Newtown Creek Works – NY

Written by stoisher

I am currently working on a series of mono prints created by and about one of the most polluted waterways in the U.S., the Newtown Creek. The Creek runs along the Brooklyn – Queens border and I have gotten to know the area intimately as I lived nearby for over 16 years. The history of the Creek is fraught with heavy industrial activity and environmental negligence dating back to the 1800s. More than 50 oil refineries were located along its banks with industrial facilities that included petrochemical plants, glue factories, sawmills, and coal yards. In addition to the pollution that resulted from all of this activity in an era that was unregulated, the city began dumping raw sewage directly into the water(and still does). Around 55-acres of soil in Greenpoint is currently contaminated with an estimated 30 million gallons of oil and petroleum products. Initial clean up began slowly and inefficiently with only noticeable progress in the last 10 years. The Newtown Creek is now a designated superfund site that is undergoing assessment from the Environmental Protection Agency on its risk to human health and the natural wildlife in the area, with no real conclusive data yet as of this writing. The Creek and its high levels of toxic contamination are still largely unknown by many New Yorkers. As plans to build luxury condos in the surrounding areas are undergoing development, I find it all the more timely to expose the state of the water and soil in the area.

In 2015, I obtained a rowboat and began to explore the Newtown Creek for spills to use for printing in the same manner that I do in my studio. I have found incredible formations of sewage, trash, oil, and other mystery residue floating on the surface. I began a series of prints using only what is naturally occurring in the water as my palette. The resulting works are patterned and textured, infused with dirt and debris; a natural marbling of pollutants and a visual map of a poisoned ecosystem. My process has allowed me to learn more about the Creek firsthand and actually collaborate with the water and use the results of industrial waste as my material.

Here are some examples of this series.

Printing on the creek
Printing on the creek