Towns all over America are doing wacky things to win Google’s offer to install an ultra-high-speed Internet network, but none of them — so far, at least — have an elected official who’s willing to jump in a toxic waterway.
Assemblyman Joe Lentol (D-Greenpoint) has committed to wading into Newtown Creek this spring — the latest elected official to do something peculiar in hopes of convincing the Internet behemoth to give Greenpoint the super-fast Web.
“You know what, if we can get a guarantee of broadband service from Google, it would be worth it for the cause,” said Lentol.
It started as an April Fool’s joke, but Lentol confirmed on Tuesday afternoon that he will indeed swim in one of the city’s most-polluted waterways this spring.
It is the latest stunt in what has become a nationwide race after the hi-tech company announced plans to give one lucky community a fiber-optic network that is 100 times faster than what is currently being provided — for free.
Public officials throughout the country have carefully filled out their application, but some mayors have tended toward outrageous gestures and dangerous stunts in order to set their town apart from a pack of hundreds.
In February, a mayor from Duluth, MN, dove into a frigid Lake Superior, while his counterpart from Sarasota, FL, swam with sharks. Last week, the mayor of Topeka, a Kansas city, briefly changed the town’s name to Google — and the company reciprocated a few days later.
By comparison, Brooklyn’s gambit was having Borough President Markowitz issue a proclamation giving the East River bridges high-tech nicknames (the Williamsburg Bridge was dubbed “Wi-Fi Bridge” for the day. Wow).
Before Brooklyn gets the shaft, Lentol decided to make a last-ditch effort, putting together an application and picking up the nascent effort of a group of residents who had started a Facebook page.
Lentol pointed to the dolphin, aptly nicknamed “Slimey,” that was found frolicking in the creek last month, as evidence that he would not die if he swam in the creek in a PR stunt. Still, Lentol will be closely following the advice of local environmental officials to wear a wetsuit, wade only during a dry weather spell, and above all, not swallow anything (water or otherwise).
“I’d also put someone else in a Hazmat suit and float down the river after him,” said Center for Health Environment and Justice’s Michael Schade.
People can’t wait.
“Swimming in Newtown Creek would probably give the assemblyman ‘Incredible Hulk’ powers, which would come in handy for his constituents,” said Williamsburg resident Elana Levin.
But Greenpoint resident and former Community Board 1 member Teresa Toro advised Lentol against taking the plunge.
“On one hand, the floatables in the creek could add critical buoyant support,” joshed Toro. “On the other hand, the fumes alone from the Exxon Mobil oil spill could make him pass out.”
Williamsburg-based business liaison Karen Nieves hopes that amid all the fuss, the needs of Brooklyn’s businesses are not forgotten.
“The businesses in North Brooklyn are having such problems accessing broadband that this would be fantastic,” said Nieves. “As far as Newtown Creek goes … the dolphin survived!”