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Before You Go Back to Your Urban Garden, Get The Lead Out

Don’t get too excited. Up close and personal with a soil sample from McCarren Park (Photo: Jamie Cone, 2015)

Hey, I hate to be the one to tell you, but this fancy schmancy Spring weather? Yeah, it’s a total tease. Like, check back in 24 hours and you’ll see what I mean. Still, nothing should stop you from getting started on your backyard or finding out how to get involved in your community garden. Well, except for frost. Yeah, come to think of it frost will pretty much kill the fruits of your backbreaking horticultural efforts no matter what. Besides, according to Neighbors Allied for Good Growth (NAG) there’s one thing you absolutely must figure out before you plop down any seedlings: Do you know what’s in your soil?

“Everybody should be testing their soil before they garden,” said Allison Currier, an organizer at NAG. “North Brooklyn especially. That’s because if you’re a resident of Greenpoint or Williamsburg, in all likelihood you’ve got some lead on your hands.

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Nine Things to Know about the Brooklyn Generator’s 14-Block Rezoning Plan

Rendering of 25 Kent Avenue, Toby Moskovits's waterfront office complex (Image via Steelblue Consulting / Heritage Equity)

Rendering of 25 Kent Avenue, Toby Moskovits’s waterfront office complex (Image via Steelblue Consulting / Heritage Equity)

Last night at Brooklyn Borough Hall, Deputy Borough President Diana Reyna took aim at a 14-block rezoning proposal that would allow for the construction of Brooklyn Generator, an eight-story, 480,000-square-foot office complex slated for development in Williamsburg. The special permit being sought by developer Heritage Equity and the Department of City Planning would transform a majority of the Greenpoint-Williamsburg Industrial Business Zone and have major implications for the IBZ’s fast-shrinking homegrown industry as well as the city as a whole.

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Is There a Toxic Plume Under Your Building? This Map of North Brooklyn Will Tell You

(Screenshot via ToxiCity map, Neighbors Allied for Good Growth and Pratt)

(Screenshot via ToxiCity map, Neighbors Allied for Good Growth and Pratt)

The Greenpoint-Williamsburg rezoning transformed the East River waterfront area (and other pockets, including along parts of the BQE) from “mixed use” industrial districts to solely residential ones. Things may have proceeded quickly since 2005, but the transition has not been a seamless one– a new interactive resource, the Greenpoint-Williamsburg ToxiCity Map tells us why.

The map, spearheaded by Neighbors Allied for Good Growth (NAG), a community group with a long history of fighting environmental degradation in North Brooklyn, reveals the sometimes toxic remnants of the area’s industrial past as a colorful barrage of moveable dots and lines. “A lot of factories were there, operating with a lot of chemicals, a lot of spills– I think that’s important to remember,” explained Rita Beth Pasarell, a board member at NAG. “For good old history, but also because there are a lot of health impacts associated with the chemicals, and in order to avoid them we have to know what chemicals are where.”

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