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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