It turns out that Ridgewood's massive new bar Nowadays is across the street from a Superfund site (yes, like the Gowanus Canal). The site's situation is so bad, that last spring the New Yorker dubbed "The Most Radioactive Place in New York." Apparently, from 1924 to 1950, the adjacent property was the home of Wolff-Alport Chemical Company, which had the nasty little habit of dumping radioactive thorium into the sewer system, reports Gawker.
Over exposure to thorium can be dangerous, causing livers damage and cancers, but it would seem that neighbors and guests are likely safe. An EPA rep explained in a report last year that "there is no immediate threat to nearby residents, employees or customers." And, in an email obtained by Gothamist to Nowadays co-owner Justin Carter, the agency explained:
While we do not have any sampling data from the 56-06 Cooper Ave. property itself [Nowadays], we do have data collected from the railroad spur adjacent to the building as well as from Cooper Ave. which show that gamma radiation levels are at or near normal background levels outside of the Superfund site itself. The 2013 assessment concluded that there is no off-site exposure from on-site radiological contaminants to the surrounding community.
But, here's where things get a bit murky. An EPA report stated: "Thorium has been found at elevated levels in the deli basement [on the Wolff-Alport plot], in air above the source material and outside the source boundary." So, it's a bit unclear if anyone at the bar, or worse, at the school and daycare center nearby is at risk.
Carter, in a lengthy email to Gawker, offers assurances that everyone is safe, saying he and his team had private radioactive tests done before setting up their bar:
We can assure you that they all came up negative. We wouldn't have signed a lease and opened our business to expose our customers, our staff, our families or ourselves without doing this and knowing that everything was safe and sound. We're a small business, started by three guys with no investors, and we're all here all the time, and so far, so are our families.
Nowadays ins't the only place to open near a Superfund Site this summer. Ridgewood's bar scene is booming for the first time in perhaps ever and then there's the new Gowanus barbecue and beer space Pig Beach from Balthazar chef Shane McBride.
Let's all remember that the Superfund designation at least means that the EPA is cleaning up these places.