Plank Road (58th Road in Maspeth, Queens) is an underutilized street end with known historic and ecological significance on Newtown Creek. With support from the NY-NJ Harbor & Estuary Program and New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission (NEIWPCC) the Newtown Creek Alliance, in partnership with the North Brooklyn Boat Club, is aiming to transform Plank Road to a destination public space providing access as well as ecological/historical information about the area. Our course for accomplishing such is as follows:
1. Cleanup + Landscaping
Currently the site is overgrown by a variety of invasive species and littered with debris from both land side illegal dumping and high tide events on the creekside. Additionally, streams of runoff water from nearby industrial sites leave the site muddy with standing pools of stagnant water. To remediate these issues we plan toclean out existing debris through a number of scheduled clean up events as well as landscape the terrain with mulch, steps and a system to better control the path of the runoff streams. By offering cleanup and mulching days, we can hedge against future misuse (dumping and vandalism) of the site, improve management of stormwater that inundates the site, and support the existing habitat there.
2. Tours + Outreach
We will run a series of ‘Surf + Turf” tours to introduce a targeted population to the existence of Plank Road. These will include canoe tours from the water, the surf component led by the North Brooklyn Boat Club; and walking tours, as led by NCA historian Mitch Waxman on land. Tours will take place throughout the clean-up process and provide participants and future stewards of Newtown Creek an intimate introduction to the unique history and persistent ecosystems of the area.
Through printed materials and installed signage on site we can help introduce a wider audience to Plank Road. This will include working with a neighboring company to install benches on the site, to provide more of a draw as well as a potential lunch spot for their’s and surrounding employees.
Why/What/Where is Plank Road?
The Plank Road site (see map) represents the remnants of Maspeth Toll Bridge Co.’s Plank Road, which crossed the Newtown Creek in the 1800’s. Part of the wooden structure is still visible in the intertidal zone, and bridge anchorages are still clearly visible on both the Queens and Brooklyn side, at Maspeth Avenue. The bridge connected the early communities of Maspeth and Newtown, crossing through what Mitch Waxman describes as “the hellish expanse of Fuhrman’s Island (home to Peter Cooper’s Glue Factory and Conrad Wissel’s Night Soil and Offal Dock, amongst other notorious or malodorous occupants)” to bring products to market in Williamsburg and, via early ferry service, to Manhattan.
Throughout the approximate 10 miles of shoreline on Newtown Creek, there are very places where one can access the water’s edge. In fact, there are only two official spots for such – both located on the Brooklyn shore, near the East River (the Manhattan Ave Street End Park and DEP Nature Walk). In addition to its historic and access value, Plank Road is also a value ecologically being a rare occurrence of a “soft edge” on Newtown Creek. Located near Maspeth Creek, this area is home to a number of bird species one may be surprised to find in a heavily industrial corridor, including herons, egrets and cormorants.