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Lead Paint and other toxics in Brooklyn, USA


Located in Brooklyn across the East River from Manhattan's Lower East Side, Greenpoint-Williamsburg is an ethnically diverse community of approximately 156,000 people, with substantial Hispanic, Polish and Hasidic Jewish populations. The community is among the poorest in New York City.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Lead Paint and other toxics in Brooklyn, USA
Country:United States of America
State or province:New York
Location of conflict:New York City
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Pollution related to transport (spills, dust, emissions)
Urban development conflicts
Specific commodities:Lead
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The principal protective coating for the main cables of the bridge would be a 92% pure lead paste, all of which would result in a waste stream containing 100 tons of lead.

Type of populationUrban
Affected Population:150,000-200,000
Start of the conflict:1992
End of the conflict:1995
Relevant government actors:City of New York Departments: Transportation, Health, Environment
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Community Alliance for the Environment (CAFÉ), El Puente Academy for Peace and Justice, Los Sures Housing Development Corporation
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Local ejos
Social movements
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Religious groups
Forms of mobilization:Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Public campaigns
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Air pollution
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Other Health impactsLead exposure leads to damage of neurological systems of young children
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Technical solutions to improve resource supply/quality/distribution
Application of existing regulations
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Project temporarily suspended
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Yes
Briefly explain:In 1994, the community brought a lawsuit to get the NYDOT to conduct an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on its bridge repainting protocol. After several years of litigation, the case was settled. In the lawsuit settlement, NYDOT was required to develop technical specifications for its lead peint removal activities on New York City bridges.
However, although the battle for better bridge maintenance was successfull, there are still several environmental concerns across this community that need to be addressed.
Sources & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Susser, I (2012). Norman Street: Poverty and Politics in an Urban Neighborhood

Csogi, Ralph D. "Controlling Lead-Based Paint Emissions During Rehabilitation of the Williamsburg Bridge: A Partnering Approach." Transportation Research Board Conference Proceedings. No. 7. 1995.

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

Natta, Don Van. "Paint Sandblasting Returns Along Williamsburg Bridge." The New York Times. The New York Times, 31 Oct. 1995. Web. 11 May 2014. .
[click to view]

Mitchell, Alison. "Alarm on Tainted Dust Near Williamsburg Bridge." The New York Times. The New York Times, 21 Aug. 1992. Web. 11 May 2014. .
[click to view]

Environmental Justice and Transportation:

Building Model Partnerships Community Workshop Proceedings. Federal Highway Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration.
[click to view]

Jane Sweeney, Chantal Shipman & Anthony Tassi (1998). ENVIRONMENTAL BENEFITS PROGRAM

New York City, U.S.A
[click to view]

Godsil, Rachel. ""The Streets, the Courts, the Legislature and the Press: Where Environmental Struggles Happen,"" PRRAC. Poverty and Race Research Action Council, May-June 1994. Web. 11 May 2014. .
[click to view]

Myers, Steven Lee. "Fearing Lead, Dinkins Opposes Sandblasting." The New York Times. The New York Times, 17 Sept. 1992. Web. 11 May 2014. .
[click to view]

Other comments:This is one of the top 40 influential environmental justice cases in the United States identified from a national survey of environmental activists, scholars and other leaders by graduate students at the University of Michigan
Meta information
Contributor:Alejandro Colsa Pérez, [email protected], University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment
Last update08/07/2015
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