Greenpoint

Brooklynites remove 2,000 pounds of trash, mostly plastic, along Newtown Creek

May 7, 2019 Scott Enman
Forty people came out on Saturday to help clean up the shores of Newtown Creek. Photos courtesy of Newtown Creek Alliance

From Brooklyn to the Adirondacks, thousands of volunteers set out along the shores of the Hudson River and its tributaries on Saturday to pick up tires, food containers and a lot of plastic.

Now in its eighth year, the Annual Riverkeeper Sweep is the largest one-day cleanup in the history of the Hudson River. The water nonprofit organized 123 remediation projects this past weekend, including several in Brooklyn around the Gowanus Canal, Grand Ferry Park, Bushwick Inlet Park, WNYC Transmitter Park and Newtown Creek.

Newtown Creek saw 40 volunteers, including local residents, students and professors from LaGuardia College, who turned out to clean up an abandoned street end at the former Penny Bridge crossing in Greenpoint.

“The sweep is one of the first steps in a whole new phase of advocacy in our long battle to claim our forgotten waterfronts,” said Lisa Bloodgood of Newtown Creek Alliance. “We, as a community, can now get close enough to the water’s edge to begin to care for its neglected shorelines.”

In total, people collected more than 2,000 pounds of trash.
Volunteers collected more than 2,000 pounds of trash. Photo courtesy of Newtown Creek Alliance

Participants collected more than 2,000 pounds of trash in total, according to Willis Elkins, executive director of Newtown Creek Alliance. Plastic bags, Styrofoam pieces and fast food containers were among the most picked-up items.

Workers from Waste Management also helped out, bringing in a giant front-end loader to remove mud that had collected at the end of the street.

“We have done a number of cleanups at this site in recent years and see the same recurring issue where rainwater washes all the curbside garbage, including oils and debris from large trucks, down to the street’s end and directly into Newtown Creek,” Elkins told the Brooklyn Eagle.

“We have asked various city agencies to address the lack of environmental enforcement and improve stormwater management but these heavy industrial blocks seem to remain a low priority, leaving the Creek to suffer as a result. It is, however, very encouraging to see community members pitching in to clean up and improve the Newtown Creek shorelines.”

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Workers from Waste Management also helped out, bringing in a giant front-end loader to remove mud that had collected at the end of the street.
Workers from Waste Management brought a giant front-end loader to remove mud that had collected at the end of the street. Photo courtesy of Newtown Creek Alliance

Newtown Creek was declared a federal Superfund site in 2010. The 3.5-mile estuary runs through a part of the border between Brooklyn and Queens and along the edges of Greenpoint and East Williamsburg.

After picking up trash, volunteers were encouraged to toast themselves at Brooklyn Brewery, Strong Rope Brewery, Kings County Brewers Collective and Brooklyn Kura, all of which offered a free drink to anyone who helped out.

Since Riverkeeper’s first sweep in 2012, volunteers have removed more than 227 tons of debris. Last year’s cleanup collected 37 tons of trash, 7,000 pounds of recycling and 192 tires. In addition to removing garbage, volunteers also plant trees and native grasses, and remove invasive plants. (This year’s statistics are still being calculated.)

Newtown Creek had 40 volunteers, including local residents, students and professors from LaGuardia College, who helped clean an abandoned street end at the former Penny Bridge crossing in Greenpoint.
Newtown Creek had 40 volunteers, including local residents, students and professors from LaGuardia College.

They also advocate for environmental changes. Participants circulated petitions last year in support of a New York State ban on single-use plastic bags, which Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law just last month. It will take effect on March 1, 2020.

“Every year we learn more about the alarming amount of plastic polluting our environment. It’s staggering. But every year we push back harder,” Jen Benson, outreach coordinator at Riverkeeper said.

“New York just became the second state in the nation to put a ban on plastic bags. Sweep volunteers helped make that happen, and we’re not stopping there.”

Follow reporter Scott Enman on Twitter.

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