Filmmaker Coleen Fitzgibbon and Artist Peter Fend, being asked to think of what’s going on in Greenpoint, took a boat ride in February on one of the most polluted bodies of water in the US. This is Newtown Creek, on the border of Greenpoint and Queens—and a Superfund site. Two boats were used, one paddled by artist Patterson Beckwith with of the North Brooklyn Boat Club, and the other run with an electric motor by artist Willis Elkins, Program Manager of Newtown Creek Alliance.
Fend had met Beckwith with at the American Fine Arts Company in the 90’s, which represented Fend and his company for art/science production, Ocean Earth Development Corporation. Fend, Beckwith and Elkins had also met through Momenta Art, through shows there relating to Newtown Creek and all of NY Harbor. Work through Ocean Earth with oceans, especially in seaweed-fish cycles, started in earnest in southwest France in 1993; it continued in the UK, NZ and Germany.
Fitzgibbon, with Betsy Sussler and Chris Burden, assisted Gordon Matta-Clark with his NYC water systems in 1974-75, which covered New York’s aqueducts, steam pipes and sewage systems. Fitzgibbon met Fend in 1979 at 5 Bleecker Store’s Manifesto Show, organized by her and Jenny Holzer, an early Colab show. All three artists subsequently were co-founders of Colab, and in 1979 of The Offices of Fend, Fitzgibbon, Holzer, Nadin, Prince & Winters. An incorporated successor to The Offices ensued, now called Ocean Earth Development Corporation. Fitzgibbon and Fend worked collaboratively through Ocean Earth in early 80’s, producing satellite surveys with NASA data for NBC, CBS, the BBC and the Cousteau Society. Ocean Earth went on to produce news coverage of Iran-Iraq, Chernobyl and Nicaragua, with UN press conferences and a commissioned report for the US Congress. Efforts continue: in 2013, Fitzgibbon made the film “Emissions,” on methane gas leaks in NYC, in conjunction with Gas Safety Inc, Damascus Citizens, and artists Ruth Hardinger and Becca Smith. As part of what could be a debate, Ocean Earth was producing methane gas from Otago Harbor and Lake Karapiro in New Zealand—thinking that, well, we could make electricity to stay clean.
Rosa Valado of the Greenpoint Film Festival suggested to Fitzgibbon that a new film could be made regarding environmental questions in Greenpoint; Fitzgibbon asked Fend to bring his broad, at-sea experience, developed with Ocean Earth stake holders in four countries. But, as this film showed, both of them were just now learning about what are the daunting problems in Newtown Creek. From its experience, Ocean Earth could propose an “organic dredging” of the contaminants with brown seaweed. But many questions must be answered.
A first reconnoiter by Fend, Beckwith with and Elkins is recorded here by Fitzgibbon, followed by a reality check(legalities..) from Sean Dixon of Riverkeeper, and a complementary ocean-site quest, just below the inlet of Newtown Creek, by two members of Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park. It’s learned that Greenpoint has huge potential for benefiting from its salt waters, not just in fuel production but also in removal of contaminants through growth and harvesting of marine plants.
Greenpoint 2016 is screening Sunday March 20th at 5:30pm.
Recommended Screenings for the Greenpoint Film Festival (3/17 – 3/20)
Posted by Peter Y. | March 16, 2016
The promise of a park in Bushwick Inlet has intrigued Greenpoint residents for a long time. So it is appropriate that festivities begin on Thursday (3/17) at 8 pm with Can Video Bring Us Our (Missing) Park, a presentation of video footage with a live discussion about our ongoing struggle.
Moving to another property-related topic, do you think the housing market in Greenpoint is getting outlandish? Keep in mind that one of the nice things about our neighborhood is it still has a ton of houses where the owner rents out an entire ground floor. So you can still be young and fun and not paid very well, and as long as you are willing to live with other people, you can have a nice backyard and the spiritual warmth of a real house.
For the opposite circumstance, watch Superjednostka on Friday night (3/18). This documentary reveals life inside a “SuperUnit,” a housing complex that can hold 3,000 people on its 15 floors. The elevators only stop every three floors so residents have to navigate a maze of hallways and stairs to get to their apartments. Here’s the trailer.
Actually, that makes living there look kind of fun, like being in The Shining. And since it’s filmed in Poland, it will give you something to chat about with our local community.
For Saturday (3/19), I like the thematic promise of Becoming Bulletproof, a documentary about a troupe of differently abled kids who put on a costume Western.
My uncle’s friend runs a similar program, where he uses theater to help struggling kids focus and work as a team, and also to spur their imagination. It is really heartening to see the joy it brings them.
And many famous actors say that what pulled them into acting was being able to escape from cruelties faced in the real world by getting to “be” someone else for a while. Historically, one way this functioned was to provide an escape from mid-century anti-gay prejudice.
For Sunday (3/20) I recommend a series of Brooklyn-related shorts starting at 5:30 pm. It includes Juno, about the beautiful winter storm we had that brought Greenpoint to a standstill. Filmmaker Jeffrey Enkler assembles a three-minute tour of eerily empty streets set to original music from composer Jamin Winans.
Another short in Sunday’s program, Greenpoint 2016, delves into the history of Greenpoint and Newton Creek environmental problems and remediation proposals.
Tickets for the festival are quite reasonably priced at $10 a show. Day passes are $18, and a full festival pass is $56. Tickets and passes can be purchased here.
Click on the movie links above for specific show times and locations.
I am an experimental and documentary filmmaker/artist since 1972 and often work in collaboration with other artists. I have been interested in the urban environment since the early seventies, and worked with artist Gorden Matta-Clark on his 1974 (unfinished) film on New York’s water systems and also my film LES on urban ghetto conditions.
Recently I collaborated with artists Ruth Hardinger and Becca Smith and made the film “Emmissions” on gas emmissions exuding from the gas pipelines in Manhattan.
I asked Peter Fend (who I worked with on several other projects with NBC, OECD and the Offices of Fend Fitzgibbon Holzer Nadin Prince and Winters) to collaborate with me on the Greenpoint Newton Creek environment as it’s a site of one of New York’s superfunds, as well as the Gowanus Canal.
We took a boatride up Newtown Creek with Willis Elkins of the Greenpoint Newtown Creek Alliance and Patterson Beckwith of the North Community Boathouse and photographer Jake Sigal to get an overview of the contamination and solutions that were in progress as to the creek’s clean up.
Peter Fend proposed an experimental seaweed growing lab on Newtown Creek and other NYC waterways to try to reduce pollution and at the same time generate gas to drive electricity.
I’ve interviewed several other organizations associated with the Greepoint area and will include them in the film, such as Riverkeeper and the Bushwick Inlet Park Organization.
March 10, 2016
Congrats to Sound Designer/Mixer Steve Perski and Graphics and VFX Director Stephen C. Walsh for their contributions to “The Cycle,” winner for Best Narrative Short in the Greenpoint Film Festival. Directed by Michael Marantz, the 11-minute dramatic short explores the gut-wrenching ramifications of gun violence and the bottomless emotional abyss between sense and senseless, defense and defenseless.
“The goal of the film,” according to producers at Already Alive, “is to tell an emotionally powerful story to instigate genuine conversation around the issue of fear and how it contributes to violence in our communities.” Watch the trailer below. To request a copy of the film or to contact the filmmakers for help organizing a screening, visit the film’s website, The Cycle Film.
March 7, 2016
Narrative, documentary, environmental and experimental shorts and features will screen at the Wythe Hotel from March 17 to 20 along with panel discussions.
Local activists with Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park who are pushing the city to fulfill its promise of a 27-acre waterfront park will be featured on the festival’s opening night March 17 in a series of shorts documenting their activism over the past year, followed by a panel discussion.
Other shorts like “Greenpoint 2016” screening on March 20, will highlight environmental issues in Greenpoint and Newtown Creek and explore possible remedies.
While the surrounding neighborhood plays a role in some of the films on the screen, others hail from different parts of the country and the world.
Take “Becoming Bulletproof,” a feature-length documentary that captures a behind-the-scenes look at the filming of a Western flick which stars many actors with disabilities.
While “Roman Citizen,” an Italian feature, blends thriller and mystery.
The festival takes place at the Wythe Hotel at 80 Wythe Ave. Individual screenings cost $10, day passes are $18 and full festival passes for four days of films cost $56. Visit the website for more information.
March 7, 2016
BY ALLEGRA HOBBS
Lights, camera, activism!
A group of Greenpoint protesters who have been badgering the city to build a waterfront park it promised a decade ago will screen the greatest hits of their open-space activism at a local film festival — and the activists believe the creative display is the best way to reel in the mayor’s attention.
“I think video is the best way to get the mayor to act,” said Dewey Thompson of the Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park, which will air its protest videos at the Greenpoint Film Festival on March 17. “It’s a way of creatively, persistently, pursuing the issue.”
The screening at Williamsburg’s snazzy Wythe Hotel will feature 10 short protest videos the group made throughout the last year in an effort to get the city to snatch up the remaining waterfront lot and turn it into community green space.
The short films will scroll chronologically through the group’s past year of activism — one clip includes an aerial shot of local athletes and prospective park-goers form a huge question mark on the existing turf, while another shows protestors paddling into the inlet in a swarm of kayaks for a water-born demonstration.
Several of the movies use drone footage to capture the sadly un-purchased land from a bird’s-eye view — giving the disgruntled community its first and only look at the hostage plot of land, said Thompson.
“It’s all behind fences, privately owned and cut off from the community,” he said. “The drone footage was a revelation to us.”
The city promised to build a 28-acre park between the East River and Kent Avenue, stretching from N. Ninth Street and Meserole Avenue, to sweeten a massive 2005 rezoning that has allowed developers to build high-rise residences along the waterfront.
Since then luxury sky-scrapers have popped up, packing in thousands of new residents along the overcrowded coast, but the city has so far only purchased 17 acres of the pledged land, and has turned only seven acres of that space into parkland.
The group will show all the protest videos in one go to demonstrate the power of filmmaking as an activist tool — and while the year’s worth of footage has yet to convince Mayor DeBlasio to make a move, Thompson remains optimistic that the camera-carting antics are essential to remaining a thorn in the mayor’s side.
“Is it going to be enough to push DeBlasio to make the enormous commitment to acquire the park?” It hasn’t happened yet,” said Thompson. “But this raises community awareness and lets DeBlasio know we are not going away.” “Can Video Bring Us Our Missing Park?” at the Greenpoint Film Festival at the Wythe Hotel [80 Wythe Avenue between N. 11th and N. 12th Streets, (718) 460–8000, www.green
By Peter Fend for the program Art & Activism Part II by
Coleen Fitzgibbon and Peter Fend
Probably the name was De Nieuwe Tuin Kreek, in Dutch.
The region was De Nieuwe Tuin, meaning “the new garden.” The rather wide stream was called “Kreek,” with its many “Kills,” or smaller streams. This stream was not a river. The whole basin of Nieuwe Tuin was probably a good source of healthful food for the Dutch settlers. Nothing like this occurs now. The basin is full of contaminants.
Throughout, the Creek has some salinity. The salinity fluctuates. Generally, it’s around 20/000; after heavy rains, as in our trip there yesterday, it falls to 12/000, even less near the ends of the Kills.
To revive the Creek, we use a technique developed under the name of Ocean Earth by Catherine Griffiths, Peter Fend, scientist Stephen Hughes, naval architect Marc Lombard and various colleagues in New Zealand, called “ORGANIC DREDGING.” Like the name of the company, the Creek is an interface between dry land and sea, between “earth” and “ocean.” The first successful test of organic dredging, or uptake of nutrients in seaweed, was in the Exe Estuary, in 2001. We produced methane gas consistently.
Materials on land flow into the water, especially after storms. These materials could fill up a channel, or creek, over time. The runoff from a colossal City like NY is huge. So, is much to dredge. The sea rushes in, from the East River tidal-strait, but not enough to wear away accumulations of sediment. Introduce plants that can absorb the accumulation from runoffs. Then harvest those plants, frequently. The sequence achieves the results of dredging—-with plants.
The plants would be a species of Laminaria that can tolerate fluctuations in salinity between 25 and 10 per thousand. If that’s not possible, we find another type of marine algae, perhaps Fucus. Ideally, a variety of species are used.
Short fronds of the species are tied at junctures of on rope nets, probably at 20-30 cm intervals. The nets could be 4 m x 4. They line the shore, the margins of the Creek. They are tethered to the shore, to avoid disturbing the bottom. They are placed especially at CSO outfalls. They can be moved around.
All servicing of the nets of marine algae with brackish-water tolerance is done with muscle-propelled boats. Versions of racing sculls are proposed. If not, versions of canoes. They would be outfitted with cutting blades. For stability, they are bound together with superstructures to become catamaran. These boars, with various equipment added, are used in four ways: to patrol the nets along the margins of the Creek; to cut, possibly with catamaran-mounted blades, any growth of plants extending downward from the nets; to move the nets around, particularly to CSO outfall sites after storms; to haul any harvest in sack-nets. All these technologies have been proven. for example, hauling harvested seaweed in a sack-net in the water is standard practice in western Ireland. Catamarans for dealing with water-clogging plants is standard practice in reservoirs in New Zealand. The cutting of plants, and the moving of nets holding plants, has been tested in Teesport, UK. We would set up such a growth and harvest practice throughout the Creek. We could start with a small bay, such as the No-Name Inlet near the NYC DEP sewage treatment plant.
All hauled plants are brought promptly to a shoreline site for maceration and fermentation. The maceration can be done with mallets by people. The fermentation can be done in brewery-sized fermentation tanks, with cowdung and some land-plant roughage added to facilitate the two stages in gas production; acidification, methanization. In the trip yesterday, Feb 27, we learned of a site next to the current NYC DEP waste treatment, which is still owned by the DEP, or some NYC agency, and could house the equipment for this work. Another host site could be National Grid, or even one of the hydrocarbon companies, as they have the space and much of the know-how. Electricity may be easier to produce, as the biogas is mixed.
Prior to the trip of Feb 27, it had been supposed, based on common news reports, that the oil seeping from the tank farm sites, owned by oil companies, was a serious problem today in Newtown Creek. Accordingly, we thought of ways to allow microorganisms to feed on the oil, converting it into what the oil-industry itself (BP, ENI) has pioneered as “single-cell protein,” or unicellular organisms grown on hydrocarbons. We learned, however, that the oil companies are working hard to prevent any leakage from reaching Newtown Creek. They are recovering leaking oil and doing what they deem best with it, with may well be its being refined again into marketable fossil fuel. They likely will not want to grow “single-cell proteins” on the oil; we can propose that as an option they already know. This proposal can be offered this week to entities with whom we, either Ocean Earth or TVGOV (a 60%-owned adjunct to Ocean Earth), are already talking, or have published.
Buckminster Fuller Institute dMASSS, their advisor on our eco-tax proposal Greenwaves, the BFI prizewinner to whom we are referred, in the Northeast Natural Resources Defense Council, which published a proposal based on our Exe-mouth work
Given what’s on deck with dMASS and BFI, we could expand any Newtown Creek project to include a satellite-based survey of property in the entire watershed, towards identifying who pays a charge according to pollution at site, particularly as it affects the one thing comment to the basin, the Creek.
For Ocean Earth Development Corporation, stakeholders of which are Peter Fend (NY), Kevin Gannon (Pittsburgh), Catherine Griffiths (LA, with in-water experience in UK and China), Heidi Mardon (NZ) and Eve Vaterlaus (NY, with much in-water experience in NZ). The eco-tax proposal, for assessing charges for basin management, was given to BFI, with interest now from dMASS, by TELEVISION GOVERNMENT, or TVGOV, 60% held by Ocean Earth, and including Sofia Bastidas, Nicole Doran, Peter Fend, Guillermo Leon Gomez and Agustina Woodgate. The group is based in Miami.
Peter Fend, working with Coleen Fitzgibbon, a founding shareholder of, and first-project TV-new collaborator with, Ocean Earth.
We intend to exhibit this project in a videotape during the Armory Show and the Greenpoint Film Festival, both in NY.
Any exhibition is aimed at raising the money to DO THE WORK.
This compels hiring teams of collaborating and innovating rowers, net-makers, cutters, macerators, fermenters and even electricity producers, many of them people with no profession yet.
Feb 28, 2016 Fend