Toxi City: Exploring Brooklyn's Industrial Legacy

More on the Ansbacher Color and Dye factory

Posted in Brooklyn,Williamsburg by Robin on March 11, 2011
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This spot which appears so barren is turning out to be so rich. it really encapsulates a whole era of American history.

March 7, 2011. Meeker and N. 7th Street.

Ansbacher came to New York from Bavaria to escape Antisemitism as did the family of Robert Moses, the other man to shape this spot. Ansbacher incorporates in 1875 and begins to make Paris Green at 310 N. 7th Street. There is an article in the Brooklyn Eagle about neighbors complaining about having Paris Green in their yards that very year. If you search the Brooklyn Eagle for Paris Green, there are 1,000 items most of them about suicides accomplished with this chemical compound. By 1902, the business is doing so well, Ansbacher expands his building. This new building is big enough that there are over 100 men working on it. These Irish brick carriers decide to strike for a raise from $2.75 a day to $3. Italians are brought in the break the strike. Ansbacher was a philanthropist, giving money in particular to Mount Sinai Hospital. He dies in 1917 and about 10 years later his company merges with another dye firm, eventually to be absorbed into Sun Chemical in the 1950s. Then it was Robert Moses’ turn to mold N. 7th and Union. The path of the BQE including the former Ansbacher factory building, Paris Green and all, was razed in 1947 to Metropolitan Avenue. The BQE was built to this point by 1951. there was a gap between metropolitan and the Willamsburg bridge. You an see this on the NYC doitt map. Further progress took a few years. Now the spot is a corridor, a place to pass through.



Yesterday I took a walk through Greenpoint and Williamsburg. 101-05 West Street appears unchanged from my last visit in 2009.
But everywhere else there appears to be construction. Transmitter Park around the corner is underway. The Pencil Factory Condos are finished now. They are named for the Faber Pencil factory that was between Greenpoint and Kent and Franklin and West, across the street from 101-05 West Street. There is also construction on the Greenpoint Avenue side of this block. It seems a matter of time until something is built at 101-05 West Street.

Self-portrait on Oak Street.

Bushwick Inlet.

Former Williamsburg Works site. Kent between N. 12th and 11th.
In the summer of 2009, there was active testing being conducted on this site. The results of those tests have not been posted to the NYSDEC Environmental Site Remediation database record for this site. It had been cleared and was fenced off. It now appears that the site has reverted to use as a parking area.

It seems like there is a long way to go before this area becomes Bushwick Inlet Park.

On N. 13th, where the Wythe Avenue holder once stood, there was quite a bit of activity.

Construction debris on N. 12th Street looking towards the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of the Transfiguration of Our Lord.

Union Avenue. This statue commemorates the church, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel that stood at Union Avenue and Jackson and was torn down in order to build the BQE.

Ansbacher Color and Dye Factory. 310 N. 7th Street.
I am making a piece about this site for an group show that will use augmented reality: D├ęcollage: Torn Exteriors. It is curated by my friend Sarah Drury and will open at Ventana 244 in April. First, I need to figure exactly where the factory was. 304 is still standing and was in 1898 the Ridgewood Color Works according to the Ulilitz map in the NYPL digital collection. It is now owned by the Candle Development corp. It does not look open and there is an EPA action against the owners dating to 2007. Next to this would have been 310 N. 7th. Now Meeker Avenue runs there parallel with the BQE.

The Ansbacher Color and Dye works made pigments for use in paints and inks. One of those was Paris Green. The name of the pigment comes from its use in the sewers of Paris to kill rats. It was also a pigment used by artists. Cezanne used it frequently. (See a report by The American Institute for Conservation.) It is possible that his diabetes was brought on by arsenic poisoning. Paris green was also used as an insecticide and as such marked the beginning of the use of chemical insecticides. Take a look at this ad for Ansbacher’s Paris Green. Empire Boulevard also used Ansbacher’s Paris Green in episode 11 for a poisoning. The NYSDEC record for the site states there are elevated arsenic levels in the surrounding yards. Given the proximity of the BQE, I am sure that is not all there is in the soil of those yards.