The Tanks in Bushwick Inlet Park


A rendering (exclusive to New York) of the Tanks.
Rendering: STUDIO V Architecture and Ken Smith Workshop

Oil made the industrial world rich, and also sick. It built great cities and despoiled nature. And long after fossil fuels have finally been supplanted, their scars will remain, in lone smokestacks, shoreline ruins, and great industrial deserts. Even as cities clean up virulent sludge from disused plants, they must also cope with the relics of obsolete corporations. Pollution is a form of violence, and as with all mass crimes, the desire to heal and cleanse collides with the need to remember.

That tension between erasure and commemoration keeps coming up as New York gradually converts its once forbidding industrial shoreline into a green and pleasant buffer. If all goes according to plan, sometime in the next few months, crews hired by the city will arrive at Bushwick Inlet on the Greenpoint waterfront and start slicing up a set of ten hulking oil-and-gas tanks. Their destruction will delight neighbors who have spent decades loathing those steel cylinders and want them replaced with precious open space, lawns, playgrounds, soccer fields, and kayak coves. It took a dozen years and $350 million for the city to assemble these 28 acres of polluted shoreline property; it will take still more time and money to scrape away toxin-soaked soil, design a new public waterfront, and build Bushwick Inlet Park. Watchful Greenpointers don’t want anything to slow the already glacial process or deflect them from a goal that’s finally within reach.

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