Gowanus Canal CAG Meeting
Tuesday, February 26, 2019
Mary Star of the Sea Senior Apartments, 41 1st Street
Doug Sarno opened the meeting at 6:35.
Because of the Federal government shutdown, we did not get to conduct our January year in review, so we have put that on tonight’s agenda.
Project Updates: EPA
Christos Tsiamis, EPA Gowanus Canal Project Manager, presented the updates.
The EPA is heading toward these milestones:
- Complete designs for the sheet-pile wall running from Union Street to the top of the Canal
- Design for the excavation and restoration of the 1st Street Basin
- PRPs to submit 90% design for the top of canal cleanup
- To receive NYC’s retention tank plans.
In November, EPA was working on a number of designs toward completion, then the government shutdown hit. Because the designs involve a lot of communication between the teams, the Potentially Responsible Parties (PRPs), and the EPA, there is a lot of effort happening now to catch up and get to the completion of the designs. In March and April, the EPA expects to have the complete designs for the sheet-pile wall that runs from Union Street to the top of the Canal on the east side. That sheet-pile wall will prevent the top from coming down the Canal at the Fulton site. EPA and the NYC Department of Design and Construction (DDC) have been working closely on the design for the excavation and restoration of the 1st Street Basin. We expect the design to be completed in the next few weeks (after February 26). By May, EPA expects the design group of the PRPs to submit the 90% design for the cleanup of the upper canal to the top of the canal. According to the 2016 Consent Order, the City of New York is obligated to submit plans for the retention tank at the top of the canal by April, 2019.
Proposal to Use Tunnels instead of Tanks
When Pete Lopez, the Region II Administrator, was at the CAG meeting in November, he spoke about the ,NYC Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) proposal to dig a storage tunnel in lieu of the tanks. The EPA understands DEP presented this idea to the CAG during the shutdown but EPA was not present. EPA is evaluating that proposal in depth. Once EPA’s technical team and EPA’s legal team review the plans, they will bring it to the administrator. After that, the EPA will let you know how the project was evaluated and the decision on the tunnel vs. tanks.
The idea of tunnels was raised by a PRP. The process and design for the tunnels has not stopped. From time to time, after EPA makes a decision, new ideas come up from EPA or PRPs. When this has happened in the past, EPA has tried some of the ideas that didn’t work and the PRPs still paid. The EPA is evaluating the idea. EPA gets to make the decision, not the City; these issues are complex. DEP thinks of going deep and we think deep before we go.
Historic Preservation Decision of 234 Butler Street
The City now owns the lot at 234 Butler. EPA worked with the NY State Historic Preservation Office on the preservation of this building because the community felt it needed to be considered for preservation.
Back in 2017, EPA noted that the building at 234 Butler should be considered for historic preservation. The City’s position was they would preserve certain historical features but the building would be demolished. EPA came up with a way to preserve the entire corner façade – 30 to 50 feet of the Butler Street facing – and there was a draft memo of this in spring of 2018. We received comments from the CAG and lengthy comments from NYC. To preserve in place what EPA wanted would be very costly, and might not keep the building façade safe. The Regional Administrator found a way to satisfy both the City and the EPA, as well as the advisory council for historic preservation. There is a draft decision to preserve those walls. In order to address the City’s concerns about whether it was possible to keep the wall standing, they’re going to dismantle them carefully brick by brick – no wrecking ball – and then restore and rebuild with the pediment and everything and incorporate it in the new head house. What EPA will do is have the responsibility of overseeing the dismantling to make sure it is being done carefully. The time will come when the City will build the head house. Under the agreement, the City has to do it, but how it is integrated involves the community. EPA’s mandate does not include architectural elements. The City is going to have to amend the approval so it aligns with EPA work.