On May 24, 2019, Anastasia Kidd picked her 1-year-old up from the floor of her apartment in Red Hook, a waterfront neighborhood in Brooklyn. A thin layer of dust coated his skin, his hair, his clothes. “He had dirt all over him,” Kidd recalled a few months later during a community meeting. “I had to close the windows.” Half a block away, several bulldozers scraped the ground, digging up layers of wood, metal, and red bricks that for over a century had comprised the Lidgerwood complex.
Built in 1882, the two-story metalworking factory was the birthplace of boilers that heated the booming city, coffee hulling machines shipped to plantations in Brazil, and engines that propelled the drilling of the Panama Canal. When the foundry left Brooklyn’s waterfront in 1927, the building passed from owner to owner until 2018, when the United Parcel Service, or UPS, bought it and several surrounding properties as part of a plan to erect a 1.2-million-square-foot warehouse in its place. As bulldozers rammed down the Lidgerwood’s centuries-old walls and scraped the site clean of its history, a layer of dust blanketed the neighborhood.
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