City exterminates proposal to build pesticide facility in Canarsie

The site for the proposed pesticide storage facility at 1427 Ralph Ave. in Canarsie.
Photo by Ariama C. Long

Following vocal opposition from community members, the city has nixed its plans to build a pesticide storage facility on Ralph Avenue in Canarsie.

The rezoning application to build the facility at 1427 Ralph Ave. — which would house offices, labs, and storage space for pesticides — was approved by Community Board 18 in March, but faced opposition by area pols, including Borough President Eric Adams and Councilmember Farah Louis.

The proposed 48,000 square foot facility, which the city first applied for in September of last year, would have stored numerous chemicals to exterminate pests, including ticks, mosquitoes, and rodents.

Adams, in a letter recommending disapproval of the project’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), noted that the facility was located 600 feet from a residential district and a public park and was located across the street from a B47 bus stop. Community residents gathered at the site last week to protest the proposal, concerned about its potential impact on air and water quality.

The Beep, who is also running for mayor, cited concerns from community members about the presence of hazardous chemicals, the risks of which they weren’t fully appraised of, and argued that the siting raised “environmental justice concerns” in a largely Black community.

Matthew Pitt, Deputy Chief of Staff for Louis, told Brooklyn Paper that DOHMH hadn’t done enough community outreach for the project, reaching out to the community board but not to local neighborhood associations.

“It wasn’t very effective,” Pitt said. “We were more or less unaware of what types of chemicals were going to be used. And how toxic or dangerous they were.”

In a statement, the Health Department ceded that it had not done enough community outreach for the project.

“The Health Department withdrew the ULURP application for the planned Ralph Avenue project,” a DOHMH spokesperson told Brooklyn Paper. “We aim to be responsive to community concerns and make sure there is ample time for community awareness and education.”

The pesticide facility was, curiously, approved almost unanimously by Community Board 18 back in March; 35 yes votes and one abstention were recorded. At the May 19 meeting, where the board officially changed its position to be against the project (after learning that the project had been pulled), several members said they had been confused by the mechanics of the vote, and thought they had been voting against the measure.

New CB18 chair Michael Ien disputed the notion that board members didn’t know what they were voting for.

“The community board, basically 100% of the time, we take the side of the community,” Ien told Brooklyn Paper. “No one said they were opposed to it. They asked certain questions, but there was no opposition.”

The city last month passed a bill to ban the use of pesticides on city property in most instances; Mayor Bill de Blasio hasn’t yet signed the legislation, but it will automatically pass this weekend if he does not veto it.

This story has been updated on Friday, May 21 at 2:20 pm to include additional comments.