March 20, 2018 By Nathaly Pesantez
Environmental activist groups have released a joint vision plan for the Newtown Creek that imagines public parks, restored wildlife, green infrastructure, and more along the 11-mile waterway.
The 158-page report, created by Riverkeeper and the Newtown Creek Alliance (NCA), and designed by the architecture firm Perkins+Will, outlines projects and ideas for seven sections along the entirety of the creek, reaching from Long Island City and Greenpoint to Bushwick and Maspeth. A total of 85 projects have been laid out for the waterway.
The plan focus on 12 guiding principles to draft its vision for the creek, ranging from contamination clean up, to opening up the waterways to the public, and promoting green industrial uses for the stretch.
At the Whale Creek segment of the waterway, making up the space between the Pulaski and the Greenpoint Avenue Bridges, and deemed the most active portion of the creek, the planners are pushing for projects that tie industry and recreation—without one compromising the other.
Small initiatives in this portion mainly include streetscapes projects, like the continued construction of a nature walk by the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant, and expanding the green roofs at the Kingsland Wildflowers center.
A major project for this area proposes building out a new marine transfer station by the North Henry Street Basin that would improve navigability along the creek and open up the waterway even further. The area sees a number of barges shipping out metals and curbside recycling every day, and a new station would maximize operations there while preventing marine debris.
In the “Mile Two” portion of the creek, covering the industry-heavy area between the Greenpoint Avenue to the Kosciuszko Bridge, the bulk of the projects focus on shoreline parks and open spaces. Building out the Penny Bridge Park near Meeker Avenue, and the Apollo Street Sponge Park by Bridgewater Street, are some examples. The parks would also help capture stormwater and littler.
Another major project for “Mile Two” calls for the shoreline along the Green Asphalt and Five Star Electric facilities to be redesigned and rebuilt for the benefit of the companies and for shoreline resiliency.
Toward the mouth of the Creek, the plan considers building a marina at the Pulaski Bridge, constructing a North Brooklyn Community Boathouse, and revamping the worn bulkhead of the Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center.
In other neighborhoods along the creek, like Long Island City and Maspeth, the vision plans sees an open shoreline with boating access, and constructing marsh wetlands. Other amenities include overlooks, large scale art pieces, and constructing streetscape features like bike lanes and walking paths.
The vision plan creators say the “biggest question” now is figuring out how to steer the Creek toward the plans they’ve envisioned for it.
“Our focus was to outline transformative paths for Newtown Creek; ways to generate greater habitat, community access and sustainable use for decades to come,” said Willis Elkins, program manager at the Newtown Creek Alliance, according to a press release. “We hope the plan is an inspiration to local communities and to other urban waterways.”
The plan was the result of 50 meetings and workshops with the community, dating back to an initial Newtown Creek Superfund Community Advisory Group meeting in 2015, which developed the guiding principles for the report.
“We really got to know the people who live, work and spend time in these communities, and we learned a lot about what makes the waterways so valuable to them,” said Daniel Windsor, senior urban designer for Perkins+Will. “Their active involvement and enthusiasm for the project were key, and really drove the entire process.”
The groups say the communities surrounding the creek, along with the mayor and city agencies, will be the parties who can pave the way for these improvements. Funding for the projects can also come from the Natural Resources Damage Assessment program, which provides grants to projects that address environmental damage.
The Newtown Creek is considered one of the most polluted industrial sites in the U.S., and was designated a Superfund site to be cleaned up by the federal government in 2010. A number of groups are currently working to figure out a remediation plan to be executed for the entire creek, which should pan out in several years time.
“These plans will help assure that the billions being spent on remediation…will be coupled with robust new commitments to habitat restoration, climate resilience and public recreation, as well,” said Paul Gallay, Riverkeeper president, in a statement. “Through our efforts, we hope to unify the diverse communities who live and work in these areas, and maintain healthier waterways and cleaner shorelines for generations to come.”
For the full report, visit the Newtown Creek Vision Plan page.