One day soon, U.S. Cement is opening a plant along the waterfront in Red Hook, Brooklyn.
Because Red Hook has industrial zoning, the cement plant only needs a few permits to open at 640 Columbia Street, across the street from Added Value (Red Hook’s Community Farm), and extremely close to Red Hook Park and playing fields.
Community board manager Craig Hammerman said there’s nothing he can do until something happens to hurt the neighborhood, but he’s worried about the cement plant’s effect.
“When you have a potential land use conflict with this type of heavy or medium industry adjacent to public esplanade, it leaves one to wonder how these conflicting uses can harmoniously exist,” he said.
Ian Marvy, director of Added Value, worries about how the cement dust will affect his farm, which employs local teenagers and provides food to schools, families, and six restaurants in Red Hook. But mainly he’s concerned about the overall effect of the plant in the neighborhood.
“I’m worried about the dust affecting the health of the community. Whether it’s the guys playing soccer or baseball across the street from us, or the elementary school students who come visit the farm, and potentially our growing,” he said.
St. John Frizell, owner of local restaurant Fort Defiance, already said he may buy produce elsewhere if the cement pollution is problematic.
“It just seems like an odd time to open up a concrete plant in a neighborhood that’s had a resurgence in terms of people living in it and trying to make a real community out of it,” said Michael Albarella, a nearby resident who was recently shopping at Added Value’s Farmer’s Market.
Red Hook’s air has never been tested for pollution, so it’ll be difficult to determine the plant’s exact effects. Asthma rates are already high at the housing projects just blocks away from the plant, and local activists believe they will worsen. And 30-40 cement trucks driving down the quiet cobblestone streets daily will add to noise and pollution levels.
U.S. Cement didn’t respond to repeated calls for comment, so it’s unknown when the plant will open.
For now, residents can only wait and see what will happen.
“There’s not much we can do,” said Hammerman. “One thing is to encourage them to act as good neighbors.”