Zidar moved to Greenpoint 12 years ago to attend Pratt Institute for its urban planning graduate program, where she found many similarities to her hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – including Polish and Irish people and an industrial environment.
“I was going to be a scientist and I went to study field biology in the mountains,” she said of her time before she moved to New York, “before I got the idea that the planet was going to be fine and it was the humans the needed a little help.”
She moved to Greenpoint at a time when environmental concern was on the rise, when focus was turning from cleaning up the East River and shutting down the Greenpoint incinerator to what to do about the murky green canals that run between Queens and Brooklyn.
Now Zidar is the executive director of the Newtown Creek Alliance and co-chair of its Community Advisory Group (CAG) for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which calls for a CAG for every Superfund site.
“The common denominator between everybody in Newtown Creek Alliance is that we have this affinity for Newtown Creek, whatever it is,” she said. “We all just kind of came together out of a common almost obsession, a common curiosity about this part of our neighborhood.”
The Alliance was founded as an all-volunteer body 10 years ago, before the creek was designated a Superfund site and received federal oversight.
She said the CAG, which acts as an information line between the government and the community, works parallel to the Alliance.
The main focus of the CAG now is how it will stay together, and whether it can afford to keep its government-appointed consultant.
The Alliance is focused on solving problems revolving around the creek, and is currently calling on the Health Department to conduct a public health study to determine whether chronic illnesses in Greenpoint could be caused by toxins in the water.
The Newtown Creek Alliance's next monthly meeting will be on Thursday, June 28, in the Greenpoint Reformed Church at 6 p.m.