By Aaron Simon

Petroleum Build up in Sewer Lines Caused Vapors City and State Reps Say

The petroleum vapors town hall on 6/12 in Greenpoint

The recent spike in petroleum odors in Greenpoint homes was the topic of discussion on Wednesday night at the second town hall this year hosted by the North Brooklyn Neighbors at the Polish and Slavic Civic Center (176 Java St.).


Representatives from the NYC Dept. of Environmental Protection, Dept. of Health & Mental Hygiene amd the NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation provided updates on the pretorium vapors centered around Freeman, Huron, and Green Streets.

The DEP flushing sewer lines on McGuiness Blvd and Huron Street in May, 2019,

The DEC confirmed that petroleum product had recently built up in the “tight” sewer lines in the northern section of Greenpoint where multiple residents, including Freeman Street resident Mary Cinadr, have been relocated from due to vapors. The DEP has been flushing sewer lines in the area and said that petroleum vapors have reduced to safe levels.

A quick side note: if you detect petroleum vapors are present in your home then dial the DEC spill hotline at 1-800-457-7362 and call 311 (remember to write down the complaint number).

The vapor complaints that have been coming into 311 and 911 haven’t always made it to DEC in time for air sampling, as was the case with the preschool evacuating on Java St. on May 23rd, which DEC rep. Rodney Rivera said was a “chemical odor,” despite audience members claiming that a gas smell was detected prior to the school evacuation.  Continue reading

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Lack of Drainage Under India Street May Take Years to Fix

Commuters cross the flooded India Street entrance to the NYC Ferry during the rain on Wednesday evening (via Jonathan Vanasco)

The routine flooding of the India Street entrance to the NYC Ferry is finally receiving attention from city officials, but the lack of sewage and drainage infrastructure underneath the street may take years to fully construct, NBC 4 reports.

NBC 4 paid a visit to India Street to speak with Greenpoint ferry commuters on Thursday to see how they’re dealing with the flood waters, that Greenpointers reported is an ongoing problem. The current makeshift pedestrian walkway is sandwiched between “The Greenpoint” waterfront development and construction fences in an area prone to flooding.

 

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Taking the #eastriverferry is usually great. I have 11 screws in my foot and take it daily; until this happens. The flooding is a constant when over a 1” downfall occurs and began only once this 40+ story high rise started going up on India Street. As a trained architect and Professor of Architecture in Brooklyn, I’m ashamed of this developer, the contractor, the mayor and our borough “reps” who haven’t stepped up sooner. No one cares about ADA? Or simply doing the right thing and fixing infrastructure? @nycmayor wants to develop more AND run for President, all while not taking care of his own own city? What a joke. Kudos to @greenpointers and NBC 4 news for following up on this over many of our travelers stories recently. My first photo was from December 2018. @billdeblasio @nycmayor @nyc @eastriverferry #yoelgoldman #mackrealestategroup #palinenterprises #ismaelleyvaarchitects #pandisciogreen ? Really?? @newyorkyimby #urbandevelopmentpartners @nyccouncil #councilmanstephenlevin

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“It’s impacting hundreds of commuters and it totally undermines all of our efforts to have the ferry be a viable way to commute to work,” NYC Councilman Stephen Levin tells NBC 4 in the video.

“It’s still a public street from our understanding, which means as far as I can tell, that it’s the city’s responsibility to make sure there’s adequate drainage,” Levin said.

NYC Ferry canceled service to the India St. stop in Greenpoint on Thursday night.

The NYC Ferry implemented a shuttle bus to transport commuters last night as service at India Street was bypassed during the rain. Serviced returned to normal on Friday morning.

The official reason for last night’s ferry service disruption was “ponding” along India Street.

A city spokesman told NBC 4 that they’re “working on a long-term solution to get the sewers up and running,” but that may take “years.”

 

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India Street Routinely Flooded for NYC Ferry Riders

Flooded India Street on 5/29 (via Jonathan Vanasco)

The India Street pier entrance has been flooding for months during rain episodes and multiple people have reached out to Greenpointers with photos from last night’s flooded commute.

Flooded India Street next to “The Greenpoint” on 5/29 during the rain (via Sean Hart)

“I love the ferry, I feel like most people in Greenpoint who take it, love it,” said Sean Hart, a Greenpoint resident who takes the ferry at India Street approximately three to five times per week.

The flooded India Street entrance on 5/29 during the rain (via Sean Hart)

But Hart’s love for the ferry has come with multiple instances of dodging the flood waters on India Street next to “The Greenpoint” development, where pedestrians are prohibited from accessing the new walkway that is policed by construction workers.

“A few months ago, I went to take the ferry, it was on a rainy day as well, and I noticed a similar level of flood and I wasn’t sure what to do,” Hart said.

“I remember even stepping over to the area where the condo is and I remember there was a pretty rude angry foreman,” he said.

The flooded India Street entrance on 5/29 during the rain (via Sean Hart)

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Gas Odor Causes Greenpoint Preschool Evacuation

176 Java St. (Google Maps)

Gas odors resulted in the temporary evacuation of preschool children from the Greenpoint YMCA’s Early Childhood Center in the Polish and Slavic Center at 176 Java St. on Thursday morning, according to a parent whose child was evacuated.

The YMCA Early Childhood Program director Linda Leahy alerted parents around 9 a.m. this morning that gas odors were detected on the third floor of the building, according to the Greenpoint parent.

A teacher at the preschool said that the smell was from a potential gas leak and that the odor was strong enough for the children to be evacuated to the Greenpoint YMCA at 99 Meserole Ave. in the rain.

FDNY arrived at 176 Java St and determined the building to be safe; school staff and children returned to the building around noon today.

Separately, a rash of reported gas vapors seeping into residential buildings centered around Huron and Freeman Streets lead to a community meeting in Greenpoint earlier this month with the State Dept. of Environmental Conservation, North Brooklyn Neighbors and local elected reps.

The North Brooklyn Neighbors map of recently reported gas vapors (blue markers are vapors reported prior to the meeting; orange markers are reported indoor vapors; smaller orange dots are reported outdoor vapors; yellow markers are both indoor and outdoor vapor reports)

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Horti Play Opens Experiential Plant Store in Greenpoint

The new Horti Play space at 70 Eckford St. (courtesy of Horti)

When the Greenpoint-based plant subscription service Horti started about two years ago co-founders Puneet Sabharwal and Bryana Sortino began shipping houseplants to friends and quickly found great interest from a growing network of aspiring green-thumbs.

Inside Horti Play (courtesy of Horti)

Now that Horti’s subscription-based business has taken off, Sabharwal and Sortino premiered their first brick and mortar location, Horti Play, at 70 Eckford St. two weeks ago pushing the boundaries to redefine what a retail plant shop can be.

Horti Play defines itself as an “experiential space, designed to help our community form connections with plants and also with plant-loving people.”

“A lot of times people walk into plant stores and most of the decisions are based on transaction,” said Sabharwal who said he was inspired to start his own business and improve his relationship to nature after spending “years behind the keyboard,” at his former job.

The plants that Horti ships out to their subscribers come with care instructions to help novice-level gardeners’ skill-sets grow with their plants.

Building upon the educational aspect, Sabharwal envisions Horti Play as space for people to learn new skills and share ideas.

Horti Play also works as Horti’s office space, and subscribers have access to Horti Play during weekdays, while the general public can visit on the weekends for drop-ins or for classes and events. “We’re not trying to push plants onto people,” Sabharwal said.

Co-founders Puneet Sabharwal and Bryana Sortino (compliments of Horti)

Sabharwal spent the first 18 years of his life in Delhi, India and has lived in Greenpoint since 2011.

“I grew up on a commune basically, so this mentality of building a community is engrained in me. I’m not really a person that is constantly looking for transactional values, so I’m trying to minimize that aspect for our retail showroom as well, so that people don’t feel like the only way to be in the space is with an exchange.”

Horti Play features a selection of titles curated by Word bookstore.

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Vermin Infested Williamsburg Starbucks Is Closed Again

Starbucks at 154 N 7 St. (Google Maps)

The Starbucks located at 154 N 7 St. in Williamsburg has shut down again following a temporary closure earlier this month after an employee/whistleblower reported a vermin infestation prompting an inspection from the Dept. of Health.

Brown paper was taped over the front doors to the Williamsburg Starbucks on Friday morning with a sign stating “Store Closed,” pointing customers to nearby locations.

It’s unclear if the latest closure is permanent or related to the vermin infestation that resulted in the corporate coffee chain receiving a “C” during a visit from the city on April 30th when inspectors found:

1) Evidence of mice or live mice present in facility’s food and/or non-food areas.
2) Food contact surface not properly washed, rinsed and sanitized after each use and following any activity when contamination may have occurred.
3) Facility not vermin proof. Harborage or conditions conducive to attracting vermin to the premises and/or allowing vermin to exist.

Inspectors returned a few days later after Starbucks reopened on May 2nd and still found unsanitary conditions related to vermin: “Facility not vermin proof. Harborage or conditions conducive to attracting vermin to the premises and/or allowing vermin to exist.” Continue reading

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Why Is McCarren Park’s Soil Lead Contaminated?

McCarren Park (Ryan Vaarsi/Flickr)

Does McCarren Park have a lead contamination problem? A new report from WNYC found lead contamination levels above 150 ppm in 87 percent of the 30 soil samples taken in the beloved Greenpoint park.

The report also found soil with lead contamination in Prospect Park and Astoria Park in Queens.

For the McCarren soil testing WNYC focused on the grassy circle near the western entrance at the corner of Lormier Street and Bedford Avenue behind the restrooms:

Our focus was on an oval-shaped plot at the northeast corner that’s typically crowded with picnicking families in warm weather. Historic insurance maps reveal a company that made window sashes, blinds and doors once occupied the site in the 1880’s. Present-day aerial images show large patches of bare soil throughout the park.

Out of 30 samples tested in this one area, 87 percent were above 150 ppm. All exceeded 80 ppm. The average lead level was 201 ppm, making McCarren the most contaminated park WNYC tested.

The WNYC Map of soil samples

The map uses color coding to show where the samples measure in relation to differing standards of the current EPA’s New York standard (400 ppm), the proposed New York standard (150 ppm) and California’s standard (80 ppm).

Lead exposure can cause neurological damage and children are especially vulnerable, but the study also notes that the vast majority of NYC children who have elevated lead in their blood were exposed to lead paint in their homes.

A brief explanation in the study as to why the soil in Brooklyn is widely contaminated hints at the manufacturing history of the borough.

Greenpoint and Williamsburg had dozens of manufacturers and industrial businesses emitting toxins as late as the 1990s, possibly impacting the soil in our parks today. A Hunter College study from 1989 entitled “Hazardous Neighbors? Living Next Door to Industry in Greenpoint-Williamsburg” profiles buildings where toxic chemicals were being used and stored for various manufacturers.

The 1989 “Hazardous Neighbors” study from Hunter College summarized the potential sources of toxicity at the time.

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Hero and Dog Recovering After East River Rescue

Gabe, the hero is recovering from Saturday’s East River rescue

The hero and dog from Saturday’s epic rescue off of the shore at Transmitter Park have been identified.

Gabe, a SUNY Maritime College college graduate was celebrating his birthday at the Brooklyn Barge bar across from the park when he spotted the dog, Harper, in the water.

Harper received minor injuries to her paws and is recovering

Harper’s owner was at work during the incident that began when Harper’s walker was hit by a taxi that allegedly ran a stop sign. “I had a walker come to walk Harper and according to the walker and the company, they got hit by a taxi that blew through a stop sign” Harper’s owner said.

The two-year-old dog and her owner now live near McGolrick Park but used to live near and frequent Transmitter Park. Harper’s owner suspects that the startled dog was looking for familiar territory as it ran over a mile to Transmitter Park following the accident. Continue reading

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Greenpoint Oil Vapor Meeting Prompted by Multiple Complaints

(courtesy of Timothy Krause/Flickr)

A group of Greenpoint residents have reported smelling oil and petroleum vapors recently in their apartments and will hold a meeting this week with local elected officials and concerned neighbors to “work toward a solution.”

If you live in the vicinity of Freeman, Green, and Huron streets and would like to learn more or share your story a meeting hosted by the North Brooklyn Neighbors will take place at the Dupont Street Senior Housing Center (80 Dupont St.) on Tuesday, May 7th, from 7 p.m. – 9 p.m.

Both the city Department of Environmental Protection and the state Department of Environmental Conservation have been investigating the potential source of the alleged vapors and conducted sewer inspections in Greenpoint last week, according to Benjamin Solotaire of Council Member Stephen Levin’s office.

The agencies sampled the air at six manholes and found one manhole on Freeman Street that has evidence of petroleum product. Here are the full details: Continue reading

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Williamsburg Starbucks Whistleblower: “Mice poop was everywhere”

Starbucks at 154 N 7th St.

Following our post yesterday that highlights the closure of Starbucks at 154 N 7th St. by the Health Dept., a former employee contacted us with disturbing details on the extent of the vermin infestation that she alleges plagued her three-month tenure at the cafe this year, causing up to six employees to quit.

The woman seeks to remain anonymous as she is afraid that publishing her name will negatively affect her future employment prospects.

“I’ve been working in the restaurant industry for years and Starbucks was really awful…When I walked in for an interview, food and bananas, almonds and snack packs were on the floor, nobody cleaned,” she said.

Looking past the uncleanliness during her job interview she took the gig, and right away she was disturbed by the negligence from management that allowed for dead vermin to sit in the food-prep area for days on end.

“A week after I started my job I saw a mouse on a sticky trap, and I told my manager that there is a dead mouse on the floor so you have to get rid of it, and he didn’t,” she said.

“It was in the kitchen area where we prep mocha sauce or caramel sauce, dry berries and powders and stuff,” she said.

“Then, day three, another dead mouse on the same sticky trap; so there were two dead mice on the sticky trap and no one would get rid of it,” she said.

“A week after, my coworker was holding a black plastic trash bag and she was like ‘don’t touch it, don’t touch it.’ I just walked in and said ‘what is that food?’ And she goes, ‘no, no, no live mice are in the bag don’t touch it,'” she said. Continue reading

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