DEP Fudged Newtown Creek Water Quality Reports, According to Former Employees

Newtown Creek as seen from the Pulaski Bridge. Photo by Laura Apperson

We’ve already talked about how Newtown Creek is one of the most polluted waterways in the country  (AKA, don’t even think about taking a dip or eating its fish). And while everyone knows this is true, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has reportedly lied about the already horrific water quality in city reports—and former employees have banded together to potentially sue the City of New York. Continue reading

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It’s Time to Speak up About That Proposed Toxic Water Bubble Plant

We in Greenpoint know better than to swim in the toxic, bacteria-laden Newtown Creek. We might soon be exposed to the contents of the creek regardless through a proposed aeration plant that would go in the Dutch Kills area of the creek.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is accepting public comment on the matter through Monday, April 4, and the Newton Creek Alliance drafted a letter in strong opposition  (PDF) to the current plan.

Aeration Map via Newtown Creek Alliance

The process of aeration increases the water’s oxygen content levels to support marine plants and fish, which were depleted after a century’s worth of industrial pollution and wastewater overflow. The air bubbles travel from installed pipes at the bottom of the creek, releasing oxygen bubbles — but the air doesn’t stop there.

A 2012 study by researchers at Columbia’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory found that the air bubbles transfer bacteria to the air near English Kills, an especially contaminated mile-long area of the creek in Bushwick, Brooklyn. A pilot aeration system was launched at English Kills in 2009. Continue reading

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What Lurks Under the Pulaski Bridge? A Dose of Greenpoint History

Mitch gestures from the Pulaski Bridge
Mitch gestures from the Pulaski Bridge


“I’m gonna keep you alive, I promise!” says Mai Armstrong, member of Newtown Creek Alliance.

It’s Saturday morning – a scorcher, by the way – and a group of 31 culture enthusiasts from all over New York have assembled by St Anthony’s Church for a free two-hour guided walk of Newtown Creek (and environs) as part of Jane’s Walk NYC. One woman, an ex-resident, has brought her two daughters from Manhattan to check out the old ‘hood.  It’s a beautiful day, and we bristle with anticipation. Continue reading

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We Survived! Birding Canoe Trip on Newtown Creek (Video)

Thanks to Newtown Creek Alliance and North Brooklyn Boat Club for organizing this fun canoe trip on the Newtown Creek. While nature in the way of lush forests and crystal clear running streams is far from the scenery along this industrial waterway, “nature has returned to the creek,” our guides explained, which is a good sign.

Among the many birds we spotted were cormorants, swallows, cardinals, a great egret, an entire flocks of cormorants, a catbird and a few geese who were demonstrating a curious behavior of swimming along the creek’s edge with their necks down low on the water.

We were very excited to also see blue crabs, oysters, small fish and jelly fish!

I won’t say it didn’t smell, in some parts worse than others. Mostly they were industrial gas and crude oil smells. There was a lot of garbage floating, capri sun containers, potato chips bags, tampons, and I won’t say that I didn’t cringe every time even the most minuscule drop splashed on my arm or even worse right near my lips.

When I asked Jens of NBBC what would be the protocol if someone fell in and swallowed a mouthful of water, he said he would recommend getting a Hepatitis test since the biggest pollutant on the creek nowadays is human excrement.

The most striking feature of the tour was when we canoed up to a partition between the creek and a combined sewage overflow, CSO area. That is where rainwater mixed with sewage from the treatment plant overflows after heavy rain. The water on our side of the partition was very clear, protected from – wait for it – “floatables.” On the other side, where an unknowing egret was hunting, was thick putrid sludge leading from the huge overflow pipe.

When we returned to the boat club dock I was never so excited to wash my hands, especially the spot of water that turned brown on my arm.

Canoeing up the creek is something that everyone should experience, at least once. If not for the birds – for the reality check. Modern conveniences like toilets and sanitation make us forget the impact we have on our own environment. While the creek is on its way to becoming a less vile place, it’s still the toilet of NYC, and we shouldn’t turn a blind eye to it, especially since it is becoming a viable place for our own native fauna.

Bonus: Laura Hoffman, locally famous environmental hero for Greenpoint, who was a plaintiff in a 2004 lawsuit against ExxonMobil for contamination of Greenpoint and the Newtown Creek that won $19million for an environmental projects fund, was on the same canoe trip! I was honored to finally meet her.

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Want More Garbage Cans on the Greenpoint Waterfront and Franklin St? Sign this petition

With the summer months ahead and significant increase in pedestrian traffic to and from the East River Ferry and Transmitter Park, many Greenpointers are complaining that the Greenpoint Waterfront is filthy. They want the city to put more garbage cans in pedestrian areas and clean up more thoroughly and more often. The Change.org campaign reads:

The streets of Greenpoint, Brooklyn are disgusting, smeared with dog feces and full of garbage.  THERE ARE NO GARBAGE CANS in the area.  There does not seem to be regular street cleaning despite the street cleaning signs that indicate street cleaning times.

With the growth of the residential developments, businesses moving in (Kickstarter), the East River Ferry nearby and the opening of Transmitter Park, the neighborhood has experienced a significant increase in pedestrian traffic.

Over the past year, residents in our neighborhood have submitted multiple online requests for garbage cans via the Department of Sanitation’s website to no avail.  Despite numerous requests by residents, the Department of Sanitation has simply ignored these requests and nothing has been done to rectify the situation.

All individuals signing below are petitioning the NYC Department of Sanitation to provide public garbage cans at all intersections of West Street between Greenpoint Ave and India Street as well as Franklin Street intersections between Greenpoint Ave and India Street.  Additionally, the NYC Department of Sanitation should regularly dispose of the garbage in the public garbage cans and provide regular street cleaning to all named streets and surrounding areas.

Sign this petition.

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“Presumed Inevitability of Gentrification” in Greenpoint: Not The End Of The Story

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

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Is Greenpoint Safe? 10 Things To Do

Do you find it ironic that Greenpoint features the environmentally friendly Rooftop Farms, the new McGolrick Park Farmers Market, a Clean Green Dry Cleaners on Nassau Ave, among many other “green” initiatives? Are you confused that the Earth Day Celebration in McCarren Park is sponsored by Exxon Mobil?

We live on top of an oil spill nearly as big as the Exxon Valdez spill, cause by Exxon Mobil that has rendered the Newtown Creek and the soil underneath our homes extremely toxic. Almost half of the city’s trash is stored and processed in North Brooklyn. Part of Greenpoint, near McGolrick Park, sits directly on top of the Meeker Avenue Plumes which releases the vapors of carcinogenic dry cleaning chemicals into the homes of residents. That all sucks!

It seems contradictory to be living in a very toxic place and at the same time celebrate so many eco-friendly things. It’s like eating organic kale in one hand and smoking a cigarette in the other hand.

So what is the point?

Photo: Bill Rhodes

The point is, we live here and we love it!  And we can’t just give up on Greenpoint. Generations ahead of us will call this place home and it’s important we make sure it is cleaner and healthier for them and safe for us in the meantime.

Instead of being cynical about all of these exciting “green” developments in the community, embrace them and look at them as steps towards cleaning up Greenpoint.

A very important panel discussion called Is Greenpoint Safe? was held at Anella recently. Organizers created this important document to help you become more informed and understand how you can get involved, get educated and get Greenpoint on the right track.

A few important things to note: The Newtown Creek is a Superfund Site, if you live above or near the Meeker Ave plumes it’s important to get your home tested right away for harmful fumes, oil spills and bad odors are cause for action, houseplants can help improve air quality in your home, eating food from your garden may be contaminated with lead or other toxic chemical so test the soil, and composting, limiting the use of harmful cleaners in your home and adopting a tree are all ways you can directly act towards making Greenpoint a cleaner and healthier place.

Please discuss and share this information with friends and neighbors.

Continue reading

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Sewage In Our Waterways: Do You Want To Know?

© DNAinfo

I certainly do. Our North Brooklyn Boat Club is out there paddling on the Newtown Creek. I saw a man on the India St pier this morning fishing for Striped Bass. Doesn’t he know it is unsafe to eat fish caught out of East River? Many Greenpointers are still in the dark about the toxicity of the Newtown Creek, the harmful Meeker Ave Plumes and the garbage processing stations near the homes of residents. Here’s another one for you. Did you know that public wastewater treatment plants can dump sewage into our waterways and not tell us about it? But if you click here and take a minute to fill out a form by June 21st that urges lawmakers to pass a new bill called the Sewage Pollution Right to Know Act, then local media outlets like this one will be informed of when and where sewage is dumped into our waterways and can pass the information on to you. This is important!

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Is Greenpoint Safe? Important Panel Discussion Wed 5/23

Oil spill? Toxins? Plumes? Is Greenpoint safe? If you live or work here, you should be concerned about how your health is affected by these big problems. Please come and learn about the history behind our neighborhood’s toxic legacy and how it can be cleaned up. This important topic will be the focus of a discussion on Wednesday May 23, 2012 at 7pm in Anella’s backyard (222 Franklin St), in a panel moderated by Cara Canella of Speak Easy Series. Panelists include Kate Zidar of Newtown Creek Alliance, Laura Hoffman of O.U.T.R.A.G.E. (Organizations United for Trash Reduction and Garbage Equity), Mike Schade of Center for Health & Environmental Justice. RSVP: lincoln (at) lincolnrestler.org.

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