Skip to main content Skip to main navigation menu Skip to site footer

Remediating Sunset Park. Environmental Injustice, Danger, and Gentrification

Abstract

This paper examines narratives from users and designers of a recently opened public park created via brownfield remediation processes on a historically industrial urban waterfront in the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York City. Interviews reveal that designers and community members were pivotal contributors to the transformation of a site that was previously associated with danger and toxicity into something of greater ecological and social value. Designers’ visions played a key role in subsequent user experiences in the park, but community input and struggle both sparked, and drastically altered, the park’s design trajectory in an effort to claim the park as a neighborhood asset and limit the degree to which it would contribute to displacement of existing residents. This project is unique because it is a publicly funded remediation of a municipally-owned contaminated site, yet initial project designs were geared toward on-site revenue generation to fund operations. Two broad implications of this study are (a) projects of this nature can represent a paradox of activism in that it is unclear how far community activism can go to address the systemic problems associated with environmental gentrification and (b) there is a need for studies of environmental gentrification to take a granulated approach to the positive and negative aspects associated with these spaces rather than look at them as more holistically positive or negative endeavors. The multiple scales of ambiguity and ambivalence that emerged from this study are emblematic of the dynamics associated with brownfield remediation, green space creation in historically underserved communities, and environmental gentrification.

Published:
Pages:187 to 210
Section: Reports from 'Past Present and Future of Public Space'
How to Cite
Simpson, T. (2019) “Remediating Sunset Park. Environmental Injustice, Danger, and Gentrification”, The Journal of Public Space, 4(4), pp. 187-210. doi: https://doi.org/10.32891/jps.v4i4.1242.

Author Biography

City University of New York, The Graduate Center
United States United States

Troy Simpson is a doctoral candidate in the in the Environmental Psychology program at the Graduate Center, CUNY. He is a research associate at the Public Space Research Group and a founding member of the User Design Information Group, research sub-groups of the Center for Human Environments. His research interests include human-environment relationships, largely in the contexts of sustainability initiatives and public space, as well as the application of social science research methods to design processes. Troy’s current research focuses on the digital technification of public spaces. Previously, he conducted research at the Center for Research on Environmental Decisions at Columbia University’s Earth Institute, and he worked as a green building and policy advisor in the non-profit environmental sector. Troy holds a BS in psychology and political science from Santa Clara University and a MA from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences.

References

Agyeman, J. (2013). Introducing just sustainabilities: Policy, planning, and practice. Zed Books, London, UK.

Alberini, A., Longo, A., Tonin, S., Trombetta, F., Turvani, M. (2005). The role of liability, regulation and economic incentives in brownfield remediation and redevelopment: Evidence from surveys of developers, Regional Science and Urban Economics, 35, 327–351. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.regsciurbeco.2004.05.004.

Bannister, J., Fyfe, N. (2001). Introduction: Fear and the city, Urban Studies, 38, 807–813. https://doi.org/10.1080/00420980123505.

Benediktsson, M.O. (in press). The lawn.

Bluesky, DigitalGlobe, USDA Farm Service Agency (2016). Map Imagery. https://www.google.com/maps/@40.6539831,-74.0180399,334m/data=!3m1!1e3.

Brash, J. (2011). Bloomberg’s New York: Class and governance in the luxury city. University of Georgia Press, Athens, GA.

Campbell, H.E., Peck, L.R., Tschudi, M.K. (2010). Justice for all? A cross-time analysis of toxics release inventory facility location. Review of Policy Research, 27, 1–25. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1541-1338.2009.00424.x.

Checker, M. (2019). Environmental gentrification: Sustainability and the just city, in: Low, S.M. (Ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Anthropology and the City. Routledge, London, UK.

Checker, M. (2015). Green is the new brown: “Old school toxics” and environmental gentrification on a New York City waterfront, in: Isenhour, C., McDonogh, G., Checker, M. (eds.), Sustainability in the Global City, Myth and Practice. Cambridge University Press, New York, NY.

Daiute, C. (2014). Narrative inquiry: A dynamic approach. SAGE Publications, Inc, Thousand Oaks, CA.

DePass, M. (2006). Brownfields as a tool for the rejuvenation of land and community. Local Environment, 11, 601–606. https://doi.org/10.1080/13549830600853551.

Eckerd, A., Heidelberg, R.L. (2015). Public incentives, market motivations, and contaminated properties: New public management and brownfield liability reform. Public Administration Review, 75, 252–261. https://doi.org/10.1111/puar.12305.

Eckerd, A., Keeler, A.G. (2012). Going green together? Brownfield remediation and environmental justice. Policy Sciences, 45, 293–314. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11077-012-9155-9.

Essoka, J.D. (2010). The gentrifying effects of brownfields redevelopment, Western Journal of Black Studies, 34, 299–315.

Fried, J.P. (2006). In the works, another park for a bit of the waterfront. New York Times.

Gonzalez, D. (2016). In Sunset Park, a call for “innovation” leads to fears of gentrification, New York Times.

Gould, K.A., Lewis, T.L. (2017). Green gentrification: Urban sustainability and the struggle for environmental justice, Routledge equity, justice and the sustainable city series, Routledge, New York, NY.

Haninger, K., Ma, L., Timmins, C. (2012). Estimating the impacts of brownfield remediation on housing property values (SSRN Scholarly Paper No. ID 2469241), Social Science Research Network, Rochester, NY.

Harvey, D. (2008). The right to the city. New Left Review, 53, 23–40.

Hum, T. (2014). Making a global immigrant neighborhood, Brooklyn’s Sunset Park, Temple University Press, Philadelphia, PA.

Industry City (n.d.). Inside Industry City. Indian City.

Kensinger, N. (2017). Bush Terminal residents decry displacement under Made In NY, Curbed N.Y. http://ny.curbed.com/2017/3/30/15125128/bush-terminal-made-in-ny-sunset-park-displacement [accessed 30 March 2017].

Kensinger, N. (2016). Developers compete to shape the future of Brooklyn’s Sunset Park, Curbed NY. URL https://ny.curbed.com/2016/2/25/11105658/sunset-park-industry-city-photos [accessed 13 January 2018].

Leyden, K.M., Goldberg, A., Michelbach, P. (2011). Understanding the pursuit of happiness in ten major cities. Urban Affairs Review, 47, 861–888. https://doi.org/10.1177/1078087411403120.

Low, S., Taplin, D., Scheld, S. (2005). Rethinking urban parks: Public space and cultural diversity, University of Texas Press, Austin, TX.

Marcuse, P. (1985). Gentrification, abandonment, and displacement: Connections, causes, and policy responses in New York City. Journal of Urban Contemporary Law, 28, 195–240.

McCarthy, L. (2009). Off the mark?: Efficiency in targeting the most marketable sites rather than equity in public assistance for brownfield redevelopment. Economic Development Quarterly, 23, 211–228. https://doi.org/10.1177/0891242408331159.

Ment, D. (1980). The people of Brooklyn: A history of two neighborhoods. Brooklyn Educational & Cultural Alliance, Brooklyn, NY.

New York City Department of City Planning (2011). Vision 2020: New York City comprehensive waterfront plan. New York, NY.

New York City Department of Parks and Recreation (2014). NYC Parks joins NYC Economic Development Corporation and the Sunset Park community to cut the ribbon on new Bush Terminal Piers Park, http://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/bush-terminal-park/pressrelease/21263 [accessed 21 May 2016].

New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, New York City Department of Small Business Services, New York City Economic Development Corporation (2014). Memorandum of Understanding.

New York City Mayor’s Office of Environmental Remediation (2010). New York City brownfield community service report: Outreach to NYC communities with brownfields.

New York City Office of the Mayor (2017). State of the city: Mayor de Blasio creates Made in NY manufacturing campus at Bush Terminal in Brooklyn for film and fashion industries. Available at: http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/084-17/state-the-city-mayor-de-blasio-creates-made-ny-manufacturing-campus-bush-terminal-in#/0 [accessed 31 May 2017).

New York City Office of the Mayor (2006). Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Pataki announce $36 million for environmental cleanup and redevelopment of Bush Piers.

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (2018). Environmental site remediation database search. http://www.dec.ny.gov/cfmx/extapps/derexternal/haz/details.cfm [accessed 5 February 2018].

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (2006). Final generic environmental impact statement for revisions/enhancements to 6 NYCRR Part 375 environmental remediation programs.

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (2004). Environmental restoration record of decision, Bush Terminal Landfill Piers 1-4 site Brooklyn, Kings County, New York, site number B00031-2.

NYU Furman Center (2017). BK07: Sunset Park. N. Y. City Neighborhood Data Profiles.

Pain, R. (2000). Place, social relations and the fear of crime: A review. Progress in Human Geography, 24, 365–387. https://doi.org/10.1191/030913200701540474.

Pearsall, H. (2010). From brown to green? Assessing social vulnerability to environmental gentrification in New York City. Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy, 28, 872–886. https://doi.org/10.1068/c08126.

Ringquist, E.J., 2005. Assessing evidence of environmental inequities: A meta-analysis. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. 24, 223–247. https://doi.org/10.1002/pam.20088.

Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act (2002). U.S. Code.

Smith, N. (2002). New globalism, new urbanism: Gentrification as global urban strategy, in: Brenner, N., Theodore, N. (Eds.), Space of Neoliberalism. Blackwell Publishers, Oxford, UK.
The City of New York (2009). Sunset Park waterfront vision plan. New York, NY.

The City of New York (2007). PlaNYC: A greener, greater New York. New York, NY.

TRC Environmental Corporation, 2014. Bush Terminal Landfill Piers 1-4 Site, Site Management Plan.

United Nations General Assembly (1992). Report of the United Nations Conference on the Environment and Development (A/CONF.151/26 (Vol. I)).

United States Environmental Protection Agency (2014). Overview of the brownfields program, US EPA. https://www.epa.gov/brownfields/overview-brownfields-program (accessed 24 November 2017).

United States Environmental Protection Agency (2013). Types of contaminated sites, US EPA. https://www.epa.gov/enforcement/types-contaminated-sites [accessed 12 March 2018).

World Commission on Environment and Development (1988). Our common future, [Rev. ed.]. ed, Oxford paperbacks. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK; New York, NY.

Yeampierre, E. (2014). Elizabeth Yeampierre at the “Voices of hope in a time of crisis” symposium. URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X8rkoPZ81Ng
Open Access Journal
ISSN 2206-9658