Over the weekend, friends, family, and local elected officials gathered to commemorate the life and legacy of Irene Klementowicz, in the form of a new street sign.
The corner of Manhattan Avenue and Freeman Street now bears the name of the late Greenpoint local, a beloved environmental activist who passed away last year at the age of 94. Klementowicz worked tirelessly to combat the effects of environmental pollution in our neighborhood, which as anyone who has spent even five minutes here can tell you, is no small feat.
Remarkably, Klementowicz took up the cause of pollution long before the concept of environmentalism, let alone climate change, was even a household name. A New York Times article from 1998 mentions how her activism started in the late 1950s, after she noticed her laundry covered in black dust from the nearby Greenpoint Incinerator.
“When she noticed the odors emanating from a chemical company across the street from her children’s school, she sprang into action and forced the company to place anti-pollution controls on its exhaust stacks,” said a press release from Council Member Lincoln Restler’s office. “Alongside other neighbors, Mrs. Klementowicz continued to protect the health and safety of Greenpointers. She fought for decades to close the Greenpoint Incinerator, advocated for zoning changes for heavy polluting companies, and forced Mobil Oil to accept responsibility for an estimated 17 million gallon oil spill in the 1940s.”
Let the sign be a reminder to a new generation of Greenpointers to take up the torch passed along by decades of Klementowicz’s activism. After all, from the National Grid pipeline, to the still-far-from-cleaned-up Newtown Creek, the job is far from done.