A Greenpoint Perspective: HabitatMap Crowdfunds to Support Community-Led Air Quality Monitoring

by Michael Heimbinder on

HabitatMap, the non-profit I lead, is currently running a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign to support our work monitoring air quality in partnership with schools and community based organizations. Folks who back our project on Kickstarter can get their very own portable, palm-sized air quality monitor called the AirBeam. However, even if you’re not interested in getting an AirBeam, you can still help us out by giving just a dollar. Every backer counts and the Knight Foundation has pledged to donate $10,000 to HabitatMap if we get 1,000 backers.

The negative impacts of air pollution rank it among the most serious and widespread human health hazards in the world. Breathing dirty air causes chronic illnesses such as asthma and bronchitis and contributes to terminal illnesses such as cancer and heart disease. Unfortunately, despite the very real impacts air pollution has on our every day lives, it often goes unnoticed because it is largely invisible. In addition, since pollutant concentrations are highly variable over time and space and because this variability is not captured by the State run ambient air-monitoring network; individuals have no way of ascertaining their exposure to air pollutants.

Air pollution is a serious burden on the health of New Yorkers, but not all areas of the city share this burden equally. Neighborhoods like Greenpoint are disproportionately impacted by poor air quality because of the dense concentration of emissions sources located within or in close proximity to the neighborhood – sources such as the BQE, the Newtown Creek Wastetwater Treatment Plant, and the dozens of miles of City-designated truck routes that crisscross the neighborhood servicing waste transfer stations, petroleum distribution facilities, and warehouses. The NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene report “The New York City Community Air Survey, Results from Years One and Two: December 2008 – December 2010” indicates that Greenpoint has some of the highest concentrations of PM2.5 in New York City.

HabitatMap – in partnership with the Newtown Creek Alliance, the NYU School of Medicine, and Sonoma Technology – has applied for funding from the Environmental Protection Agency to bring the AirBeam to Greenpoint. Our initiative is called “AirCasting Greenpoint”. The primary goals of “AirCasting Greenpoint” are to: 1) examine exposures to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in Greenpoint using a community-based participatory research design that equips residents with AirBeams and smartphones for recording, mapping, and sharing air quality measurements; and 2) provide the Greenpoint community with innovative ways to visualize and make sense of the collected data to promote health improvements, both through behavioral change and by providing compelling information that can be leveraged by the community to promote policies that address community concerns related to air pollution, health, and quality of life.

We hope you’ll back us today on Kickstarter and participate as an AirCaster if we receive EPA funding. If you have any questions or feedback regarding the AirBeam Kickstarter or “AirCasting Greenpoint” please get in touch with us at info@habitatmap.org.


Michael Heimbinder

Michael Heimbinder is Founder & Executive Director of HabitatMap. Michael stays connected to Greenpoint via his role as Chair of the Newtown Creek Alliance, where he enjoys collaborating with Greenpointers to restore, reveal, and revitalize Newtown Creek and it’s surrounding neighborhoods.
  • Denny Heath commented:

    Would like to learn more about this device.