FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Cleaning Up Exxon’s Greenpoint Oil Spill

You have to wonder why it has taken so long. It happened over 57 years ago when Exxon Mobil leaked at least 17 million gallons of oil in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Greenpoint. The 55-acre spill, which is estimated to have been larger than the Exxon Valdez catastrophe, went undiscovered until the late 1970s. Since then little has been done to hold the guilty parties accountable. But on February 8, New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo finally filed notices of intent to sue Exxon Mobil and several other companies to force a massive clean up of the polluted neighborhood.

Tons of oil still plagues nearby Newton Creek, where studies have shown that dried sediment samples when weighed are made up of one-tenth oil. Unfortunately, under Eliot Spitzer’s reign as attorney general, Exxon Mobil had little to worry about. Aside from a few lawsuits levied by Greenpoint residents and environmental groups, New York State did little to pressure Exxon Mobil to remediate the ecological tragedy.

It has long been a case of bitter environmental racism, where the working class residents of Greenpoint were for decades left to inhale toxic fumes while Exxon Mobil and others, including BP and Chevron, continued to evade liability. But now that Greenpoint is becoming attractive to wealthy developers the State is finally stepping in.

“The Brooklyn-Queens waterfront has the potential to be New York’s Gold Coast, with sparkling towers, schools, parks and libraries,” City Council member Eric Gioia recently told The New York Times. “Cleaning Newtown Creek is critical to that vision.”

Gioia isn’t kidding. In May of 2005 the Greenpoint/Williamsburg waterfront became part of a massive rezoning project that has brought in an influx of multimillion-dollar condos and luxury apartments. The gentrification that began to haunt these neighborhoods since the early 1990s has only escalated in recent years. Sections that were once home to manufacturing and light industry are now dominated by hundreds of residentially converted loft buildings and high-rise apartment complexes.

And the new development projects are big money makers. Many local residents have been and will be pushed out by the “Manhattanization” of the neighborhood. Transformation has quickly engulfed Greenpoint and it is hard to know exactly what the fallout of the city’s rezoning initiative will be. Certainly it has already changed the face of Greenpoint’s main shopping districts as well as Williamsburg’s hip Bedford Ave., where corporate chains are challenging local restaurants and pubs. Many long-time residents also fear that the growth is happening at such a pace that the city will not be able to properly oversee the growth. Many others are simply getting out while they can.

Indeed Greenpoint and the vaporous Newton Creek must be cleaned up at once. There is no question about that. However, the timing of Andrew Cuomo’s actions is certainly suspect. The oil slick that has lingered under the streets and homes of Greenpoint for the past fifty years ought to have been addressed long ago, not so many years later when there is an economic incentive for doing so.

JOSHUA FRANK is the author of Left Out! How Liberals Helped Reelect George W. Bush and edits www.BrickBurner.org

 

 

More articles by:

JOSHUA FRANK is managing editor of CounterPunch. His most recent book, co-authored with Jeffrey St. Clair, is Big Heat: Earth on the Brink. He can be reached at joshua@counterpunch.org. You can troll him on Twitter @joshua__frank.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
April 07, 2020
Joel McCleary – Mark Medish
Paradigm Shift by Pandemic
Matt Smith
Amazon Retaliation: Workers Striking Back
Kenneth Surin
What The President Said (About The Plague)
Patrick Cockburn
The Chaotic Government Response to COVID-19 Resembles the Failures of 1914
Marshall Auerback
The Coronavirus Pandemic Has Opened the Curtains on the World’s Next Economic Model
Vijay Prashad, Paola Estrada, Ana Maldonado, and Zoe PC
Trump Sends Gun Boats to Venezuela While the World Partners to Fight a Deadly Pandemic
Jeremy Lent
Coronavirus Spells the End of the Neoliberal Era. What’s Next?
Dean Baker
The Big Hit: Covid-19 and the Economy
Nino Pagliccia
A Simple Democratic Transition Framework for Venezuela: End All “Sanctions”
Colin Todhunter
Locked Down and Locking in the New Global Order
Robert Fisk
Biden Says He ‘Doesn’t Have Enough Information’ on Iran to Have a Vew. How Odd, He Negotiated the Nuclear Deal
Wim Laven
GOP’s Achievement is Now on Display
Binoy Kampmark
Boastful Pay Cuts: the Coronavirus Incentive
Dave Lindorff
It’s Spring and I’ve Turned 71 in a Pandemic-Induced Recession
Steve Brown
FLASH! Trump Just Endorsed Bernie’s Medicare-For-All Health Plan
Marc Haggerty
Class and COVID-19: Those Who Can and Those Who Can’t
Manuel García, Jr.
A Reply to Jeffrey St. Clair’s “Strange Things Happening Every Day”
George Wuerthner
How Fuel Breaks Fuel Fires
Marshall Sahlins
Election 2020
April 06, 2020
Richard D. Wolff
COVID-19 and the Failures of Capitalism
W. T. Whitney
Donald Trump, Capitalism, and Letting Them Die
Cesar Chelala
Cuba’s Promising Approach to Cancer
David A. Schultz
Camus and Kübler-Ross in a Time of COVID-19 and Trump
Nomi Prins 
Wall Street Wins, Again: Bailouts in the Time of Coronavirus
Dean Baker
Getting to Medicare-for-All, Eventually
Dave Lindorff
Neither Pandemic Nor Economic Collapse is Going to Be a Short-Lived Crisis
Sonali Kolhatkar
Capitalism in America Has Dropped the Mask: Its Face is Cruel and Selfish
Ralph Nader
Trump’s 7 Pro-Contagion Reversals Increase the Coronavirus Toll
David Swanson
A Department of Actual Defense in a Time of Coronavirus
Ellen Brown
Was the Fed Just Nationalized?
Jeff Birkenstein
Postcards From Trump
Nick Licata
Authoritarian Leaders Rejected the Danger of a COVID-19 Pandemic Because It Challenged Their Image
Kathy Kelly
“He’s Got Eight Numbers, Just Like Everybody Else”
Graham Peebles
Change Love and the Need for Unity
Kim C. Domenico
Can We Transform Fear to Strength In A Time of Pandemic?
Mike Garrity
Alliance for the Wild Rockies Files Lawsuit to Stop Logging and Burning Project in Rocky Mountain Front Inventoried Roadless Area
Stephen Cooper
“The Soul Syndicate members dem, dem are all icons”: an Interview with Tony Chin
Weekend Edition
April 03, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Omar Shaban
Gaza’s New Conflict: COVID-19
Rob Urie
Work, Crisis and Pandemic
John Whitlow
Slumlord Capitalism v. Global Pandemic
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Strange Things Happening Every Day
Jonathan Cook
The Bigger Picture is Hiding Behind a Virus
Paul Street
Silver Linings Amidst the Capitalist Coronavirus Crisis
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The Control of Nature
Louis Proyect
COVID-19 and the “Just-in-Time” Supply Chain: Why Hospitals Ran Out of Ventilators and Grocery Stores Ran Out of Toilet Paper
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail