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Significant Maritime and Industrial Area in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, USA

Sandy warns: cumulative impacts from industries and polluting activities can become extremly serious. Environmental justice organizations, community-based groups, labor unions unite for reclaiming reparation


Significant Maritime Industrial Areas, or SMIA’s, are zones designed to encourage the clustering or concentration of heavy industrial and polluting infrastructure uses [1].

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Significant Maritime and Industrial Area in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, USA
Country:United States of America
State or province:New York
Location of conflict:New York
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Urban development conflicts
Chemical industries
Wetlands and coastal zone management
Ports and airport projects
Specific commodities:Crude oil
Chemical products
Industrial waste
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Type of populationUrban
Affected Population:120,000-140,000
Start of the conflict:01/01/1992
Relevant government actors:EPA, NY DEC, City of New York
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:NYC-EJA, UPROSE, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, New York City Donors Collaborative, the Rand Corporation, and The LifeLine Group, NIEHS
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:Local ejos
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Public campaigns
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
Potential: Air pollution
Health ImpactsVisible: Other environmental related diseases, Other Health impacts
Other Health impactsFlood waters washing over contaminated lands and rushing through industrial areas releases a host of chemicals into the community.
Project StatusUnknown
Conflict outcome / response:Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
New legislation
Strengthening of participation
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Development of alternatives:NYC-EJA has worked to reform coastal zone management and has seen some success working to have the city consider climate change impacts and mandate vulnerability assessments.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:This is still a work in progress and it's difficult to determine the success since vulnerable communities are still living close to SMIAs and experiencing the impacts of this. There has been progress toward considering impacts to these populations when the city approves new development.
Sources & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[5] NYC-EJA Hurricane Sandy Press Statement - October 29, 2012
[click to view]

[1] Coastal Storms and Chemical Contamination: A Case for Human Health Risk Assessment for NYC SMIAs - Ankita Rathi 2012
[click to view]

[2] Hurricane Sandy's Disproportionate Impact on NYC's Most Vulnerable Communities - NRDC November 15, 2012
[click to view]

[3] Waterfront Justice Project - New York City Environmental Justice Alliance
[click to view]

[4] UPROSE Uplifts Sunset Park - The Brooklyn Rail April 3, 2013
[click to view]

[7] Erratic Weather Looms Above while Injustice Boils Below - February 18, 2013
[click to view]

Birnbaum joins community leaders at forum in Brooklyn- NIH Publication June 2015
[click to view]

[9] Climate Justice Community Resiliency Center - UPROSE
[click to view]

[8] Sunset Park: A Community on the Frontlines- Presentation by Elizabeth Yeampierre June 9, 2015
[click to view]

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

Sunset Park Brownfield Opportunity Area
[click to view]

Maps of the 6 SMIA's in New York City
[click to view]

The Environmental Justice Movement in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, New York
[click to view]

UPROSE- organization website
[click to view]

Other documents

[6] Sandy Regional Assembly Recovery Agenda April 2013 Recovery from the ground up: Strategies for community-based resiliency in New York and New Jersey
[click to view]

Sunset Park SMIA storm surge impacts
[click to view]

SMIAs and Hurrican Storm Surge Zones
[click to view]

Old operational power plant in Sunset Park Fueled by kerosene and gas, residents said that particulate air pollution in parts of Sunset Park is severe enough to turn a white lawn chair black with soot by nightfall.
[click to view]

Sunset Park Brownfield Opportunity Area UPROSE was instrumental in the initial planning stages for Bush Terminal Piers Park. Our role consisted of advocating for a post-brownfield waterfront park in a community suffering from a severe lack of open space, a disproportionate amount of environmental burdens, and an utter absence of waterfront access.
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Bernadette Grafton, [email protected] and Paul Mohai, [email protected] at University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment
Last update21/10/2015
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