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TOPIC: Air sampling in the neighborhoods surrounding Newtown Creek

HabitatMap is in the process of designing an air monitoring project focused on the Neighborhoods surrounding Newtown Creek and we're looking to learn from what other groups engaged in similar projects have done in the past. If you have experience conducting urban air monitoring please reply with any advice or insights you may have. We will be meeting in the coming months to discuss ideas so use this forum as a place to get connected and brainstorm ideas.
I'm moving a group email conversation into the forums. The next few posts are a summary of the back and forth.
8/26/2008, Mike Schade from CHEJ ( writes:

I'm curious if anyone has ever done any ambient air monitoring in Greenpoint, particularly near the sewage and chemical plants in the McGolrick Park area? I just moved to that area and sometimes the odors are pretty bad. I know there's been a lot of attention to the problems of the oil spill, but haven't seen much written about the air pollution from the plants.

I've worked with community groups before that set up neighborhood community air monitoring teams called the bucket brigade which might be applicable here - see

I work for an environmental health NGO so am particularly concerned about these issues.
8/26/2008, Michael Freedman-Schnapp from NAG ( writes:

The Newtown Creek Alliance and Newtown Creek Monitoring Committee, which have many overlapping members, are most concerned with this. I've cc'd Katie Schmid, who runs the Newtown Creek Alliance.

That website is (although very dense) very interesting-- what kinds of funding are necessary to get a team to come out?

Not everything you smell is a direct emission of a manufacturing process, FYI. Sometimes the weather traps the smell of the sewage treatment plant over the neighborhood (a phenom called an inversion layer) some of the odors are from waste transfer facilities, others, especially those smelled in enclosed spaces may be from vaporizing historical chemical plumes underground, which are a problem in the McGolrick Park area.
8/27/2008 Michael Heimbinder from HabitatMap wrote:

I've added Steve Lang and Sarah Durand from LaGuardia Community College into the mix as we've been discussing doing an air monitoring project on the Creek with students this coming year. I've also added Brooke Singer from SUNY Purchase as I've been meaning to rope her into a Creek based air monitoring project.

I've had a clipping on the Bucket Brigade sitting on my desk for about 6 months now and would love to see them employed in and around the Creek. I'm also interested in developing a mobile air monitoring device, basically a backpack with a GPS device and air monitoring instruments, to hook into HabitatMap's community mapping platform. We would record position and pollution information as individuals moved through the city following their everyday routes to work, school etc. and then lay this route information onto a map documenting the facilities/conditions that may be impairing air quality. Brooke and her fellow collaborators put together an excellent project along these lines, for inspiration see: For existing air pollution hot spots along Newtown Creek see:,79

Shall we set up a meeting to discuss? Perhaps we could touch base at the next NCA or NAG meeting and plan from there.
8/27/2008, Mike Schade from CHEJ ( writes:

Great! Yes I'd be very interested in attending a planning meeting. I have a few videos that show the Bucket Brigade in action...I'd be happy to bring a copy on DVD if anyone wanted to see a clip (there's some great clips in Blue Vinyl).

I'm including Denny Larson on this message, who is with Global Community Monitor and is the person that has been organizing and training bucket brigades all around the world for a number of years. Denny and his staff maintain the Bucket Brigade website.

I'm also just remembering about 5 years ago Denny did a bucket brigade training in Brooklyn (I think it was for members of El Puente) so maybe they still have their buckets that we can use.

The backpack is a cool idea. Another community-friendly air-monitoring tool that's been used are the personal "badges" which people can wear on their clothing, and walk around with all day with. They're often used by labor and industry to monitor workplace exposures to toxic chemicals.

This is exciting!
9/3/2008 Denny Larson from Global Community Monitor ( writes:

Global Community Monitor offers trainings in community air monitoring - see some of our projects at

Each project requires funding for the trainings, on-going technical assistance and of course the monitors and sample analysis.

Many groups apply to the Environmental Support Center under Technical Assistance grant program for start up funds - see

TOA helps individual groups, coalitions and networks by covering up to 80% of the costs associated with this type of 'capacity-building.' We can even help you identify appropriate consultants and training resources to choose from. Grants generally range from $3,5-$5,000 per calendar year. The application deadlines for TOA proposals are the 1st day of each month except in cases where the first falls on a holiday or a weekend.

Please note that funding restraints, based on geography or other restrictions, may limit our ability to fund all of the qualified applications we receive each month. To save time, organizations that fit the Environmental Support Center’s general eligibility guidelines are urged to speak with our staff before submitting an application.

Depending on what type of chemicals you want to monitor for and how often, a good ballpark figure is $5000-10,000 for 1 year of focused monitoring.

Let us know if you are interested in training with GCM.
Denny, the bucket brigade training programs your organization offers sound great and thanks for giving details on the Environmental Support Centers grant program. So it looks like Denny has pointed the way forward for folks who are interested in pursuing an air monitoring program in the Newtown Creek neighborhoods. Shall we meet up and discuss details: geographic scope, target air contaminants, duration, participants, desired policy outcomes etc. Does anyone have a suggested meeting place? Can we schedule the meeting for the week of September 15th - 21st?
I ran across this article on PM2.5 air pollution in the Transportation Altenatives magazine: It might be interesting to do a street level PM2.5 Bucket Brigade project and compare the results with those from the air monitors operated by the state.
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