Archive for the tag 'department of environmental protection'

Photo by Erica Sherman

Photo by Erica Sherman

Investigators believe the two people found dead in an Emmons Avenue apartment building yesterday afternoon ended their own lives as part of a suicide pact.

Cops responded to 3030 Emmons Avenue at approximately 12:44pm for a “wellness check” – a response to concerns from loved ones. When they arrived, they found a 43-year-old man who lived in the apartment dead on the sofa. A 44-year-old Texas woman was dead on the floor.

On the table was a plastic bag of white lumps that looked like soap pellets; the Department of Environmental Protection later confirmed the substance was the highly toxic chemical cyanide.

The man’s cell phone had the woman listed under the name “Kim Suicide,” according to the Daily News. Investigators now believe the two agreed to die together, with the Texas woman flying to the Brooklyn apartment to do the deed.

The man’s internet history showed he had researched how to use cyanide to commit suicide.

No criminality is suspected.

Warning signs of a suicide include talking about wanting to die or feeling as if you have no purpose, displaying extreme mood swings, withdrawing or becoming isolated, talking about being a burden on others, sleeping too little or too much, acting recklessly or increasing the use of drugs or alcohol. If someone you know shows these warning signs, do not leave the person alone, seek help from a medical or mental health professional, and call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-TALK (8255). Find more information here.

crapwater
Coney Island Creek by Cropsey Avenue is the city’s most fecal-filled waterway, according to one number-crunching analyst.

Ben Wellington, a statistics professor at Pratt Institute who runs the I Quant NY blog, pulled Department of Environmental Protection water sampling data on fecal coliform around New York City. The results? The beaches along the Coney Island peninsula are clean, at least compared to the city’s crappiest waterway – the Coney Island Creek.

Fecal coliform is bacteria that forms in mammalian intestines, and is an indicator of raw sewage in the water. It gets there when storms push so much water into the sewer drains and overwhelms the sewage system, causing the DEP to release it untreated into the rivers, oceans, bays and creeks through Combined Sewer Outflows. When the beach is closed during the summer, it’s usually because there’s an unsafe amount of sewage in the water – an amount of more than 1,000 coliform per 100ml of water.

Wellington dumped all that data into a spreadsheet and began calculating the mean, minimum, median and max levels of fecal coliform at all testing sites around the city, going back to 2008. The indicator he used to determine his top 10 dirtiest locations is the percent of days sampled that were too dirty to swim.

On that top 10 list are four Southern Brooklyn locations: Coney Island Creek at Cropsey Avenue, Coney Island Creek at its entrance, the head of Bergen Basin, near JFK airport, and the mouth of Bergen Basin.

The average amount of fecal coliform in the water at the creek when tested? It was more than 37 times the amount deemed unsafe for swimming, and it was found to be unsafe 94 percent of the times it was tested. Ugh.

Wellington mapped out his results to show us the ring of shit that encircles New York City:

 I mapped the percentage of time that water levels were unsafe for swimming.  Larger circles indicate a higher percentage of unsafe days, and thus dirtier water.  Clicking on a circle gives you fuller details for that site. 

Note that the larger circles appear more inland. The conclusion?  If you are going to swim in NYC, i guess the rule of thumb is to stay away from anything with the word “creek” in its name (and of course “canal”) and head toward the rivers. 

hydrant-sprinklers

In the middle of a hot July day, we can understand wanting to do whatever it takes to cool down — just don’t waste water!

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection just launched their 2014 Hydrant Education Action Team (HEAT) program to remind people about the dangers of illegally opening fire hydrants — they release more than 1,000 gallons of water per minute and can reduce water pressure in neighborhoods, making it difficult to fight fires.

So you still want to enjoy a splash through the hydrant’s water? No problem — they can be opened legally if equipped with a city-approved spray cap, which releases only 20 to 25 gallons per minute. That keeps water pressure adequate and won’t knock down any kiddos looking to play.

Spray caps can be obtained by an adult 18 or over with proper identification, free of charge, at local firehouses. Here’s where to go:

Engine 246/Ladder 169: 2732 East 11th Street, between Shore Parkway and Blake Court

Engine 321: 2165 Gerritsen Avenue, near Avenue U

Engine 276/Ladder 156/Battalion 33: 1635 East 14th Street, near Kings Highway

Engine 254/Ladder 153: 901 Avenue U, at East 9th Street

The firefighters will come to the site to install it, and then will return later that evening to remove it. Now have fun out there!

contaminent

The sediment-filled waste coming out of a covered sewer overflow pipe. (Source: Pete Castro)

The city’s long-awaited solution to street flooding along the Coney Island peninsula has some locals wondering if the remedy isn’t worse than the disease.

West 33rd Street and Bayview Avenue (Source: Google Maps)

West 33rd Street and Bayview Avenue (Source: Google Maps) Click to enlarge.

The Department of Environmental Protection is in the midst of a massive clearing operation in western Coney Island, pumping years of sand, debris and residue out of long-jammed sewer lines, which neighbors say caused the streets to flood in even the slightest rain. But now the city is fielding a new set of complaints from residents who say the toxin-filled water is flowing into Coney Island Creek through a combined sewer overflow pipe at West 33rd Street and Bayview Avenue, adjacent to Kaiser Park beach.

“Yes, you’ve got to clean out the drain. But my logic, my god-given common sense, is that you don’t foul it up, you don’t create another foul condition when you solve that problem,” said Pete Castro, a resident of West 35th Street.

Castro has been on the beach almost daily for the past week and a half, filming and taking photos of the Department of Environmental Protection’s private contractor, National Water Main Cleaning Co., as they pump water into the sewer and it flows out of a nearby outfall pipe, onto the beach. The 30-year resident said the water is thick and black with sludge, oil and other contaminants, mucking up a habitat in the midst of a revival.

“I’ve been seeing wildlife come back to the beach, egrets, the occasional swan, ducks go over there. And they’re dumping that oil there and apparently DEP is okay with it,” he said.

The DEP confirmed that they’re clearing out the sewer lines, and that some debris was simply destined to enter the environment.

“We are working to clear out the sand-impacted storm sewers. This is in response to flooding complaints in the area. We have been cleaning out the sewers for weeks and we understand there have been complaints about pumping stuff into the sewer, but in reality this is what we have to do to clean the sewers,” a spokesperson told this outlet.

Despite years of flooding complaints on the Coney Island peninsula, the latest round of work began after a site visit by Superstorm Sandy recovery honchos Bill Goldstein and Amy Peterson. Led by Councilman Mark Treyger, the team visited P.S. 188, where the students and faculty shared the following video showing the extent of flooding outside of the school in even modest rain.

“This is not Sandy, it’s just an average rainstorm,” Treyger told this outlet about the video. “It is a eye-opening video that shows severe flooding that is so bad that a car floated from the street and crashed into the front of the school, that’s how bad the flooding is. We showed the video to Amy Peterson and Bill Goldstein and they were very alarmed by it.”

“It is a damning video that just absolutely validates and confirms portions of Southern Brooklyn had been neglected by the [Bloomberg] administration.”
- Treyger

The Sandy team put pressure on the Department of Environmental Protection to address the flooding immediately. After inspection, the DEP determined that the sewers were clogged near the outfall pipes that go into Coney Island Creek, and dispatched contractors to clear it out.

Treyger admitted that solving one problem for residents caused concern for others. Castro and neighbors made complaints to his office, and he forwarded the video and photos to the DEP for a response.

As a result, Treyger said, the DEP conducted a review, meeting with the contractor and also bringing in the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, which has jurisdiction over area waterways.

“My sense was that they’re going to review and basically provide greater oversight of the work being done,” said Treyger. “For many years the infrastructure has been an issue here and as we move forward to fix it, we’re not looking to create more environmental disasters. This type of work has to be done in accordance with all environmental regulations and we’re going to make sure that that happens.”

truck1

The vactor truck at work on West 33rd Street and Bayview Avenue. (Source: Pete Castro)

But Castro fears the agencies are being less than thorough in their review. Shortly after Treyger met with the DEP, officials from both the DEP and the DEC spoke directly to Castro about his concerns, assuring him they would investigate the spillage and make sure it was in compliance. But instead of investigation, Castro said he received a call from the DEC rep several hours later saying that they had reviewed the operation and concluded it was safe.

“According to his dubious investigation, some guy [from the DEC] just miraculously put his finger in the air and said it’s okay to put that foul oil onto the beach,” said Castro, adding that there was about six hours between the phone calls – four of which was during hours when the trucks were not pumping. “You can get chemical results like that, with a snap of the finger?”

The DEP spokesperson said she did not know of any specific involvement of the DEC in this matter, but said, “I’m sure we’ve been in touch with DEC at some point.” Asked over the course of multiple phone calls if there was knowledge of the contaminants flowing from the pipe, she said, “I have to double check, but don’t forget it’s the sewer system and it has to get out of the sewers. It can be anything.”

She did not have an answer about contamination when we followed up, instead pointing out that the city uses vactor trucks – essentially giant vacuum cleaners that suck out debris, suggesting that there should be no spillage into the waterway. When we noted that there was spillage, as evidenced by video, she reiterated, “We’re doing work out there.” She did not respond to further questions.

Treyger said he requested the DEP hold a meeting in the community in the upcoming weeks to discuss their operations and respond to potential concerns. He said it will be announced soon.

Until then, Castro said he’ll continue to document the filth and hopes to find someone’s help analyzing water samples. In addition to the wildlife and habitat, he’s also concerned about the numerous indigent locals who turn to Coney Island creek to fish for their meals.

“I can’t see it getting much worse. I’m just waiting for the dead fish to pile up,” he said.

boats

More than 18 months after the storm, 10 twisted, tattered vessels were finally removed from a city-owned Knapp Street lot after being dumped ashore by Superstorm Sandy and abandoned by their owners.

Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein’s office tipped us off to the removal operations, which took place on Tuesday. Here’s the statement from their office:

Assemblywoman Weinstein, after months of exhaustive communication with the New York City Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Sanitation, is ecstatic that the agencies were able to collaborate in order to remove ten (10) derelict boats in the empty lot at 2501 Knapp Street.

The boats, which washed ashore during Superstorm Sandy, were never claimed by their owners and have since become a dumping site and a persistent eyesore. After constituents complained, the Assemblywoman observed the boats, which sat on city owned property, and immediately started negotiations to ascertain who was responsible. The Sanitation Department was able to visit and clear the site on June 10th.

Photo by Yuriy Semenov

New York City officials are claiming they need additional revenue to upgrade water and sewer infrastructure, and they’re looking to collect on yet another water rate hike.

That’s on top of a 5.6 percent hike in water rates this summer, and a seven percent increase the year before. In fact, if I’m reading this chart correctly, water rates have gone up more than 165 percent since Bloomberg took office in 2002, with increases every single year, and double digit jumps from 2008 to 2011.

But, hey, at least they’re considering a “smaller” increase for next year.

“We want the rate increase that goes into effect next July to be smaller than before,” Steve Lawitts, the chief financial officer of the Department of Environmental Protection, told the Daily News.

Public Advocate and mayoral frontrunner Bill de Blasio has previously depicted the increases as a “backdoor tax,” a device the city is using to not just cover costs, but to pay bills elsewhere in the budget. That has allowed Mayor Michael Bloomberg to claim he hasn’t raised taxes, when in fact city residents are still paying hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars more a year – and your City Council rep doesn’t even get a vote on it.

The New York City Water Board usually holds rate increase meetings in the spring. Stay tuned.

hawk2

Update (6:16 p.m.): Reader Christina “Know-it-all” K. wrote in to correct me: it’s a red tailed hawk. A juvenile, which is why its tail isn’t red yet. And maybe this guy is a relative of Pale Male, the first red tailed hawk known to have nested on a building (near Central Park) rather than a tree. Actually, these guys are as rare as falcons are in the city, with 32 known nests.

Original story:

The scourge of fire escape burglaries plaguing Sheepshead Bay might be one reason to keep your windows shut tight, but here’s another: Sheepshead Bay’s peregrine falcon could eat your cat.

That may have been what drew this guy to the top floor fire escape of Ilan P., a resident of the Atlantic Towers co-ops on Avenue Z. According to Ilan, the winged friend took up residence Saturday afternoon, making himself available for a 10-minute photo shoot before flying off into the sunset.

“It took an odd interest in my cat. They had an old western stare down,” Ilan wrote to Sheepshead Bites. “I just thought it was awesome since I’ve never seen a hawk in Sheepshead. It’s very cool to see something different in nature in our area.”

Yes, friends, Sheepshead Bay has hawks and falcons. This fellow is probably the same one known to live on the top of St. Mark Roman Catholic Church’s steeple. You can often see him circling about his perch, getting some exercise or looking for a good meal.

And he’s hardly the only one in the area. We know there’s at least one other couple at the Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge. In fact, New York City tracks these guys, and is currently aware of at least 32 around the city. That said, this guy appeared to be without tracking bands, which means there may be more than researchers are aware of.

It wasn’t always this way. The falcons were placed on the endangered species list in the 1970s, as population dwindled with the introduction of chemicals including pesticides. The city and state launched a program to restore their population, and since 1992 the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the city Department of Environmental Protection have worked hand-in-hand in their efforts, which you can read about on the DEP’s website.

Falcons do love New York City, though. According to the DEP, the tall buildings and bridges remind them of their natural habitat, where they perch on cliffs. And the variety of tasty birds to eat – pigeons, sparrows, starlings and others – give them a nice diet, which they capture during dives at speeds ranging from 99 to 273 miles per hour.

Anyway, check out the video and other photos Ilan sent over.

See the photos and video.

sandy-EmmonsEast_031

It has been almost eight months since Superstorm Sandy devastated the area and while political leaders, activists and volunteers are doing everything they can to clear the rubble from the streets, boaters are hoping that more action is taken to clear the area’s waterways and creeks. NY1 is reporting that boaters are requesting more government intervention to clean up the trash, sunken boats and broken docks washed into the seas by Sandy.

In Gerritsen Beach, partially sunken boats and old broken docks are still clogging up the waterways and creating hazards for boaters. Recreational boater Buddy Love explained the less than safe conditions in Brooklyn’s waterways.

“Sunken boats that are turned upside down…debris in the water that is washed up…some of the boats are hazards because they are sticking up out of the water,” Love told NY1.

The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the city Parks Department has claimed that cleaning up the waterways and creeks is not their responsibility, though officials from the DEP did volunteer in clearing a lot of debris blown in the water by Sandy.

Despite the unsafe obstacles, sailors who take off from Sheepshead Bay are reporting that there are still many clear channels available for passage.

A johnny pump brings relief to the 'hood on a hot summer day. Photo by Brandon Barron

A johnny pump brings relief to the ‘hood on a hot summer day. Photo by Brandon Barron

As we all slog through our first oppressive heat wave of the season, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) sent out a notice reminding all New Yorkers that opening fire hydrants without the spray caps as a means of cooling off is illegal, wasteful, and dangerous.

We previously published a list of cooling centers in our area if the heat and humidity become unbearable and you need to cool off legally.

According to a release circulated by DEP, “Illegally opened hydrants can lower water pressure and put lives at risk if there is a fire. Children can also be at serious risk, because the powerful force of an open hydrant without a spray cap can knock a child down, causing serious injury.”

From the release:

The unauthorized opening of New York City fire hydrants often spikes during heat waves. Opening a hydrant without a spray cap lowers water pressure and can hinder firefighting by reducing the flow of water to hoses and pumps. The reduction of water pressure resulting from illegally opened hydrants can also cause problems at hospitals and other medical facilities. Opening a hydrant illegally can result in fines of up to $1,000, imprisonment for up to 30 days, or both.

Hydrants can be opened legally if equipped with a City-approved spray cap. One illegally opened hydrant generally releases more than 1,000 gallons of water per minute, while a hydrant with a spray cap releases 20 to 25 gallons per minute. Spray caps can be obtained by an adult 18 or over, free of charge, at local firehouses.

New Yorkers are urged to report illegally opened fire hydrants to 311 immediately. DEP has additional staff on call today to respond to reports of illegally opened fire hydrants.

DEP manages New York City’s water supply, providing more than one billion gallons of water each day to more than nine million residents, including eight million in New York City. The water is delivered from a watershed that extends more than 125 miles from the city, comprising 19 reservoirs and three controlled lakes. Approximately 7,000 miles of water mains, tunnels and aqueducts bring water to homes and businesses throughout the five boroughs, and 7,500 miles of sewer lines and 96 pump stations take wastewater to 14 in-city treatment plants.

For more info, visit nyc.gov/dep, like the DEP on Facebook , or follow them on Twitter.

Just driving along, enjoying the day’s nice weather coming in through the windows, maybe blasting some Tom Petty or something, and you’re careening around the curve of Gravesend Neck Road near Homecrest Avenue and life is good a-

Cri-thrack! Holy crap, what was that?!

Buddy, your day just got all kinds of screwed up. And your car’s axle, too.

Chaim Deutsch, aide to Councilman Michael Nelson, tipped us off to this mother-sucker of a hole in the road, on Gravesend Neck Road and Homecrest Avenue. Deutsch described it as a “road collapse,” and said he’s informed the Department of Environmental Protection – which is responsible for the water and sewage lines underneath – and the Department of Transportation. The NYPD 61st Precinct is also on scene to prevent you from having the kind of day I described above.

On a side note: has anyone else noted an increase in water and sewage line damage across the neighborhood? Just driving around last week, I spotted four – all already being dealt with – including the one in front of my home.

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