Brooklyn school to be built next to hazardous waste?!
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No child should have to go to school next to a toxic waste site, but a generation of Greenpoint children will unless an alternate location for a future school is found.
The New York City School Construction Authority (SCA) plans to spend millions of taxpayer dollars to construct a new K-8 school JUST A FEW FEET FEET FROM A TOXIC SUPERFUND SITE.
It’s true. Across the street from Greenpoint Landing’s (GPL) proposed school* sits NuHart Plastics -- one of the most environmentally toxic sites in Brooklyn and New York State. The site received this designation, reserved only for the most environmentally toxic sites, in 2010 because it is contaminated with thousands of gallons of hazardous chemicals.
From 1950-2004, the former NuHart Plastic Manufacturing building and its adjacent buildings were home to the production, storage and shipping of vinyl plastic materials. The site is now a State Superfund site containing two underground plumes of trichloroethylene (TCE), a highly volatile chemical and as much as 60,000 gallons of uncontrolled phthalates, that have moved off site and are now under the adjacent streets. Exposure to these chemicals have been linked to liver and kidney damage, congenital heart defects, central nervous system defects, changes in sex hormones, low sperm count, obesity, reduced female fertility, birth defects, low birth weight, and altered behavior in toddlers.
Locating the school near these hazards represents a reckless disregard for the physical and mental well-being of the future school’s students, teachers, administrators, and families.
Five years ago, City Council Member Stephen Levin brokered a deal with real estate developer George Klein of Greenpoint Landing, which, among several stipulations, included a signed promise to ensure the needed school would not be built unless the site was fully cleaned up. This was a last minute compromise to address community concerns. The agreement read:
“No school shall begin construction until the environmental conditions that have moved off-site (including public streets, sidewalks and playgrounds), shall achieve a comprehensive clean-up…that are protective of children’s health.
We (GPL) understand that the SCA has agreed to preserve funds for the school site for 5 years, and we commit to maintain the site for school use for that period.”**
The five years is almost up and the clean-up process of the Superfund site hasn’t yet started. In fact, the DEC says it will take at least a decade, if not longer, to fully clean up the site.
If GPL is allowed to back out of their promise, a child sent to Greenpoint’s new school could be entering college by the time this site is fully remediated.
Currently the proposed remediation will require extraction of on-site contamination after a complete demolition of the NuHart building. For off-site contamination near the school, wells would be placed in the sidewalks by the park and the former NuHart building to pump the highly viscous phthalates out from under the street. The pumping and extraction will go on in the public right of way. We are concerned about the possible exposure risk if there was an accident or incident on the sidewalks or street during the at least decade of remediation. To their credit, the DEC is requiring the developer to install an underground barrier to prevent any possible movement of the phthalates onto school property underground.
Despite the possible health risks and stress the school location could cause, Mayor De Blasio and the School Construction Authority still plan to allow Greenpoint Landing to use this property for the school because finding a safer location would hurt both School Construction Authority’s and Greenpoint Landing’s bottom lines. This is an unacceptable proposition.
Consider this: the School Construction Authority’s track record of reckless school sitings is legendary. Consider the examples below:
- P.S. 51 in the Bronx was built on a toxic site that contained trichloroethylene (TCE) among other toxic chemicals, resulting in the school being closed and relocated after only 20 years of operation. Residents were forced to sue the city
- P.S. 20 in the Bronx sunk into a landfill, which delayed the school opening by three years
- P.S. 43 in Queens was flooded with 400,000 gallons of seawater
If we don’t act now, Greenpoint’s newest school could be added to this list.
We believe that all children have the right to learn in a safe environment free from physical harm and mental duress, and it is incumbent on our elected officials, the School Construction Authority, and Greenpoint Landing to either designate another site within the Greenpoint Landing property or elsewhere in Greenpoint for the construction of the promised school that is free from these potential health hazards.
Sign this petition to demand that our elected officials hold SCA to a higher standard when building this school and hold Greenpoint Landing accountable to the promises they made to our community when they got approval to redevelop our neighborhood.
We hope they will do the right thing for our community! Thank you for your support.
* The proposed school is located on the southwest corner of Dupont and Franklin street, across the street from a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) designated State Superfund site: the former NuHart Plastic Manufacturing building.
** The full letter can be found here:
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