Mayor big on words, short on action against North Brooklyn Pipeline

Mayor Bill de Blasio.
REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

Mayor Bill de Blasio on Thursday joined advocates and elected officials in denouncing National Grid’s North Brooklyn Pipeline and calling for an end to construction — but stopped short of announcing any concrete action against the project, which is nearly completely finished.

Activists who have fought the pipeline, which runs through parts of Williamsburg, Bushwick, and Brownsville, say they welcome the mayor’s opposition, but that they need to see concrete steps to stop natural gas from flowing through the pipeline, and prevent New Yorkers from footing the bill through a rate hike.

“We would like to see some more teeth, and things actually getting stopped,” said Lee Ziesche, an organizer with the No North Brooklyn Pipeline Coalition. “With this announcement, we’re expecting the mayor to stand with us and fight to make sure gas never starts flowing through.”

In a statement released Dec. 3, the mayor called for National Grid to pull the plans for the nearly completed pipeline.

“Racial and environmental justice go hand in hand, and National Grid has failed to clearly demonstrate that this pipeline is needed to keep New Yorkers warm and safe,” Hizzoner said. “I am calling on them to withdraw this project immediately.”

Protesters gathered in opposition to National Grid gas pipeline in Williamsburg on Feb. 15.Photo by Derrick Watterson

Activists have pushed the mayor in the past to revoke construction permits for the project, but a spokesperson for City Hall said that would embroil the city in a losing legal battle, because National Grid has the legal right of way for the project.

But opponents say revoking permits for another fracked gas project in the area, the expansion of a Liqufied Natural Gas (LNG) facility in Greenpoint is crucial if the mayor is serious about his opposition to the pipeline.

In a statement, National Grid pointed out that the utility has already paused work on the project and has agreed not to proceed to the next phase until a review of gas system planning is conducted by the state, and took issue with the mayor’s labeling of the project as harmful.

“We disagree with the assertion that any of our customers — particularly those in Black and Brown communities don’t deserve to be warm and have heat,” the statement reads. “Our commitment and our obligation is to all of our customers, regardless of color.”

“If the mayor is against this pipeline and against future fracked gas expansion, he needs to also oppose that LNG, and not just say he opposes it, never grant them the permits for the facility,” said Ziesche.

The pipeline has garnered intense opposition from residents and elected officials of the neighborhoods it runs through — especially in Brownsville, where predominantly working class Black residents say the project amounts to environmental racism, and activists have chained themselves to the pipeline to stop work on multiple occasions through the fall. 

Brooklyn elected officials similarly welcomed the mayor’s stance, while pushing for action from City Hall. 

“The mayor’s opposition to this project is welcome news for all of us who have advocated against it,” said Borough President Eric Adams, who is running to replace the lame duck mayor. “City Hall must now use the full force of its leverage to compel an immediate halt to construction and a reversal of any potential rate hike for fossil fuel infrastructure.”

Ziesche argued that if the Hizzoner was serious about minimizing harm to Black communities, he would find a way to stop the project — especially considering its fifth phase, which heads into gentrified Greenpoint, has been put on pause.

“If the mayor is really interested in protecting Black and Brown communities, we need to make sure gas doesn’t flow through phases one through four,” she said.

Additional reporting by Kevin Duggan