An old factory resides on the Brooklyn-side of Newtown Creek.
The Newtown Creek tour was organized by Bernard Ente, and included
tour guide Bob Singleton, the president of the Greater
Astoria Historical Society and a Newton Creek expert. The tour
took place on a Sunday morning in January 2002.
Why a Virtual Tour of Newtown Creek?
Like most of New York City's waterways, Newtown Creek played a big role in the transportation of goods which aided in the economic development of New York City. Before the waterway was discovered by explorers, the area in and around Newtown Creek was scenic and bucolic, with rolling hills covered with trees. Once the settlers started to occupy the land, the creek provided a natural dividing line between various properties, and it was used in conjunction with roads to transport farmers produce to the various markets. As industry grew in New York City, the use of Newtown Creek began to dramatically change from serving agriculture markets to serving factories. With factories came pollution, as industry used the creek as a dumping ground for sewage and waste. Industries such as kerosene treatment plants, oil refineries, varnish manufacturers, fertilizer companies, and glue factories are just some of the industries that contributed to the pollution problem.
Newtown Creek has gone through a lot of changes over the years. When one explores the area around the creek today, one sees old factories and large vacant tracks of land along the creek's banks. Lots of factory jobs have left New York City, as the city has transitioned from a manufacturing economy into a predominantly service-based economy. Many sections of the creek contain visible amounts of pollutants, as oily gunk sits on top of the water's surface. Some say that the creek is making an environmental comeback, now that industry's use of the creek is dissipating. Like the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn, this particular waterway has a way to go before much of the damage is fixed.
Let's see what makes Newtown Creek so interesting as we explore this
waterway and the surrounding areas.
A map that shows where Newtown Creek is located. The creek divides Brooklyn and Queens.indow, which will display a larger image of the map.
OldNYC.com contributor Antonio Teixeira determined the source of
this map: North East USA volume of the "Steam Powered Videos Comprehensive
Railroad Atlas of North America", 1st Edition, by Mike Walker published
in 1995 (ISBN: 1 874745 00 5).
A view of the Pulaski Bridge, which is one of several bridges that links Brooklyn and Queens over Newtown Creek.
The Brooklyn Eastern District Terminal railroad tracks in the street at Vernon Boulevard. Like many of the old railroads that once serves the Brooklyn and Queens East River waterfronts, the Brooklyn Eastern District Terminal railroad went out of business due to competition from the trucking industry.
A view of the Long Island Railroad's Long Island City yard. The large tan brick building is a ventilation shaft for the nearby Queens-Midtown Tunnel. The Empire State building looms high above the skyline across the East River.
Long Island City was a transfer point for train passengers wishing to
continue their journey to Manhattan utilizing the ferry operation that
once ran between Queens and Manhattan.
A northwest view of the train yard. Old industry, represented by the building with the smoke stacks, exists next to new residential developments, like the tall apartment building on the right.
According to OldNYC.com contributor and webmaster of wirednewyork.com
Edward Soudentas, the apartment complex is called Queens
West development. The tower on the right
is called Citylights
and the tower right behind the smoke stacks is called Avalon
Riverview. Long Island City is experiencing somewhat of
a rebirth, with new high rise residential buildings being constructed along
A view of the yard, looking northeast. This located in the highly industrialized area of Long Island City.
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