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Games or no Games, creek must be cleaned: Gioia

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"The creek is like a witch's cauldron of raw sewage and petroleum products which assaults the senses - particularly during the summer months," City Councilmen Eric Gioia (D-Sunnyside) and David Yassky (D-Brooklyn) said in the letter to the mayor. "These cesspool conditions raise serious human health and aesthetic concerns, which must be addressed."The letter comes just days after an evaluation commission for the International Olympic Committee visited Hunters Point for a briefing on plans to build the multibillion-dollar Olympic Village on Newtown Creek, which the nonprofit green advocate Riverkeeper said is one of the most polluted waterways in the country. The organization is suing ExxonMobil over a giant oil spill that has seeped beneath western Queens and Brooklyn for 50 years. The federal suit charges that the oil giant, which agreed to a voluntary cleanup of the property with the state Department of Environmental Conservation in 1990, has done a lackluster job soaking up the mess. "I certainly think the IOC and the public should be concerned in general about the polluted condition of the creek and the possible affect on the Olympians," Riverkeeper investigator Basil Seggos said. "This is a great opportunity for the city to actually take some pro-active steps."NYC2012, the committee behind the city's bid, has said repeatedly that cleaning Newtown Creek would be a priority should the city beat out Paris, Madrid, Moscow and London for the Games. The IOC will choose a winner on July 6. Gioia and Yassky urged the mayor to implement an environmental overhaul regardless of the bid outcome. They asked him to put controls on the 2.7 million gallons of sewage discharged into the creek annually; to force Exxon to devise a better clean-up plan; to demand that the creek be dredged; and to restore the 1,400 acres of wetlands destroyed by pollution. "Rather than avoiding the problems with Newtown Creek in the context of the Olympic bid, the city should tackle them head on, leveraging the prospect of the Games to improve the health and welfare of all New Yorkers," the letter said. Reach reporter Matthew Monks by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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