Anti-fracking protesters storm Brownsville Nat Grid site, slam de Blasio’s inaction

Brownsville protesters disrupt a National Grid work site at Junius Street and Linden Boulevard on Dec. 10 in protest of a fracked gas pipeline.
Photo by Erik McGregor

Brownsville anti-fracking activists stormed a local National Grid work site Thursday morning, protesting the utility’s ongoing fracked gas pipeline construction and calling out Mayor Bill de Blasio for offering little beyond symbolic support against the controversial project.

“Last week we kind of had good news, some people thought it was good news: Mayor de Blasio announced that National Grid must withdraw from this project — but Mayor de Blasio didn’t take no action. So we gonna take our own action,” said Gabriel Jamison of the environmentalist group Brownsville Residents Green Committee at Junius Street near Linden Boulevard on Dec. 10.

Hizzoner joined activists and other elected officials in denouncing National Grid’s seven-mile fracked gas pipeline that snakes from Brownsville to Greenpoint last week, but declined to pull city construction permits for fear of embroiling City Hall in a losing legal battle, given that the company has the legal right of way, a spokeswoman said at the time.

But the reasoning coming from the mayor’s office did not convince the eastern Brooklyn activists, who took it upon themselves to break into the site, which caused workers to halt construction around noon.  

“The real danger is people being threatened by the pipeline,” said protester Anna Tsomo. “[The legal concerns] don’t seem like a valid reason to us.”

The group also dropped banners from the elevated freight train tracks above Linden Boulevard that read “Protect Brownsville” interspersed with photos of locals holding signs saying “I will not be sacrificed.”

Construction workers watch activists drop banners from the freight train tracks above Linden Boulevard.Photo by Erik McGregor

Jamison scolded the mayor for being quick to step in for residents of Manhattan’s tonier neighborhoods by moving homeless men out of the impromptu shelter officials set up at the Lucerne Hotel during the pandemic, while offering mere rhetoric for working-class Black and brown Brooklynites along the pipeline.

“When rich people didn’t want homeless people in the Upper West Side he rushed to that, but when it comes to a pipeline in a Black and brown neighborhood, he doesn’t rush to that,” the activist said. “When it comes to Black people and brown people, he gives us symbolic s—.”

Anti-fracking activists previously broke into two pipeline construction sites and locked themselves to the pipes in Williamsburg in October, but Thursday marked the first such action along the tube’s Brownsville section.

The project — officially dubbed the Metropolitan Natural Gas Reliability Project — started in Brownsville back in 2017. Builders have since torn up streets through Bedord-Stuyvesant, Bushwick, and Williamsburg, ahead of its final destination connecting to the Maspeth Avenue depot at the Newtown Creek some time next year.

In January, opponents under the coalition No North Brooklyn Pipeline started rallying against the scheme, denouncing National Grid for expanding fossil fuel infrastructure on the backs of rate-payers and Brownsville protesters renewed the call for a public takeover of the utility and for shifting it toward renewable energy sources.

“We need more renewable infrastructure, we don’t want National Grid taking us back to the 70s, taking us back to the past,” said Ade Babawale at Thursday’s protest.

A spokeswoman for the mayor’s office did not immediately return a request for comment.