Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Ironic Nature Walk

The New York Times explores unconventional understandings of nature expressed in the Newtown Creek Nature Walk, located in the "industrial wilderness" of northern Brooklyn:
The nature walk occupies an unsavory wedge of land, stuck as it is between a sewage treatment facility and the infamous creek that separates Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and Long Island City, Queens, where decades ago more than 17 million gallons of oil seeped in from underground tanks. Yet, this contradictory nature walk, with its bleak concrete paths, holds truth for our confounding times.

When we think of nature, we imagine ourselves alone, surrounded by untouched beauty, connecting with our collective memories of the world as it was at the dawn of humanity. But “nature” is also defined as a characteristic or state of things, and this alternate meaning carries its own weight.
The Newtown Creek Alliance was formed in 2002 to advocate for the rehabilitation of Newtown Creek, cleaning up the habitat and building it into a center for community space.

The City Concealed: Newtown Creek from on Vimeo.

Following up on the recent ecocities post, we need to start recognizing the value of these marginal landscapes. In large, dense cities, we feel pressed to find new space for recreation and for habitat restoration. Newtown Creek demonstrates (1) that these places exist in our cities, often hidden in the "industrial wilderness," (2) this marginal space can be rehabilitated, and (3) there is a public desire for this type of natural-civic space.

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