North Brooklyn Neighbors hosts annual ReusaBall gala at the box hotel rooftop

September 26, 2023 Janna Shaftan
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On Sept. 21, North Brooklyn Neighbors hosted the annual Reusaball gala at the Box House Hotel Rooftop. Community leaders from all fronts showed up in their best vintage, part of the gala’s zero waste design.The grassroots nonprofit was celebrating three decades of environmental and community activism in Williamsburg and Greenpoint. The evening promoted NBN’s latest missions and honored cherished local institutions like Pete’s Candy Store, No North Brooklyn Pipeline, and Sure We Can. 

Honoree Ryan Castalia, executive director of Sure, We Can

Famously, the North Brooklyn Neighbors won the battle for the seven acres of waterfront land that became what is now Marsha P. Johnson State Park, as opposed to a waste transfer station.

NBN’s recent work was on display monitoring the clean up of a Class 2 Superfund Site in Greenpoint, home to a former plastics manufacturing plant. This ties in with an outdoor pollution study, encouraging the community to work with the EPA to test the local air quality. North Brooklyn neighborhoods are especially vulnerable to contamination from the proximity of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and rank highly in traces of fine particulate matter among all NYC neighborhoods.

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NBN also demonstrated their new XRF machine, a Ghostbusters-esque X-ray gun, and live-tested soil samples from the neighborhood. There were concentrations of lead and arsenic, stemming from Greenpoint’s industrial past of ship-building, oil refining, and incineration, as well as factories for porcelain, glass, iron and lead smelting. This is all part of an effort to increase awareness of soil quality and fund studies on health impacts.


CEO of Elsewhere Dhruv Chopra announces honoree Andy McDowell

Honorees No North Brooklyn Pipeline gave a moving speech, carrying handmade protest signs, about their long fight to defeat an expansion of the National Grid fracked gas pipeline. After winning the fight earlier this year, Natural Grid has returned with a whopping proposed 4 billion dollar expansion of more fracked gas infrastructure. Get involved now by signing their online petition!

Ryan Castalia, executive director of Sure We Can, spoke about the sustainability hub and recycling center the team has created, which benefits marginalized individuals – our neighbors who collect cans off the streets to make a living – by paying higher wages for this material. 

Dhruv Chopra, CEO of Elsewhere, introduced Andy MacDougall, owner of Pete’s Candy Store, an inclusive community staple that has been promoting local music since ‘99 (before that? an actual candy store). Lovingly dubbed ‘the biggest little venue in NYC’, many professional musicians got their start there, along with other community gems  (Black Spring Books owner Simona Blat holds regular poetry readings called Pete’s Reading Series).

Honoree Andy McDowell, owner of Pete’s Candy Store

We spoke to the development team behind 1 Java Street. Gianluca Torazzi told us about the innovative use of geothermals to reduce heating/cooling carbon emissions by over 50% compared with standard residential buildings. 30% of the building will be used for affordable housing and a nearby block will b e used to create a waterfront esplanade open to the public, connecting the India Street Pier and the NYC Water Ferry.

NYC Climate Week held a record number of events this year (~600!), though caught some criticism as some strained for relevance and the pie chart percentage of festival cutesiness sharply grew next to discourse, planning and action. To that note, NBN’s initiatives for the health and welfare of Brooklynites and the spirit of gathering as a real community to discuss issues and promote activism were the greatest refreshments served. Leaving, I thought about Cinderella’s coach turning to a pumpkin after midnight. They would’ve loved that here.

Janna Shaftan is a writer, engineer and journalist covering local wonders in her column Brooklyn Glimmer. Follow her at jannavrs@.

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