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Newtown Creek Flooding Environmental and Economic Concern, Advocates Say

By Meredith Hoffman | October 30, 2012 5:40pm | Updated on November 8, 2012 11:44am

GREENPOINT — A storm surge that flooded "hundreds of properties" with Newtown Creek's water carries intense economic and environmental repercussions, advocates warned.

"All waterfront properties took water, hundreds of properties," said the Newtown Creek Alliance's director Kate Zidar after surveying the scene by the highly polluted creek Tuesday. "The standing water and residue that came from the creek should not be considered clean."

Zidar, who noted that all streets from McGuiness Boulevard to Java Street were inundated with water Monday night, said that the immediate detriments would be economic, but that the flood might influence people's health in the long term.

"People need to take precautions...for example I had a pair of boots I wore in the flood water and those are not coming in my apartment," she said. 

Newtown Creek, a Superfund site and the victim of decades of oil spills and sewage dumps, flooded industrial businesses and homes, including Michele Burns' catering company, which took on 2 feet of water in its basement storage area, she said. 

"I've never seen it this bad," Burns said, noting that she'd been in the spot for 16 years and lost food with Sandy's flood.

A Department of Environmental Protection spokesman said the city would work to figure out the effects of the flood.

"We encourage residents to observe existing advisories regarding Newtown Creek, and will work with the EPA to determine any potential impacts that result from flooding," the spokesman said. "Residents should wash their hands and practice proper hygiene if they come into contact with the canal’s water or sediments."

Zidar noted that the flooding was not apparent to most Greenpoint residents since the water had subsided in the streets, but she warned that significant damage had been done to the industrial business zone.

"For a lot of the residential zone since we have power and Internet we feel like we’ve been spared, but I hope people understand our local business community has been severely impacted," Zidar said. "Just like Wall Street flooding impacts global economy, Newtown Creek flooding impacts local and regional economy."

Zidar said she hoped city agencies would focus more attention on shielding the vulnerable area from potentially worse future storms.

"We advocate for investment in waterfront that would protect the shoreline," she said. "It could be worse, we were lucky this time."

Zidar did note that the Newtown Creek sewage treatment plant did not overflow, thanks to the vigilance of its workers.

Victoria Bekiempis contributed reporting.