Trawling Newtown Creek with Parsons Sustainable Systems

Every year, first-year students at The New School's Parsons School of Design go on a Circle Line boat tour of New York City as part of their required Sustainable Systems course. This gives the students a chance to see New York City from its water ways and look at how rivers are integrated into NYC's urban system. They also do a special trip up Newtown Creek. This creek is surrounded by waste management and energy industries. It is also the site of one of the largest oil spills in American history. Barent and Ash took this opportunity to try a trawl designed specifically for this Field Trip.

This trawl is made out of a plastic storage tote with the bottom cut out, steel weight (not yet attached in this image), net, and a hose clamp.

  • Net ~$1.75
  • Plastic Tote ~$2.00
  • Hose Clamp ~$10

= appoximately $14, plus tow rope, weight, and wire.

At first, the boat was going too fast and the trawl was not performing well. However, when the boat crept slowly up Newtown Creek, Barent and Ash trawled quickly to see if the trawl would pick up anything. 

And... indeed it did. You can see the small bits of white styrofoam plastic that the trawl picked up. This was after only about 5 minutes of trawling. 

We will continue to refine this trawl design for future trips in the Sustainable Systems course.