Toxi City: Exploring Brooklyn's Industrial Legacy

Sunset Park

Posted in Brooklyn,Brownfield,Sunset Park by Robin on August 7, 2009
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I went to Sunset Park this am to photograph the Empire Electric site at 5100 1st Avenue.

This building, now abandoned, originally housed an electrical power system for the city’s trolleys.

Then in the 1950s it was purchased by Empire Electric and used for reconditioning electrical apparatus.

The building itself including the floors, walls, and ground beneath the building is all thought to be contaminated with PCBs.

Peter explained to me that PCBs were chosen to insulate around electricity because they are so stable. This is also what make them so difficult to get rid of. They do not easily degrade so they hang around in the environment.

Right next to this site between 52nd and 54th is an oil installation over what was Kings County Works Manufactured Gas Plant.


Bush Terminal, Sunset Park

Posted in Brooklyn,Brownfield,Sunset Park by Robin on August 3, 2009

Nina and I photographed at the Bush Terminal in Sunset Park on Saturday. Manufactured goods used to move around the yards by rail to the piers and then out across the world.

Now things are pretty quiet. Quiet enough for raccoons.

As you come out to the waterfront, there is a monument to four firefighters that died on 9/11. In front of this statue is Upper New York Bay.

The old piers, rotting and contaminated, are now fenced off. In the 70s, hazardous waste was dumped there and now these old piers are in the State Superfund Program. This area is also in the Environmental Restoration Program and so appears twice on the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation Environmental Site Remediation Database.

Boats docked here in what must be relatively deep water.


A rail went all the way out to the end of the piers inside the now brownfield area. Another rail still operates on the 51st street side.

This area is now going to be developed as a park. At least so it was announced on July 22nd in the Sunset Park Waterfront Vision Plan as mentioned in There were bulldozers there and it looked like work had started. Theoretically, there is $37 million is slated to build the Bush Terminal Piers Park, which will add 22 acres of open space for recreation. however, what happened to earlier money dedicated to remediating this brownfield? Whatever part of this plan that can improve the old rail system and reduce truck traffic is good. It is unclear to me what kind of remediation is planned. Digging up the soil a few feet and trucking it to Pennsylvania?


Sunset Park

Posted in Brownfield,Sunset Park by Robin on June 28, 2009
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I set out to Sunset Park today in hopes of getting something of the piers behind the Bush Terminal. There is a pool store that has an entrance at 50th and 1st. I had the vague plan that on Saturday afternoon it would look like I was going to the Pool store but I could walk around behind the building to Marginal Street and photograph the brownfield area. No such luck. Lots of security personnel as well as fences.

I was getting ready to leave, feeling discouraged, when I looked down 51st street and a very clear view of the water drew me down the street. At the actual waterfront I turned the corner and there through a chain link fence were the piers I was hoping to photograph. As I walked up to the fence to my left was a large pier that belongs to the Sanitation Department. There was a man on it. I asked him if he would mind if I took a few photos. He said ok, and I walked through the fence and now had a clear view o the brownfield area. We chatted and he walked me down the pier. The view of New York harbor was awesome and I could see the brownfield area. He told me there had been a seal in the area recently.
The end of the pier itself is collapsing.