All politics is local

Posted by Steve on Sat, 02/24/2007 - 10:49am

Thomas "Tip" O'Neill, a longtime Speaker of the House in the U.S. Congress, coined this phrase and it couldn't apply better than to my own neighborhood here in Bay Ridge.

This morning's mail brought some very good news for the neighborhood. First a little background.

Bay Ridge is a largely conservative Republican bubble surrounded by probably the largest liberal stronghold in the United States. While I'm a progressive political agnostic myself, the local Republicans have taken the former Democratic Speaker's words to heart. They know that throwing a bone to the electorate is worth a hundred airhead "I'm a Decider" slogans.

Marty Golden, our GOP state senator and a former NYPD police officer, knows this better than anyone. I've had three contacts with him since I moved here and his office has always been responsive. The last time was after a female motorcyclist on one of the mailing lists I host here was killed by a trucker who ran a stop sign. Marty sent me a letter promising to vote for state legislation extending criminal charges to those who injure or kill as a result of careless driving.

This is a very pretty, tree-lined neighborhood. At the bottom of my block is one of the nicest parks in NYC, Owls Head Park,with an outstanding view of New York Harbor. People take pride in their homes and in the quality of life of the neighborhood.

But we also have That Smell. Karen even gave it a theme song (music by Lynard Skynard).

Located on the other side of the park on the harbor is the Owls Head Wastewater plant - a euphemism for raw sewage treatment. The Smell is usually blown out over the harbor but several times a year prevailing winds carry it inland where the neighborhood reeks like a bar lavatory on Free Hot Wings Night. It can be so bad during the hot summer months that real estate agents cancel open houses. I bought a fragrant oil burner to mask the odor inside the house when it gets really bad three or four times a year (which I actually got hooked on so I use it every day).

Two years ago, a firefighter on my block started a political action group to get something done about the plant. He met stiff resistance from the city and the DEP, neither of which would even acknowledge the problem. He forged ahead, merged his effort with similar neighborhood groups and the community board and won an independent investigation by the Malcolm Pirnie Company, which led to Marty sponsoring a town hall meeting to air the issue (so to speak).

This morning, I got a letter from Marty saying that the offending "Primary Setting Tank Launderers" have been covered and that he won a $35 million upgrade to the "Residuals Building" and the odor controlling equipment which will fix the problem once and for all. Construction begins this summer.

In addition, the plant will be the first wastewater plant in the country to generate its own electricity from the methane it produces. There's an article about it.


Eureka once had a smell of a different kind. There is a pulp mill directly across the bay that turns waste wood and saw dust in to wood pulp for making paper products. It was before my time but apparently the smell was terrible. Some locals would just say “that’s the smell of money”. The entrenched good ol’ boys network was happy the way things were. Within the last decade the plant was upgraded and the smell is now gone. It’s now the cleanest pulp mill in the US. The plant was shut down for a few months last year and on start up they had problems and the smell came back for a few days. It was like a bad smelling natural gas odor. It permeated everything. I couldn’t imagine what it must have been like living here before.

I hope the upgrades work do the job. Your smell sounds worse.

Posted by Steve on

Yeah, you've gotta wonder about what kind of noxious chemicals you need to reduce wood to pulp. Gotta be some strong acids and bleaches there.

I remember when I was a kid we visited some distant relatives in St Louis. They lived near an industrial area. I don't know what the nearby factory made but it had the overwhelming smell of rotting meat 24/7... which is exactly how long we stayed, cutting short our planned three-day stop-over to just 24 hours.

As regards our plant, I probably made it out to be worse than it is, at least for me. I'm near the top of the hill here so the breezes off the harbor keep the air relatively clean. But down the block across from the park the smell kinda gets caught there. It can be pretty dreadful every month or two.

Posted by Kathy (not verified) on

Hi Steve,

I just delivered the miter saw to my nephew David - it's HUGE! The FedEx guy brought it into the house, I took the arms off my husband's wheelchair and rolled it out to the car - of course the box wouldn't fit in the car. I almost gave myself a hernia lifting it into the back seat then folded up all the cardboard (in case it ever needs to go out for repair). Fortunately my nephew is a lot younger & stronger than me, he removed it from the car. I wish you could have seen his smile. Thanks so much for all your help, David thanks you too.


Posted by Steve on

I've hauled that saw up and down my stairs enough times to know how heavy it is. You have to be very strong to lift it by yourself!

I hope David enjoys his saw as much as I do mine (except when I have to move it).