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Something In The Air: Mott Haven's Struggle With...

Mychal Johnson at the Mott Haven waterfront in the Bronx

Community Activist Mychal Johnson looks over the crumbling Waterfront explaining how much work the area needs to be resourceful for Mott Haven residents.

(Photo: Natalie Migliore for WFUV News)

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South Bronx Unite wants people to know how garbage dumps and heavy traffic affect their community

The Mott Haven area of the Bronx is a pollution ridden community surrounded by garbage and heavy truck traffic.

Mychal Johnson moved to Mott Haven 15 years ago from Chicago. As an organizer, he's helped co-found South Bronx Unite. The organization works for community advancement and betterment of Mott Haven and Morris Park. Mychal fears the neighborhood will face more problems now that FreshDirect, a food service company, just finished building their headquarters along the area’s waterfront. “I think people have no idea about what it will look like to have a thousand additional truck trips added to what we already have brought to this oversaturated intersection,” Johnson said.  

There are three highways surrounding Mott Haven: the Cross Bronx, the Major Deegan, and the Bruckner Expressway. Johnson says that this contribute to the poor oudoor air quality in his neighborhood.  The highways intersect with five bridges. Johnson points out two schools on East 138th Street and a public housing development where children play outside. Johnson wants to know what the children in the area are breathing in. The Mitchell Community Center has monitors recording the street’s air quality. “We’ve already installed some devices on top of the building which monitor the air here because so many people live right across the street in public housing,” Johnson said.   

The air in this area was monitored six months before FreshDirect added new truck routes through the community. Residents want to see if more trucks coming in and out decreases the air quality.

But, pollution from heavy truck traffic isn’t the only issue. Mott Haven is home to a waste transfer station. Nearly 6,000 tons are transferred in and out of the neighborhood every day. “Garbage trucks from as far as Riverdale drive through the streets and come here to dump the garbage,” Johnson said.

As he approaches the facility that operates at full capacity, Johnson is unsettled by the smell overpowering his senses,  “Waste Compound combined with some chemicals that I’m not familiar with. I can’t identify but I know it doesn’t smell fresh.”  

This particular trash holding facility is across the street from where a new apartment building is going up. Johnson is worried future residents won’t be able to open their windows. He’s mostly concerned with how living near garbage is going to impact kid’s health. “How do you live this close to waste and have that be a positive attribute for your children or a positive outcome for kids who all they smell is garbage all day?” Johnson asks.

One silver lining for Mott Haven, plans are in the works to make the neighborhoods more accessible. One plan, The Haven Project, is being take up by New York Restoration Project. But Johnson says it’s the first step on a very long road.