Under the muck

Under the muck
Photo by Bess Adler

Toy boats are taking on the most polluted bathtub in the city.

A team of artists is unleashing a fleet of remote control-operated mini-boats in highly toxic Newton Creek, complete with submerged video cameras — for the curious kid in you — to record what lies below.

Project creators say the goal is to get folks to engage with a body of water that functions more like a landfill than a lagoon.

“It’s a way to get people to interact with the water,” said co-creator Nathan Kensinger. “It invites the public to explore the past, present and future of Newtown Creek.”

Kensinger said visitors get to become pilots of the three-foot boats while they watch real-time video of the vessels voyaging first through oil slicks, then human waste, and finally less-filthy water.

The vaguely apocalyptic environmental project last year won the North Brooklyn Public Art Coalition’s design competition for its proposal to document conditions of the polluted river as the federal government begins its multi-million-dollar Superfund cleanup.

The mini-vessels are made from objects found along the waterway — including plants and industrial scraps — and feature a sturdy underwater camera, lights, and a wireless video feed to an on-shore monitor.

Kensinger and collaborators Laura Chipley and Sarah Nelson Wright will then showcase the footage from the project, called “Newtown Creek Armada,” at an art gallery.

During a test run, one boat accidentally brought back a plastic trash treasure in its propeller. Others succeeded in collecting funky muck footage from a fish-eye-view.

“In some places the sewage overflow is so thick boats have gotten stuck,” Kensinger said. “It’s really visible.”

Newtown Creek Armada at Newtown Creek Nature Walk [Paidge Avenue past Dupont Street in Greenpoint, newtowncreekarmada.org] Sept 8, 9, 15, 22, 29, 30. Free.

Reach reporter Natalie O'Neill at [email protected] or by calling her at (718) 260-4505.r