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Plastic surgery: Greenpointers say factory-condo scheme could poison

Plastic surgery: Greenpointers say factory-condo scheme could poison
Below the surface: Greenpoint environmental activist Mike Schade is worried that a plan to turn the former Harte and Company plastics factory, background, into condos will stir up the toxins in the soil under it.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

A plan to build luxury condos on the toxin-laden site of a former plastics factory in Greenpoint could kick up pollutants and poison kids attending a planned school nearby, neighbors fear.

The developer planning swanky housing at the former Harte and Company factory at 208 Franklin St., a state Superfund site, is supposed to remediate the site before building anything. But local environmental activists say there is a lot of room for error that would scatter trichloroethylene, an organ- and brain-damaging solvent, and phthalates, a hormone-disrupting plastic additive. One lifelong Greenpointer is so scared of the potential effects that she might pack up and leave.

“For the first time in my life, I am considering moving out of Greenpoint,” said Laura Hoffman, who has lived in the neighborhood all of her 56 years. “I am that frightened of this site.”

Dupont Street Developers purchased the former polyvinyl chloride plant between Clay and Dupont streets in May for more than $23 million and announced earlier this month that it plans to build 400 condominium units on the site.

The facility was active from the 1950s until it closed in 2004. During that time, the factory used phthalates, which can cause genital deformities in young boys, and trichloroethylene, which can make people groggy and disrupt their livers, kidneys, and digestive systems.

Another local and environmental activist, who works days at the national advocacy group Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, said he is not ready to flee just yet.

“I am definitely concerned, but not concerned to the point where I want to move out of the neighborhood,” said Mike Schade, who is making presentations on the dangerous chemicals in Greenpoint to inform neighbors.

To build on the site, the developer will have to dig way down and cart away tanks containing thousands of gallons of phthalates, Schade said. There are also phthalates in the ground just above the water table, and the trichloroethylene is in the soil and has leeched into the walls of the building, Schade said.

A school and the Newtown Barge Park that developers and the city are planning as part of the Greenpoint Landing mega-development are both across the street from the plastics factory and could be in the path of the toxins as they spread underground, Schade said.

Hoffman and several members of her family have experienced a lifetime of various sicknesses, including autoimmune diseases, cancer, and brain diseases, she said. She blames the industrial toxins that saturate much of the neighborhood, and thinks government environmental agencies are asleep at the wheel.

“The environmental agencies are just not doing their job to protect human health, period,” Hoffman said.

In August, Hoffman and a friend decided to take matters in their own hands and grabbed a handful of dust released when the city took down the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant’s sludge tank on Eagle Street. They sent the sample off to Brooklyn College’s Environmental Sciences Analytic Center and found that the dust contained particles of lead, arsenic, and mercury. She sent the information to the state, but said officials did not take her concerns seriously.

Both the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation and the developer did not return repeated requests for comment.

Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at dfurf‌aro@c‌ngloc‌al.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her at twitt‌er.com/‌Danie‌lleFu‌rfaro.

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