For better or for worse, peculiar fumes in Greenpoint aren’t new. And back in April 1989, the G.A.S.P. (Greenpoint Against Smell and Pollution) publication brought the issue front and center.
At the time, Greenpoint and Williamsburg were being inundated with waste thanks to the overflow of the Staten Island landfill, turning thirty-eight transfer stations in North Brooklyn into dumps for construction debris, household waste, and more.
Not only did the presence of the transfer stations have an odious impact on the surrounding environment, but it also complicated other aspects of life for Greenpointers, from an increase in vehicular accidents to undermining the local economy.
And despite putting out a call for concerned neighbors to contact state agencies and attend community board meetings, the issue intensified after Staten Island’s Fresh Kills landfill closed in 2001, leading to a proliferation of private waste transfer services thanks to a lack of any defined agenda from the government. The continued debate also focused on the fact that the city’s waste transfer stations were unfairly distributed among Brooklyn and the Bronx, with Greenpoint and Williamsburg alone handling around 30% and 40% of the waste generated across all five boroughs.
As the debate continued, a 2018 city council law (known as the Waste Equity Law) originally sponsored by Antonio Reynoso, Stephen Levin, Laurie Cumbo, Brad Lander, Jumaane Williams, Ben Kallos, Carlina Rivera, and others was signed by Bill de Blasio to reduce the amount of solid waste transferred to these hot spots. The law was again upheld in 2020 after an attempted appeal by the Metropolitan Transfer Station.
Per DSNY data, waste sources and types shifted due to the pandemic and a pause of many commercial operations like construction — the full scope of 2021 results still remain to be seen. Regardless, the passing of the Waste Equity Law means that local environmental efforts aren’t all for naught (even if the unique scents of Greenpoint still remain).