Gerritsen Creek is a short watercourse in Brooklyn, New York City that empties into Jamaica Bay. The creek has been described as one of the "fingers" that formed the original shoreline of Jamaica Bay. The creek lies just beyond the maximum extent of the Wisconsin Glacier.
The creek currently starts near Avenue U, but its original headwaters lay eight streets farther north, in what is now Midwood.:211 Within that neighborhood, Bay Avenue and Olean Street run diagonally to the rest of the street grid, flanking the former path of the creek. The creek had been truncated to the intersection of Nostrand Avenue and Kings Highway by the early 20th century, flowing southeast through the neighborhood of Marine Park.:211 That part of the creek was buried in a storm sewer in 1920.
The creek's mouth and much of its remaining length is part of a public park called Marine Park; the head contains the Salt Marsh Nature Center, while the artificial Mau Mau Island is located nearby.:212 According to Touring Gotham's Archaeological Past, the mill and the dam for its tide pond were between Avenues W and V, and the mill pond beyond the dam extended past Fillmore Avenue. In recent decades, efforts have been made to restore parts of the creek, particularly the salt marsh near its mouth, to a state closer to its natural one before modern settlement. In 2012 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers budgeted $8.3 million for the restoration.
Archeological investigation has determined that Native American people started to settle permanently in the creek's watershed as early as 5000 BC. The creek's name comes from a historic grist mill built on the creek's shore in the 17th century. The mill, a tide mill, the first to be built in North America, was built when the area was colonized by the Dutch.:212 The mill remained in use for hundreds of years, until 1890. There were early proponents of preserving heritage buildings who lobbied for its preservation. Mayor Jimmy "Beau James" Walker was brought to the site to view the structure.:212 However, no efforts were made, and the abandoned building was burned by an arsonist in 1935.
Recreational boaters regularly abandon unwanted and damaged recreational craft near the creek's mouth. The small salvage firm White Cap Marine Towing and Salvage, of Sheepshead Bay, specializes in rescuing or salvaging the smaller recreational vessels and smaller fishing vessels that operate out of the smaller inlets around Jamaica Bay, and is also a franchisee of Sea Tow, the leading marine assistance services company. It has a contract to keep the area clear of abandoned vessels.
- "History of Marine Park". Archived from the original on November 18, 2013. Retrieved August 7, 2014.
Around 1920 the creek north of Avenue U was converted into an underground storm drain.
- Leslie Day, Mark A. Klingler, Michael R. Bloomberg (2013). Field Guide to the Natural World of New York City. JHU Press. pp. 48–50. ISBN 9781421411491. Retrieved August 7, 2014.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
"Officials Celebrate the Gerritsen Creek Ecosystem Restoration Project in Marine Park". US Army Corps of Engineers. August 14, 2012. Archived from the original on February 25, 2013. Retrieved August 7, 2014.
“Gerritsen Creek is one of the original “fingers” of the great “hand” of Jamaica Bay, and over the last century it has been the victim of human intrusions that have damaged its ecological functioning,” said Parks Commissioner Benepe.
- H. Arthur Bankoff, Christopher Ricciardi, Alyssa Loorya (1997). "Gerritsen's Creek: 1997 Archaeological Field Excavations" (PDF). New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 29, 2013. Retrieved August 7, 2014.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
Josephine Axt (2003). "Ecosystem restoration promotes understanding" (PDF). US Army Corps of Engineers. Archived from the original on February 25, 2013. Retrieved August 7, 2014.
The more recent research showed the various stages of the modern history of Gerritsen’s Creek, including how it used to extend approximately eight blocks further north than its current ending point at Avenue U in Brooklyn, N.Y.
- Kadinsky, Sergey (2016). Hidden Waters of New York City: A History and Guide to 101 Forgotten Lakes, Ponds, Creeks, and Streams in the Five Boroughs. Countryman Press. pp. 211–213. ISBN 978-1-58157-566-8.
- Diana diZerega Wall, Anne-Marie Cantwell (2008). Touring Gotham's Archaeological Past: 8 Self-Guided Walking Tours through New York City. Yale University Press. ISBN 9780300137897. Retrieved August 8, 2014.
- "FACT SHEET-Gerritsen Creek–MARINE PARK, NY: Ecosystem Restoration Project". US Army Corps of Engineers. Archived from the original on February 18, 2013. Retrieved August 7, 2014.
"The remains of Gerritsen's mill". June 14, 2013. Archived from the original on August 8, 2014. Retrieved August 7, 2014.
According to the Parks Department, the first tide-powered mill in North America, built in the mid-1600s by Hugh Gerritsen, once sat just across Gerritsen Creek from where I'm standing, and the wooden pilings you see crossing the creek supported the mill's dam.
Thomas J. Campanella (2001). "The Lost Creek". Terrain.org. Archived from the original on July 22, 2014. Retrieved August 8, 2014.
"They" were the hardy Gerritsen clan, among the first European settlers in the region. According to Teunis Bergen's Register of the Early Settlers of Kings County (1881), the Gerritsens had for many years "owned a farm and the tide-mill . . . on the Strome Kil." The Gerritsens built their industrial plant in the early seventeenth century, and it operated continuously until the 1890s.
Nick Corasanti (August 16, 2013). "When There's Trouble at Sea, This Captain Sees His Paycheck". New York Times. New York City. p. A16. Archived from the original on August 18, 2013. Retrieved August 16, 2013.
Captain Jack, as he is universally known at Gateway Marina in Sheepshead Bay, is a professional boat salvager and, along with his brother, Capt. Bernie Schachner, is a co-owner of White Cap Marine Towing and Salvage Inc. Summer is their busy season.
- Gary Buiso (June 27, 2008). "Abandoned boats plucked from Jamaica Bay". Brooklyn Daily. Archived from the original on August 16, 2013. Retrieved August 16, 2013.
Early in the morning of June 17, the National Parks Service was joined by Sheepshead Bay-based White Cap Marine Towing and Salvage, a local business hoping to do its part to help the environment.
- Richard Pyle (June 22, 2008). "National park bay in NYC is nautical graveyard: Scores of boats litter the shores and lie submerged in shallow waters". NBC News. Archived from the original on August 16, 2013. Retrieved August 16, 2013.
Cruising Gerritsen Creek with Capt. Bernie Schachner at the helm of his 26-foot "emergency response" boat White Cap Salvor, Daskalakis pointed out a half-dozen abandoned boats lying in weeds along the shore. Up ahead, Schachner's brother and business partner, Capt. Jack Schachner, maneuvered another launch so his crewman could attach a line to a shabby motorboat on the beach.
- Mara Gay (March 2, 2014). "National Weather Alerts Bleed Into Coast Guard Radio Channel". Wall Street Journal. New York City. Retrieved August 6, 2014.
Captain Jack Schachner, owner of Brooklyn-based White Cap Marine Towing and Salvage Inc., a Sea Tow franchise, said the temporary fix negotiated between the agencies is less than comforting. There would be a problem, he said, "If you happen to be calling a mayday while this thing was happening, and it was your last shot at getting help."