23 June 2016

It's A Toxic Waste Dump. Keep It Clean!

The last part of yesterday's ride took me, before Greenpoint, through the industrial necropoli along Newtown Creek.  Actually, there is still a lot of manufacturing and trucking in the area, but the corroding concrete carcasses and brick buildings bubbling with the anger of acid in the rain and sunshine echo and mirror deaths past and future.

Among those of the past are the Lenni-Lenape who lived along the shores and lived on what they picked from it and fished from the creek.  In their day--two centuries ago--the creek, and other New York waterways, were the world's richest oyster beds.  Charles Dickens and Alexis de Tocqueville remarked on the ubiquity of those bivalves: even day laborers ate them for lunch!  (According to some histories I've read, the oyster bar was invented here in New York.)

Pilings from a bridge built in 1836 and decommissioned in 1875 over Newtown Creek.   It  connected Williamsburg, Brooklyn (on the oposite shore) with Maspeth, Queens

Today no sane person would eat anything from that water.  In fact, most people wouldn't even touch it, as a century and a half of dumping all sorts of petroleum by-products and other chemicals have rendered Newtown Creek--as I mentioned in an earlier post--one of the nation's most polluted waterways.

But at least there are attempts to make the waterway and its shores, if not pristine, at least something other than a toxic tragedy.  Could the day come when we'll ride on a green path and stop to pick berries or flowers along the way?

Until then, we can only heed the warnings on the signs posted near the creek.

What, exactly, is this one saying?  "Due to poor water quality and contamination of sediments, within Newtown Creek," it explains, "it is NOT advisable to swim, wade or consume fish or shellfish at this location."  OK, that makes sense. But in the next sentence:  "Please help keep this site clean (italics mine) by not littering or dumping debris."

Hmm...I wonder whether anyone actually reads signs before they're posted.


  1. Signage is an artform, sadly lacking any artists!

    I believe that only the most incompetent are ever given the job of designing road signs and the worst of that group are then given the job of installing them as badly as possible to cause the maximum confusion.

    If I had a $100 for every roundabout re-circled on my recent French trip seeking some clue to directions then my order for a fancy Mercian would be in already.

  2. Coline...It would be very interesting to demand money of the French so you can buy a British bike--especially given the vote that just transpired!