Last week, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) continued the weeklong celebration of Earth Day with their launch of the Watchable Wildlife program, a series of outdoor events to celebrate and revitalize the vast amounts of wildlife activities and recreation in the state.
Venetia Lannon, regional director of DEC, was at Maspeth Creek, a tributary of Newtown Creek near 49th Street and Maspeth Avenue, to take part in the program and release the “New York Wildlife Viewing Guide,” a book looking at 110 recreational sites throughout the state for bird watching, fishing and nature walks.
“The whole point of the book is to get people out, get people engaging in the natural world and in an urban environment that’s in places you might not expect it,” Lannon said.
At least 53 percent of the state participates in outdoor recreational activities every year, generating over $33 billion in consumer spending and roughly 305,000 New York jobs as a result.
“As you know the creek has been designated as a Superfund site, and the Environmental Protection Agency is undertaking that cleanup effort,” she said. “It’s so important that we keep the creek clean.”
Lannon, Newtown Creek Alliance (NCA) representatives and some local area birdwatchers brought their binoculars to gaze out toward the narrow natural oasis in search of birds and other wildlife.
“We wanted to go somewhere people might not think of for watching birds,” Lannon said. “But if you think about it, because there’s so much development along the East Coast, Central Park is this huge green rest stop.”
Kate Zidar, executive director of NCA, noted the creek’s active role in fostering their habitat throughout the city.
“Anywhere you go in New York City, there is natural activity going on,” Zidar pointed out as she looked back at the creek. “Ecosystems never give up.”
The pollution in Newtown Creek does not deter refuge-seeking wildlife.
“Already today in the hot sun of the afternoon we’ve seen cormorants, seagulls, starlings and ducks,” Zidar said. “If we stood here into the evening, we would not only see an amazing sunset, but we would also see a broader diversity of wildlife that comes right here to Maspeth Creek every day.”
As the NCA plans to continue their work to “restore, reveal and revitalize the creek,” Zidar is looking towards the summer so they can truly appreciate the environment they fight to preserve.
“One of the most successful and interesting types of tours we did last year was the bird watching tours, and we really didn’t know if it was going to work,” she said. “Lo and behold, we tried going by van, we tried by foot, we tried going by boat, but by the end of one year we had a species list of over 30 different types of birds.”
Over the summer, the NCA will once again offer walking tours with Mitch Waxman and also partner with the North Brooklyn Boat Club.
Will Elkins, committee member of the North Brooklyn Boat Club, pointed out the importance of being tied to the creek and recognized the importance of being involved.
“Our side is at the mouth of the creek, and we do a lot of canoeing and kayaking throughout the area,” Elkins said.
The boat club partnered with NCA last year to do bird-watching trips on the creek and they look forward to carrying on the tradition for the upcoming summer months.
“This year we’re going to do one every month starting this May,” he said.