Do you want to know how close your home is to polluted land? Are you aware of contaminated property nearby and would like to inform your neighborhood? If you live in New York City, this can all be done using the website www.habitatmap.org . HabitatMap is an NYC based environmental health justice organization focused on making our neighborhoods cleaner, safer, and more sustainable. HabitatMap is a social networking website that takes advantage of community based knowledge to alert the public of environmental health hazards, such as contaminated land known as brownfields. A brownfield is a property featuring some amount of pollution due to previous development. Gas stations, dry cleaners, and factories are all common sources of toxic chemicals and pollution. Not only does HabitatMap seek to alert the NYC community of local contamination, it also aims to hold companies accountable for their environmental impacts as well as promote cleanup efforts and sustainability.
To view a map displaying NYC brownfields, you can visit this link: http://habitatmap.org/markers?maps=199. From here it is very easy to search for contaminated sites in your neighborhood. For example, the closest documented brownfield to Columbia University of Manhattan’s Upper West Side is a former gas station located on 12th Avenue in between 131st and 132nd Streets. The website gives a description of the site as well as an assessment of environmental and health impacts.
HabitatMap is a great tool for raising brownfield awareness. Few people have heard of a brownfield, let alone know that they are very prevalent amongst most communities. Websites like this are vital in educating the public on the importance of brownfields, as well as showing people that these properties affect every community. Unfortunately this map is not a complete list of all New York City brownfields; NYC houses over 7,000 contaminated sites. As of now, no complete list is available to the public. There is major room for improvement in raising community awareness on brownfields. Available information and knowledge of this subject are severely lacking. Hopefully this website is only the beginning of a brownfield revolution.