Brooklyn, New York

Newtown Creek Nature Walk

Nature and beauty amidst pollution and industrial wreckage. 

In one of the last places in New York City where you’d expect to find a park which bills itself as a “Nature Walk”, Newtown Creek hosts a hidden gem.

As part of its 21st century upgrade of the Newtown Creek Waste Water Treatment Plant (largest in all of New York City) on Kingsland Avenue, the City of New York had to comply with a “1% for art” rule which stipulates that all new municipal construction include public amenities for open space.

Completed in 2007 after nine years of work and heavy community demand for green space in the neighborhood, the Newtown Creek Nature Walk is situated directly adjacent to one of the most massively polluted bodies of water in the US.

Newtown Creek is the site of massive oil seepage from industrial refineries that have operated along the creek since the 1800s. Sometimes called the largest oil spill in the US, the oil was first detected by the Coast Guard in 1978. With some 17 to 30 million gallons of oil having seeped into the creek and groundwater, making Newtown one of the most polluted waterways in the country. It is also conversely, quite lovely.

Situated on this once well-known disaster area and current superfund site, is the park. Just over a short ship-like concrete walkway, visitors emerge onto a waterfront and then beyond that onto a dusty trail leading through natural foliage, with signage that describes its medicinal uses and history.The view from the park is not one of natural oasis, but a collage of factories, the sewage plant, and a large claw lifting crushed cars and metal onto a waiting barge, a single point along the long scrap metal trade. Despite this, or in part because of it, the space is striking.

Designed by environmental architect George Trakas, the park - which is only partially completed at this moment - includes native species of plants and provides one of the few places where the industrial panorama of the Newtown Creek can be viewed by the public. Included in his “breath taking” design is a massive sculptural depiction of the Newtown Creek watershed as it existed when the Europeans first came to Long Island. After spending a little time there, the park begins to make aesthetic sense. The quarter-mile long trail, dotted with stone resting areas, tiled patios, and drinking fountains, is tranquil. Loved among those in the community, the Newtown Creek Nature Walk is a secret point of relaxation in Brooklyn, and an area of beauty amidst a history of environmental damage When complete, the park will allow transit between Kingsland Avenue and Paidge Street along the waterfront.

Know Before You Go

Accessible from the G train at the Greenpoint stop. East on Greenpoint, take a left onto Provost and a right onto Paidge.

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