Sister Francis Gerard Kress who Greenpointers profiled last year in its series on important local women passed away on January 17th in Brentwood, Long Island. She was 104 years old and was a nun for an amazing 87 years. Sister Francis, a beloved local figure, taught for many years at the Saint Anthony of Padua school (862 Manhattan Ave.), but it was her work as one of the first local environmentalists that is perhaps her greatest local legacy.
The future activist was born in Hells Kitchen in 1914 and by age ten she had already organized her first protest, a pot and pan demonstration of local children in favor of the first Catholic presidential candidate. She joined the Sisters of Saint Joseph in 1932 and became an elementary school educator. In the 1960s, she arrived in Greenpoint, teaching local children who loved her charisma and energy in the classroom. In those days, Greenpoint was severely polluted with local residents at the time enduring a shockingly high cancer rate, but few locals knew the extent of the environmental damage.
In 1977, a plume appeared in Newtown Creek, the first evidence of a 15 million gallon oil slick that poisoned the surrounding earth. That same year Sister Francis, learning from a city bus driver about the spill, began to make inquiries among local residents. Discovering that almost everyone had a story about the black mayonnaise that oozed in Newtown Creek, she also learned about the spiking local cancer rate. She recalled that toxic fumes stained people’s clothes drying on the line outside and that it gave them headaches and made their children agitated, but locals simply lived with these dangers, but she was determined to take action. Continue reading →
This Saturday (June 3rd), you can tour the beautiful rooftop at Kingsland Wildflowers (520 Kingsland Ave), learn about the future of Newtown Creek at a community visioning workshop, and take a look back to its industrial roots with local historian Mitch Waxman. These events are all free and open to the public.
Schedule of Events:
1-4pm Community Visioning with Riverkeeper and NCA, RSVP
5-7pm Lecture and Kingsland Wildflowers Green Roof Tour with Mitch Waxman, NCA Historian, RSVP
Join Riverkeeper and the Newtown Creek Alliance in creating a cohesive community vision for Newtown Creek. With a Superfund cleanup and long-term plan to control sewage overflows on the horizon, now is an opportune time to engage stakeholders in imagining and designing a future Newtown Creek that provides greater opportunities for restoration, remediation, recreation, and resilience. RSVP
One of the first things I learned after moving to Greenpoint in 2011 was that The Mark Bar gives out free bagels on Sundays. Or at least they used to. (Does this still happen? Asking seriously). The second thing I learned was that Newtown Creek, which I walk over every day to get to the 7 train, is home to one of the worst oil spills in U.S. history. Over the last couple of decades anywhere from 17 to 30 million gallons of oil have escaped from ExxonMobil’s refinery and storage facilities underneath Greenpoint and leaked into the soil and water surrounding North Brooklyn. Continue reading →
Two new articles about gentrification and environmental activism in Greenpoint, appearing in The International Journal of Justice and Sustainability, argue that the neighborhood is challenging the typical narrative that gentrifying neighborhoods will inevitably force out all long-term residents to make way for a gold coast of newly arriving gentrifiers.
The articles, by Winifred Curran (Department of Geography, DePaul University) and Trina Hamilton (Department of Geography, SUNY University at Buffalo) advocates a “just green enough” idea that “makes room for continued industrial use and blue-collar work, where cleanup does not automatically or exclusively lead to the ‘parks, cafes, and a riverwalk’ model of a green city.”
“Just green enough” coincides with “just clean enough,” wherein “as much of the environmental hazard as possible is removed in order to assure community health while still allowing for industrial uses on the waterfront for the explicit purpose of maintaining the area’s working-class population.” Continue reading →