Georgia Clinical + Translational Science Alliance
Radio Free Brooklyn’s “Objection to the Rule” Partners with NYU’s Department of Environmental Medicine

This is the fourth in a series of articles by Sara Bass about science, academia, politics, health, and the environment to help raise RFB listeners’ awareness of these areas and their own potentials to engage.

By Sara Bass
Edited by Michele Carlo
Cover image: Courtesy of Georgia Clinical and Translational Science Alliance.

Air sensor, courtesy of

From her serendipitous encounter with Dr. Judith Zelikoff (known informally as Dr. Judy) during North Brooklyn Neighbors’ installment of air sensors down the block from her Bushwick home, Radio Free Brooklyn’s Lisa Levy (Dr. Lisa Gives a Sh*t) drew inspiration for a partnership between the station and NYU Grossman School’s Department of Environmental Medicine (DEM).

Dr. Judy holds an important position as mediator between many grassroots organizations in New York City and the DEM, where she combines controlled studies in epidemiology and toxicology with citizen science—all of which are conducted in the organizations’ localities themselves. She hopes these joint initiatives will both consolidate the scientific backing to assist community members in their efforts to achieve better health regulations and build capacity for citizens to independently respond to environmental contaminants. By combining civic participation with detailed measurements, these studies also provide academics the data they need to interpret the severity of environmental contaminants and best advise the community on how to respond.

The air sensor installation project, just one of Dr. Judy’s many ongoing projects, measures levels of volatile organic chemicals and construction dust in the air to inform new regulations regarding the proper disposal of construction snow and other dangerous pollutants. It is also the subject of the first episode to result from the partnership RFB’s Levy envisioned between the station and the DEM. The partnership has come to consist of near-monthly conversations between another RFB show, Objection to the Rule (OTTR)—a talk show focusing on news, interviews, and discussions about life through the Brooklyn lens—and the Department’s researchers. The discussions center on these scientists’ various studies in communities mostly spread through New York City. 

After the first episode in OTTR’s series aired in April 2021, the show published subsequent episodes each month through October. Following that first conversation between Anthony Buissereth of North Brooklyn Neighbors and Dr. Judy, early episodes hosted Doctor of Toxicology Terry Gordon alongside PhD student David Luglio sharing their analyses of particulate matter in the NYC subway system (May 30); Section Chief of Infectious Diseases and Epidemiologist Dr. Stephanie Sterling discussing her observations as Co-Lead of NYU’s Vaccine Treatment and Evaluation Unit (June 27); and Dr. George Thurston speaking about the correlation between air pollution and health outcomes. Dr. Thurston also spoke about his roles advising the EPA on better health standards and the capacity of civic participation in redressing legislation (July 25).

On September 26, OTTR hosted Lisa Bloodgood, Director of Advocacy and Education for Newtown Creek Alliance. The organization has been one of the DEM’s partners for over a year. Together, they work to enact Newtown Creek Alliance’s primary values of restoring, revealing, and revitalizing the waterway and the communities flanking the creek or conducting the industrial work polluting the ecosystem surrounding it.

Citizen-led science project to test air quality along Newtown Creek and NYU’s
LaGuardia campus. Courtesy of Newtown Creek Alliance Facebook page.

In October, the partnership between OTTR and the DEM expanded to welcome gun violence researcher and professor at NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering Dr. Maurizio Porfiri. He appeared in the latest episode in the series on October 3 and presented the variables driving gun prevalence and gun-related mass shootings in the United States at both the national and state levels. Following a brief recess, the OTTR team will soon host another researcher from the Tandon School, Dr. Graham Dove, who will share his research on noise pollution.

With these discussions, RFB and the Grossman School’s DEM seek to deliver scientific approaches and findings about environmental contamination in plainer language that makes this work more relatable to listeners. The DEM hopes a heightened awareness about legacy intoxicants and knowledge about how to reduce exposure to these contaminants will equip and empower citizens to more effectively address their own health concerns. According to Dr. Judy, the marginalized populations the academic/community partnerships serve are most often the ones excluded from just policy; so these communities must be bold in their outspokenness and take action for better health regulations on behalf of themselves. She also maintains the partnership’s success is measured in the ways citizens step up to address their concerns, rather than government response. Anthony Buissereth said, “…there’s lots of challenges in any community, and it can seem all really daunting. But I think that the small part that you can do will push everything forward.”

Hosting air monitors, signing petitions for the EPA’s management of the Meeker Avenue plume, forming wellness circles, and sustaining engagement with Facebook alliances are among some of the partnership’s most meaningful recent actions with North Brooklyn Neighbors, Newtown Creek Alliance, the Ramapough Lenape Tribal Nation, the Chinese Planning Council, and the Gowanus Dredgers.

RFB is proud to partner with the DEM for the opportunity to play the small part of raising community awareness of their own power to self-advocate for better health standards and the academic resources available to help them do so. And OTTR looks forward to continuing the series with researchers from the DEM, the Tandon School, and possibly other departments across NYU to further the reach and prevalence of academic/community partnerships.

Tune in to Objection to the Rule Sundays at 1pm; Tune in to Dr. Lisa Gives a Sh*t Thursdays at 2pm.

Posted in ,

Related Posts