Feb. 24, 2022 By Allie Griffin
Large chunks of a retaining wall surrounding a section of the Newtown Creek in Long Island City have collapsed in recent months, spilling concrete and debris into the waterway and prompting concern from environmental advocates and local officials.
Portions of the bulkhead along the Dutch Kills Tributary near 29th Street have crumbled into the creek, polluting the waterway and creating instability in the adjacent roadway, according to the Newtown Creek Alliance.
The organization penned a letter to three governmental agencies — the state Department of Environmental Conservation, the city Department of Transportation and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority which owns the adjacent land — last week to demand they immediately address the deteriorating containment walls.
The group said the recent break-down is the third time the bulkheads have collapsed in recent years.
“This collapse has dumped tires, concrete blocks, and other historic fill into Newtown Creek, and left the nearby, active, industrial roadway just three feet away from the unstable shoreline,” the Feb. 17 letter stated.
The letter was also signed by Council Member Julie Won, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, State Sen. Michael Gianaris, Assembly Member Cathy Nolan, the president of LaGuardia Community College and various local business owners and civic association leaders.
The signees said they are greatly concerned that the adjacent street could also cave in as additional sections of the bulkheads look ready to collapse as well.
“Visible cracks on adjacent sections of the shore, that are worsened with every spring tide and rainstorm, make it evident that further collapse is inevitable,” they wrote.
The Newtown Creek Alliance said that city and state agencies should consider rebuilding the shoreline and get rid of the concrete bulkheads altogether.
“This collapse, and the degradation of our existing shoreline in general, gives us an opportunity to consider something different and more effective,” they said in the letter. “It is time to act, and we’re calling on you to lead us towards a revitalized, safe, and resilient Newtown Creek shoreline.”
The organization and local officials want the agencies to create a new shoreline around the Dutch Kills Tributary that adds a public access point to the waterfront and incorporates native species and habitat restoration in its potential redesign.
They said adding elements like native tidal marsh grass into the redesign would improve water quality and provide habitats for marine ecology like mussels that remove fecal bacteria from the water.
“Rebuilding a soft shoreline would help us passively clean the Creek while expanding habitat ranges for these crucial, native species,” they wrote.
They also asked that the agencies remove two rusting, abandoned barges that have been docked in the creek for years.
The MTA and DOT said they are working with partners to address the issues.
“The MTA appreciates the concerns of the Newtown Creek Alliance and is collaborating with State and City partners to determine the best course of action for protecting the integrity of the bulkhead,” MTA spokesperson Eugene Resnick said in a statement.
The DOT also said it will limit overweight vehicles on the adjacent roadway.
“The DOT will work in collaboration with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Department of Environmental Conservation to develop strategies to limit overweight vehicle access to the street, as well as the area immediately adjacent to the bulkhead,” DOT spokesperson Vincent Barone said in a statement.
The NYC DEC didn’t immediately return a request for comment.