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Is Greenpoint Safe? 10 Things To Do

Do you find it ironic that Greenpoint features the environmentally friendly Rooftop Farms, the new McGolrick Park Farmers Market, a Clean Green Dry Cleaners on Nassau Ave, among many other “green” initiatives? Are you confused that the Earth Day Celebration in McCarren Park is sponsored by Exxon Mobil?

We live on top of an oil spill nearly as big as the Exxon Valdez spill, cause by Exxon Mobil that has rendered the Newtown Creek and the soil underneath our homes extremely toxic. Almost half of the city’s trash is stored and processed in North Brooklyn. Part of Greenpoint, near McGolrick Park, sits directly on top of the Meeker Avenue Plumes which releases the vapors of carcinogenic dry cleaning chemicals into the homes of residents. That all sucks!

It seems contradictory to be living in a very toxic place and at the same time celebrate so many eco-friendly things. It’s like eating organic kale in one hand and smoking a cigarette in the other hand.

So what is the point?

Photo: Bill Rhodes

The point is, we live here and we love it!  And we can’t just give up on Greenpoint. Generations ahead of us will call this place home and it’s important we make sure it is cleaner and healthier for them and safe for us in the meantime.

Instead of being cynical about all of these exciting “green” developments in the community, embrace them and look at them as steps towards cleaning up Greenpoint.

A very important panel discussion called Is Greenpoint Safe? was held at Anella recently. Organizers created this important document to help you become more informed and understand how you can get involved, get educated and get Greenpoint on the right track.

A few important things to note: The Newtown Creek is a Superfund Site, if you live above or near the Meeker Ave plumes it’s important to get your home tested right away for harmful fumes, oil spills and bad odors are cause for action, houseplants can help improve air quality in your home, eating food from your garden may be contaminated with lead or other toxic chemical so test the soil, and composting, limiting the use of harmful cleaners in your home and adopting a tree are all ways you can directly act towards making Greenpoint a cleaner and healthier place.

Please discuss and share this information with friends and neighbors.

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Pastor Marries Choir Girl Who Swims In the Newtown Creek


Everyone gives me crap for not being a “real” Greenpointer, but my great grandfather G. Clement Edson was the pastor of the Noble Street Presbyterian Church (1907-1911) and my grandmother Isabelle was born on Noble St. Why does this matter?

Great Grandpa’s wedding to his new wife, Gertrude, a choir girl, after his first wife, who was my biological Grandmother died, caused major drama in Greenpoint. The old ladies of the church had another dame picked out for him, but old Clem knew who he wanted. A headline in the Brooklyn Eagle read, Pastor Marries Chorus Girl, which is very different from a choir girl. 20th Century Greenpoint gossip! While I need to do some digging in the Brooklyn Eagle archives, the story even made it into the NY Times.

And aside from personal validation, my great grandmother Gertrude used to swim in the Newtown Creek! Explains a lot, right? We can imagine it was a beautiful and natural place back then.

Annie Edson Taylor

This is not the first instance of a ballsy female ancestor taking risks with water. I’m also related to the infamous Annie Edson Taylor, who went over Niagara Falls in a barrel. Today, I would do that before taking a plunge into the Newtown Creek.

These days if you see someone swimming in the Newtown Creek, (after you lol,) call 911.

The New York State Department of Health and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry completed a public healthy assessment of the Newtown Creek. This is very important information considering the North Brooklyn Boat Club has been taking to the waters! (I just became a member, it’s $30.)

Today, May 4th is the deadline to comment by filling out this form.

Their key findings:

  • 1. DON’T EAT ANYTHING OUT OF THE NEWTOWN CREEK! “Eating fish and crabs taken from Newtown Creek could harm people’s health, due to the chemical contaminants. Women under 50 years old and children under 15 years old should not eat any fish or crabs from these waters. Others should follow the State Health Department advisories for eating fish and crabs taken from this and other waterways. There is currently a fish consumption advisory for Newtown Creek.”
  • 2. DON’T SWIM IN THE NEWTOWN CREEK! “Swimming, scuba diving and wind surfing (with full body immersion) could harm people’s health, due to biological contaminants and physical hazards (underwater debris, commercial boat traffic).”
  • 3. YOU CAN TOUCH IT, BUT WASH YOUR HANDS! “Canoeing, kayaking, boat touring and catch-and-release fishing are not expected to harm people’s health, if people use precautions (properly washing their hands) to avoid swallowing biological contaminants from surface water.
This is an important step for public safety information. Is there any hope for the Newtown Creek? Can it ever be cleaned up back to the time when Great Grandma Gertrude swam there? 

Reference:

Vice’s Toxic: Brooklyn Series 2007
PBS Map of Newtown Creek
PBS Video Series: The City Concealed: Newtown Creek

Brooklyn Genealogy: City of Churches
Brooklyn Genealogy: The Eastern District of Brooklyn; The N Streets
Brooklyn Online: Historic Greenpoint

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