Community Board 5 calls for access at Newtown Creek site
by Holly Bieler
Feb 17, 2015 | 7594 views | 0 0 comments | 119 119 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Department of Environmental Protection came under fire at the Community Board 5 meeting on Wednesday, after the latest iteration of the Newtown Creek aeration project showed no inclusion of public access.

“I don’t usually get mad,” said boar chair Vincent Arcuri. “But Gary [Giordano] and I met with the commissioner, and at that meeting a sketch was produced showing future dedicated public space to the promenade area. Why this final document comes out without that future space shown or dedicated is an insult to me and this board and the community.”

Tom Smith of the Department of City Planning said that a subsequent mayoral override allowed the DEP to move forward with facility plans that did not allocate for public access, after it was argued that the area was relatively isolated and removed from most pedestrian traffic.

The facility, which will pump oxygen into the creek in an effort to meet state-mandated levels of dissolved oxygen and environmental standards, will be located at 47th Street in Maspeth

Wednesday’s grievances were the latest in a string of community criticisms that have plagued the project since its inception. The Newton Creek Alliance has been critical of the project, arguing that the facility could introduce bacterium into the waterways via the aeration systems, and that other polluted water showed oxygen levels more dire than those at Newtown Creek.

While the project has progressed in light of these concerns, Wednesday’s meeting provided a new set of community obstacles for DEP. DEP Director of Community Affairs Ibrahim Abdul-Matin said that while the current plans didn’t provide public access, that issue would be addressed when a more comprehensive plan for developing the entire waterfront was considered in the future.

“We did our best to respect how the site is being used now,” he said. “I can’t comment as to how this is going to fit in the larger plan. There was an agreement between the commissioner and the community board that in future, if the area develops and other waterfront access is provided, DEP will consider waterfront access.”

For many community members, though, future promises weren’t enough.

“You build it and they will come,” said board member John Maier. “I walk by this location, other people walk by this location. Energy and activity could be there in the future. I think to deny the public access is to deny the potential and to truly make sure that doesn’t happen. That’s unfortunate.”

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