Just a few days after CUNY social journalism fellow Aaron Smith launched his blog “The Brooklyn Memory Project” with an unsettling video of a retired Greenpoint NYPD detective recalling all the cancer deaths he’s witnessed (possibly due to the area’s oil spill), Greenpoint Waterfront Association for Parks and Planning is launching a series of forums about North Brooklyn’s environmental issues, starting with a discussion tonight about Greenpoint’s polluted past.
As far as the environment goes, if you live in Greenpoint you can take your pick from a slew of horrors. There’s the sewage overflow in Newtown Creek, disgusting for everyone but the poop eating “superfood” algae that was recently discovered feasting there. Then there was the exploding manhole in 1950 that ripped a 10-foot hole in the street and should have tipped Exxon Mobil off to a massive oil leak lurking beneath Greenpoint (nope, it went unchecked until 1978). And there’s the toxic solvent plume under Meeker Avenue, which the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation has identified in the soils and groundwater beneath Greenpoint and East Williamsburg. It’s the result of decades of dumping and irresponsible manufacturing practices by historic and contemporary dry cleaning and metalworking businesses, according to the Newtown Creek Alliance. When we had some soil from McCarren Park in nearby Williamsburg tested a few months ago, it was determined that it contained nearly three times the amount of lead recommended for recreational areas. Unfortunately, the list goes on and on.
So there’s cause for concern, to say the least, but to get a better handle on the historical context of things, “Our Polluted History: A Non-Toxic and Fascinating Forum on Greenpoint’s Environmental Past” brings together a panel of experts including Geoffrey Cobb, author of Greenpoint Brooklyn’s Forgotten Past; Mitch Waxman, Newtown Creek Alliance Group historian and local blogger; and Ed Michaleski, a local resident and chemist. No word yet on when the other three forums will be held, but we’ll keep you posted as soon as the dates are released.
Our Polluted History forum, Wednesday, October 7, from 7 to 9 p.m. DuPont Senior Housing Community Room, 80 DuPont Street (Greenpoint).