March 14, 2019 By Laura Hanrahan
Air quality in North Brooklyn is improving but at a slower rate than all other districts across the city, a recent survey from the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) has found.
Representatives from DOHMH presented their most recent findings during a Feb. 28 meeting that focused on development in north Brooklyn, organized by elected officials and the civic group North Brooklyn Neighbors.
The agency revealed its report based on the air quality data that it gathered in each of the city’s 59 community districts between 2008 and 2016. The agency tested the air quality four times a year– for two weeks at a time–during the eight year period to gather the data on a hyper-local level.
The agency placed three air monitors in Brooklyn’s Community Board 1 district, which covers Greenpoint and Williamsburg. The monitors were place at the intersections of Metropolitan and Bedford Avenues, Green and Provost Streets, and Ross and Kent Streets.
The monitors measured levels of pollutant particulate matter in the air, including black carbon, sulfur dioxide and nitric oxide, that are present as the result of burning fossil fuels.
According to DOHMH, while air quality is improving in the city overall, Brooklyn’s Community District 1, has shown the slowest gains out of the city’s 59 districts. Midtown Manhattan achieved the greatest improvement across the city, reducing the level of harmful particulate matter in the air by .6 micrograms per cubic meter. North Brooklyn’s particulate matter was reduced by less than half of that, decreasing by only .25 micrograms.
“While air pollution and air quality is improving in the city, there are still areas we need to worry about and those parts of the city tend to be ones with high truck traffic, high traffic in general, big buildings,” said Sarah Johnson, Spatial Analyst at the DOHMH.
Exposure to urban air pollutants has been linked to a wide range of adverse health effects, including asthma, respiratory disease, reduced lung function and even premature death, making air quality a hotly debated topic in recent years.
Greenpoint and Williamsburg have both undergone rapid development in recent years, with large residential towers–such as Greenpoint Landing–going up that require construction materials to be brought in by pollution-causing trucks. Many of the developments also require ground remediation processes that dig up toxins located below the surface.
Now that DOHMH has gathered the data, the agency is asking communities to come together and share their ideas on how to best combat the city’s air quality problem. DOHMH itself is not involved in the enforcement of air quality laws, leading Johnson to call on local elected officials, who will be able to liaise with multiple city and state agencies, to address the issue.
Since the Feb. 28 meeting, Council Member Stephen Levin’s office said they have ramped up talks about the air quality in North Brooklyn. Levin plans to continue to work with State Senator Brian Kavanagh, State Senator Julia Salazar, and community groups to create programs that will specifically address air quality issues.
“I think this is a great opportunity to do some on the ground citizen finance,” said Benjamin Solotaire, North Brooklyn community organizer and director of participatory budgeting for Levin. “North Brooklyn is becoming more and more residential, and more and more people going to be affected.”
Local advocacy group North Brooklyn Neighbors announced yesterday that it has purchased several air monitors and will launch a community air monitoring program in the coming months. The group plans to place the monitors throughout the neighborhood and publicly display the data that is collected.
Residents who would like to suggest a location for the air monitors can email [email protected].