Group responds to Williamsburg fire with online petition drive

February 5, 2015 Brooklyn Daily Eagle
FDNY workers brave the cold to put out the Williamsburg industrial fire last weekend. AP Photo/Seth Wenig
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A group of north Brooklyn activists has launched a petition on change.org, calling on the de Blasio administration to implement a more comprehensive environmental and public health plan in response to last weekend’s Williamsburg fire.

“Mayor de Blasio promised his administration would focus on at-risk residents,” said Emily Gallagher, a Greenpoint resident and board member of Neighbors Allied for Good Growth (NAG), one of the organizations behind the coalition. “Responsibly caring for and cleaning up toxic communities is a part of that.”

“Last weekend’s seven-alarm fire has raised serious health concerns for residents in North Brooklyn, and it is crucial that the city does everything in its power to address these concerns,” said Councilmember Stephen Levin (D-Downtown/Williamsburg). “We are thankful for the response by the city — especially our brave firefighters who are working tirelessly — to put out the fire and protect the immediate neighborhood from grave harm, but there needs to be a more thorough, and coordinated effort to address the broader community impacts of fires of this magnitude.”

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Assemblymember Joe Lentol (D-Greenpoint/Williamsburg) said, “Right now we need to look at the direct effects of this devastating fire. Luckily, no one was harmed during the fire, but we need to make sure there are no environmental or health conditions to worry about, and I urge all relevant agencies to address this issue as soon as possible.”

Over the past year, three major commercial or industrial fires have occurred in Williamsburg, Greenpoint and Bushwick.  Aside from the most recent fire in Williamsburg, most of these events have gone under-reported, and little public information was released regarding the potential health and safety hazards they presented, activists say.

Historically, these communities have been overburdened by pollution from toxic waste sites, waste transfer stations, a sewage treatment plant, radioactive waste storage site and Superfund sites. In addition, many presently operating businesses rely upon the usage or presence of chemicals on site, according to the coalition. 

“Why did it take 15 hours for the NYC Health Department to issue a warning for residents in the surrounding area to stay indoors to protect themselves from toxic smoke inhalation? By that hour, most of the community had unfortunately already been exposed to the smoke and many smelled it in their own homes,” said Mike Schade, a Greenpoint resident and environmental health advocate.

The new petition to Mayor De Blasio is available online at www.change.org.


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