How did Greenpoint get so toxic? The root of the problem goes back several decades, although it was discovered much more recently.
A brief history of contamination in Greenpoint
Late in October, an organization called the Neighbors Allied for Good Growth (NAG) released the beta version of an interactive map of Greenpoint. One of its layers displays polluted and contaminated properties in the neighborhood, and the results are both stunning and disconcerting. Apart from mapping small-scale chemical spills, the map highlights the sheer extent of damage that oil contamination has caused to the neighborhood.
How did Greenpoint get so toxic? The root of the problem goes back several decades, although it was discovered much more recently. One day in 2002, John Lipscomb, the captain of a patrol boat that covered the New York Harbor, decided to take a trip into a waterway that he hadn’t visited before. His job, at the time, was to cruise up and down a 185-mile stretch of the harbor looking for pollution concerns to report back to his employer, an organization called Riverkeeper.
Lipscomb had spent more than two years on that beat, but hadn’t yet ventured into Newtown Creek, a modest channel that snakes through Greenpoint and empties into the East River. “I saw the waterway on my chart and since I had some extra time, I decided to go in and have a look. I remember seeing around 20 wooden pallets, broken and floating around in the water. And then as I got close to where Apollo Street meets the water, I saw something,” he recollected.
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