Once a tidal creek meandering through marshlands rich in herbs, grasses, fish, waterfowl, and oysters, Newtown Creek today is a toxic cesspool that brings up raw sewage every time it rains. A tributary of New York's East River that forms part of the border between Brooklyn and Queens, Newtown Creek has long been at the heart of the city's "industrial backyard," serving as home to numerous industries, storage/warehouse facilities, waste transfer stations, and power plants, and as the dumping ground for unwanted byproducts and toxic waste. Site of a 17-million-gallon underground oil spill that still contaminates the area, Newtown Creek is currently under consideration by the Environmental Protection Agency for designation as a Superfund site, but the creek, whose waterfront is for the most part inaccessible to the public, is still largely unknown to residents and visitors of New York alike.
Newtown Creek: A Photographic Survey of New York's Industrial Waterfront is an extensive documentation of this forgotten landscape that shows the evolution of the built environment over five years in more than 230 images. Photographer Anthony Hamboussi followed the creek through the neighborhoods of Hunter's Point, Greenpoint, and Bushwick, shooting over fences and gates where he could not gain access, to record the bare industrial landscape. From the ruins of Morgan Oil and the Newtown Metal Corporation, to the construction of the new water treatment facility, to the footprints of the former Maspeth gas holders, Hamboussi recorded sites that may soon undergo further transformations. His survey captures the creek at a moment in time when gentrification and revitalization are just starting to change the area, providing a glimpse into the history of industrial New York. An insightful essay by Paul Parkhill puts Hamboussi's work into context.
One Way Street:
"Newtown Creek: A Photographic Survey of New Yorks Industrial Waterway by Anthony Hamboussi is a journey around the perimeters of the Newtown Creek in New York City, an industrial canal which separates north Brooklyn from the western perimeters of Queens, flowing westward towards the East River. It is a self-propelled project, which began with Hamboussi's knowledge of the area, beginning in a childhood in nearby Maspeth, Queens. A seemingly casual project became an obsessive chronicle of several years. The images are presented chronologically which suits the essentially private nature of the enterprise, that of Hamboussi's journey into a polluted heart of darkness within New York City limits. Thoroughly researched & plotted, Hamboussi's itinerary also incorporated intuitive aspects, which can be seen in the fitful un-mappings of the area, giving it more the fitful mutability of dreams, in its starts & stops & divergences, while it inventories a large area of mixed industries."
Its Newtowns Time to Stink, Curbed.com:
"For too long the Gowanus Canal has captured the hearts and minds of Brooklyn starving artists when it comes to contaminated borough waterways and their charming decrepit industry. But now that the government has pledged to clean it up, it's time to find a new muse. Enter Newtown Creek, set to get an artsy-fartsy photo book documenting its sludgy oil-stained goodness. Gowanus who? [Princeton Architectural Press]"
One Sunny Side of Sewage, The Wall Street Journal:
"Mr. Hamboussi is the author of Newtown Creek: A Photographic Survey of New Yorks Industrial Waterway (Princeton Architectural Press), which celebrates the good old days- circa 2001 to 2006- when the creek was (and largely still is) a cocktail of pesticides, heavy metals, PCBs and oil spills dating back to Walt Whitmans day."
"A book of incongruous beauty. Hamboussi documents the chaotic landscape of an industrial wasteland with the eye of an obsessive collector, combining the gentle pastel washes of a seaside watercolorist with the surreal detailing of large-format photography... A must have for anyone even slightly enamored with America's decaying industrial landscape."
The Architects Newspaper:
"Quiet poetry... a thoughtful meditation upon the complex identity of the industrial landscape."
The Book Bench, The New Yorker:
"There is nothing picturesque or obviously beautiful about Newtown Creek . Many of Hamboussi's photographs, shot beneath overcast skies, suggest a garbage ghost town. However, there is in his framing an askew sense of symmetry, a rare, and unsettling, view of New York City from the perspective of its industrial backyard (most striking is the photo taken from behind the iconic Pepsi-Cola sign, rising above piles of the city's garbage). It is not a place whose aesthetics would appeal to most photographers, which is why Hamboussi's project is so important. It reminds us that there are still issues bubbling beneath the surface, not just of Newtown, but of our industrial habits in general that need to be addressed."
— Monica Racic
"A beautiful and bleak journey into the manufacturing and industrial landscapes that surround the waterway... Hamboussi's photos give a glimpse of the life behind the chained fences and windowless faades, subtly unveiling the activity and transformations that otherwise go unnoticed."
"Photographer Anthony Hamboussi has done the impossible: he's found beauty and visual treasures in one of the most polluted waterways in the nation. Hamboussi's book of over two hundred photos (that took five years to collect) captures some wonderful moments and scenes. The images usually contain no humans but often feature vibrantly green flora of some sorta sharp addition to the otherwise bleak color palate."