Brooklyn community members gathered to fight against placing a pesticide warehouse and lab, located at 1427 Ralph Avenue in Flatbush, in their neighborhood for a second time after they told the City ‘no’ to the facility back in March.
Flatlands Flatbush Civic Group, Utica to Flatbush Initiative, and other groups were joined by Councilmembers Farah Louis and newly elected Mercedes Narcisse, a rep from Public Advocate’ Jumaane Williams’ office, and male District Leader for the 58th Assembly Cory Provost among others this Thursday, Nov. 11, at the rally outside of the facility fences.
“We’ve been fighting this for months. We won. We won the fight and now they’re finding ways to come back,” said Louis at the rally. “It’s not fair. We don’t want it. We said we didn’t want it and we still don’t want it.”
The pesticide facility is on the same block as a school bus and ambulance depot as well as several long-standing African and Caribbean food facilities and other food distribution centers.
Places like Gitto’s African Farmers Market and Good Food For Less, said concerned Flatbush resident Jamaal Carryl, have been staple, open-air markets in the community since the ’90s.
Carryl said that there are plenty of products and produce in uncovered barrels or on display without packaging found at the year-round market. He worries that exposure to the plant could be harmful for the food and customers, but also spread because of the food distribution network being so close to the poison storage site.
Steven Fox, from the Public Advocate’s office, said that the proximity to food markets was especially a concern. Fox said that it simply wasn’t “common sense” to store food next to poison. “The answer is only one thing, my guess is cheap property,” said Fox as to why the city would venture to do so.
On March 17, 2021, the community was initially incensed when told that Mayor Bill de Blasio and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) were planning on putting a large pest control office, lab, and storage space near the borderline of Community Boards 18 and 17 that would service all of the city. Some community members rallied against it.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, currently transitioning to his position as mayor, disapproved of the proposal on April 13, and on May 18, both DOHMH and Department of Citywide Administrative Services issued an immediate withdrawal of their land use application in a letter to the Department City of Planning.
“We want to be responsive to community concerns and make sure there is ample time for community awareness and education, so we withdraw the ULURP application,” said Sheila Benjamin, DOHMH assistant commissioner in the letter.
In response to Amsterdam News’ inquiries about the withdrawal, DOHMH’s Michael Lanza said that they are currently “reviewing the community’s concerns” and that no decisions have been made. He said that they are in communication with community leaders. DOHMH did not respond to further questions about the community rally or environmental impact to the food distribution centers behind the building by post time.
Gerard Brewster of Utica to Flatbush Initiatives said that DOHMH has had “ex-parte meetings” with Community Board 18 but has failed to reach out to the very loud community groups across the district that are against the facility.
Because the pesticide plant falls near the border of two city council districts and community boards, Narcisse said that she is happy to support a neighboring district’s concerns. “The community has spoken, they don’t want it in their backyard and it’s potentially dangerous and I’m standing with them,” said Narcisse.
Narcisse also pointed out that as part of the ballot proposals just voted on in the general election, 82.13% of voters chose yes to having a right to clean air, clean water, and a healthful environment. The government can’t “infringe” on these environmental rights, and if they do, people will have the power to sue.
Provost called the city “disrespectful” and “downright wrong” for filling the Flatbush community with storage facilities and now the pesticide plant. “Let this mayor know on his way out he can take this pesticide with him,” said Provost.
Requests for comment from Adams’ office, or incoming Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso, weren’t returned by post time.
Ariama C. Long is a Report for America Corps member and writes about culture and politics in New York City for the Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting: https://tinyurl.com/fcszwj8w