Missing bulkhead at Vernon Blvd street end, 1/11/16. Photo courtesy of Erik Baard, HarborLab.


A significant chunk of the bulkhead at the Vernon Boulevard street end in Long Island City collapsed into Newtown Creek on Sunday. The section in question, now sits submerged atop the G train tunnel that travels beneath Newtown Creek connecting Greenpoint, Brooklyn to LIC in Queens.


Chains tied to the bulkhead. Photo by Mitch Waxman


For several years now, small vessels have moored along this section of the Newtown Creek. First there were 3, then 8 and pretty soon, close to 25 small and medium vessels were tying up to trees, rocks, haphazardly placed stakes and yes, to the bulkhead itself.

Did I mention this stretch of creek also houses the Buckeye pipeline beneath the murky sediment?

Some of the boats docked on Newtown Creek over the Buckeye pipeline. Photo by Mitch Waxman.


These boats dock 2-3 deep, some tying off to other boats tenuously tied to a tree branch. I’ve seen folks climbing over fences laden down with groceries and supplies, and children being hauled over the bulkhead so they can shimmy down the crumbling shore to board.

Yup, there are people living here.

“Mooring”. Photo by Mitch Waxman


According to an article in Gothamist written by Erik Baard director of HarborLAB, an environmental group that leases space adjacent to the new gaping hole at the end of Vernon Blvd, some of the boats are rented out as floating hotel rooms with a going rate of $450 – $600 a month.

I guess if health and safety aren’t your concern, living on a Superfund site sounds like a pretty good deal.

Tied up to the CSO sign. Photo by Mitch Waxman


Gothamist: It’s unclear who exactly is responsible for repairing the bulkhead. The NYC Sheriff’s Department is responsible for small vessels sunken along shorelines but has yet to take action. A spokesperson for the Department of Design and Construction suggested it was the DOT’s responsibility. A DOT spokesperson said that the bulkhead is not under the agency’s jurisdiction.

A spokesperson for the DEP said the bulkhead isn’t their issue, but suggested that a local team would check to see if the fallen cement blocks are blocking the sewer outfall at the end of Vernon Blvd. The DEP spokesperson said they believed the DOT is responsible for the bulkhead. Read Erik’s complete article at Gothamist here…

So what happens now? Who’s going to fix this mess?


posted by Mai Armstrong for the Working Harbor Committee