Greenpoint has long been a hotbed for pollution and, ultimately, a longtime coverup from various companies, industries, and agencies. Which is why community members and electeds are looking to garner more methods to invite fellow Greenpointers into cleanup processes and raise general awareness.
Late last month, the EPA hosted two in-person information sessions about the Meeker Avenue Plume Superfund Site at the Greenpoint Library. Personnel from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and Department of Health also joined to answer questions and provide updates on site progress.
Currently, the EPA is in the process of sampling vapors under the site and indoor air for contaminants in residential properties within the boundaries of the aforementioned site, an exercise that is planned to continue through March (they are sampling to assess levels of chlorinated volatile organic compounds (CVOCs) including tetrachloroethylene, trichloroethylene, cis-1,2-dichloroethylene, and vinyl chloride).
However, the process hasn’t been seamless, as it involves cooperation from both residents or homeowners and, when applicable, landlords, who cite concerns about depreciating property value. Given the understandable distrust of government agencies due to their track record with Greenpoint pollution, that cooperation isn’t necessarily easy to come by.
“I believe that some of the onus is gonna fall on the community no matter what,” Acacia Thompson, Greenpoint Library’s environmental justice coordinator, explained. “Because the EPA, no matter what they do, are still not gonna have the community connections and know the right way to address some of our community members because, you know, they don’t have the connections to know necessarily or have the trust of certain community members.”
As part of her work — plus as a resident who lives near the NuHart site and Newtown Creek and parent to a P.S. 110 student — Thompson is dedicated to connecting with longtime community stakeholders and local politicians to share information throughout the neighborhood. This especially includes those in the Spanish and Polish speaking communities, as well as people who may not be as tech savvy.
“As a librarian and as the environmental justice coordinator, getting information out to everybody in an equitable way, making sure that we talk to community stakeholders and have information and meetings in multiple languages is a priority. So there’s no excuse to not know what’s happening and to let people have a say in what’s happening,” Thompson said. “In my experience, it takes a long time to get people’s attention and to read things. This process is gonna take a very long time, but this March and then at the end of the year when they do the next testing, these are critical moments to get people to test their properties.”
Similarly, the sentiment of information sharing rang true during a recent community meeting regarding the NuHart Superfund Site remediation. With representatives across elected offices (including Assemblymember Emily Gallagher and City Council Member Lincoln Restler), contracted companies, the DEC, DOH, and North Brooklyn Neighbors in attendance alongside concerned community members, there were clear calls for clarity.
The site is currently preparing to have tents installed, under which soil will be collected, sealed, and taken offsite while contaminants are being filtered out of the air by air handling units and tested by monitors both down and upwind.
Aside from wanting to glean more general transparency regarding the type and measurements of the pollutants on site, neighbors also voiced concerns about just how widespread the knowledge is of what’s happening with NuHart, given its proximity to residences, playgrounds, and even future plans to be residential housing. The DEC cited resistance from the Department of Buildings regarding where and when signage can be placed, though a representative from the DOB was willing to continue the conversation offline — Madison Realty Capital, the firm overseeing the remediation process, is willing to hang any signs necessary immediately upon receiving approval.
There were also calls for more integrated conversations among developers, construction companies, government personnel, and even permit-providers to generate more awareness and cross-functional communication among projects, as countless neighbors are currently feeling the effects of multiple instances of construction, pollution, and filming in their immediate area. Coming out of the meeting, Lincoln Restler voiced support for the idea and is looking into arranging something suitable in the coming months.
And Newtown Creek cleanup hasn’t even started yet.
Emily should push legislation to increase the availability of vacant rent stabilized apartments. Currently thousands of units sit empty, because they are decades old, and need a min of 150K worth of modernization. Nobody is going to make those renovations happen if the new apartment is stuck at an $800 dollar stabilized rent. Renovate, rent at market rate but stabilized thereafter. Supply/demand.
What rights do tenants have in this? I live in a ground floor unit within the Meeker Ave plume site area. I have been in touch with the EPA about testing, but they need my landlord’s consent. My landlord refuses. What can I do?
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