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The Newtown Creek Armada

September 13, 2012 2:52:42 PM PDT
It's water in New York City that most people don't know about or don't even notice, but some artists are hoping to shine a light on a creek with boats.

"When it first started it was marshes so industrialized isn't not quite natural," said Nathan Kensinger, of the Newtown Creek Armada.

The Newtown Creek looks like normal water, but it's so polluted that is actually a superfund site - an industrial canal that runs between Queens and Brooklyn.

"A lot of people live in Greenpoint by the creek. They don't know what the Newtown creek is," said Laura Chipley, of the Newtown Creek Armada.

For three artists, it's a destination where they're launching their armada of model boats. The hulls are made from fiberglass and each is decorated with items found in and around the creek. The public is encouraged to participate by using a remote control.

"As people pilot the boats and they're filming the creek because every boat has an underwater camera on it," Kensinger said.

One camera, for example faces up toward the surface.

"You see oil on the water, sometimes you see sewage overflow, and trash at the tributaries at the ends of the creek," said Sarah Nelson Riley, of the Newtown Creek Armada.

And that's not even capturing the pollution that lines the base of the creek. It's all so dangerous that you can't swim or even touch this water. That's why participation is from afar.

"Really what we wanted to accomplish was for people to have a safe way to interact with the Super Fund site, so that it wouldn't be so abstract for them anymore that we have this polution problem in the city" Riley said.

A problem that's slowly getting fixed, but perhaps through public art the pace picks up and the Newtown creek returns to what it once was. There's hope that it will.

"This boat represents the resilience of nature in this area," Riley said.

For more information, please visit www.newtowncreekarmada.org.

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