Sleeping with the fishes: Group hopes man-made ecosystem brings life back to Newtown Creek

Sleeping with the fishes: Group hopes man-made ecosystem brings life back to Newtown Creek
Photo by Jason Speakman

A group of volunteers helped build a new floating dock that they hope will become a habitat for the myriad of species struggling to survive in the polluted Newtown Creek, the Gowanus Canal’s less ugly — but nearly equally polluted — step-brother.

Members of the Newtown Creek Alliance hope the so-called “living dock” will give aquatic animals including shrimp, oysters, killifish, and worms a fighting chance to survive in the waters that had been abused for more than a century and has recently began to make a comeback.

“There is a lot of wildlife that is rebounding, but there is not a lot of clean habitat, so we wanted to create some safe spaces,” said Willis Elkins, a member of the Newtown Creek Alliance’s board.

A crew of more than a dozen volunteers gathered on Sunday to assemble the cedar dock, drop it in the water, and get it baffled onto floating drums. Now the alliance will set up beds and install aquatic plans and oysters to help the dock attract a menagerie of animals.

The project was funded with $25,000 from the Greenpoint Community Environmental Fund, which was created to fund projects to spruce up the heavily polluted neighborhood.

Elkins hopes the dock with will also get more Greenpoint residents involved in efforts to clean up the Creek.

“If more people know that Newtown Creek is not a dead body of water and that there is an ecology there that is rebounding there, the more stewards it will have,” said Elkins.

Past attempts to make Brooklyn’s filthy waterways safe for gilled and bivalved creatures have failed miserably. In 2009, a long-shot plan to reintroduce oysters to the fetid Gowanus Canal ended with all the mollusks dead.

Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at dfurf[email protected]nglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her at twitter.com/DanielleFurfaro.
Reuse: Volunteers use old drums as floats for the Newtown Creek Alliance’s living dock.
Photo by Jason Speakman