Newtown Creek Vision Plan
Riverkeeper / Newtown Creek Alliance
Brooklyn and Queens, New York
Project size: 1,000 acres
Located across the East River from Midtown Manhattan and forming the border between the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens, Newtown Creek has suffered from over a century of industrial contamination, including decades of oil seepage and chronic sewage overflows. America’s first oil refinery began operations along its banks in 1867, and the creek soon became one of the most heavily used — and polluted — waterways in the Port of New York. Today, it harbors an estimated 30 million gallons of spilled oil and associated toxins.
In 2010, Newtown Creek was made a part of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Superfund program, through which the federal government manages and pays for toxic site remediation. Perkins+Will’s and Riverkeeper’s plan for the creek — which received substantial input from the grassroots organization Newtown Creek Alliance — is intended to help the community prepare for the remediation and set broader social, environmental and economic goals. Solutions include stormwater infrastructure and habitat restoration, new public space, industrial redevelopment, and flood protection.
The concept of the Vision Plan is to create a cohesive community vision for Newtown Creek. With a Superfund cleanup and long-term plan to control sewage overflows on the horizon, now is an opportune time to engage stakeholders in imagining and designing a future Newtown Creek that provides greater opportunities for restoration, remediation, recreation, and resilience.
The scale of the plan was broken down into discrete intervention zones, each studied in context of past and parallel planning efforts. Within those zones, 85 projects were identified and brought forth as community-supported funding opportunities through Superfund and other remediation programs. Weaving social, environmental and economic criteria, a system-based approach will create a new model for 21st century urban industrial waterways. The focus was to outline transformative paths for Newtown Creek and ways to generate greater habitat, community access and sustainable use for decades to come. Other community ideas that had been previously pursued — such as the transformation of abandoned street-end areas into lush public spaces and the restoration of salt marsh within shallow tributaries — were also resurrected and further fleshed out as part of the plan.