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  • SWIM

Getting to Zero in Dutch Kills Community Action Plan Summer Picnic

Updated: Sep 29, 2020

On Saturday, June 29th, as part of our Community Action Plan for improving water quality in the Dutch Kills branch of Newtown Creek, SWIM, Green Shores NYC, Newtown Creek Alliance, Riverkeeper, and NYC Soil and Water Conservation District launched two public art projects: Cerulean Waters and Listening to Dutch Kills. Each of these projects reflects on the current, past, and future state of the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek. The launch started with the immersive, audio-guided walking tour by Chance Ecologies titled Listening to Dutch Kills.

Originating from the LIC Roots Community Garden, 35 intrepid participants downloaded the audio guide onto their phones and set out on their walk around the edges of the Dutch Kills tributary in near 90 degree weather! The audio tour guided participants to focus on specific sounds present in Dutch Kills, such as the busy bees working to pollinate the local plants, the headwaters of Dutch Kills running underneath a paved road, and the ongoing traffic running through the area. Participants visited a curbside rain garden and learned about how they manage stormwater runoff from our streets and buildings. The tour also included narratives from different stakeholders, such as Willis Elkins from Newtown Creek Alliance, Sarah Durand from LaGuardia Community College, Katie Ellman from GreenShores NYC, and Mitch Waxman from Newtown Creek Alliance, describing the current environmental problems in Dutch Kills/Newtown Creek.

The tour ended at Smiling Hogshead Ranch Community Garden where guests were welcomed into the garden for a summer picnic, an artist’s talk, and the unveiling of Cerulean Waters, a sound and textile installation by artists Laura Kung and Johann Diedrick. Cerulean Waters, cosponsored by the Green Shores NYC Bridging the Creek project, highlights the combined sewage overflow (CSO) events in the Dutch Kills section of Newtown Creek and the environmental impacts that they cause. During the artist talk at Smiling Hogshead Ranch, Kung and Diedrick described the problems present in Dutch Kills as “human-generated destruction of a precious resource” and described the installation as a plea for the change we want to see in our waterways across the City.

Using bio-design techniques, Kung created a natural blue dye from bacteria in water samples drawn from the Dutch Kills tributary that is then fossilized onto natural fibers woven into textiles. Accompanying Kung’s textile sculpture is Johann Diedrick’s soundscape consisting of underwater recordings of the Newtown Creek combined with original music compositions to emulate the sounds that have existed in the past and the sounds that could exist in the future in the Newtown Creek. Guests were left wondering about the current environmental deterioration occurring in Dutch Kills and the long-term effects of what could happen if nothing were to be done to clean up the area. The installation is on display at Smiling Hogshead Ranch July - September 2019.

Following the artist talk, we reviewed some of the priority projects that will be included in the Community Action Plan.

Thank you to the artists and community stakeholders like LIC Roots and Smiling Hogshead Ranch for working with us to build greater public awareness of the community's action plan for revitalizing the Dutch Kills tributary!

Listening to Dutch Kills is a project by Chance Ecologies, curated and produced by artists Catherine Grau, Nathan Kensinger, and Sarah Nelson Wright, with participating artists including Nate Dorr, Edrex Fontanilla, Rachel Stevens, Moira Williams, and others. The Listening to Dutch Kills tour will be offered again on July 13th - City of Water Day, and a future date in the Fall of 2019. The audio tour and map will live online here so that people can take the walk on their own. We recommend taking the walk on the weekend when there is less traffic.

The Cerulean Waters installation will be on view July - September at Smiling Hogshead Ranch in Long Island City. The Cerulean Waters installation is co-sponsored by Green Shores NYC as part of their Bridging the Creek project and is made possible through a grant from the Hudson River Foundation. Bridging the Creek is a community-driven project designed to connect those living and working on the Queens and Brooklyn sides of Newtown Creek with both the waterway and each other.

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