State Assemblyman Joseph R. Lentol is the latest to express concern about the possible health impact of the massive blaze that erupted on the Williamsburg waterfront early Saturday morning.
In a letter to the commissioners of the city’s Department of Environmental Protection and Department of Health, the Assemblyman, whose district includes Williamsburg and Greenpoint, says he’s “extremely concerned about the adverse health effects this fire has had on my constituents.”
The assemblyman goes on to demand immediate air and health testing.
The letter, reprinted below, comes in the wake of complaints from locals about coughing and difficulty breathing. Yesterday, one area resident told us she was unable to wear her contact lenses because they were so dry from the nearby smoke.
Some 15 hours after the seven-alarm blaze broke out early Saturday morning at the CitiStorage facility at North 11th and Kent Avenue, the health department issued a warning recommending that residents in the vicinity of the fire stay indoors and keep windows closed. “Local air quality has been affected but is not likely to cause significant health problems for healthy people,” the advisory read. “People who are vulnerable, like seniors, children and people with respiratory conditions, may experience some difficulty breathing, but anyone in the immediate area who experiences shortness of breath or chest pains should seek medical attention.”
“Residents downwind have been complaining about foul odors, sore throats, headaches, and even the insides of their homes reeking of smoke,” NAG wrote.
The Change.org petition, which has garnered 132 signatures since launching, notes that “over the past year, three major industrial fires have occurred in the increasingly populous communities of Williamsburg, Greenpoint and Bushwick. Aside from the most recent fire in Williamsburg, most of these events have gone under-reported and little to no public information was released regarding the potential health and safety hazards presented by these fires.”
Lindsey Powers, a Greenpoint resident, commented on the petition: “The fumes were terrible this weekend and still linger. The snow is covered in soot. This can’t be good for the air quality and safety.”
Among other things, NAG is calling on the city to monitor the air for toxic chemicals like dioxins and furans, which can be released during a fire.
Another Greenpoint environmental group, the Greenpoint Waterfront Association for Parks and Planning, has endorsed the group’s petition. “North Brooklyn is no stranger to the impact of toxins – whether from spills or fires – and we must continue to hold the de Blasio administration’s feet to the fire when it comes to full disclosure of associated public health risks,” said GWAPP President Richard Mazur in a statement today.
Here’s the letter from Assemblyman Lentol.
I am writing to you regarding this weekend’s CitiStorage fire, which is located within my Assembly District. I write to you jointly because I believe that jurisdiction over the health and environmental concerns that remain in the fire’s aftermath fall to both respective agencies. As you may know, CitiStorage held paper records for various New York City, New York State, and private agencies. The amount of paper records stored there fueled the fire for hours upon hours and required an incredible effort by the New York City Fire Department to contain. During the duration of the fire, portions of my district were covered in a plume of black smoke, charred paper, soot; and, foul odors ran rampant. News reports have already cited this fire to be one of the worst in New York City. It is still smoldering as I write this letter, and odors continue to permeate the area.
I am extremely concerned about the adverse health effects this fire has had on my constituents. Residents in the area of the fire were issued a strong warning to stay indoors and close the windows to their home. The pointedly strong wording about avoiding being outdoors makes me very uneasy about the potential for adverse health effects on local residents. My district has long had a history of environmental catastrophes that has resulted in adverse health effects and I am concerned that this fire will follow suit.
I respectfully request that any and all air and health monitoring and sampling should be implemented as soon as possible to ensure there is no threat to residents or anyone else that had been exposed. The public has a right to know about the potential hazards and health risks that they may face. They should not suffer from environmental hazards that were no fault of their own. I look forward to hearing from you and how the health of the residents will be protected.
Joseph R. Lentol