The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOH) announced last week that they will launch an extensive city-wide survey to monitor street-level air pollution, and for North Brooklyn residents, the announcement came not a moment too soon.
The initiative, which is being called the New York City Community Air Survey, is being launched in collaboration with the Center for the Biology of Natural Systems at Queens College – CUNY over the next year. The survey is part of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s PlaNYC, which includes a number of public health initiatives including the planting of tens of thousands of trees on city streets. Health Department officials hope the survey will reveal how air quality varies across neighborhoods at street level.
“Air pollution aggravates asthma, other breathing problems and heart disease,” said Dr. Thomas Matte, Director of Environmental Research at the DOH. “We’ve learned that good data are essential to improving public health. And by identifying air quality differences, we can more effectively target future efforts to improve the quality of the air we breathe.”
DOH officials will be installing air pollution monitors on 150 light posts throughout the city. CUNY and DOH officials will be collecting air samples for a two week period over the coming year and analyzing them for the presence of fine particles, carbon, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide and ozone.
“We are very pleased to help measure differences in neighborhood air quality that have long concerned many residents and neighborhood organizations,” said Dr. Steven Markowitz, the senior Queens College research scientist collaborating in the study. “We can then work together to lower pollution levels and protect people’s health.”
In Community Board 1, there are three major monitoring locations that will be installed. One will be located near the end of Manhattan Avenue and Ash Street along Newtown Creek in Greenpoint, another will be attached near Bedford and North 7th streets in Williamsburg, and the third will be near Clymer Street and Kent Avenue on Williamsburg’s south side.
A spokesperson for the DOH said that the locations on a map released by the department represent areas rather than specific light poles where the survey will take place. Each location will be part of an overall study design rather than an attempt to pinpoint an address or facility where the air quality may be suspect.
Evan Thies, Chair of Community Board 1’s Environmental Committee said that he has not received notice from the DOH regarding the survey and the health study, but it does not mean that they have not sent the information to the community board.
“It would be very important to test air quality in Williamsburg and Greenpoint, especially in south side Williamsburg where there are very high asthma rates and some schools close to major roadways and that’s where I would start if I were them,” said Thies.
According to the DOH Community Health Survey, adults living in Williamsburg are more likely to report having asthma (9 percent) than those in Brooklyn (5 percent) overall. Adult asthma rates are much lower in Greenpoint (3 percent) and the number of child hospital visitations due to asthma attacks have gone down over the last decade, but the number of adult asthma hospital visitations has more than doubled in recent years.