As children cool off and get exercise at LaGuardia Playground, trucks and cars pass by on the Brooklyn Queens Expressway and the Williamsburg Bridge. There's added noise from the trains overhead. And a whole lot of pollution. Both at this playground and the adjacent Continental Army Plaza.
"Our air is so toxic here. Four times the national average of what's acceptable in terms of air quality,” said El Puente Executive Director Frances Lucerna.
The community empowerment group El Puente, which is located across the street. On Wednesday, it launched a campaign to address this environmental justice issue.
"The campaign was named by our young people called "Nuestro Aire, Our Air". And it's claiming that this is our air. This is the air that we breathe. So we want to take action to make sure that this area is clean enough for our children in our community to breathe,” said Asenhat Gomez, Deputy Programming Director at El Puente.
Much of the launch event centered on the arts.
"We want people connected to what's going on to raise interest and to raise awareness in people. And the best way to do that is through arts, through music, through theater,” said El Puente Theater Director Jorge Berrios.
But it also highlighted the action already being taken by its young leaders who use these air monitoring devices and record their findings.
"Every morning we go out and we monitor the air with machines. We go and have different routes and we travel around the neighborhood testing out the air quality,” said El Puente volunteer Samantha Singleton.
"We see more data that's from us because it's hard to find data from the internet about the situation here,” said El Puente volunteer Tamia Dantzler.
The goal is to track results for a year and make policy recommendations on mitigation measures. Assemblyman Joe Lentol says he's supportive.
"You see we're here in the park but it's not a green space. We need more green space for our kids to grow up especially in Williamsburg,” said Assemblyman Joe Lentol.
The launch of this campaign comes on El Puente's 37th anniversary.
City Councilman Antonio Reynoso announced LaGuardia Playground will soon be renamed after El Puente's founder Luis Garden Acosta, who died earlier this year. And city council funds will be spent to make this a greener safer space based on the campaign findings.