‘Walk’ this way! City to expand Newtown Creek nature path

‘Walk’ this way! City to expand Newtown Creek nature path

Greenpoint’s four-year-old Newtown Creek Nature Walk will nearly double in size thanks to new city funding.

The city has budgeted $14-million to connect the existing Provost Street entrance to a new 900-foot pathway to Kingsland Avenue and N. Henry Street, giving the public even more unfettered access to the fetid waterway.

The Nature Walk, which includes sculptural seating, steps that descend into the waterway, and a boat launch, is already the largest publicly owned site on the edge of Newtown Creek. As such, Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Cas Holloway said it was a no-brainer to fund the latest phase of construction.

“It wasn’t a difficult decision,” said Holloway. “I want it to get built and done so it can’t be rolled back.”

The $3.2-million walk opened in October, 2007, to mixed reviews after some residents criticized the design, the park’s far-flung location, and odors that wafted off the creek — which has since been declared a federal Superfund site.

In recent years, community members have warmed up to the spare elegance of the George Trakas-designed concrete walkway, its peaceful surroundings and the easy access to Newtown Creek.

The city has not hired Trakas for the additional phases of the nature walk including a floating walkway and a stone pathway with native trees and shrubs. Instead, the Department of Design and Construction will begin planning the new portion this July.

The existing portion of the nature walk will also face changes this year.

The city has already moved a set of planters at the foot of the pathway, may remove a railing at the steps of the pathway that lead straight into the water, and agreed to allow kayakers to launch boats from the site after a lengthy debate this fall.

Community leaders embraced the news that the walk will be expanded, but chided city officials for skimping on maintenance costs for the existing park; currently the agency is paying about $30,000 per year to maintain the pathway — about half the amount required to properly maintain it, critics say.

“Some parts of the walk are disintegrating, and it hasn’t been there all that long,” said Paul Turci, a Greenpoint resident and member of the Newtown Creek Monitoring Committee.