A public garden & cultural center

George Trakas

George Trakas

Remediate/Re-vision: Public Artists Engaging the Environment
Glyndor Gallery | August 1 – November 28, 2010

Commissioned to create public access to a long-inaccessible shoreline surrounding Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant, New York-based artist George Trakas revisioned this derelict waterfront as an opportunity to heighten our awareness of the social and natural history around us. Through interpretive signage and unique design features, such as unrestricted access to the waterfront, Trakas connects the user to the site’s multiple histories, from Lenape civilization and nineteenth-century industrial Greenpoint, Brooklyn to the present day’s work of Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant. The Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant is the largest of New York City’s 14 treatment plants. Its wastewater comes from more than 1.5 million people living, working, and visiting Greenpoint and parts of Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan.

The texture of this concrete wall imitates wood milled where portions of NCWTP currently sits. Looking through the portholes of these 13 foot high walls, visitors can view the activity of the plant.

The waterline rises and falls along nine foot thick granite slabs ascending from this tidal estuary. Etched on each step is the Latinate scientific name for each geologic epoch. 

Trakas’s sensitive construction around the existing bulkhead and his decision to grow an array of native plants along Newtown Creek Nature Walk have also facilitated the area’s environmental revival from being the site of the largest oil spill, next to the recent British Petroleum oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. By exposing the public to the social and natural history of the site, Trakas intends to heighten our sense of stewardship and public engagement. Newtown Creek Nature Walk is open to the public every day from sunrise to sunset.

To get to Newtown Creek Nature Walk by subway either take the G or the 7.

Exit the G at Greenpoint/Manhattan Ave. With the McDonald's on your left, walk along Greenpoint Avenue one long block east and cross McGuinnes Boulevard. Continue on Greenpoint Avenue to the next traffic light and make a left on Provost Street. Walk eight blocks north (to the end). Make a right on Paidge Avenue where the Nature Walk begins. (12 minute walk)

Or exit the 7 at Vernon Blvd-Jackson Ave. Walk east on 50th Avenue and turn south on 11th Street. Cross the Pulaski Bridge over Newtown Creek into Brooklyn. Before you reach the end, take the staircase down to the street level; you will be on Ash Street. Walk east under the bridge and cross McGuinness Boulevard to Paidge Ave. (21 minute walk)

 Many of the plants along the Nature Walk are native to the region and were chosen because they attract wildlife and grow well along the bank of a tidal estuary.

George Trakas on Newtown Creek Nature Walk
The essence of cedar, oak and pine in the lumber yards express their source in local and distant forests. The scent of oil and mill scale in the steel yard emote the ore and petroleum from the bowels of the earth. These environments are present in the artwork. Stone and wood, the mineral and the vegetable, in all their forms and fragrances from the process of felling, quarrying and mining, to sawing, smelting and cracking—the masculine and feminine earth dance, gyrate and flow through the work from the start.

The solitary process of studying the site to germinate an idea for a public work is an act of love for land and water whose integration becomes the work. The needs of the site, the client, employees and the people who live close by are in mind. Knowledge of and experience with materials and their sources; drawing plans and details; construction techniques and cooperation with the community board, engineers, architects, contractor and crew—are all part of the process of realizing the work. It is an intensive collaboration where we work together to build what each of us believes is the best possible solution to unify the site with its people, wildlife and vegetation.

In 1997, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs selected nine artists to be interviewed for a Percent for Art Project for the upgrade of the Newtown Creek Water Pollution Control Plant. The community had been resisting the upgrade for almost a decade; however when they heard the proposal to create a waterside park for the employees, their focus changed and they responded with a demand to have access. After a decade of collaboration between engineers, architects and the community, Phase 1 of the Nature Walk was inaugurated in September of 2007. Phase 2 & 3 are underway to complete pedestrian access around the entire plant by 2017.

For more information about Newtown Creek Nature Walk check out this short video by Urban Omnibus featured in the exhibit.

The Arts at Wave Hill are supported by the Lily Auchincloss Foundation, Inc.; Michael J. Shannon; Milton and Sally Avery Arts Foundation; the National Endowment for the Arts; New York City Department of Cultural Affairs; New York Community Trust Edward and Sally Van Lier Fund; New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature; The Pollock-Krasner Foundation; The Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation; and by the Cathy and Stephen Weinroth Commissioning Fund for the Arts.