On the George Washington Breathing Project: April 18, 2008 (Special Investigative Report)


In which The Gay Recluse rather quickly gets lung cancer.

Date of Photographs: April 18, 2008

We’ve noticed that almost every chimney in Washington Heights is spewing thick, black smoke these days.

It’s definitely a lot worse than it’s ever been, which leads us to ask: Does it have anything to do with the rising cost of oil?

Answer: Yes, pretty much.

Check out these minutes from the March 6, 2008 Community Board 12 Meeting:


COMMITTEE MEMBERS PRESENT: Steve Simon, Isaiah Bing, Martin Collins, Beatrice Hall, Pamela Palanque North and Matt Chachere (Public Member).

GUESTS: Harry E. Mayer, DEP; Ana L. Parks, WEACT; Maria Lizardo, Northern Manhattan

Residential smoke – Committee had asked last month why CD 12 had highest # of such complaints (37) in Manhattan in December. Mayer reported that DEP took 176 samples from apartment building boilers to check on quality of oil and will have results of tests in a few weeks.

From the February minutes:

Simon: Why did CB 12 have highest # of residential smoke complaints (37) in Manhattan in December?

Mayer: Smoke complaints probably result from poor quality oil. Inspectors find that dirty oil or waste oil is mixed with clean oil, or that boilers are not calibrated. He agreed to check on past complaints in CD 12 to see if this is a consistent pattern here.

Bing: More enforcement is needed on this issue. Supers don’t have #6 boiler licenses. Boilers have poor combustion controls. Many boilers in this community are 50 years old; lifespan is only 25 years.

Mayer: We can help supers calibrate boilers. DEP’s goal is to correct problem, not just issue Notices of Violations. We’ll come down hard on landlords who don’t make repairs.

Residents of Washington Heights: When you see this, call 311 and report the shit!

The oily black smoke of 100-year-old boilers disperses daily across the rooftops in Washington Heights, heedless of those who suffer from pneumonia, asthma and tuberculosis. Officials and politicians? Not even footnotes in this story, which is about the aggregation of capital and the relentless rise of the metropolis.

–The Gay Recluse, 9/29/07

2 Responses to “On the George Washington Breathing Project: April 18, 2008 (Special Investigative Report)”

  1. Thank you so much for doing this story. I have a chimney right outside three of my windows, and I have reported and reported and reported till I realize they really don’t do anything when you call 311. They told me there was a court summons issued, that the boiler I complain about has been shut down for violations many times, but still, there is the black smoke. I have many photos of it. And, I was diagnosed with asthma last winter. Would it help to put a carbon monoxide detector in my kitchen? I went next door to the building at 579 Fort Wash and knocked on the super’s door, and a child, about 2 years old answered the door and there wasn’t anyone else home, apparently. I want to fight this problem with others, what will it take?

    The Archeress

  2. Hey Georgina, thanks for writing though I’m sorry to hear about your story–ugh. I’m not really in a frame of mind to organize anything, but I would suggest posting something on the Wahi forums (see blogroll) and organizing a “cough-in” or something down at the DEP. I would be happy to help publicize (and possibly participate) in any way I can. Also, please send pix if you have them!

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