The area of North Bellport on Long Island sits in the shadows of a massive landfill. This predominantly Black and Latino neighborhood also has the lowest life expectancy on Long Island, as well as the second-highest rates of asthma. Environmental activists do not think this is a coincidence, and for decades they have waged a battle to shut down the Brookhaven Landfill, which they believe is making their community sick.
Every year, about 720,000 tons of construction and demolition waste and about 350,000 tons of incinerator ash from across Long Island is dumped into the Brookhaven Landfill. It’s a revenue source for the local government, the town of Brookhaven, but a burden to the many people who live with its permeating odor and potentially dangerous health effects. The town of Brookhaven had promised to close the landfill in 2024, but the community is skeptical and is fighting to shut it down now. Some are also demanding remediation for the harm they say it has caused to the people of North Bellport.
In this episode, we dive into the history of North Bellport and the Brookhaven Landfill and explore how environmental pollution can impact health. We hear from environmental activists and founders of BLARG, the Brookhaven Landfill Action and Remediation Group, including: Abena Asare, a Stony Brook University professor whose son attends the local Frank P. Long Intermediate School; North Bellport residents Hannah Thomas — who has fought against the landfill since the 1970s — and her niece and fellow organizer Monique Fitzgerald; and Dennis Nix, who used to work at the landfill but now advocates for its closure. We also speak with Robert Bullard, the “father of environmental justice,” who calls the situation in North Bellport “a textbook case of environmental racism.”
A transcript of this episode is available here.
To read more on some of the topics discussed in the episode:
J.D. Allen, a local reporter with WSHU public radio, has been doing some great coverage of the landfill:
- Landfill inflicts ‘generational trauma’ on North Bellport residents of color
- Urgent Long Island trash study headed up by veteran Stony Brook researcher
- Residents worry Brookhaven landfill will stay open past 2024
Here are some other stories about North Bellport and the Brookhaven Landfill:
- Trashing the Neighborhood – Stony Brook Media Showcase
- A news story about Javien Coleman
- An opinion piece by BLARG co-founders Abena Asare and Monique Fitzgerald
- ‘We’re Taking Action Into Our Own Hands’ — A Community Stands Against a Landfill – The Revelator
- Will you live to 73 – or 93? It may depend on your neighborhood from Newsday
- The documentary “Sick School” about North Bellport’s Frank P. Long Intermediate School
- Town of Brookhaven 2023 Adopted Operating Budget
To read more of Bullard’s work:
- Toxic Wastes and Race at Twenty
- Unequal Protection: Environmental Justice and Communities of Color
This podcast was made possible with support from the Commonwealth Fund.