Newtown Creek Study Enlists, Trains Citizen Historians
by Jeffrey Harmatz
Apr 21, 2009 | 1225 views | 0 0 comments | 44 44 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Training for the Newtown Community Health and Harm Narratives Project (CHHNP) commenced last weekend, as several eager members of the community gathered to become amateur oral historians.

The project seeks to create a compendium of recorded oral testimony describing everyday life in neighborhoods that have ground contamination from the industrial use of Newtown Creek.

Spanning from Greenpoint to Maspeth, the project hopes to include a variety of community voices, ranging from long-time residents of the area to recent arrivals, and hear how they have been (or have not been) affected by one of the largest oil spills in the United States.

The interviews, once conducted, will be categorized and archived on a website which will be available to the public and will create a first-hand historical document of the neighborhood's attitudes and experience regarding the creek and its contamination.

The project was created through a partnership of the Urban Public Health Department of Hunter College, HabitatMap, and the Newtown Creek Alliance, and their goal is to establish a community dialogue about the contaminations and its effects.

To that end, they are enlisting ordinary neighborhood residents to serve as the interviewers. By having the interviews conducted by peers, they will not only facilitate dialogue within the community, but gain access to people, places, and stories that they might not be otherwise able.

The project kicked off last fall, and after months of continuing preliminary outreach, the project has begun to train citizen historians. The first group of residents met last Sunday morning at the Green Acres Social Club in Greenpoint to learn how to conduct and record the interviews that will make up the final project.

About a dozen enthusiastic residents came together discuss the intent of the project, learn the tricks of the trade, and form the foundation for what is becoming an important element in the growing conversation about environmental issues in Brooklyn and Queens. Practice interviews were conducted and ordinary folks were taught the ins and outs of using professional the recording equipment that will be essential to documenting the community narratives.

For more information on becoming a part of the CHHNP, email newtowncreekstudy@gmail.com or call (718) 577-1359.
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