Queens urges feds to treat boro equally in creek cleanup

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At LaGuardia Community College, which overlooks the Dutch Kills tributary off Newtown Creek, U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria), Borough President Helen Marshall and other elected officials demanded Friday that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency clean up both the Brooklyn and Queens sides of the creek.

“We don’t want them to forget the toxic legacy left here in Queens,” Maloney said.

The 3.8-mile creek, which spans the Brooklyn-Queens border from the East River on the southwest side of Long Island City to Metropolitan Avenue in West Maspeth, was declared a Superfund site in late September.

The creek has been an industrial center since the mid-1800s, was used as a raw sewage dumping site beginning in 1856 and has suffered numerous oil spills. An underwater oil plume discovered by a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter in 1978 was found to be a spill estimated at 17 million gallons of oil, 6 million more than the 1989 ExxonValdez spill in Alaska, the second-largest American spill after the BP oil spill this year.

Maloney said the EPA’s sampling for pollutants has mostly centered around the Brooklyn side of the creek, especially near the neighborhood of Greenpoint. Maloney, whose district used to encompass Greenpoint, said she did not want to take anything away from the neighborhood but wanted equal consideration given to Queens, especially to Newtown’s tributaries.

These include East Branch; Maspeth Creek, where the mining company Phelps Dodge once had a copper plant; and Dutch Kills, which LaGuardia Community College overlooks.

“The [Dutch Kills] waterway is a major arm of Newtown Creek,” Mitch Waxman of the Newtown Creek Alliance told a news conference at the college..

Maloney, along with other elected officials, wrote a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, urging her to consider Queens in the cleanup. She also asked that the study of the creek to determine the extent of the pollution be finished in one year, not the planned three years.

The congresswo­man’s call for Queens to be part of the cleanup was echoed by many other elected officials, among them City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), state Assemblyman Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria), Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan (D-Ridgewood), Community Board 3 Chairman Joe Conley and Marshall.

“This Newtown Creek is a mess,” Marshall said, “and you can’t just clean the Brooklyn side. You know, water flows.”

Laura Hofmann, a Greenpoint resident and member of the Newtown Creek Alliance, said she had not heard that the Queens side was not getting the same attention.

“What happens on the Queens side affects us on the Brooklyn side,” Hofmann said.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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