Newtown Creek Alliance

Why Not To Expand Aeration

January 18th, 2015

Since 2012, Newtown Creek Alliance and Riverkeeper have sought to challenge the aeration project in Newtown Creek – an automated air blower system intended to increase dissolved oxygen levels. To date, we have raised a number of concerns about the project – including potential health impacts, the lack of sustained impact and poor investment of $115 million – but to no avail in convincing the city and state to reconsider alternative approaches. The project is fully installed within the English Kills tributary but expansion of the project into the main channel of Newtown Creek and the Dutch Kills tributary have yet to receive notices to proceed. In addition to our formerly expressed concerns about the project, there are specific reasons for the state and city to reconsider the expansion. It is our hope to re-open conversations with the NYC DEP and NYS DEC and engage greater community comment on the expansion of the project. Below are our additional concerns opposing expansion of the project.

Expansion of the aeration project into the main channel of Newtown Creek is unwarranted.

The main goal of the aeration installation is to increase dissolved oxygen levels in Newtown Creek above a standard of 3 mg/L. We fully appreciate that under 3 mg/L is a dangerously low amount, but data shows that dissolved oxygen levels in the main channel of the creek, where expansion of the aeration is planned, are in fact commonly above the 3 mg/L threshold already. Additionally, when examining data from the NYC Harbor Survey there are a number of other waterways in New York City with dissolved oxygen readings under 3 mg/L more frequent than the Newtown Creek sites in question. For instance, with site NC1 (where the aeration expansion is planned) 87% of samples taken in the summer months of 2014 were above 3 mg/L. At other sites results were much worse: 73% at Coney Island Creek; 65% at Westchester Creek; 48% at Hendrix Creek; and 41% at the Bronx River. All this to ask: why is aeration being pursued for areas of Newtown Creek that have dissolved oxygen levels above 3 mg/L more often than other parts of NY harbor? Although it is unclear what data was used in forming the basis for installing the aeration project we feel that based on this most recent data it is unwarranted to expand the aeration project into the main channel of Newtown Creek. By not expanding aeration into the main channel, the city could save multiple millions of dollars that could otherwise be better invested in areas like Green Infrastructure that would have lasting benefit to the health of Newtown Creek.

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Use Dutch Kills to pilot ‘green’ alternative solutions to low dissolved oxygen levels.

The Dutch Kills tributary is one of the most unique areas of the creek. It is totally void of commercial maritime traffic, has become a focussed area of study for environmental science students at neighboring LaGuardia Community College (LGCC), is a frequent destination for environmental education canoe trips led by the North Brooklyn Boat Club and has tremendous potential for wetland restoration. There has been documented interest and efforts to pursue restored salt marsh habitat in Dutch Kills for a number of years, including the work led by LGCC professor Sarah Durand. Dr. Durand’s work has demonstrated that cordgrass and ribbed mussels can thrive at the very head of Dutch Kills, despite poor water quality conditions. If pursued on a larger scale wetland restoration could mitigate the negative impacts of CSO discharges that drive the low dissolved oxygen conditions in question. There are numerous advantages of implementing a natural system (ie wetland habitat) over an engineered aeration strategy including: having long term impact, no energy footprint, habitat creation for wildlife and certainty of no potential health risk to community (via aerosolization of bacteria). Given all these reasons we urge the NYSDEC and NYCDEP to consider employing green alternative solutions within Dutch Kills to increase and stabilize dissolved oxygen levels. Such a pilot could also prove beneficial to the many other small waterways around NYC that also suffer low dissolved oxygen levels in the summer.

Support NCA!

December 8th, 2014

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Dear Newtown Creek Alliance Friends,

As 2014 comes to a close, we take this opportunity and reflect on what the year has meant for the vibrancy of Newtown Creek and to invite you to make a contribution and support our work going forward.

It has been a year of success for the creek, due to the efforts of NCA and active community members like yourself. We launched our #CSOalert system and held workshops in library branches surrounding the creek as part of our Weather in the Watershed program; received $50,000 in small grants from the GCEF to create restored access and habitat in the creek; and completed work in transforming the Plank Road site in Maspeth from an over-grown and muddy street-end to an inviting public waterfront for neighboring workers. And as in the previous years we offered a number of diverse tours of the creek, partnering with a variety of organizations including Greenshores NYC, Recycle-A-Bicycle, Transportation Alternatives, The North Brooklyn Boat Club and Open House NY.

Perhaps the best indicator of improvements to Newtown Creek transpired this fall. On September 9th, 2014 the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation received an anonymous tip of someone dumping thousands of gallons of waste oil into the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek. This was a major break in an ongoing investigation spurred by months of reports from community members alerting the DEC to an influx of rainbow petroleum sheens seen on the creek (see our August coverage of the sheens here). A suspect was identified, the oil was cleaned up, a number of media outlets covered the story (NYTimes, NY Daily News, Gothamist) and since that day in September large petroleum slicks have ceased being a regular occurrence on the creek. Two months later the creek’s surface was again home to a remarkable scene.  However, this time instead of thousands of gallons of oil, the creek was filled with thousands (and thousands) of menhaden fish, feeding near the surface for a number of consecutive days. The correlation between these two events – a waterway freed of petroleum and return of massive schools of fish unseen in recent memory – was evident. As captain John Lipscomb put it “Riverkeeper has patrolled Newtown Creek since 2002. I’ve never seen this before. It’s so wonderful to see life returning.” Or as a menhaden fishery organization helped affirm our suspicions, “Reducing the amount of oil previously present in Newtown Creek absolutely seems to be the most viable theory for causing the surge of menhaden.” We tell this story not just because it is a clear sign of the much needed environmental improvements coming to the creek, but because it is how an alliance for Newtown Creek best functions. We raise awareness, build stakeholders and work with appropriate parties to drive tangible improvement. As our mission goes: Reveal, Restore, Revitalize.

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Nearly all of NCA funding comes in the form of project specific grants, which are invaluable to our programming but do not cover the general operating costs of the organization, tasks like outreach and communications, website maintenance and reporting on creek-related stories and events. That is why we not only thank you for your engagement with NCA to-date but ask that you consider a donation to help sustain and grow the reach and effectiveness of the organization*. Any donation, large or small, makes a difference.

We look forward to having you join us in 2015 for more exciting programs!

Sincerely,
Bill, Christine, Dewey, Dorothy, Laura, Michael, Phillip, Steve and Tom
NCA Board of Directors

Or mail a check to:
Newtown Creek Alliance
45-18 Skillman Avenue
Sunnyside, NY 11104

*Newtown Creek Alliance is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. All donations are tax-deductible to the fullest extent allowable by law. NCA qualifies for matching donations, if your company matches your donation.

NCA Public Meeting: November 19th

November 19th, 2014

NCA Public Meeting Nov 2014

Thanks to everyone for joining us for the event, at to Peter Pan Dounts for donating some pastries! For those that missed the event, we have shared many of the presentations below. Enjoy and stay posted for info on our next public meeting!

Wetland Restoration Project by Dr. Sarah Durand
Open Sewer Atlas by Josh Eichen and Korin Tangtrakul
Aircasting Greenpoint by Michael Heimbinder

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GCEF Projects Need Your Vote!

November 12th, 2014

 

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The Greenpoint Community Environmental Fund (GCEF) is currently considering 13 large projects for funding. Greenpoint residents over the age of 16 will have the opportunity to vote for these projects on November 20th and 22nd. Newtown Creek Alliance is fortunate to be involved in three of these projects, including one as project lead. Please read more about the projects below and head to the polls on November 20th and 22nd! Here is more info about the voting process and who is eligible to vote.

 

AHSroof

Greenpoint Community Green Roof
Project Lead: Newtown Creek Alliance (in partnership with HighView Creations)
Funds Requested / Matching: $1,229,000 / $407,007
About: This project proposes to install a 40,300 sq. ft. intensive green roof, and conduct educational programming focused on stormwater management and habitat provided by the green roof, at the campus of Automotive High School (AHS) and Frances Perkins Academy. Major project activities include:
- performing an engineering structural analysis of the AHS roof;
- designing and installing the green roof;
- conducting training for maintaining the roof, and engaging students and the community in its maintenance;
- delivering public education about the environmental benefits of the roof through tours, programs, signs, and social media;
- developing a curriculum to support science and technology classes at the school.

 

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AirCasting Greenpoint: Citizen Science for Clean Air
Project Lead: HabitatMap
Funds Requested / Matching: $235,388 / $893,508
About: AirCasting Greenpoint is a community-based participatory research project that will: 1) equip Greenpoint residents with wearable sensors and smartphones for recording, mapping, and sharing air quality measurements and 2) provide the Greenpoint community with innovative ways to visualize and make sense of the collected data to reduce air pollution exposures and address community concerns related to air pollution, health, and quality of life. Major activities include:
-surveying Greenpoint residents regarding their air pollution concerns;
-training participants in air quality sampling, health tracking, and data analysis;
-conducting a GIS analysis to examine relationships between air and health;
-performing a policy analysis to identify initiatives for improving air quality in Greenpoint;
-working with Greenpoint community-based organizations to review potential clean air initiatives, select several to pursue, and provide support for realizing these initiatives.
-organizing a workshop during which Greenpoint participants, trained in air quality sampling and data analysis, can transfer their knowledge and findings to others.

 

wetlands

Intertidal Wetland Project
Project Lead: LaGuardia Community College
Funds Requested / Matching:  $130,178 / $130,911
About: This project (a continuation of the Wetland Frames work) proposes to assess degraded shoreline sites along Newtown Creek currently comprised of rip-rap and eroded bulkheads for their potential for greening using “constructed” wetland habitat.
Major project activities include:
- creating conceptual designs in collaboration with the community and professional contractors for intertidal wetland construction at two shoreline sites;
- advancing one of the two sites to a fully engineered design, including construction drawings, cost estimates, and permits;
- installing “soft” salt marsh habitat areas along the walls of existing “hard” bulkheads; and
- expanding marsh habitat units already installed on bulkhead walls at existing sites.

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