In a new web series titled “Junkfly,” two former Bushwick residents, Jack Kredell and Jamie Hefetz, play two dudes embarking on fishing expeditions. It sounds unremarkable until the next part: the two creators of the web series are fishing in New York City’s most polluted waterways. The first episode of “Junkfly” is available to watch on YouTube, and on March 16 at 6 p.m. the second episode will premiere at Starr Bar.
Episode 1 introduces Kredell and Hefetz as two guys between jobs, passing the time by angling for New York City fishing’s most sought-after prize: the striped bass. Kredell has fished his whole life, and he told Bushwick Daily, “No matter where I am I want to fish.” Then he added, “We can’t really get to anywhere else to fish, there’s no scenic rivers or byways around here. We just started fishing where we are.”
The two guys explained that the idea for the web series arose about a year ago when they’d seen what Kredell called “a bizarre father-son team” digging for bloodworms. Hefetz said that they were “raking through tons of mud for these worms,” and they’d reeled in the idea to create a show about NYC’s fishing subculture. Oftentimes, they eat what they catch. Hefetz joked, “You’re allowed to eat like three fish a month before you go sterile,” and Kredell added, “It’s shocking to people who get their fish at the shopping market who, ironically, really don’t know where their fish come from.”
The idea that New York City’s local rivers like the East River or the highly polluted Newtown Creek — which runs through Bushwick — could produce edible fish is something that New Yorkers have debated for years. The New York State Department of Health advises that women under 50 shouldn’t eat basically any fish caught from local waterways while men over 15 should limit their local fish intake to between one and four meals per month, depending on the seafood.
In Episode 1, Kredell and Hefetz go to the Newtown Creek, which was the site of an oil spill that the New York Times estimates contained 17 million to 30 million gallons of oil and other carcinogenic chemicals — nobody is supposed to eat fish caught from there. As the men approach the toxic water source, Kredell tells Hefetz that the creek contains a 20-foot-deep layer of “radioactive isotopes and liquified cows.” Hefetz responds, “What do cows have to do with it?” demonstrating the web series’ dark comedy.
In Episode 2 of “Junkfly,” a few chefs from New York City who serve locally caught fish will appear on the show to showcase how the fish that are commonly called “trash fish,” or the kinds of fish that anglers catch and release, can actually be served as food. The chefs will, as Hefetz said, “Try to help convince the viewers as well as these fishermen that these fish are great to eat.” But “Junkfly” doesn’t serve as a didactic series that’s purpose is to convince viewers to start catching their own fish from the Rockaways — though that could end up happening.
Both Hefetz and Kredell explained that they wanted to create the series more simply as pure entertainment and to make people laugh. “‘Junkfly isn’t about philosophy and politics of the environment,” Kredell said. Then he added, “We wanted to explore a damaged landscape through damaged individuals.” In Episode 1, Hefetz opens up about having depression and the advice that his therapist has given him, and it’s hard not to draw a metaphor in the act of fishing with the act of digging into one’s own emotional waterways to dig up often hidden feelings and thoughts. “Fishing has a confessional element,” Kredell explained.
In all of this soul-searching and fish-searching, both Kredell and Hefetz confirmed that the web series has allowed them to interact with the landscape in new ways than ever before. “This world kind of unearthed itself, this world that I didn’t think was there,” Hefetz said. Then he continued, “These animals try to overcome the plastic hell that we’ve put them through. It’s also beautiful to see the fact that there is a natural world out there, still doing the things that it’s done for the last thousand years.”
While Kredell and Hefetz don’t have high hopes that “Junkfly” can solve the city’s pollution problems, it has the potential to give New Yorkers a new perspective of it. When describing sandy cliffs near Dead Horse Bay which include layers of plastic sandwiched between sand, Kredell reflected that the sights they’ve encountered are “disturbing, but also beautiful.” He continued, “All of this trash that we make is going to be part of the natural landscape whether we like it or not, so New York City contains that future already in the present, and it’s fascinating to encounter.”
If “Junkfly” causes you to look twice at the East River as you’re crossing over it while riding on the M Train to Manhattan, then the web series has accomplished Kredell and Hefetz’s goal. Perhaps, though, it will lead you to seek your own adventure to discover New York City’s natural ecology — why not? It’s out there.
All photos courtesy of Kredell and Hefetz.
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