The areas around Newtown Creek were home to oil refineries as early as the 1840s. Once an area of rich marine life, Newtown Creek neighbors began to notice the excesses and toxins of the oil as early as the 1870s, as their rich ecosystem withered.
It all came to a head more than 100 years later, in 1978, when a helicopter on routine patrol from the US Coast Guard first noticed the black oil plume gushing into the creek.
Not so much a spill as a 120 year leak, most environmentalists say that nothing was done to clean the oil until 1990, when the state entered into talks with ExxonMobil. However, the oil companies say they set up pumps as early as 1979, and energized recovery efforts since then.
At this point, the spill is said to have affected 100 acres of land around the area, and is at an estimated 30 million gallons. That is much larger than the famous ExxonValdez spill. It has caused homes to settle, and left 50 acres of land undevelopable.
In 2005, residents of the area got litigious and sued BP, ExxonMobil and other companies for adverse health affects of the deep, abiding spill. In 2009, ExxonMobil was found liable by a federal jury, and awarded the city $10.47 million.
ExxonMobil is actively siphoning up the oil lake that sits underneath Greenpoint, but says it has to do it slowly. They claim if they siphon too fast a large part of Greenpoint would fall into a sinkhole.