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The demo of a sludge tank in Greenpoint last month kicked up a large amount of potentially hazardous dust, according to nearby residents. Two families in the area had the dust independently tested and found 40 parts per million of arsenic, lead, chromium, zinc and other chemicals, according to stories in DNAinfo and Greenpointers. That amount is not considered toxic to adults but could pose problems to children. The site is located next to the Greenpoint playground. Residents, activists and local politicians have asked the city’s Department of Environmental Protection to test the area. The photo above was taken by a family of its just-washed car after the demolition.

The contractor hired to carry out the demolition was Skanksa, according to Greenpointers. (Skanksa is the Swedish firm embroiled in litigation with Forest City Ratner over modular construction.) Skanska supposedly used a subcontractor on the Sludge Tank demo, NASDI, “which was recently hit with over $40,000 in fines resulting from improper asbestos removal in a South Boston housing project,” according to Greenpointers. “An investigation in Boston determined NASDI allowed both its workers and local residents to be exposed to toxic levels of asbestos.”

The sludge tank was located at the intersection of Dupont and Commercial Street on the Greenpoint waterfront. It is across the street from Greenpoint Playground at 243 Franklin Street. Greenpoint Landing is being constructed nearby, with the first buildings to be located at 21 Commercial Street and 33 Eagle Street. The sludge tank was moved to Newtown Creek Waste Treatment Facility, according to Greenpointers.

Construction Dust May Pose Health Hazard at Greenpoint Playground: Experts [DNA]
Neighbors Test Dust From Sludge Tank Demo and Find Contaminants [Greenpointers]
Photo via DNAinfo

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The EPA has been warning since 2012 that the Gowanus Canal Superfund cleanup might require digging up Gowanus’ only public park and swimming pool to install tanks to catch overflow sewage. That scenario is looking more likely — and neighbors are not pleased – following an announcement Tuesday by the City’s Department of Environmental Protection that it has narrowed the list of possible sites for the sewage tanks to just two. Those are Thomas Greene Park and Double D Pool or the “salt lot” on 2nd Avenue and 5th Street next to the Gowanus Canal.

The Friends of Douglass Greene Park issued a statement today, not its first, against the siting of the tanks in the park and is again circulating its petition to save the pool. But if the EPA does decide to dig up the public space, the community group demands a “seamless transition” to park and pool facilities somewhere nearby.

Photo by Park Slope Patch

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“Lander’s whole process was rigged to create a forced consensus to give the developers a green light to go forward,” said an 11-year resident of Gowanus at the Take Back Gowanus meeting Wednesday, referring to Councilman Brad Lander’s series of public meetings earlier this year.

Proposals from speakers at the meeting were wide ranging. Some mentioned in a story in the Brooklyn Eagle:

*An end to residential development on the banks of the canal.
*Designating the first few floors of any new residential building as manufacturing.
*Upgrading infrastructure, whether tied to new development or not.

Some of the proposals aimed to reform the political process: (more…)

grilling

A group of residents who live near Prospect Park want to ban grilling in the park, because they say it causes toxic fumes to waft into playgrounds, public walkways and nearby homes. Park Sloper Daz Ryan has garnered 132 signatures so far on his Change.org petition, “Make Prospect Park Toxic Free by 2015.”

She told the Daily News she lives near the park on 14th Street and suffered through years of hazardous smoke seeping into her house. She is forced to close all her windows, and the smoke has even set off her carbon monoxide detector, she said.

Grilling is only allowed in certain areas on the outskirts of the park, but plenty of parkgoers ignore the rules and set up grills wherever they please, according to the story. The fumes also affect aquatic life, herons, ducks, turtles, frogs and possums, according to park cleanup volunteer Randi Lass.

“Runoff from the charcoal wind up in the lake, threatening all living things that require the lake for sustenance,” she told the News.

At least one park goer was outraged by the proposal. “This is everybody’s backyard,” he said as he grilled burgers. “Not everybody has the privilege of having a backyard.”

Borough President Eric Adams’ office said they were considering the issue. What do you think should be done?

Prospect Park-Goers Call for a Barbecue Ban in the Massive Green Space [NYDN]
Photo by Kristin Resurreccion

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A long-promised prototype for emergency housing is now finished and in place in a parking lot at Cadman Plaza East in downtown Brooklyn. It was unveiled at a press conference Tuesday. Above, the prototype under construction. If the units are actually produced, at a projected cost of $175,000 to $200,000 each, the city would simply truck them in and plug them into utilities after a disaster such as Hurricane Sandy. Where the units would be stored was not mentioned.

The prototype consists of three apartments stacked on top of one another, wrote The New York Times. A one-bedroom unit measured 480 square feet. A three-bedroom was 813 square feet. The Times continued:

The cork floors and spartan bathrooms give the models an institutional feel more reminiscent of a college dormitory than neighboring Dumbo. But with full kitchens and a few bursts of yellow, the apartments in no way resemble the infamous Federal Emergency Management Agency trailers where dangerous levels of formaldehyde poisoned occupants after Hurricane Katrina, or the illegal basement apartments that offered refuge from Hurricane Sandy.

Do you think this is the best approach for the city to shelter victims displaced by the next disaster?

Emergency Housing Unit Is Unveiled in Brooklyn [NY Times]
Photo by AIA New York

Carriage horses, low-rise 19th-century buildings, wood burning fireplaces — the Mayor doesn’t seem to have much use for the 19th century. The mayor’s ban on building new wood burning fireplaces will take effect July 2, so build your fireplaces while you can. But the new law could be a Trojan horse, soon to be followed by a ban on all wood burning fireplaces, according to a story in The New York Times.

Montreal implemented a similar innocuous sounding rule a few years ago, and is now requiring all residents to actually remove wood burning stoves and fireplaces by 2021, said the Times. That sounds a bit extreme. London also banned the burning of wood and “other solid fuels” but has not demanded residents rip out their mantels and stoves.

A family in Park Slope spent $17,000 outfitting two fireplaces and a chimney in their brownstone to burn wood and they use it “as often as five times a week” in the cold months. A couple in Bay Ridge reclaimed their circa-1900 fireplace from a family of raccoons but they’ve only used it a handful of times. Two Boerum Hill roommates actually used their fireplace to heat their apartment this past winter, until they realized their windows were actually slightly open.

Science says each wood burning fireplace creates 6,200 grams of heart-stopping, asthma-inducing particulate matter a year, vs. 23 grams from a natural gas fireplace.

But while the utility of a wood burning fireplace is questionable, its symbolism is great. “There may be no feature of a New York apartment more sought after, yet less used, than a wood-burning fireplace: one of the city’s great real estate holy grails, keeping company in the dream-apartment pantheon with walk-in closets and private outdoor space,” said the Times.

What do you think of the Mayor’s ban?

That Dream Apartment With a Crackling Hearth Is Losing Some Spark [NY Times]
Photo by Cara Greenberg

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A second passive-house building with affordable apartments in Bushwick is finishing up construction. The six-story building at 803 Knickerbocker at the corner of Eldert near Irving Square Park will have 24 units, according to building permits. Although the building looks quite different from the affordable passive-house complex at 424 Melrose Street, they were both designed by architect Chris Benedict for the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council, as previously reported.

The ridged foam and stucco facade shades and insulates the building, according to a previously published report in The New York Daily News. It is costing $8.5 million to build, said that story. Construction is supposed to wrap this summer.

What do you think of the look?

Country’s First Affordable Passive House Apartment Building Opens in Bushwick [Brownstoner]

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The passive-house affordable apartment building at 424 Melrose Street wrapped in February and 22 of the building’s 24 units are already filled, reported The New York Daily News. A joint project of the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council and the United Mennonite Church, which owned the land, it was paid for by private bank loans, a federal tax credit and the New York State’s Housing Trust Fund.

Rents range from $400 to $1,100 for a studio to a three-bedroom. Eight units are for low-income residents and 15 are for handicapped. Interior photos in the Daily News show beautiful long windows and tiny radiators. There are two small boilers on the roof and 16 thermal solar panels. The 28,000-square-foot building cost $8,500,000 to construct and uses about 10 percent of the energy of most buildings of its size, according to the story. The architect is Chris Benedict.

Construction caused evacuation of nearby buildings in 2012, as we reported at the time.

The finished building looks different from the rendering, but we like it. The beige and white color scheme is not particularly inspiring, but we like the rhythm and pattern created by the grouping of the passive-house windows, whose look too often detracts from older buildings. This is one of many affordable projects in Brooklyn with admirable architecture, including a number spearheaded by the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council. Another passive building with 24 units at 803 Knickerbocker Avenue is scheduled to finish this summer.

Click through to the Daily News article to see the finished building. What do you think of the design?

Inside the Country’s First Multi-Family Affordable Passive House Apartments [NY Daily News]
Bushwick Buildings Evacuated After Cracks Appear [Brownstoner]
Rendering by Chris Benedict via Inhabitat

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Crazy weather — although this is not the latest it has snowed in Brooklyn, according to The New York Times. That was May 9, in 1977. We hope this doesn’t wreck our tulips, which were just about to bloom today. (You can see their tiny heads at the far end of our yard, in front of the holly bushes, above.)

Some quotes from Twitter:

“My Farmer’s Almanac did not predict snow with a side of fireworks in Brooklyn in mid-April.” — Elizabeth Spiers

“Ugh, surprise snow overnight in Brooklyn, killed all the cherry blossoms in the back yard.” — Gregory Pattillo

“Did it snow tonight in Brooklyn or am I crazy and wasn’t it like 80 degrees yesterday hey God what are you doing.” — bay res

Two former Brooklyn Nets are partnering with PricewaterhouseCoopers to give away trees at P.S. 188 in Coney Island tomorrow. The giveaway is part of a Nets program called Trees for Threes, which will give away a tree for every three-pointer the team scores this season.

Former Nets players Kerry Kittles and Albert King will be on hand to give away the trees to local residents, along with volunteers from PwC, the Nets mascot, members of the Brooklynettes and students from P.S. 188 Michael E. Berdy School. The trees will be planted in community gardens, at schools and in yards. The event will happen Tuesday from 4 to 6 pm in the schoolyard at 3314 Neptune Avenue.

Photo via NYC.gov