Friday, September 28, 2007


What I saw on Jamaica Bay last Sunday:

butterflies (Monarchs and something smaller)
geese (Canada)
a blimp
police and fire and Parks Department boats
horses, with riders, on the shore

I was on my way to Paerdegat Basin, to find out what Paerdegat Basin is. It is a so-called “tributary” of Jamaica Bay (though what it may “contribute” is another matter), on the Brooklyn side, west of Canarsie, in Ralph Kramden country. On the chart Paerdegat is represented with a minute inexplicable square. The name is Dutch for "horse gate." You enter Paerdegat Basin through big hellish creosote-soaked gates below a bridge carrying traffic on the Belt Parkway.

If you’re at all nervous about your outboard motor, the sounds you hear under this bridge are worrisome, not to say terrifying: something is under terrible strain.

Beyond the gates was a surprisingly tropical scene. There were kayakers paddling up the stream, marinas, yacht clubs, and even a canoe livery, all with reflections shimmering in the water and the water’s reflection shimmering on them.

At the far end was a more industrial landscape: cranes, quonset huts, barges, and some, uh, structures I didn’t get close enough to to photograph because it began to smell pretty bad. It could be a dump, or a landfill (which is to say a dump), or a sewage treatment plant. I think they may be building a storage tank for CSOs. “CSO” stands for Combined Sewer Overflow, and a “CSO event,” as the literature so delicately puts it, is when a storm overwhelms the sewer system and it releases raw sewage into the environment. I suddenly got very afraid that I would run out of gas and decided to head home.

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