New school a toxic issue
by Emily Gallagher
Jul 02, 2018 | 1255 views | 0 0 comments | 55 55 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A community benefits agreement is a legal document from the city that demands that a developer give certain defined goods to the community they are building in; services that will benefit the entire community regardless of whether or not they are tenants in a new building.

For Greenpoint Landing, one of the community benefits is that they will provide space for a new school. One presumes this is because of the vast number of families that will be added to our neighborhood when Greenpoint Landing and other mega-projects are occupied.

However, our post-industrial landscape is an extremely complicating factor as our landscape converts from industrial to residential/retail.

The school is 640 seats, and proposed for the corner of DuPont and Franklin streets, which the state has identified as one of the most toxic sites in the state; a designated Superfund site.

The proposed site of the new school is over the NuHart contaminated plume. To build out, they need to demolish the building.

A great piece in Patch summarized a recent presentation regarding this plume on June 28. A three-foot slab of concrete in the building's basement caps the contamination, and demolishing the building down without disturbing the slab is an issue.

Neighbors Allied for Good Growth, or NAG, of which I am a former board member and co-chair, has been advocating to change the location of the school.

The petition NAG has drafted read "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," it continued.

Clearly Greenpoint is up against a very difficult problem that we must resolve piece by piece, but certainly domino effects are ensuing.

Our landscape is dangerously ripe with toxic legacies, but our “Real Estate Profit Motivated Agenda” is pushing us to ignore them. Plumes and environmental hazards do not "behave."

They migrate and shape shift and can live deep in our earth while still impacting us. Steve Levin noted that our neighborhood is so ripe with plumes that moving the school may just result in the school being on top of a different dangerous plume.

The obvious and sensical answer is too expensive for the city to actually consider, which would be to stop the overdevelopment of our community since the land is not truly viable.

However, the cleanups are so extremely costly that not developing the land would likely result in these plumes never being resolved. It's a real capitalism conundrum.

If we are going to accept thousands more residents, we will need new public schools. But the fact that we are willing to put schools on dangerous land because the city just couldn't say no those many years ago during the 2005 rezoning really shows a difficult and callous set of priorities for our community.

And the more new people move into the community and the older residents move out, the less institutional knowledge remains to protect the new residents and children from what has always been and what we have always suffered from.

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