Newtown Creek Alliance pushes to cleanup Plank Road
by Chase Collum
Apr 23, 2014 | 2713 views | 0 0 comments | 54 54 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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An environmental activist could barely ask for a tougher beat than an industrial waterway, but that hasn’t stopped the Newtown Creek Alliance from working for the past 12 years to raise awareness and funding in support of a cleaner, more usable creek.

In the first week of April, the alliance began work on their latest initiative: The cleanup of Plank Road, a small stretch of rocky, overgrown beachhead near the Department of Sanitation’s District 5 Garage at the end of 58th Road just south of its intersection with 47th Street.

“The Maspeth Plank Road was originally part of a toll bridge that crossed Newtown Creek,” said Mitch Waxman as he led a walking tour of Newtown Creek. He explained that the road is named for the pylons that pierce the surface of the water which have been in place since the mid-1800s, when the toll road was still in operation.

Newtown Creek, which serves as the dividing line between the westernmost 3.5 miles of Queens and Brooklyn, is often cited for its high pollution levels contributed to by years of industrial dumping and metropolitan neglect. In 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency declared the creek a Superfund site, clearing the way for environmental remediation.

Willis Elkins, who led a canoe and kayak tour around Newtown Creek to Plank Road, said that plans for the site include general trash cleanup, taming the wild vegetation that have taken over much of the waterfront, and possible installation of landscape features to help make the area more hospitable to visitors and local workers.

“As you can see, the rushes have really taken over here, and technically it’s an invasive species, but at Newtown Creek we’re really happy about anything can grow here,” Elkins said.

The Newtown Creek Alliance will be undertaking several small restoration and cleanup projects around the erstwhile creek throughout the summer. While the nature of the Superfund status makes the specific future of the waterway a bit murky, Waxman said the group would continue with current projects until they know more.

Waxman felt the improvements can be beneficial not just to nature lovers and preservationists, but for local workers, too.

“Who says the guys working at the Department of Sanitation wouldn’t want to come out here and have a nice place to smoke a cigar at the end of their shift?” he asked.

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