The fund was made possible by a 2011 settlement with ExxonMobil over a massive oil spill in Greenpoint.
The state awarded $592,055 of the fund for small grant proposals submitted last year for projects ranging between $5,000 and $25,000.
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said he hopes the first wave of grants will help the north Brooklyn community begin to rebuild a damaged ecosystem.
“With this initial round of funding, we are investing in high-quality, locally led projects that will enhance open space, green neighborhoods, foster education and stewardship, and address other environmental improvement priorities of the community,” Schneiderman said. “We look forward to continuing to work closely with Greenpoint residents to make additional investments in a cleaner, healthier future for the community.”
Although just 18 of the 96 small grant proposals – or a little over $1 million in requested funds - were officially awarded, DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said he is confident in the plans that were selected.
"These funds, as a result of a consent decree with ExxonMobil, will have a huge impact on the Greenpoint neighborhood in Brooklyn," Martens said. "From greening communities and buildings, restoring the waterfront to offering environmental education and stewardship, the grants are a positive step toward enhancing Newtown Creek and the surrounding communities."
In addition to the small grant proposals, there are still 45 large grant pre-proposals, ranging from $25,000 to $2 million ($35,956,495 in requested funds) and five “legacy” grant pre-proposals at a cost of greater than $2 million ($28,086,923 requested).
The North Brooklyn Boat Club (NBBC) received all three of their small grant proposals, including; $24,693 for an educational canoe trip program on the Newtown Creek, $24,426 for the creation of an aquatic wildlife research and education program, and $24,660 for the “Don’t Put Your Butt in the Creek” campaign to install cigarette disposal containers.
“We want to engage with people and discover how to shift the culture so the waterways no longer have a barrier or border,” said NBBC steering committee member Justin La Mort. “When the water is something you can touch, feel and smell, it’s no longer scary and it becomes your home.”
Willis Elkins of the Newtown Creek Alliance said he was pleased to see that two of their proposals also received significant grants last week, something they plan to use for education and understanding of the waterway.
A project intended to research and develop the end of North Henry Street saw a $24,735 grant, while the group's plan to design a “living dock” for indigenous plants and animals in the creek received a $24,980 grant.
“There is now an opportunity to do restoration along the shoreline and create public access to it,” Elkins said of the project for North Henry Street. “It’s a big project and it may take years until there is public access. With a planning grant, we can look at how the components are involved with access, and how feasible it would be to create public space.”
John Ericsson Middle School (M.S. 126) also received a significant $24,998 small grant from the fund to create a Wildlife Demonstration Site for plants, shrubs and shade trees at the school.
“I’m very excited,” said M.S. 126 principal Marcos Bausch. “Any additional supplemental money to foster school initiatives, I am all for it.”
Councilman Stephen Levin congratulated the applicants and thanked the state DEC and Attorney General’s office for their work with the community on selecting the projects that would best improve the environment surrounding the Newtown Creek.
“I appreciate the state’s efforts to ensure the fund works with and for the Greenpoint community,” Levin said. “These projects will help improve the environment and health of our community, and I am excited to work with the community as the program is implemented.”