Sep 30, 2007

Wastewater plant becomes kayak launch

Shoreline Park By Greenpoint Water Plant To Open This Weekend

A wastewater treatment plant may not be the ideal site for a park, but after decades of being cut off from their waterfront, Greenpoint residents saw an opportunity for a shoreline park and helped make it happen. NY1’s Jeanine Ramirez got a preview of the park which opens this weekend.

A water treatment plant usually doesn't look or smell very nice. But a group of Greenpoint residents wanted to change that at the Newtown Creek Water Pollution Plant. This weekend they will get community access to the waterfront with a landscaped walkway, a kayak launch site, and a reduction in the smell.

"We have so much water around us, but we have no access,” said a member of the Newtown Creek Monitoring Commitee. “I think this is a start."

"We have to fight for every inch of park space in this neighborhood,” said another.

When plans were announced for a $3-billion upgrade to the plant a decade ago, volunteers formed a monitoring committee to work with the city's Department of Environmental Protection and make sure the new facility wouldn't further degrade the quality of life here. Made up mostly of long-time Greenpoint residents, committee members say their neighborhood has more than its fair share of environmental woes.

"We had sanitation here with the incinerator, we have transfer stations all over Greenpoint,” said a third. “There's an oil spill. There are lots of environmental issues here."

Besides helping mitigate the negative impacts of the plant's renovation, which is the largest sewage processing facility in the city, the group also helped design the waterfront.

Designers say the nature walk not only provides access to the waterfront, but also serves as a learning tool. The walls resemble the sides of a ship. Moreover, much of the greenery is tied to the environmental, industrial, and cultural histories of the neighborhood.

Etched in a granite table are the creek's original watershed and its tributaries. The names given to the area by the natives who lived here are etched in stone benches.

"All of the names are kind of angled differently, so when you actually read a name you're actually looking at a Native American place,” said environmental sculpture artist George Trakas.

The 800-foot walkway is just phase one of the project. Completing the walkways around the plant will take about another five years.

"Hopefully there'll be a big esplanade one day, and it'll all be connected, which would be marvelous," said a Newtown Creek Monitoring Committee member.

"I think the more people want to come to the creek and experience it, the more pressure will be put on the folks to keep it clean,” added Jim Pynn, superintendent of the Newtown Creek Plant.

- Jeanine Ramirez

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