In the past five years, the federal Environmental Protection Agency has designated three sites in New York City to be part of the Superfund program, which pursues polluters for financial penalties to offset the massive cost of cleaning up decades-old industrial toxins.
One site is on the northern border of Brooklyn with Queens at Newtown Creek, tainted largely by oil.
Another is the Gowanus Canal, whose bottom is coated with a sludge referred to as “black mayonnaise.”
The newest is the former Wolff-Alport Chemical Company on the Ridgewood-Bushwick border, a quiet spot adjacent to a cemetery where former owners had a habit of flushing radioactive material into the sewer.
All three sites are highly contaminated. But as a team reporting effort by Gothamist and City Limits’ Emma Turetsky reveals, they also happen to sit in neighborhoods that are either deep into or on the verge of a wave of development, gentrification and all the complex impacts those forces will deliver.
And as this video by Brooklyn College journalism student Elizabeth Caholo illustrates, the sites sit not just at the intersection between New York’s industrial past and its shiny residential future, but also at the juncture of the urban and natural worlds.