Call it Hall-yuck street!
A long-closed stretch of Red Hook’s Halleck Street is covered in a mound of dirt, trash, and overgrown vegetation, and now the thoroughly putrid thoroughfare is such a mess that no city agency will take responsibility for it in case it turns out to be toxic, according to one local leader.
“There’s a mound of soil there — presumably by a contractor — which the city refuses to touch because they don’t know what’s in it,” said Craig Hammerman, who is the district manager for Community Board 6, which encompasses Red Hook. “We’ve written letters, made phone calls, but the agencies have not seen it fit to have the soil tested and removed.”
A neighboring business owner claims the Department of Transportation first allowed a builder to dump soil on the one-block strip between Clinton Street and the Henry Street Basin decades ago, opening the door for other businesses to illegally unload their waste there. The agency eventually put up barriers to discourage people from dumping there, he said, but that just closed the road for good and turned it into a private forest of filth that has amassed litter including underwear, bottles, and sanitary pads.
“You have this whole public street that’s blocked off, it’s been an urban blight for a number of years,” said John Quadrozzi Jr, who owns the Gowanus Bay Terminal at the end of Columbia Street.
Quadrozzi and Hammerman say they’ve appealed to the city on several occasions to spiff up the stretch, but agencies keep passing the buck — an experience this paper can confirm.
The Transportation Department refused to answer several inquiries about the street, asking multiple times if the Department of Sanitation had said anything and referring questions to the state Department of Environmental Protection — though it also wouldn’t say how that agency was involved.
Sanitation responded with a one-sentence answer claiming it can’t clean the street up because it can’t access it.
And the Parks Department said the strip is not under its jurisdiction, and is also not part of its cleanup of the neighboring ball fields, which are riddled with lead.
Councilman Carlos Menchaca (D–Red Hook) promised results in a vague statement — saying he met with transportation Borough Commissioner Keith Bray about the street earlier this week following inquiries from this paper, and that “all agencies concerned” are getting their act together, although his office didn’t respond to questions about how or which agencies they are.
Rep. Nydia Valazquez (D–Red Hook) is also looking into the stretch, according to a spokesman, and wants to secure some newly available federal flood resiliency funds to turn it into part of the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway — a network of bike and walking paths running from Bay Ridge to Greenpoint that the city is slowly rolling out. The planned Greenway route turns up Clinton Street where the road closes.
But Quadrozzi would prefer to see it opened to vehicles, which he claims will improve traffic flow and give truck drivers another route through the industrial neighborhood — not to mention to and from his facility.
“I want it to be functional for the community,” he said.