Greenbacks to green oil-soaked Greenpoint

Going Green-point! Oil money seeping into the hands of eco-activists
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

They struck black gold.

Eighteen projects have been chosen to soak up the first $395,135 of the $19.5 million in oil money set aside to gussy up Greenpoint as part of a court settlement for the neighborhood that suffered through an oil spill that was three times the size of the Exxon Valdez disaster. The boat club that plies the waters of the fetid Newtown Creek won big, getting grants to cover three of its proposals, and for that the crew is thankful.

“We are certainly grateful,” said Dewey Thompson, founder and harbor master of the North Brooklyn Boat Club. “Otherwise, we would have had to apply for grants that would be looking at projects all over the East Coast or all over the city.”

The mariners scored a total of $73,729 to buy two big canoes and run a boating education program, to build a laboratory and classroom out of one or more shipping containers, and to launch a campaign to keep cigarette butts out of the filthy creek, which is slated for a federal Superfund clean-up, and the East River. The anti-litter initiative was an idea of a club member who is a regular on the water.

“He was sickened by how much of the trash in the creek was cigarette butts,” said Thompson, suggesting that the phenomenon has to do with the city’s war on indoor smoking. “The huge amount of people going outside to smoke has created a huge amount of trash in our waterways.”

The projects and the other awardees beat out more than 80 other pitches for the first round of grants.

Other winning ideas included a green dock that the Newtown Creek Alliance wants to build near N. Henry Street, which garnered $24,980, a bird-watching oasisis in McGolrick Park, for $100 less, and a feasibility study for a rooftop garden atop Greenpoint Reformed Church, for $5,000.

One of the church’s pastors cannot wait to see if the lord’s ceiling can support some raised beds.

“I’m very excited for what this means for the future of the Greenpoint community,” said Rev. Ann Kansfield.

The fund, paid by British Petroleum, Chevron, and Exxon Mobil for the 30 million gallons of oil that seeped into neighborhood soil over the course of decades, still has $19 million left to dispense for bigger projects. The state attorney general holds the purse strings but has delegated grant-making to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the North Brooklyn Development Corporation, a pro-business group. The winners of the bigger awards are set to be announced later this year and another set of small grants are slated for early 2015.

Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-2511. Follow her at twitter.com/DanielleFurfaro.