I love being on and near the water. So one of my least favorite things about New York is that, until recently, its waterfront had been mostly industrial. And thanks to industrialization, centuries of pollution turned New York’s waterways into toxic wastelands.
Newtown Creek, which forms a border between Brooklyn and Queens, is one of the most polluted industrial sites in the United States. But it wasn’t always this way. In the 1700s, it was a freshwater creek surrounded by pastoral lands. In the 19th century, the city began dumping sewage into the water. More than 100 years of contamination later, the Greenpoint Oil Spill of 1978 dumped almost 20 million gallons of oil into the creek. It wasn’t until the 1990s that serious attempts to restore the waterway began.
Ready to dive in yet? The North Brooklyn Boat Club is a non-profit organization that aims to clean the creek and bring recreation back to its waters. As a non-member, you have to sign a waiver of liability and certify that you’re able to swim. Only then can you participate in a free paddle session with a trained guide that you won’t soon forget.
Check the calendar of events on their website for the schedule, including canoeing, kayaking, rowing, and more.