Storm king! Here’s one way to help clean the Newtown Creek

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Three environmental advocates, fed up with polluted water pouring into Newtown Creek, are pushing an innovative solution to clean it up.

Deborah Masters, Jackie Brookner and Kate Zidar have submitted a proposal to the City Parks Foundation to transform the end of N. Henry Street into a wetland park designed to soak up and filter stormwater before it is released into Newtown Creek.

Zidar, a teacher and former state committee candidate, and Brookner, an ecological artist and teacher who designed the living wetland sculptures, announced their $2.4-million plan at a Community Board 1 meeting last week.

The park plan will consist a dividing wall with foliage, a wetlands area and three 25-foot “biosculptu­res,” which will filter and remove toxins from stormwater and runoff before it is released into Newtown Creek.

Zidar believes the plan will compliment the federal government’s efforts to clean toxic sediment from the creek bed, now that the 3.5-mile waterway has received Superfund designation — partly because raw sewage spills into the canal when the sewer system gets overwhelmed during rainy days.

Masters said the focal point of the “sponge” park would be three green mounds that resemble the large “digester eggs” that are the main design element of the adjacent sewage treatment plant.

“Jackie was commenting on how beautiful the eggs were from the nature walk and said, ‘Why don’t we make biosculptures that mimic the eggs?’ ” said Masters.

“Our project is actively educational, focuses on stormwater, includes biosculptures, which actually clean air and water, to put clean water into Newtown Creek,” she said.

The designers hope that their project will receive funding later this year out of a pool of environmental clean-up money headed to Greenpoint in the wake of a city pollution settlement with the state.

Zidar said the key to cleaning up the creek is to capture stormwater before it overwhelms the sewer system and floods the waterway with feces.

“These kinds of overflows contain litter and debris, petrochemicals and heavy metals from the roadway, and yes, sewage,” said Zidar. “In Newtown Creek, the waterway itself is poorly flushed, so the material can sink in to the sediments.”

Community board members nodded pleasantly when the trio made its presentation last week, which Zidar expected.

“People are trying to wrap their head around it and get involved with us,” she said.

“Hopefully an interesting project like this is enough of an incentive to get people to work together to clean stormwater.”

Posted 12:00 am, October 21, 2010
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