Greenpoint is about to get a whole lot greener: more than a dozen community organizations will be awarded a total of $600,000 in funds to make up for ExxonMobil’s massive Newtown Creek oil spill. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced the first round of funding from a $19.5 million settlement yesterday.
The grants, which range from $5,000 to $25,000, will fund 18 green-related projects (see below for the rundown) aimed at restoring Newtown Creek’s waterfront, improving green infrastructure, and improving parks and open space. The bulk of the money, totaling $221,000, is going toward environmental education and stewardship, and will fund compost programs, public art projects, and a variety of environmental education programs at local elementary schools. $196,916 of the settlement is from matching funds.
“It is extremely meaningful to the many Greenpoint residents who fought for decades to win this settlement money, and signals a promising future for the health and welfare of the neighborhood,” said Ed Janoff, executive director of the Open Space Alliance for North Brooklyn, which advocates for parks and green spaces.
The Greenpoint oil spill is one of the largest in history: anywhere between 17 and 30 million gallons of crude oil spilled into Newtown Creek and the land surrounding it. The Coast Guard discovered the leak in 1978, and while ExxonMobil made clean-up efforts, the state sued in 2007.
At the heart of the projects, says Jens Rasmussen, executive director of the North Brooklyn Boat Club, is “the future of the community,” and whether Greenpoint will continue to be the city’s dumping ground for garbage and pollutants.
“It’s been great that our elected officials have signaled that we’re not going to continue ignoring this body of water, which is what we’ve basically done,” he says.
The North Brooklyn Boat Club will receive $73,512 for three projects. One will install cigarette-butt receptacles around Newtown Creek, pay for two canoes for its environmental education program, and support its ED Shed program, an environmental program run in conjunction with LaGuardia Community College.
Eventually, Rasmussen thinks that Newtown Creek and the East River will hold a similar place in the lives of Greenpoint and Williamsburg residents as Central Park does for people on the Upper West and East Sides — it’ll be a birthright, and “their open space for them to experience nature,” he says.
Another round of grant funding will be made in early 2015. The state’s Attorney General and the Department of Environmental Conservation are overseeing the settlement money’s distribution.
Here’s the complete list of grant-funded projects.