The Health Department conceded last night that they could have responded more quickly to concerns about dangerous fumes from the CitiStorage fire. They reassured the community that, though the CitiStorage site could be toxic for weeks, the air quality in Williamsburg has not been compromised:
At a town hall meeting last night, the health department admitted it took too long to issue warnings in the wake of the massive Williamsburg warehouse fire; meanwhile, the fire department said it might take as long as a month to return the site to safety.
Daniel Kass, the health department’s Deputy Commissioner of Environmental Health, acknowledged that the agency could have warned neighbors about elevated levels of air pollution sooner than it did, late in the day of the early-morning fire.
“I think we can say the air quality had been compromised earlier than that and it would have been better to get an advisory out earlier,” Kass told local residents gathered in the community room at Bushwick Inlet Park…
Though some had expressed concerns that bleached paper burned in the fire might release dangerous levels of dioxin, Kass insisted otherwise: “I don’t think it’s something we have to be concerned about in this fire. Again, the effects are transient — the effects are from products that did not have significant levels of dioxin.”
In related news, Stephen Levin has a headache. The Councilmember, best known for giving a green light to the potentially toxic, unwanted, wall of Dubai-like skyscrapers in Greenpoint, has been outspoken about the city’s handling of the fire. He’s now pushing the city to deliver on its commitment to complete Bushwick Inlet Park:
When Councilman Stephen Levin looks at the smoldering wreckage of the CitiStorage warehouse on the Williamsburg, Brooklyn, waterfront, he sees a decade of broken promises.
In 2005, a rezoning of almost 200 blocks of Williamsburg and parts of Greenpoint, Brooklyn, allowed for the construction of high-end residential buildings along the water. As part of that deal, the community was promised a 28-acre green space to be called Bushwick Inlet Park.
The 11 acres occupied by the warehouse and a larger, adjacent storage building that did not burn were in the middle.
Thousands of condos and luxury rental units have been built, and Williamsburg has been transformed. But only a corner of the park, which is supposed to run for 5 1/2 blocks along the East River, has been built.
“The way I look at it, a promise is a promise,” Mr. Levin, whose district includes the Williamsburg and Greenpoint waterfronts, said in an interview on Feb. 1, the day after the fire destroyed CitiStorage. “The city made a commitment to the community to mitigate the impact of the rezoning through the creation of this parkland. That impact isn’t going away.”
Of course, given the value of the property, we’re fairly certain the CitiStorage site will be sold to developers, which could delay the process of getting the park built even further:
But some residents, including Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park, fear that the city could strike a deal with a housing developer to build a condominium tower on the CitiStorage land to help underwrite the cost of acquiring the property and to generate money for park maintenance, as well as provide new affordable housing units. In his State of the City speech last week, Mayor Bill de Blasio emphasized the need for more such housing.
That is what is happening in Brooklyn Bridge Park, which is still being built farther south along the waterfront.
But that park, unlike Bushwick Inlet Park, was predicated on the presence of commercial development to pay for maintenance and operations.
So we’ll see how this all pans out. One thing is for sure though. When there are concerns about toxicity in Williamsburg (where Stephen Levin lives) the councilman is on the case. If there are concerns outside of his nabe, not so much.