WILLIAMSBURG — A group of teens is studying air quality along the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway in an effort to get a new park built on top of the road, according to community organizers.
El Puente, a local non-profit organization with deep roots in Williamsburg's south side, received a $5,000 grant from the New School's Tishman Environment and Design Center and will start testing air quality next week with youth in its afterschool program.
Its aim is to collect data showing how BQ Green, a proposed park over the BQE trench from South Third to South Fifth between Rodney and Marcy which would link playgrounds on either side, would be a boon to the area by improving air quality.
South Williamsburg green spaces like Marcy Park and Playground, LaGuardia Playground, Continental Army Plaza, Jaime Campiz Playground and Rodney Park were built following the construction of Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and abut the highway.
But the new park would clean the air by capping the road, the campaigners say.
"You can feel the pollution in the air. You smell gasoline... chemicals. You can smell the exhaust," said Ana C. Traverso-Krejcarek a project manager at El Puente.
One of her co-workers at El Puente grew up going to the park and would frequently have asthma attacks there, she said.
"Kids are breathing that terrible air," she said.
The Bushwick and Williamsburg area had highest number of asthma hospitalizations for adults and children in the borough, a 2011 study from SUNY Downstate Medical Center found.
The area has the eighth worst air pollution in they city, according to statistics from the city's health department.
For the next six weeks, volunteers will monitor air quality, count trucks and survey users of existing parks about how they use the space on either side of the highway.
"We can't just conform with thinking that the location of our parks is something we can't fight," she said. "Having them next to the BQE is no solution."
The BQ Green was originally forwarded by Deputy Brooklyn Borough President Diana Reyna back when she was in the City Council. It would increase the area's green space by 30 percent and add many more trees, which would help clean the air.
Councilman Antonio Reynoso, who covers parts of Williamsburg and Bushwick and supports the plan. His district currently has just 0.3 acres of parkland per 1,000 residents, according to New Yorkers for Parks. That puts it at 46 out of 51 City Council districts.
Advocates for the BQ Green are working on forming a friends group to advocate for the proposed park, they said.