Under the muck

for The Brooklyn Paper
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Toy boats are taking on the most polluted bathtub in the city.

A team of artists is unleashing a fleet of remote control-operated mini-boats in highly toxic Newton Creek, complete with submerged video cameras — for the curious kid in you — to record what lies below.

Project creators say the goal is to get folks to engage with a body of water that functions more like a landfill than a lagoon.

“It’s a way to get people to interact with the water,” said co-creator Nathan Kensinger. “It invites the public to explore the past, present and future of Newtown Creek.”

Kensinger said visitors get to become pilots of the three-foot boats while they watch real-time video of the vessels voyaging first through oil slicks, then human waste, and finally less-filthy water.

The vaguely apocalyptic environmental project last year won the North Brooklyn Public Art Coalition’s design competition for its proposal to document conditions of the polluted river as the federal government begins its multi-million-dollar Superfund cleanup.

The mini-vessels are made from objects found along the waterway — including plants and industrial scraps — and feature a sturdy underwater camera, lights, and a wireless video feed to an on-shore monitor.

Kensinger and collaborators Laura Chipley and Sarah Nelson Wright will then showcase the footage from the project, called “Newtown Creek Armada,” at an art gallery.

During a test run, one boat accidentally brought back a plastic trash treasure in its propeller. Others succeeded in collecting funky muck footage from a fish-eye-view.

“In some places the sewage overflow is so thick boats have gotten stuck,” Kensinger said. “It’s really visible.”

Newtown Creek Armada at Newtown Creek Nature Walk [Paidge Avenue past Dupont Street in Greenpoint,] Sept 8, 9, 15, 22, 29, 30. Free.

Reach reporter Natalie O'Neill at or by calling her at (718) 260-4505.r
Updated 5:35 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

ty from pps says:
Pat I's predictable comments aside...

Where can I buy one of these boats? They look awesome. I don't really want to explore the Newtown Creek, but I *do* want one of these big remote controlled boats.
Sept. 10, 2012, 11:23 am
db from canarsie says:
@ty from pps -- um, remote controlled boats aren't exactly a new invention, try a toy store
Sept. 10, 2012, 1:02 pm
BunnynSunny from The Hill says:
Tula? It sounds like the name of a social network web site.
Sept. 10, 2012, 2:09 pm
ty from pps says:
@db -- Don't be a friggin' douche. When was the last time you saw a large 3-ft remote controlled boat like this? If I wanted a $40 plastic bathtub toy, I wouldn't have asked the question. Jesus.
Sept. 10, 2012, 2:35 pm
Joey from Occupied Brooklyn says:
Organizing an art event around a Superfund site. How stupid and clueless can these interlopers be?
Sept. 10, 2012, 2:56 pm
LS from Cobbham says:
“It’s a way to get people to interact with the water,” said co-creator Nathan Kensinger.

That's deep, man.
Sept. 10, 2012, 3:19 pm
Peter from Windsor says:
I was in the Secondary School for Law today. Our money could and should be spent for educating our children instead of these "art" projects. Wow, I'm shocked, shocked a Super Fund Site is polluted. Why don't we chain a net to the fence, cheaper, same result, redirect what ever funding they are going to receive to public education, for Tula's sake.
Sept. 10, 2012, 4:10 pm
Meanie from Meantown says:
I want a remote controlled submarine that can torpedo those boats.
Sept. 10, 2012, 6:16 pm
Meanie from Meantown says:
@Joey From Occupied Brooklyn,

How stupid can they be? LOL! The answer to that question is frightening when you consider the fact that their stupidity and their innate ability to make you say "WTF?" is like time and space -- limitless.
Sept. 10, 2012, 6:24 pm
PAT i. from 70'S BROOKLYN says:

Predictable because it's true.
Sept. 11, 2012, 10:30 am
Shorter Pat I. says:
"People are doing things that don't even affect me and I still don't like it." Stuff it grandpa.
Sept. 11, 2012, 11:33 am
Scott from Park Slope says:
Peter, the fields of expertise required to pull off this "art project" exceed what's required to pass a standardized test. They are theory in action, or, put another way, a practical application of knowledge. As such, they represent the acme of academic endeavor: to apply one's learning to real-world action.

How often do certain folks knock education as ethereal and disconnected from the "real world?" Well, this is the diametric opposite. OK, sure, this particular application of knowledge has a certain whimsical aspect, but so do model rockets. Yet, I don't hear folks like you jumping up and down decrying how playing with model rockets led miscreant youth to become rocket scientists with NASA (ever seen "October Sky?").

Thank god attitudes like yours are increasingly irrelevant: creative, technically minded people can forge on ahead creating the future for the betterment of mankind without the deleterious spleen coming from you. Remember, no one ever built a monument to a critic.
Sept. 11, 2012, 2:54 pm
John Wasserman from Windsor Terrace says:
Pardon me, but this is very nice piece. As a tractor salesman, I do indeed miss my days of selling remote control boats (and also airplanes). Of course, now I have a family to support. I still have 2 working boats though. They rarely get much further than my bathtub these days! (ha ha ha!).
Sept. 11, 2012, 4:04 pm
Cuddle Party Boner Rampage from Edmonton says:
Pat, you are on fire, sir!
Carry on.
Sept. 12, 2012, Midnight
Jay Jay from Greenpoint says:
Wow, Pat I, you are one angry white dude...and you have zero understanding of the point of participatory art work...and from reading your posts it's pretty clear that you are a sexist, creepy wingnut who has never stopped to consider the fact that "ART ART ART" might have some social value. I attended this event last week and what I saw was many types of people from many walks of life (black, white, latino, asian, Hasidic, wealthy, working - class) coming together in a park to drive model boats, talk to one another, and learn more about the oil spill. People brought their kids and it was fun. I learned something. Maybe you should turn off Fox News, pull up your fly and go see it for yourself instead of trolling newspaper websites with your inane babble and making an ass out of yourself.
Sept. 12, 2012, 6:47 am
Meanie from Meantown says:
Pat I is on point. Well put.
Sept. 12, 2012, 7:29 am
Tweeting from Your Stollen iPhone says:
Scott "from" Park Slope these boat both look like store bought remote controlled boats with a bunch of garbage from the river glued on them. Not exactly something that requires "an understanding of computers, microcontrollers, and electronics that far exceeds what you need to know to 'wire an outlet'" or "a knowledge of engineering that exceeds what is required to 'lay brick.'" Just mommy's credit card and a high tolerance for toxic garbage.

That said, I do tend to be the live and let live variety. If someone finds value in filming the underside of human waste, more power to them. I guess. Seems like there are better ways people can spend their time, but then again here I am reading and commenting on the "Brooklyn" Paper…
Sept. 12, 2012, 8:27 am
Frieda Livery from The Heights says:
Where's Papa?
Sept. 12, 2012, 9:21 am
Moishe from Midwood says:
Jay Jay from Greenpoint—

this fool is a hipster from the midwest, Gu-ar-an-TEED!!
Sept. 12, 2012, 10:37 am
Pat I. from 70's Brooklyn says:

Jay Jay-

We have evolved to the point where we no longer have
to hunt or forage for our food. We're soft. So we can afford the luxury of art. We're at the point where we fight not about civil rights or defend our loved ones against families but about bike lanes.

ART will not cure cancer. It did not put a man on the moon, split the atom, or help create the internet or the microchip.

Before you paint me as some mint-julep sipping, plantation owner (being angry has NOTHING to do with being white - remember the LA riots?) I spend much time in museums. My sister and her husband are very successful fashion and graphic designers, respectively.

We like art.
We don't need art.
Sept. 12, 2012, 11:04 am
Jay Jay from Greenpoint says:
Hunters and gatherers make art. Art is multidisciplinary and intersects with science, politics and social justice, architecture, urban planning, commerce, conflict resolution... It exists both in and out of museums (and I'd say that the art that makes it into museums is largely mediated by a power structure that favors white, capitalist, western men.) Pat I, From your comments, it doesn't seem like you've given this much thought. As for the rest of the comments, you guys remind me of my cousins in Mississippi who wish death on people or resort to weird forms of provincialism and xenophobia when they are unwilling or unable to participate in a deeper discussion. As for the artists being jobless trust fund babies, I have no idea, but most of the aforementioned types that I know spend their time on the "scene" and posting pictures of their trips to Belize on Facebook, not creating public art events.
Sept. 12, 2012, 12:46 pm
Frieda Livery from The Heights says:
Is it art?

It is if I want to see it a second time.

Otherwise it's just onanism.
Sept. 12, 2012, 1:33 pm
LS from Cobbham says:
Scott, I'd recommend the essay 'A Beginners Guide to Art Bollocks and How to be a Critic' as required reading, but you've already drank your own Kool-Aid.
Sept. 12, 2012, 4:38 pm
Meanie from Meantown says:
Whoa! Pat I. bringing that ether!
Sept. 12, 2012, 7:38 pm
dj from Portland says:
Pat I., I like the cut of your jib. Tell it like it is.
Sept. 12, 2012, 8:10 pm
old time brooklyn from slope says:
rock on pat!!!!
Sept. 12, 2012, 9:09 pm
Pat I. from 70's Brooklyn says:
Thanks. In addition, Jay-jay. When you have a population of educated and sophisticated population that's well-versed in the arts and understands quality Art and craft thrive and expand. A well informed public will quickly weed out the poseurs and hacks - forcing them to go pump gas or work as a fluffer.

This is what you had during the renaissance. In colonial times a craftsman could not make a living if his work wasn't top shelf. Hell I'd even go as far as the 60's, but unfortunately bad taste came into being in the victorian era thanks to affordable mass produced goods.

Unfortunately we have a population of kids who dress like homeless people, and the only sweat they exude is when their trust fund check is a day late.

It's bad enough we have a society of talentless tryhards but even worse is that by having d**che whistles with no discerning taste, wielding a healthy bank account and is a hapless imbecile who can be conned by a ten year old with a penny jar loaded with salt, you've eliminated
the weeding out process.
Sept. 12, 2012, 9:11 pm
old time brooklyn from slope says:
can they make art from a toilete unflushed or is their some arteisnal input needed?
Sept. 12, 2012, 9:11 pm
Pat I. from 70's Brooklyn says:
Finally - let me just add that I can say with a certain degree of certainty that if they were alive today, a DiMedici wouldn't be caught dead in a gallery watching some canklesaurus giving birth in public view.

And Ansel Adams, Doisneau, Margaret Borke White and Dorothea Lange would laugh themselves into cardiac arrest if they saw what passes as photography in most Brooklyn galleries.
Sept. 12, 2012, 9:23 pm
Pat I from 70's Brooklyn says:

Where do i send the dry cleaning bill for my shirt? i just spit out my tea all over it.
Sept. 12, 2012, 9:33 pm
Pat I. from 70's Brooklyn says:
"Pat I, From your comments, it doesn't seem like you've given this much thought. As for the rest of the comments, you guys remind me of my cousins in Mississippi who wish death on people or resort to weird forms of provincialism and xenophobia when they are unwilling or unable to participate in a deeper discussion. "

Hey Brooklyn Paper! You allow THIS but take down my comments?

Nice. Do you get paid in fedoras and tattoos as well?
Sept. 13, 2012, 11:15 am
The guy who jacked your iPhone from where hipsters and yupster are NOT welcome says:
It looks like Pat I. either stepped on a few Brooklynpaper toes, or a bunch of butthurt hipsters clicked the "Report Abuse" button due to the TRUTH being too much for them (the truth being that most hipster "artists" living in gentrified neighborhoods are talentless wannabes and know it). I don't blame hipturds for being upset. Even though they knew they were worthless as responsible adults (these hipturds are on average in their 30s -- they're not as young as they'd like others to think), they could always claim to be "artists". Of course, that facade is shattered as soon as any person with the least bit of taste or talent comes into contact with a hipster and/or his/her "art".
Sept. 13, 2012, 11:52 am
Peter from Windsor says:
@Pat from PS, Nelson and Chipley have already been educated, what they do with their education is their business. I don't want them to receive a dime of public money. You call this project " the acme of academic endeavor", I hope your joking or imbibing too much free trade coffee and the chronic. October Sky sucked.
Sept. 13, 2012, 1:15 pm
QueensRules from Woodside says:
Pat is mostly right, but wrong about not needing art. We do NEED art to thrive as a species. There are anthropological and sociological studies on this (forgive me for not taking the time to look them up, but I know there are.)

That said, this boat-through-sludge crap is not art, by any definition, and will benefit no one but the "artists" own egos.

Maybe more people would be more open minded about definitions of art if the trust-a-hipsterians would stop churning out a bunch of nonsense.
Sept. 13, 2012, 2 pm
Steven from Gwanus says:
Pat I - you have to be the author of

kudos to you
Sept. 13, 2012, 3:06 pm
John from Carroll Gardens says:
Inspired by the many well-versed and engaging comments in this article's thread, I did some of my own research.

this article states... "The mini-vessels are made from objects found along the waterway — including plants and industrial scraps — and feature a sturdy underwater camera, lights, and a wireless video feed to an on-shore monitor."

factually incorrect:
they come from

which these two "artists" list on their own site (as project supporters):

Please, Brooklyn Paper, perhaps just a bit of research into Laura Chipley and Sarah Nelson Wright before you glorify their personally satisfying and possible wasteful "artistic" endeavors. It seems like a bunch of mediocre artists attempting to make a name for themselves under the guise of useful scientific research. Perhaps there are more worthy recipients of your periodicals time and energy... in the future.

I looked at their self-gratifying websites, there is (personally) really nothing there.
Sept. 13, 2012, 3:37 pm
Pat I. from 70's Brooklyn says:

No it's not me. I can't take credit for it. I pray at the altar of Die Hipster.
Sept. 13, 2012, 3:54 pm
Sam from Staten Island says:
Damn hipsters
Sept. 13, 2012, 4:04 pm
Or from Yellow Hook says:
Die Hipster is ART!
Sept. 13, 2012, 4:20 pm
sam from e flatbush says:
Wow this is great stuff. I am seeking a fellow creative myself to help me with a piece of performance art i am working on. Must be of the opposite sex.

Basically we would just stand inside a storefront window anywhere in the city but williamsburg is preferable. I would have my pants down and would need you to place your head between my hairy legs and go to town on my peter.

I am already in negotiations with curators so hurry. The point of the project is to get society to open up a little and stop being so reserved.
Sept. 13, 2012, 6:55 pm
Pat I. from 70's Brooklyn says:

You make a valid point, But archeologists and anthropologists learn more from "small things found" than large objects.

A painting, or a piece of furniture will shed some light on a society long gone. It can reveal their knowledge of craftsmaship, technical know how , etc. But the important things learned are usually revealed in trash piles - diet, social rules, recreational activity, etc.

I imagine years from now an archeologist doing a dig in Bushwick will look at all the bones from BBQ joints, PBR cans, empty American Spirit packets and Black Amex cards tinged with coke and be able draw conclusions with regard to their demise.

A Bansky painting, however will leave them scratching their heads.
Sept. 13, 2012, 8:16 pm
Snowy from Over dere says:
The idea is neat. Packaging it as art is lame and just undercuts the good it COULD do.
Sept. 13, 2012, 10:48 pm
Snowy from Over dere says:
The idea is neat. Packaging it as art is lame and just undercuts the good it COULD do.
Sept. 13, 2012, 10:48 pm
Broke from yes says:
Boats are awesome. Pontificating about what is and is not on the internets and obsessing over people that you hate is more more more awesome.
Sept. 14, 2012, 8:24 am
Enemy of Fauxhemians from Nowhere near you, thankfully says:
@John from Carroll Gardens
Well put. That little bit of research on your part show these two “artists” for the lying frauds that they are. Those self-absorbed “artists” couldn’t even give credit to the very people who made their project possible. LOL! It shouldn’t be surprising, because even though the hipster has been accused of many things, “selfless” is not one of those things. They will probably try to get this comment taken down like they did with the other comment addressing their dishonesty. What’s wrong Sarah and Laura? Can’t defend your actions without looking even worse than you already do? Next time ladies (I use that term loosely) try a little HONESTY.
Sept. 14, 2012, 10:33 am
Mickey Shea from Greenpoint says:
Die Hipster Rules
Sept. 14, 2012, 10:56 am
Broke from yes says:
Hey enemy - didn't they list a hobby shop on their site? Not sure about the dishonesty accusation. Did they say they built the hulls?
Sept. 14, 2012, 11:11 am
Enemy of Fauxhemians from Nowhere near you, thankfully says:
@Broke from Yes:

You know, your'e right. It is never wise to go "Full grouch" when posting (1/4 grouch or even half-grouch is ok). There's something about the smell of hipturd blood in the water that sends me into an ascii feeding frenzy.

The girls didn't say they built the boats from scraps -- the article said that. In this case, I should be directing my venom at Natalie O'Neil -- the author of the article for not doing research. Shame on you Natalie. I hope some clumsy, beta male beardo at the cafe blunders and spills his cruelty-free soy latte sweetened with sugar made from organic rooftoop sugar beets all over your MacBook pro.

In that case, I apologize (believe it or not) to the she-hiptsers Laura and Sarah for that specific accusation (but not for the general hipster bashing, since that subculture is to self-aggrandizement as black metal is to Satanic imagery). To Laura and Sarah -- sorry to accuse you taking credit from NSH, but your'e still ART! ART! ART! Fauxhemians!
Sept. 14, 2012, 12:13 pm
John from Carroll Gardens says:
@ Broke from yes:
read for comprehension please:

this article states... "The mini-vessels are made from objects found along the waterway — including plants and industrial scraps — and feature a sturdy underwater camera, lights, and a wireless video feed to an on-shore monitor."

have to post this 2x for you. And no it does not say they decorated the boats with objects found along the waterway, rather it states "...are made from objects found along the waterway"
Sept. 14, 2012, 1:49 pm
John from Carroll Gardens says:
Mickey Shea

you rule

that website makes me laugh out loud at my job

I work as a hipster tomb maker
Sept. 14, 2012, 1:51 pm
AFH from 9732505 says:
WTF? Is is Newton or Newtown? That typo is inexcusable.
Sept. 16, 2012, 7:36 pm

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