by Wendy Giman, 12/18/2013
Courtesy, NYC Department of Environmental Protection
Newtown Creek Nature Walk
Located at the end of Paidge Ave., 718-595-5140, Greenpoint, Queens
Newtown Creek is the oldest continuous industrial site in the United States. Used for agriculture and industrial production since 1614, the area had the first kerosene refinery and the first modern oil refinery in the country. For more than 100 years, most of the flora and fauna were gone from the creek, but recent environmental efforts have encouraged the return of blue crabs, fish and birds. For the first time in decades, public access to the waterfront is available through a surprising nature walk that uses sculpture—hand rails in the shape of water molecules, Native American names for places carved in stone, a 170-foot vessel that's a walkway designed with viewing portholes—to help visitors experience the area. Designed by environmental sculptor George Trakas, two-time recipient of National Endowment of the Arts grants, with exhibits at the Guggenheim Museum and Uffizi Gallery in Florence, the path is a journey through history of the creek from the days of Native Americans to the time of rapid industrial growth. Using indigenous plants and native trees along with the water, sculpture and the background of the eight 145-foot-tall digester "eggs" that naturally separate the solids from the liquid at the wastewater treatment plant, Trakas designed the path to create a thought-provoking experience with the immediate environment. Rarely crowded, the experience allows for many places to pause and gather thoughts about the creek and life in general.