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The City Concealed
The City Concealed, an online video series exploring the unseen corners of New York. Visit the places you don’t know exist, locations you can’t get into, or maybe don’t even want to. Each installment unearths New York’s rich history in the city’s hidden remains and overlooked spaces.

Up The Creek: "The City Concealed" Sets Sail on Newtown Creek

[vimeo id="2508083" width="640" height="360"]

You might catch a glimpse of Newtown Creek by traveling over one of its many bridges. But that glimpse doesn’t give you the scope of the creek’s importance to New York City’s development, or exactly why it has become a zone of contention in the NYC landscape.

The Creek is most-known for the well-publicized oil spill, to which it lends its name, that sits under a swath of Greenpoint, its neighbor to the south.

The creek runs a full 3.5 miles, bisecting Brooklyn and Queens. Most people barely know it exists. So what happens there, how did it become so overlooked, and was it always this way?

What we found was both beautiful and grotesque, heartening and depressing.

We contacted Captain John Doswell of the Working Harbor Committee, and he arranged for us to rent a boat and set us up with a Newtown Creek expert, Bernard Ente of the Newtown Creek Alliance, who was interviewed for the video. (John and Bernard give tours of the waterways around New York called the Hidden Harbor Tours.)

On a lovely August day, we set off from the east side of Manhattan, across the East River into the depths of a virtually-invisible part of New York City. Basil Saggos of Riverkeeper told Reuters:

“a boat trip up the creek is a journey into the heart of darkness, with the backdrop of the Manhattan skyline as a reminder of its real world locale.”

We’d like to thank everyone who helped out with making of this video, our maiden voyage, if you will. Mat Lynch first of all for the idea, and Carter Craft and the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance for helping with the boat, Brooklyn Historical Society, the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, David Rumsey Map Collection, Monark, and all of those above.

  • comments (15)
  • Sheree

    Fascinating—sad, but so interesting. Thanks for producing this series. I look forward to watching more.

  • HabitatMap

    Thanks for the great story! To view and contribute to an interactive map of Newtown Creek visit HabitatMap: http://habitatmap.org/markers?maps=72,73,79,123,122,78

  • DannyBKLYN

    I went down by the creek once. Saw a condom in the water. Some foulness down there son

  • Jeremy

    Nice piece. I live just a few blocks from Newton Creek and the pollution level in the neighborhood is downright scary. And now there’s a new fear of toxic vapors rising up through the ground [http://gothamist.com/2008/12/08/fearing_loss_in_property_values_som.php]. The sad thing is I’ve lived there for over 6 years and despite plenty of acknowledgement of the problem nothing ever gets done to fix it. This area really should be a superfund site — perhaps a little federal money could help the situation. A possible follow-up: Cancer or other health data for this area of Greenpoint.

  • Rajesh

    How would one go about researching cancer data for that area?

  • DPBK
  • Paul

    Great piece. The waterways around Willets point and Riekrs are also very interesting.

  • Emily Keller

    Great job. I really enjoyed the history. To see a video about combined sewer overflow in Newtown Creek please visit http://www.emilyfkeller.com/newyorkunderwater/neighborhoods.greenpoint.html

  • helen brennan

    I read that the Newtown Pippen was George Washington’s favorite apple. It originated in Newtown, Long Island, New York in thr middle of the eighteenth century.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1543623368 Hekky Catz

      wow, I just bought some Newtown Pippens. I had no idea they were from the area. Amazing.

  • Dorothy Tarantino

    I was disappointed that I was unable to see most of the videos–they sounded so interesting that I was hoping to be able to see them. I only saw the one of Greenwood Cemetery. Am I missing some information about how to access all of them?

  • Kim

    I am asking my students to look at this and to try to be more mindful of how we treat our planet. We will be looking at how the life of a waterway effects the life of those living near it. Thank you so much for creating this piece which is so taylor made for what we are trying to learn.

  • Joe Dunst

    Attempeted to watch the report on Newtown Creek…
    but the sound was bad. Please repair ASAP. Thanks.

  • http://www.MyCountryWatch.com Lonna Kempel

    It’s a terrific posting. The results an individual gives has been extremly valuble. Keep up the truly amazing function and check out this site if you get the ability.

  • Robert Barto

    Too bad our Government spent Trillions of dollars on wars these past 50 years, ie: Korea in the ’50′s, Vietnam in the ’60′s & ’70′s, the Middle East in the ’90′s and in the new century which is ongoing… This country could have put that money to better use dredging the creek, building affordable homes and creating jobs.