Environmental Justice on Staten Island’s North Shore

The North Shore of Staten Island is a 5.2 mile area (stretching east from the Arthur Kill to Richmond Road/Van Duzer Street) that contains approximately 21 sites that the Environmental Protection Agency or residents have identified as contaminated. All of them sit within 70 feet of homes and apartment buildings.

Staten Island’s “toxic stew,” includes (to name a few) the Gypsum Plant in New Brighton, The Atlantic Salt Company, Inc., Jersey Street Department of Sanitation Garage, Con Edison Plant, Edkins Auto Sale Inc. and Salvage Yard, Department of Environmental Protection Sewer Treatment Plant, a Superfund site, and even a site that is contaminated with radioactive materials dating back to the Manhattan Project. Many of these facilities release harmful chemicals. And many residents suffer from respiratory illnesses, staggering rates of lung cancer and breast cancer.

The North Shore is also a diverse area, with the borough’s highest number of communities of color and low income families. Many residents cannot afford to move away from the their noxious industrial neighbors; nor do they always have access to the kinds of medical care they need.

This website offers detailed information about the North Shore’s toxic situation, as well as neighborhood demographics, health issues, and other pollution problems. Initial data was collected during the Spring of 2011, by students at Queens College, enrolled in “Urban Studies 252/710: The Changing Urban Environment/Environmental Policy”. Other contributors include CUNY students, Andrew Brooks and Kimberly White.

There is still hope! This can be changed!

In 2007, the North Shore Waterfront Conservancy of Staten Island published a booklet delineating all of the facilities that adversely affect the health of community members. In 2010, the EPA named the North Shore one of the nation’s ten Environmental Justice Showcase Communities.

Why did the North Shore incur this myriad of toxic and industrial facilities?

Zoning is the process in which elected officials designate certain areas more suitable for residential activities, commercial enterprises, or industrial and toxic facilities. The first comprehensive zoning designations were implemented in the early 20th century. In the case of the North Shore, manufacturing and residential uses historically co-existed in very close proximity. They were allowed to remain that way, even after zoning laws were instituted. Now, zoning has become a cyclical, self-perpetuation process: districts zoned M (manufacturing) become repositories for toxic waste facilities because they are deemed “more suitable.”

Neighborhoods Included

We included the following neighborhoods and Census Tracts. (For the boundaries of these neighborhoods, please visit our Boundaries page)

Mariner’s Harbor:  323, 319.02, 223

Arlington: 319.01, 231, 239

Port Richmond: 219, 207, 213, 133.02, 133.01, 141, 125

New Brighton and West New Brighton: 97, 105, 89, 81

Tompkinsville: 91, 65, 75, 77

St. George: 7, 9, 11, 3

Stapleton: 17, 21

Clifton: 27, 29, 40