Toxi City: Exploring Brooklyn's Industrial Legacy

East New York

Posted in Brooklyn,Brownfield,East New York by Robin on July 21, 2009

On Sunday, I went to 5 brownfield sites in East New York. I asked Maurice Freeman, a former City Tech student and East New York resident to come with me. We started at the Belmont Holder site, 290 Belmont which is still an active Con Ed site. This site is not on the state remediation list which makes it just like the Plymouth Street Holder site in Dumbo. The building is well maintained and relatively new and on this beautiful Sunday, it was sealed up as tight as a drum. For some unknown reason, there is a school crossing sign painted in the street.

I don’t know why coal gas would have been stored here.

There were no nearby manufactured gas plants of which I am aware. There is a railroad a few blocks away however. Maybe that made it easy to transport the gas. It is possible that the the gas was used by industries in the area. We walked over toward the railroad. We saw mounds of metal and unsorted recycling on the other side. Must be Gershow Recycling at 1885 Pitkin. Just like the metal recycling places along the Gowanus, the metal is piled high these days. A sign of the recession.

Next, we took the 20 bus to Loring Avenue and Eldert Lane. When we got off, we were both surprised by how nice the new developments there were. The Spring Creek site at Emerald is a remediated site with housing that was theoretically built in 1990. The paint looked very fresh and the townhouses were in really good shape. From the info on the NYSDEC web site, the area had been used as a dump. It was cleaned up before the housing was built. On this particular block, drums of more noxious stuff were observed so this block made it onto the state’s superfund list. This seems so arbitrary. Kids were playing on a paved parking lot between the houses. I thought maybe that’s best. Some of these kids did ask us what we were doing. I really didn’t know what to say. Who wants to hear,”I am photographing your home because it was built on a toxic dump.” Maurice had a great answer: the catch-all “school project.”

The next site was the former Majestic Garment Cleaners at 740 Pine, now an empty lot with plywood around the perimeter.

The google map shows a building at this site so it was probably razed fairly recently, meaning in the last few years. The site is contaminated with TETRACHLOROETHYLENE (PCE) from the dry cleaning business. This sounds fairly nasty and hard to clean up. On the outside, there is a sign that says Danrich Family Homes.


Then we walked down Fountain.


We turned on Flatlands. The side towards Jamaica Bay seems to be undeveloped land, the other side various kinds of industrial yards. Further up, there is a sports facility in which there was an ongoing soccer game. We walked towards the site which is called S & S X-Ray Products but is actually a Stop & Stor. There was a rabbit on the lawn.

I asked him to move so I could photograph him with the logo.

This was another example of how because the brownfield sites are often not well populated, nature moves right in. We had just walked by two long blocks of unused land, here was a rabbit.

Around the corner, it was back to warehouses. A woman in a short yellow dress was unceremoniously let out of a car. Unlike rabbit, this was the of kind of thing, I suppose I expect on deserted streets.

This site was used by Art-Lloyd Metal Products and was polluted during the manufacture of various metal goods. It has been remediated but you still can’t dig in the ground here or use the groudwater. Self-storage seems like a pretty decent solution for the site.

Back on the 20 Bus to the last site on Atlantic Avenue, the Union Station Holder, between Ashford Street and Liberty. rm_20090719_7403

This site has been used as a parking lot by Con Ed since 1965 according to NYSDEC. There is a lovely old building on the corner of Cleveland that at least corresponds to where a building stood in the 1921 map.
The shape of the back of the building was slightly different though. On Cleveland on the sidewalk, we saw this pile of crab shells. A block or two away is a store live crabs are sold. I imagined someone eating the crabs on this block in their car.

Anyway the holders were on this side of the block where the parking lot is now on the other side of this wall. No real testing has been done yet of this site. Across the street is a schoolyard.


Spring Creek

On Friday, I went out to view what I could of the Pennsylvania Avenue and Fountain Avenue landfill sites. All I an say is how I totally underestimated the scale of the sites. They are huge and quite high. The Pennsylvania Avenue site rises to 80 feet. The Fountain Avenue site higher.


The whole site is fenced. I was discouraged about getting a good view as I walked along. This is from the other side of Fresh Creek.There is one spot where one can get down to the water and get a clear shot with no fences.

I saw this guy down there.

I walked along the bike/pedestrian path that runs between the landfill and the belt parkway.

On the other side of Hendrix Creek is the Fountain Avenue Landfill which is even larger than the Pennsylvania Avenue one. And harder to get a clear view of least at this end. I was running out of time and tried to see what I could through the fence.

There are cement barriers along the fence here. Supposedly dirt bike riders kept breaking in.

This is shot from the Pennsylvania Avenue Side of Hendrix Creek.