(Originally sent out to newsletter subscribers July 2, 2009. To subscribe to our newsletter, click here)
Nowadays, New York City residents often complain about bad odors during the height of a sweltering summer. Just be thankful that you are not living in 1870’s Brooklyn nearby one of the thirty or so breweries of the period. An angry neighbor of a brewery on Lafayette Avenue in what was then known as the Lefferts Park neighborhood (now Bedford-Stuyvesant) wrote this letter of complaint to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle in July 1871:
"There is a brewery in Lafayette avenue which ejects its refuse fluid in the gutter, whence it finds its way to the junction of Tompkins avenue, where it lodges. The offensively noisome gases emitted by this deposit assail our olfactory nerves continuously during summer, causing nausea of the stomach and engendering diarrhea and other serious internal derangements. Two storekeepers, a grocer and a butcher, who occupy the easterly corners of Lafayette and Tompkins avenues can bear testimony to this perpetual nuisance, and both complain that the offensive odors lodge in their commodities, the one in his fruits and vegetables and the other in his fresh meats."
This wasn’t the only brewery in Brooklyn where drain-off caused a ruckus. Just one year before, the health officer at the newly established Board of Health wrote a letter to the Eagle reporting investigations into several breweries: “….in the absence of any sewerage of the streets on which they (the breweries) are located, orders have been issued to their proprietors to construct deep cesspools into which all the waste and drainage shall be properly conducted.” If you think all of that sounds bad, complaints about the waft from the “piggeries” or slaughterhouses near the old Bushwick train depot were even worse.
Well, as you toast to modern-day sanitation this Fourth of July weekend, we hope you’ll avoid “internal derangements” altogether, and instead make plans to beat the heat this summer with us over refreshing samples of beer on a Brewed in Brooklyn tour. Click here for more info.