Waste, reimagined...

31 Aug 2012

Designing a new eco-system in which one’s waste is another’s benefit

Located across the East River from Manhattan and forming the border between the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens, the 596 acres of Newtown Creek is characterised as the location of one of America’s largest oil spills. Thirty million gallons of oil, twice the size of the Valdez spill, including a myriad of other toxins notably manufactured dyes were spilled into the aquifer over the course of its industrial past. Since being discovered in the early 1980’s, the spill continues to be pumped out of the aquifer; it was recently listed as a Superfund site.

As urban populations continue to expand, the challenges of land use competing with infrastructure for proximity to city centres will either support or limit this expansion. Pushing infrastructural needs further outside of the center the inefficiencies increase or the resource requirements to move materials, energy and waste products mount. To re-balance the relationship between population and infrastructure, waste needs to be considered as the catalyst for growth and not a pollutant.

Re-inventing more efficient networks and patching existing systems skirt the problem altogether. Instead, designing a new eco-system in which one’s waste is another’s benefit and thereby industrial and infrastructural by-products long associated with pollution of our rivers, streams and creeks are the fuel for our city’s 21st Century economy. Newtown Creek proximate to 8 million urban dwellers offers a unique opportunity to test these ideas. This brownfield opportunity assessment plan endeavors to unlock the tremendous potential of the area.

Analysis and prioritisation of the systems of this place provided the cultural, economic and ecological foundation for solving the complexities of Newtown Creek. Categorising these physical constraints and opportunities as well as identifying existing businesses, the plan is broken down into discrete intervention zones.

Within these zones, ‘waste to benefit’ cycles are created, new businesses and jobs are links within these systems that transform the Creek and the larger eco-system of the City. Weaving social, environmental and economic criteria into a system based approach defines the paradigm for 21st century urban industrial revitalisation.

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