Intertidal Wetland Project 2019-06-05T22:11:45+00:00

Project Description

Intertidal Wetland Project

Project Lead: Research Foundation of CUNY (LaGuardia Community College)
Project Partners: LaGuardia Community College; New York City Department of Environmental Protection; Newtown Creek Alliance; North Brooklyn Boat Club (formerly North Brooklyn Community Boathouse); Outside New York; and City Parks Foundation
Project Location: Greenpoint shoreline
GCEF Grant: $130,178
Matching Contribution: $130,911
Fact Sheet: Intertidal Wetland Project PDF
Project Status: Ongoing

In 2014, the Research Foundation of CUNY (LaGuardia Community College) received a $130,178 GCEF grant (and provided $130,911 in matching funds) to assess degraded shorelines along Newtown Creek (currently comprised of rip-rap and eroded bulkheads) as potential sites for “constructed” intertidal wetland habitat. Major project activities being funded by GCEF include:

  • Creating conceptual designs – in collaboration with the community and professional contractors – for habitat construction at two potential shoreline sites
  • Advancing one of these sites to a fully-engineered design, including construction drawings, cost estimates, and permits
  • Installing “soft” habitat along the walls of existing “hard” bulkheads
  • Expanding habitat already established on bulkhead walls at existing sites

The project will increase habitat for native birds, small fish, clams, crabs, and other species, and improve water quality by restoring “ecological services” (such as pollutant filtering) provided by species that inhabit constructed wetlands.


September 2015: All four GCEF-funded project activities were conducted in the spring and summer of 2015, engaging four student interns in the process. Meetings with the landscape architecture firm TerrainNYC resulted in an initial conceptual design for a intertidal wetland habitat at the head of “No Name Inlet,” along the Greenpoint shoreline of Newtown Creek just east of the City’s Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant(the design is similar to what was envisioned during an on-site public workshop in the spring, conducted in collaboration with the GCEF-funded North Henry Street Planning project). Officials with New York State and City environmental agencies and Allocco Recycling, a neighboring recycling business, reviewed the draft design. Students progressed in installing new habitat, and expanding existing habitat, on bulkheads by planting native marsh grass species in habitat basins at different tidal positions along the Whale Creek bulkhead.

August 2016: After identifying No Name Inlet as a suitable shoreline site for intertidal wetland habitat construction, the conceptual design for the project was introduced to the public and to interested government parties at both the State and City levels of environmental administration. Currently, undergraduate student interns are participating in physical and biological surveys of the site. The results of these surveys will be presented to the public over the next year. A landscape architect firm has produced preliminary design plans (see photo #2 above) for a salt marsh at the site. As a part of advancing the preliminary design to a fully-engineered design, these plans will be used to direct a professional site assessment through completion of an environmental analysis designed to confirm the absence of contamination.

August 2017: The No Name Inlet site for wetland construction has received approval from appropriate municipal and state agencies for the second phase of an environmental site assessment (ESA), the foundation for wetland construction permitting. Also at the No Name Inlet site, 500 plugs of salt marsh cordgrass, Spartina alterniflora, were planted within the current six “marsh habitat units” along the Inlet’s west shore bulkhead and “living dock” – a collaborative effort between four student interns, the Newtown Creek Alliance and the City Parks Foundation. In collaboration with GCEF, two CCNY Architecture graduate faculty members – Dr. Marcha Johnson and Leonard Hopper – successfully directed their graduate student classes in landscape architecture and technical drawing, respectively, to develop designs for a “living” intertidal shoreline at a second site, the Greenpoint Manufacturing and Development Center (GMDC) bulkhead. Dr. Johnson was one of fifteen presenters at our “Reclaiming the Estuary” symposium held at LaGuardia Community College last March, wherein the progress, challenges and visions for returning intertidal plant and animal communities to Newtown Creek was shared and discussed with 49 attendees from the Greenpoint and College communities.

February 2018: Shoreline ground was drilled for sampling at 1 Kingsland Avenue in October 2017. This activity marked the long-anticipated environmental site assessment of No Name Inlet – a critical investigation for the effort to restore lost intertidal wetland along the Creek. Three sites along a 340-foot stretch of shoreline, and an adjacent catch basin, were sampled for the presence of industrial toxins with the techniques of hydraulically powered soil probes, subsurface vapor analysis, and groundwater and hand auger soil sampling (for the catch basin). Government agencies, including the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the New York City Office of Environmental Remediation, are now reviewing the analysis report with the goal of moving forward with cleanup and construction. Also in October and continuing into November 2017, three LaGuardia College student interns and a high school student from Bard High School Early College assisted grant partners in developing a small demonstration salt marsh site along a 100-foot stretch of shoreline in the Creek tributary opposite the NYCDEP Nature Walk, with 400 grass plugs provided by the City Parks Foundation. Two waterside viewing tours to the salt marsh habitat units at Whale Creek and No Name Inlet, and to the demonstration salt marsh in the tributary were offered in September and October 2017. Fifteen people signed on to the tours (including two children under 12 years). Given the interest, grant partners look forward to offering more Creek tours in the coming season.

August 2018:Along the west shore of Whale Creek, LaGuardia College student interns have extended the green bulkhead that begins at the Creek mouth, where intertidal basins support low marsh cordgrass. Extending south of the basins, the bulkhead upper I-beam cavities now support salt marsh hay, milkweed, Joe Pye Weed and Bush Clover – 400 plants in all. This fall, the environmental planning firm Nelson, Pope & Voorhis will work to identify the precise depth and location of underground pipes that pass beneath the proposed restoration site. With this information in hand, the firm will partner with Land Use Ecological Services to finalize a construction plan for supporting three estuary communities at No Name – the low salt marsh, the high salt marsh, and native upland vegetation.

February 2019: A small inlet in Newtown Creek, once named the “Public Basin” (located east of the Newtown Creek Nature Walk and across from Whale Creek), is now positioned to become the site of major salt marsh renewal. The effort was joined last fall by the City Parks Foundation, the New York City Economic Development Corporation, and both the New York City Department of Environmental Protection and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, following successful mapping by Nelson, Pope & Voorhis. With the mapping completed, design plans for the inlet’s recovery of its natural wetland as a community resource are moving forward. Meanwhile, with the Newtown Creek Alliance and students of LaGuardia Community College, work began on floating wetlands – three rafts of salt marsh grasses that now float in Newtown Creek, populated with 100 plants each. Plans for building seven more grass rafts will begin in Spring 2019.