A Community At Its Best

Newtown Creek

This past Thursday, I attended the Newtown Creek Alliance September community meeting. It was inspiring and motivating.

At the beautiful Onderdonk House in Ridgewood, Queens, approximately 35 people gathered under a huge tent in the backyard with dirt and hay under our shoes. I did not get a chance to meet everyone, thus could not gauge their connections with Newtown Creek and the neighborhood. However, the people I did meet and/or presented were made up of engineers, cartographers, scientists, public relations, photographers, and environmental activists.

Essentially, the Newtown Creek Alliance has a three-prong method to facilitate their mission of restoring Newtown Creek itself and the neighborhoods surrounding it: Restore, Reveal, and Revitalize.

The Restore prong is made up of the Green Infrastructure Workgroup. The group is interested in developing pilot sites for green infrastructure. Jeff Keiter, from Seasonscape Landscape, and members of the workgroup, are involved in watershed planning by mapping the activity of water for capturing stormwater. They are currently seeking to collaborate with cemeteries in the area because of their expansive green space.

The Reveal prong is headed by the Education Workgroup. These members offer tours, classes or developing curricula that relate to Newtown Creek. Leif Percifield, a Parsons student, is involved in installing weather stations in libraries. It gives the libraries real time information to teach about water quality issues to its patrons. The Queens Library is very interested in this project and would like to install weather stations in all their branches. Currently, the mechanism is installed in four branches. Another presenter, Mai, is working on developing a curriculum to teach students about the birds and fauna in and around Newtown Creek. She is also developing an easy to read site for laypersons to understand the issues surrounding Newtown Creek. Mitch Waxman is the group historian of the Newtown Creek Alliance. He is a photographer and provides tours and presentations.

The Revitalize prong is made up of the Bioremediation Workgroup. They are currently brainstorming partnerships and seeking solutions to revitalize dilapidated bulkheads to prevent road transportation of hazardous materials.

The dynamic of this community is something I have never experienced before. The presenters were passionate in their roles, and were very open to suggestions and networking connections with the group. The format of the program optimized each volunteer’s best skills.

Situated in CUNY Law‘s backyard, it is vital for our school’s community to understand and respect the history of this neighborhood while we settle into our new home. I look forward to attend more of their meetings and hope that members of our school community will join me.