Richard Mazur has seen all of the changes to Greenpoint since 1950.
He is the executive director of the North Brooklyn Development Corporation, a neighborhood preservation group that seeks to improve the quality of life in the community.
Growing up in the 1950s, Mazur recalled Greenpoint as a “bustling, blue-collar community” surrounded by an industrial wasteland. All of the factories on the waterfront were polluting the environment, but they didn’t know it then.
“They were too busy working and surviving to actually pay attention to the destructive forces that had been destroying the environment in Greenpoint,” he said.
In the 70s, Mazur said residents became tired of the incinerators burning, the ashes falling and the smell from the sewage treatment plant. A small group of people fought for change, which began the process of environmental stewardship.
“Our goal was to create as much open space as possible,” he said. “What improves your environment? More green, more open space, more air to breathe.”
Activists fought for a complete Bushwick Inlet Park, which became a reality when the city purchased the last parcel. The EPA has begun the process to clean up Newtown Creek with its Superfund process. And thanks to a settlement with ExxonMobil for an oil spill, the state attorney general’s office has funded dozens of sustainable projects.
Local schools are now teaching about sustainability and the environment. “Friends of” parks groups are forming to care for local green spaces. Rooftop gardens, stormwater retention and other techniques are helping to combat climate change.
“All of a sudden, this floral husbandry is taking root,” Mazur said. “So the future is in good hands.”
His life in Greenpoint has finally come “full circle.”
“From smelling stinky plastic as a child, now as a senior, I can smell the fresh oxygen that these trees are going to produce through photosynthesis,” Mazur said.