As its original name – Neighbors Against Garbage – attests, NAG was born with a singular mission: to head off the Northside’s destruction by the solid waste industry. NAG was founded in 1994 by a diverse group of North Brooklyn residents who wanted to stop the expansion of an illegally-operated waste transfer station, Nekboh Recycling, Inc. — an unregulated garbage facility that posed numerous environmental hazards to nearby homes and businesses and threatened to consume most of the Northside’s East River waterfront. After successfully shutting down the USA Waste transfer station on the Northside waterfront and achieving our goal of creating a new State Park at the site, NAG went on to pursue a broader mission: recapturing the Northside’s waterfront and encouraging its development in a manner that supports a stable, healthy, mixed-use community. NAG has fought to achieve much-needed waterfront parkland, the preservation of viable industrial and artisanal jobs, the creation of affordable housing, and development strategies that maintain neighborhood character. NAG continues to advocate for a balanced North Brooklyn. This work, done in partnership with other local and citywide community groups, is based on the principles established in the approved Greenpoint and Williamsburg Waterfront 197-a Community Plans, which NAG helped coordinate. Our current projects continue our goal of working with our community for environmental justice and sustainable, equitable development.
Working closely with our many friends, local and citywide organizations, and elected officials, NAG has:
- Shut down an illegal waste transfer station
- Won a new waterfront park
- Coordinated the community 197-a plan
- Reduced neighborhood pollution sources
- Stopped the T.G.E. power plant
- Modified New York City’s rezoning proposal
- Defended Northside jobs
- Founded a Community Development Watchdog project
- Supported post-rezoning development monitoring
Illegal transfer station
NAG’s organizing efforts resulted in an illegally-operated commercial garbage transfer station on the Northside Williamsburg waterfront being closed down in 1998. We then prevented it from reopening under new corporate ownership. NAG led the negotiations with city and state officials, used “people power” and the media to pressure regulators, and retained legal counsel to represent the community during agency hearings. Our community district still handles 40% of the City’s commercial and a portion of its residential waste stream, and NAG and the community continues to work on this issue through a district-wide coalition.
NAG’s advocacy for the creation of much-needed parkland on the North Brooklyn waterfront contributed to New York State’s purchase of a seven-acre portion of the old Brooklyn Eastern District Terminal (BEDT) site for this purpose on June 13, 2000. NAG’s meetings with state officials, its coordination with open space advocates throughout the state, and its organizing and advocacy campaign led to the designation. In late 2003, NAG secured funding to establish Friends of BEDT Park (now Friends of East River State Park) to coordinate community participation in the park’s design and oversight.
In 2005, the City mapped a new 28-acre park adjacent to the State Park. Acquisition of this parkland has been slow, and as of 2016, 11 acres (almost 40%) of the proposed park area has not been acquired by the city. To date, only 15% (less than 5 acres) of the promised park has been constructed. Since 2008, NAG has worked closely with Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park and GWAPP to advocate for the completion of Bushwick Inlet Park.
From 1998 until 2002, NAG served as the Northside coordinator for the development of the Greenpoint and Williamsburg Waterfront 197-a Community Plans. The award-winning plans, reflecting ten years of community effort, called for protection of affordable housing, creation of waterfront open space, and retention of environmentally sound, job-generating light manufacturing businesses. They provided a blueprint for the community we wanted: a mixed-use, mixed-income neighborhood where residents and manufacturers could not only live together, but benefit each other. The City Council approved the plans in January, 2002.
In the late 1990s, Tri-Boro Shelving, 286 Wythe Ave. (between Grand St. and N. 1st.) , which had been subject to complaints about toxic emissions, began using a low-level volatile organic compound (VOC) paint in its spray-painting process. Unfortunately, the problems and complaints persisted because the the new process still emitted VOCs, as well as toluene from cleaning the spray paint equipment and other fumes from gas baking ovens. Negotiations by NAG’s Pollution Prevention Coordinator with the company and State officials resulted in Tri-Boro’s receiving funding for and installing an electrostatic powder spray paint system which resulted in zero emissions. In October, 2003, NAG received the NY Governor’s Award for Pollution Prevention for having facilitated a Good Neighbor agreement between Williamsburg residents and Tri-Boro. NAG is the first community group ever to win this award, which traditionally goes to large corporations.
NAG played a leading role in the fight to stop the permitting of an ill-conceived 1,100 megawatt power plant, to be developed by TransGas Energy, on the Williamsburg waterfront. To challenge TransGas, NAG led the largest protest march in Northside’s history. NAG and the community’s efforts were rewarded in April 2004 when the New York State hearing examiners recommended that the plan not go forward. After many years, TransGas was ultimately denied a permit to construct the plant, and the property is now owned by the City of New York and slated to become part of Bushwick Inlet Park.
NAG provided leadership and resources to the Rezoning Task Force (RTF) of Brooklyn Community Board 1 during the 2005 Greenpoint-Williamsburg Waterfront Rezoning process. Despite the Council’s approval of North Brooklyn’s award-winning 197-a community plans, the New York City Department of City Planning (DCP)’s 2003 proposed rezoning blatantly disregarded them. When DCP began the official legal rezoning action, NAG realized that the community had no resources or knowledge with which to respond to it. We therefore shifted our focus and, in partnership with the RTF, began to coordinate the community’s response.
In order to make sure that the RTF’s recommendations reflected the entire community, NAG then initiated the creation of the North Brooklyn Alliance (NBA), a coalition of over forty organizations. The NBA helped the community gain commitments from the Mayor and City Council to preserve jobs, ensure public access to the waterfront, allocate more parks and open space, and create and/or maintain thousands of units of affordable housing for the residents of North Brooklyn.
Since the rezoning’s approval in May, 2005, the NAG has been working to ensure that those promises are being kept.
One of NAG’s priorities during the past few years has been to defend the neighborhood’s industrial businesses and jobs from displacement and, in the wake of the rezoning, to help support those which are displaced.
During the summer of 2006, NAG conducted outreach for the new Mayor’s Office of Industrial and Manufacturing Businesses in the Greenpoint/Williamsburg Industrial Ombudsman area currently administered by the East Williamsburg Valley Industrial Development Corp. (EWVIDCO). We were contracted to collect industrial businesses’ contact information and query them about their space needs, expansion plans, etc. – information which will go into a new city database of industrial businesses – as well as inform them about grants and relocation money available for businesses in the rezoned areas.
Community Development Watchdog
The passage of the City’s zoning plan has resulted in dozens of new construction projects in the upland areas, producing a series of problems that to date have only been addressed on a case-by-case basis by the impacted parties (tenants, small property owners, local businesses). NAG intervened in dozens of projects where construction threatened to displace residents.
Post-Rezoning Phase of the North Brooklyn Alliance (NBA)
NAG continues to carry forth the mission of the North Brooklyn Alliance to make sure that promised rezoning benefits are realized and tackle issues that were unanticipated or neglected in the rezoning action.