Super Toxic

Rising sea levels and new weather phenomena portend an uncertain future for New York City’s Superfund Sites.

Last year, Time Out magazine declared Ridgewood, Queens, the coolest neighborhood in North America and the fourth coolest in the world. Ridgewood, incidentally, happens to be home to the former Wolff-Alport Chemical Company, one of four Superfund sites in New York City. The company—which manufactured thorium, a chemical used in the production of nuclear energy and sold it to the federal government in the 1940s—vacated the site in 1954, leaving the area radioactive. Sites designated under the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) federal Superfund program are among the country’s most contaminated, their hazardous waste posing major risks to human health. In addition to the Wolff- Alport site, New York’s Superfund sites include the hundred-foot wide, 1.8-mile-long Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn (the city’s most notorious); Newtown Creek, located on the Brooklyn-Queens border, between Greenpoint and Long Island City; and the Meeker Avenue Plume, which spans several city blocks and is the largest, most residential, and newest (it was designated in March of 2022).

The five …

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