Newtown Creek and nearby East River waterfront: impacts of 21st century weather on former industrial production sites in New York harbor

Authors: Peter Spellane*, New York City College of Technology, Soydan Alihan Polat, Studio M+
Topics: Urban Geography, Water Resources and Hydrology
Keywords: industrial contamination, manufactured chemicals, petroleum refining
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/3/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Stones Throw 1 - Granite, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Newtown Creek and the adjoining East River waterfront, at the center of modern-day New York City, constituted, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, an important center for production and export of industrial chemicals, refined petroleum, and high purity copper metal. Newtown Creek is now a site of environmental remediation and the East River waterfront a construction site for new high-rise apartment buildings. Both the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the federal Environmental Protection Agency have identified areas of industrial contamination in or near Newtown Creek: the NYS DEC oversees the remediation of petroleum pollution at a former Standard Oil refinery; the EPA oversees the Remedial Investigation in progress at the Newtown Creek Superfund site. In 2012, “superstorm” Sandy flooded many parts of New York City, including the entirety of Newtown Creek. Sandy gives us cause to consider constraints on new construction along the waterfront and the liabilities of subsurface contamination at sites in flood-prone areas. With attention to locations flooded during Sandy, we examine data from the investigations at the Standard Oil site, more recent findings of subsurface metal and petroleum-byproduct contamination along Newtown Creek, and data on the new construction along the East River waterfront.

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