0.6 miles walking
Calories Burned: About 707 Calories
Great job Speed Dusters, after this ride you guys have 8373.5 Points!
Leaders: Cappy Collins, Justin Downs, Jenne Ingrassia, Crissy Jackson