Williamsburg to Stay Totally Radioactive (No, Not Figuratively, Literally)

09/27/2010 1:53 PM |

radioactive spiders
  • The author, in his favorite cardigan.

One of my favorite things to do when I walk my dogs is take them over to the RADIAC building in Williamsburg, at the corner of Kent Avenue and Grand Street, and just let them sniff it up. As I see it, if one of them gets bitten by a radioactive spider, I’ll have a super-powered canine on my hands to help me in my crime-fighting aspirations (which, granted, are minor).

You see, RADIAC has been the hood’s go-to spot for hazardous waste—mainly from hospitals, but also from the odd “surprise” dumping that happens in Brooklyn’s vacant lots—for 40 years, serving as a hazardous materials transfer site for such volatile elements as plutonium and uranium (which makes it our very own official potential terror target… hooray!) Now, I understand that in the 70s and 80s the Williamsburg waterfront wasn’t exactly a fully residential neighborhood, and that the local populace didn’t haven’t a lot of political clout, but decades on, as developers slather at the idea of a “Gold Coast” which will bring another 10,000 people over the next five years, I’ve gotta say I’m feeling the NIMBY impulse here—and I’m not alone.

Assemblyman Crazy Joe Lentol recently proposed a bill that would see RADIAC moved because it’s within 1,500 feet of a school, a fairly reasonable idea when one weighs the health risk to a generation of school children versus the ease of radioactive materials disposal… Governor Paterson, however, disagrees, and has vetoed the proximity rule claiming it would make toxic-waste disposal too hard for hospitals. Too hard? The transfer and disposal of deadly radioactive waste suddenly becomes too hard because it can’t be near a school? If there’s one thing that should be really, really hard, so hard that it requires painstaking work by teams of experts, it’s the handling of radioactive materials. Man, this veto just seems like a terrible decision to me. (Ok, I’m off to walk the dogs, now!)

P.S. Dear RADIAC,
Maybe you should think about rebranding, changing your name to something less scary, like “GreenSafe” (“For the well-being of all Brooklynites”)… “RADIAC” really just sounds like an emotionless robot who eats plutonium and unintentionally injures small cute things when trying to hold onto them for further study. You’re welcome.

UPDATE: I asked newly crowned Williamsburg-Greenpoint Democrat District Leader Lincoln Restler for comment on this whole issue. Here’s what he said: “Common sense would dictate that a radioactive waste facility and known terror target shouldn’t be sitting in the middle of a densely populated residential neighborhood. I wonder if Governor Paterson would have been so quick to veto the bill if Radiac were located a block from his child’s school.”

I wonder, too.