Newtown Creek, NY

Newtown Creek

“The idea that progress is a modernist and western myth are nonetheless blind to the way that non-western as well as premodern, pre-industrial cultures assume that the person is not affectively contained.”(Brennan, 2)

New York has flourished into the landmark it is today thanks to its rich and industrial history. But we acknowledge the cost of that history, paid for in irreparable damage to any naturally occurring resources to the city. One of New York’s waterways, Newtown Creek, located between Long Island City and Greenpoint is an example of the price paid for industrial growth at the cost of environmental impact. The creek has been the site of several decades worth of polluting and dumping, as well as a significant oil spill. The creek has been appropriately deemed a superfund site, classifying it as a risk to humans and the surrounding environment. 

Speaking on the impact of affect in “The Transmission of Affect,” Teresa Brennan  declares “there is no secure distinction between ”individual” and ”environment”, meaning affect can impact individuals based on their environment, and the boundary between the two is obscured. Related to my ecology project, I aim to research the correlation between the history of pollution of the creek to the outlying area between two boroughs, and the impact of the damage today.  Furthermore, I plan on determining what initiatives need to be taken to improve the ecological condition of the lake. Living in close proximity to a toxic body of water has likely affectively impacted the quality of life of people in the area, and contributed to widespread ecological damage. 

Jane Brennan also speaks on ecological impact in “Vibrant Matter” on debris, saying “Sullivan reminds us that vital materiality can never really be thrown “away” for it continues its activities even as a discarded and unwanted commodity”(Bennett, 6)”. The creek is still a repository for chemical and industrial waste, and any “debris” left behind threatens surrounding ecosystems. Despite the proximity of a wastewater treatment plant, and development of a waterfront promenade on the Greenpoint side, it continues to be used for industrial use. Additionally, long term plans for restoring and revitalizing the creek are implemented at a slow rate. The effect of human kind’s behavior on their surroundings have had demonstrable effects on rising sea levels, and mass extinction of species. Considering the precarity of climate change, this creek is no exception, but rather an example of the importance of invoking change to reform ecological damage. 

Tugboat moving barges of garbage

Works Cited

Bennett, Jane. Vibrant Matter: a Political Ecology of Things. Duke University Press, 2010.

Brennan, Teresa. The Transmission of Affect. Cornell University Press, 2014.

~ by edwinhansler on September 28, 2019.

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