People canoeing on the Gowanus Canal. Photo by Hannah Frishberg

A borough of superlatives, Brooklyn contains a number of toxic sites, not a few of which are also historic and storied. But walking by some of them, you wouldn’t necessarily know they’re hazardous.

While not everyone is concerned, we’re sure others would like to know where in Brooklyn toxic sites might be found — and some of the stories behind these former industrial sites. Below, some of the borough’s worst offenders.


CUNY’s City Tech students need your help to finish the solar house they are building for the international Solar Decathlon. Brownstoner received this request for support from the team’s faculty representative Jill Bouratoglou, who also happens to be one of the architects for Beastie Boy Mike D’s 242 Pacific Street townhouse in Boerum Hill. Here’s her letter:

“I am asking if Brownstoner could ask their readers to support our students who are working six days a week building a house to compete in the Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon in the Navy Yard. They are so close to finishing, and the house will be leaving the Navy Yard at the end of August to be transported across the country to Irvine, Calif., to compete against 19 other schools.


Standing on Barclays Center’s green roof. Photo by Chris Ryan for The Architect’s Newspaper

It must have been a disappointment to many architecture enthusiasts when they discovered that the plan to build a green roof for Barclays Center had been nixed for budgetary reasons. The roof had been part of the original Frank Gehry design — along with a running track around its perimeter — but those features were scrapped during the recession.

The resulting white top, with its big blue logo, gave the stadium a feeling of being somehow unfinished. Now, three years after the grand opening of Barclays Center, the green roof is back in play — and it looks as if all the greenery may be in place by the end of July. Fingers crossed.

The 135,000-square-foot area is in the process of being covered with a layer of sedum, a genus of flowering plants that store water in their leaves. The idea is to capture rainwater, reduce noise output, and provide a more pleasing view for both passers-by and future residents of the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park highrises being built around it.

The Architect’s Newspaper recently got an exclusive tour of the roof in construction, and the photos give the otherworldly impression of a park floating above the streets of Brooklyn.


The Architect’s Newspaper got up on top of Barclays Center to see its green roof under construction. Some facts revealed in the video it shot: Barclays had to add a new truss system under the roof to support the sod and vegetation.

The roof will feature four varieties of sedum, all of which is grown off site in Connecticut, shrink wrapped and trucked in. The sedum is loaded onto pallets and hoisted by crane onto the roof.

In fact, we caught some of this action below on the street this weekend, as you can see in the photos after the jump. Construction of the roof will wrap in the fall, Forest City’s deputy director of construction says in the video.

A Video Tour of Barclays Center’s Under-Construction Green Roof [AN]
Video by The Architect’s Newspaper; photos by Cate Corcoran


In New York City, the more trees there are on the street, the wealthier the neighborhood. That’s according to a recent study published in online journal PLOS One and quoted in an article in the Wall Street Journal about trees in Brooklyn.

Trees are all over Cobble Hill and Park Slope, but rare in Gowanus and East New York, according to the story. That’s because requests for the city to plant trees “mainly came from higher-income residents, who tend to be more aware of such opportunities,” according to a U.S. Forest Service scientist quoted in the article.


The Department of Environmental Conservation is hosting a meeting tonight on cleanup efforts at the polluted Harte & Company factory at the corner of Dupont, Clay and Franklin Streets, Greenpointers reported. (Yes, this is the same building we wrote about this morning, whose developer wants to preserve part of the 1930s Arte Moderne exterior).

The state Superfund site has a plume beneath it made of phthalates — liquid plastic chemicals — up to five feet deep in some areas. And apparently the plume is moving, contrary to what the developer told the Brooklyn Eagle. This is a map of the plume made in 2013, via Greenpointers.


A friend who lives in Kensington sent us these photos last night and told us that around 10 pm, she got home and found her water contaminated with gasoline. A fireman she spoke to said that someone may have dumped it into the sewers. Firetrucks came to her block as well (see a photo after the jump), near Dahill Road and Clara Street. Is anyone else who lives in Kensington having this problem?

UPDATE: A spokesman from NYC Department of Environmental Protection tells us that it’s not possible for anything in the sewers to end up in the drinking water, because the water supply is a closed, pressurized system that carries clean drinking water from the Hillview Reservoir in Yonkers. He added that the fastest way to get rid of any discolored water is to run your taps. The water may be discolored because of a change in the flow, or because firefighters were running a firehose. The DEP plans to send someone to the area to investigate the water. Our tipster who lives on the block said the water smelled like gasoline, as did the block.