Gowanus Lounge: Serving Brooklyn

Watch VBS TV’s "Toxic Brooklyn," Episode 6

April 18th, 2007 · 3 Comments

The excellent vbs.tv series called “Toxic Brooklyn” on the environmental issues in Greenpoint and Williamsburg continues with a focus on the horrendous Exxon-Mobil Greenpoint Oil Spill, the impact on the health of residents and the virtual acceptance of the situation by local, state and federal government over many decades. Episode 6 is below. You can catch Episode 5 (also about the oil spill) here. They put a very human face on an environmental mess that has not gotten the attention it deserves.

Tags: Environment · Greenpoint Oil Spill

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Greenpoint Archive // Apr 18, 2007 at 10:04 am

    Sorry if you’ve already seen this comment, but it is an important perspective that needs to be heard. I am including it on all episodes of the vbs series which has many false and exaggerated statements.
    Although the community is unanimous in its determination to have the spill completely cleaned up and to reclaim the Newtown creek, some question whether the resurfacing of this nearly 30 year old oil spill story is being used to attack the community after it won its rezoning battle against the wishes of Brooklyn based politicians (and divert attention away from cancer cluster issue in Williamsburg). The media reports have not included the fact that: 1) More than half of the 17 million gallon spill has already been cleaned up. 2) The remediation process has been going on, with the blessing of local elected officials, since 1992 and continues. 3) The spill is almost entirely under the remote western industrial section of Greenpoint near the East Williamsburg industrial park. There are a few residential streets near Kingsland Avenue that are above the spill, but the vast majority of residential properties are not involved with the spill. 4) The Newtown Creek runs along Greenpoint, Williamsburg, Maspeth and Bushwick, but the news articles only mention Greenpoint. 5) The Astral Oil Spill in Williamsburg is not being mentioned. 6) Articles keep talking about what the long term health effects of the spill will be, but ignore the fact that the spill had been around for fifty years already and health data shows no abnormal spike in health related issues.
    The Riverkeepers Group renamed the Exxon oil spill “The Greenpoint oil spill”, in what some think was a mean spirited attempt to malign the Greenpoint community. It is curious to name an environmental tragedy after its victim and not the perpetrator. The Exxon Valdez disaster was not called the Prince William Sound’s Alaska Oil spill. The NY Post, in an article on Oct 15th by Angela Montefinise, and Senator Charles Schumer at a press conference on October 16 incorrectly reported that there was a potential cancer cluster in Greenpoint near the oil spill. However, three cases of an extremely rare sarcoma cancer are actually on a single block in Williamsburg (nowhere near the oil spill, not even in the same zip code). One more case is five blocks away and even further away from Greenpoint and the oil spill. In fact, one victim got cancer after residing in the same apartment as an unrelated cancer victim and previous tenant. Sarcomas are a very rare form of cancer, and as reported in the Post article, “You don’t see three in one block,” Dr. Isaac Eliaz, a California expert on metal detoxification, said. “Someone should be paying attention to this.” Dr. Kanti Rai, chief of oncology at the Long Island Jewish Medical Center, agreed that it was “worth an investigation.” Unfortunately, the Senator is calling for a health study with regard to the oil spill and is ignoring a potentially very serious heath disaster in the Williamsburg community. Neighborhood Roots has reached out numerous times to Senator Schumer’s Washington office’s communications director Eric Schultz, and Bret Rumbeck who handles environmental issues for the Senator, with no calls being returned.
    Curiously, at the same press conference Congressman Anthony Weiner stated that Greenpoint has a 25% higher asthma rate than the rest of the city. The only problem is that the two health studies done by the state and city show the asthma rate in Greenpoint to be between 25% and 50% lower than the rest of the city along with a 10% lower cancer rate. The State DEC is aware of toxic industrial sites in Willliamsburg near Devoe Street that could potentially be the cause of these rare cancers, but no one is calling for that study. “Instead, there seems to be a no holds barred attack on Greenpoint and a blatant disregard for the health concerns of the Willamsburg community”. One must question whether the recent support of massive residential development in Williamsburg and the historic resistance from Brooklyn politicians (including Borough President Howard Golden) to residential development along the recently rezoned Greenpoint East River waterfront (not near the spill) has anything to do with this dissemination of lies and the timing of these lawsuits.

  • 2 trace // Apr 19, 2007 at 8:47 pm

    Greenpoint Archive, WTF are you talking about and why to everyone except me. You think this is about maligning Greenpoint? You think a 30 year old oil spill story should be masked? What is up your sleeve?

    We never acted like Williamsburg was any better and I find your perspective hard to imagine. We love Greenpoint and hope that someone will recognize the issues facing both Williamsburg and Greenpoint as property values soar and people start exposing more and more children to the poisons latent in the neighborhoods.

    I am sorry if you are a property owner who is afraid we may burst your bubble but the fact is that that oil is bad for Greenpoint residents. Case closed.


  • 3 greenpoint archive // Apr 22, 2007 at 9:09 am

    Trace – The oil story is 30 years old and was never hidden. The clean up has been going on since the early 90’s with regular annual public meetings in the community providing updates as mentioned in my first comment posting. Health data shows no abnormal spike in health related issues even after 50 years.
    The oil is not oozing up as you suggest. There are no vapors covering the community as you suggest, You never explain that Dorothy Swick’s problem arose because a neighbor decided to illegally drill for a well in his backyard thirty feet down to reach a contaminated aquifer. Her vapor problem was created by that stupidity, not by any oil bubbling up.

    You say you were even handed. Even though you did cover some of Williamsburg’s environmental issues in the first two episodes, you also carefully mixed in many clips of people saying how much they love Williamsburg. Even the narrator announces “everyone wants a piece of funkytown”. The video is laced with attractive shots of billyburg shop and boutiques. When you come to Greenpoint, no such video. Only repeated clips of our notorious Laura Hoffman complaining and lying about the neighborhood. You never mention that she is one of only six residents who joined Riverkeepers lawsuit against the oil companies for the oil spill, or that none of the six plaintiffs live above the spill. It is a tragedy to be dealing with an illness in the family, but that does not excuse anyone from spreading hurtful lies about a community. She mentions the Greenpoint Incinerator even though there is no Greenpoint incinerator. The smoke stacks the camera zooms in on are the Con Edison stacks in Astoria. Tom Stagg, who is in the video, claims to be living on top of oil even though Newell Street is not where the spill is. What a sloppy fact checking job vbs did with this. You see, Mr. Stagg’s property is adjacent to McGuinness Blvd which went through a major reconstruction including digging all of the old building foundations from the street. No oil was found during the project. Mr. Stagg is not telling the truth. Greenpoint has lower cancer rates than Park Slope, Brooklyn Heights and many other Bklyn neighborhoods. It also has some of the lowest cancer rates in all of nyc/nys. These stats can easily be seen at


    But of course that was never mentioned in your video. Just 5 straight episodes dedicated to spreading exaggerations and lies about Greenpoint.

    Cutesy shots of hipsters frolicking in Williamsburg juxtaposed against two questionable individuals making claims that people in Greenpoint are falling victim to cancer makes it clear what your agenda is. We haven’t spoken directly to you because we don’t make it a habit of meeting with liars, we just expose them. Hope you got a nice check for your work. What’s the going rate for slander these days?