Internet Geoguessers Come Together to Comb Brooklyn Parks

By Oona Milliken |

Social media personality Trevor Rainbolt, known by his handle @rainbolt, has a knack for finding things. He has racked up over four million followers across TikTok, Twitter and Instagram by using Google Maps, public data, and even archival pictures to find locations of pictures and videos. However, rainbolt recently got stumped by an image a woman sent of her and her mother during her childhood and shared the image with his Twitter followers to see if someone might be able to find out where it was taken. From there, people pointed out that the New York City Parks Department might know more. Ian Lefkowitz, NYC Parks Deputy Director of New Media, said the picture was brought to their attention by interested community members.

“Essentially, we found out because we were tapped in by interested citizens,” Lefkowitz said. “There were a couple of comments saying ‘Maybe NYC parks knows.’ Obviously, it was already gaining a lot of momentum on social media, and came to our attention and as with every question we get on social media, we do our best to answer.”

Originally, some Twitter users believed that the picture might have been taken in Trinity Park, such as Art Seabra (handle @_artseabra)

who used  NYC’s Trees Map to narrow down all the parks in the city to a particular species, the London planetree. In a video posted online, Seabra then attempted to use Google Maps to match the cityscape in the background of the photo to the area surrounding Trinity Park.

However, other people disagree. According to Lefkowitz, the park is now thought to be Owl’s Head Park in Bay Ridge, and have checked their records to confirm. Lefkowitz said one of the reasons that the area was so hard to find is because the park was hit hard by Hurricane Sandy and no longer looks like how it used to in 2009, when the picture was taken.

“There were a couple of people who said, ‘No, I believe this is Owl’s Head Park.’ One one of them actually pinged us and said, ‘Hey, can you check your records?’” Lefkowitz said. “I actually think those benches [in Owl’s Head Park] are exactly that area. The reason why it is so hard to find was that the area was impacted pretty heavily by Hurricane Sandy. It no longer looks like this.”

Ryan C., @RhinozzCode, an open-source investigator who declined to share their last name, said that the trees in the original picture were definitely not all London planetrees, and therefore could not match the location in Trinity Park. Ryan C. was one of the people who messaged the NYC Parks to dig a little deeper into the origins of the story. Over Twitter direct messages, Ryan C. said the little details of Trinity Park did not quite match up with the original photo, even though the big picture might.

“i’m an open-source investigator by trade, so i use the principles that i learned years ago often, and one of those is a two-part observation step…where you observe ‘big-picture details’ for easily ruling out locations and “fine details” for confirming them,” Ryan C. wrote via Twitter. “my major issue with rainbolt’s initial investigation was his reliance on the fact that the trees were london planetrees, and i concluded two of them were not.”

Lefkowitz said he was glad that people were getting involved in NYC park history.

“There are a couple of things that are very, really profound about this. One is that it’s just a demonstration of the impact that parks make in people’s lives, from the original photo to the chase, that hundreds of people were doing to track it down,” Lefkowitz said. “The photo shows that parks are these moments that last a lifetime. When your loved one is gone, you remember the time you spent in parks. It sounds corny, but you can see that the proof is in the photo.”

The identity of the woman and her mother in the original picture remains anonymous, and rainbolt declined to comment on the story.

DEC Air Pollution Initiative Committee Updates Community

By Oona Milliken |

The NYC Department of Environmental Conversation held an update on their Statewide Community Air Monitoring Initiative via Zoom on Sept. 6 to let Brooklyn community members know how the agency’s data collection was going. The Zoom included a presentation held by DEC as well as a question and answer portion to field any questions from the public.

This will be the last meeting held as all data has been gathered and will now be analyzed by Aclima, the company that provided the technology for measuring air pollutants on the project. As this portion of the project is completed, the DEC is set to announce the beginning of their remediation efforts after the analysis of the data is finished during the spring of 2024, according to the DEC website.

Randi Walker, researcher and a part of the Division of Air Resources for the DEC, said Brooklyn has particular concerns in terms of air pollution, including reducing emissions from cars and other automated road vehicles as well as monitoring potentially hazardous sites such as oil storage facilities, dry cleaning locales and raw material processing plants. The program focuses especially on disadvantaged communities within the city, as is the case in Brooklyn, according to Adriana Espinoza, DEC Deputy Commissioner for Equity and Justice.

“I would just say that the Climate Act requires that disadvantaged communities are prioritized for greenhouse gas emission and coal pollution reductions in New York state,” Espinoza said during the presentation. “So I think that will be carried out through all of our sort of programs and processes as the law requires.”

Katherine Walsh, Transportation Chair for Community Board 7 and Sunset Park resident,  said she appreciated the DEC’s meetings, as it allowed the community to get involved and have their concerns heard.

“It’s critical that we take as many aggressive steps as we can on climate action and air quality, specifically, right, because that affects so many, so many of us and our neighbors,” Walsh said in an interview. “What they’ve been doing along the way, where they’ve been hosting these community, public wide meetings has been really important and really helpful to get the word out.”

Walsh expressed frustration that the Department of Transportation had not come to any of the meetings, and voiced her concern in how this would affect the remediation efforts in reducing air pollution from trucks and cars.

“Here in Brooklyn, the State Department of Transportation has a huge role, if not the most important role in making sure that we can mitigate the impacts of all this air quality work from transportation and from trucking,” Walsh said. “The fact that they have not come to any of the community mediators is a huge concern to community members and to community groups, because we have, we never see the State Department of Transportation, at any of the important meetings that we’ve had.”

Community member Jeffry Sanoff said he was disappointed that there were large areas of the map left blank, shown in swaths of white, that were not included in the study. Most of the area covered by the DEC data collection initiative were in North Brooklyn and along the water in the southern part of the borough, and Sanoff pointed out that there were large portions of Eastern Brooklyn left out of the study.

“We’re all one Brooklyn. We’re all one Brooklyn, like the borough president said,” Sanoff said. “So this study should include areas that are in the white area, too.”

In response to Sanoff’s remark, Espinoza said there were 12 factors in determining the area of study. According to Walker, some of those factors include high levels of benzene and particle pollutants from fine particles above PM 2.5, when air is deemed unhealthy, as well as proximity to a highway such as the Bronx Queens Expressway, which starts in the central part of Northern Brooklyn and then moves closer to the water as it heads South.

The Brooklyn Borough President’s Office has supplemented the meetings by creating a quarterly community advisory committee open to the public, and Espinoza urged all attendees of the Zoom to sign up for those meetings if they were interested in learning more.

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