Gowanus Canal CAG Meeting
Tuesday, January 22, 2019
Mary Star of the Sea Senior Apartments, 41 1st Street

Announcements:

Katia Kelly and Brad Vogel opened the meeting at 6:35 p.m.

Project Updates: Kevin Clarke, New York City Department of Environmental Protection

NYC Department of Environmental Protection: Presentation on Gowanus CSO Storage Tunnel Alternative to Proposed Gowanus CSO Tanks.

In lieu of the Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) storage tanks. The city has to build two tanks: an 8-million gallon tank at the Head End (RH-34), and a 4-million gallon tank at the Owls Head site to abate OH-007.

DEP has met all the EPA Superfund milestones and will continue to do so.

The tunnel idea came out of a discussion about other water bodies, Flushing Bay and Newtown Creek, where DEP is pursuing tunnels under those bodies for stormwater, so when looking at those, it occurred to DEP to explore the potential to use a tunnel for Gowanus as well. The tunnel would be a 16-million-gallon, soft-ground tunnel to follow the alignment of the canal.

There are assets on the water side, like the pumping station, many built more than a hundred years ago. Very expensive, but built to last. We have to make the right decision when building this kind of thing. At a minimum, the tunnel would hold 16 million gallons – four million more than the capacity of the two tanks – this would give the same solids capture. Reduces CSO RH-34 outfall from about 6 discharges to 4.  At Owls Head, it goes from 4 to zero. The tunnel is easier to construct, and has less construction impact. The headhouse would be about the same size as the lot at the RH site. There is no longer above-ground facilities so we can be more flexible with the design of the open space. The cost is estimated at $1.2 billion.

The City has already acquired the necessary parcels  The timeline would be a little bit longer and the schedule is more aggressive. The tunnel provides a scalable system – we can extend the tunnel further than the alternatives we looked at, and will continue to look at, including following down Second Ave and fixing drainage in Red Hook and Park Slope.

The timeframe for completion could be 2030. This follows the rezoning; everyone knows the area is ripe for development. This would help plan for population growth and resiliency. There is street flooding, and occasionally sewer backups. As sea level rises, it is harder to get sufficient flow – the tunnel makes that easier and protects against rising sea level.

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Gowanus Canal CAG Meeting
Tuesday, January 22, 2019
Mary Star of the Sea Senior Apartments, 41 1st Street

Announcements:

Doug Sarno opened the meeting at 6:35 p.m.

October meeting summary was approved. September summary still awaiting revisions from Marlene.

Project Updates

Christos Tsiamis, EPA Gowanus Canal Project Manager, presented the updates.

Happy to be here with you – there will be good tidings in terms of progress.

We have completed the 4th Street Basin pilot study, drawn the conclusions on how to proceed – which methods will be used to clean up the canal. Second, 95% design of the Fulton IRM Barrier – the barrier wall from the top of the canal to Union Street to prevent coal tar from coming into the canal and harming it. Completed the design and anticipate receiving 95% design by year end for 1st Street Turning Basin excavation. Right now from technical point of view by spring, we will be able to start the countdown of the clean up in months, not years.

The 4th Street Basin pilot project is complete and it is the first time in 150 years a portion of the canal has a clean bottom.

Two more things:

  • The New York City Department of Design and Construction is about to grant approval to proceed with two larger-than-present storm water basins at 9th Street within days or weeks, and those would alleviate flooding, and at point of discharge, the water into the canal there would be treated.
  • Happy to say all these objects that we fished out of the 4th Street Basin will be brought to Public Place – if they’re not already there – and from archaeologist reports, most of the materials are not of archaeological importance on a national level and not preservable for Superfund, but in conversing with the CAG, there is an interest in preserving it as an interest of the community. Tentatively, week of December 10 there will be a viewing by interested members of the CAG for those objects. Arrangements will have to be made by groups interested in obtaining or possessing those objects. Somewhere until the middle or end of January, they will be stored there and then have to be taken.

Brian Carr, EPA Site Attorney, noted that within the last month, the city has acquired the properties at the head of canal for the CSO storage tank. The design of a tank for the park is no longer required. The design for the clean up of the park is going to proceed. There should be schedules in the coming six months detailing how long the process will take, including the process and design of the temporary pool or pools. One of the benefits of the fact that the tank will not be in the park is that park clean up will happen faster, and happen in sections, so in the long run, the park will be out of commission for a shorter period of time, and the clean up of the park is a slightly secondary part to getting the Fulton Barrier wall constructed.

EPA Regional Administrator Pete Lopez

Pete Lopez is the Regional Administrator for EPA Region II, which includes New York, New Jersey, and Puerto Rico, and eight federally recognized Indian reservations. There is a team of dedicated folks to try to find the best response to legacy contamination as well as clean up CSOs.

[Full video of Administrator Lopez’s discussion with the CAG is available here.]

Administrator Lopez thanked the EPA Gowanus staff present: Natalie, Christos, Brian, Doug in Superfund, Elias, Chris Lyons, and Walter Mugdan, who has spent much of his life on sites like this in Region II. I forget the other location of where I have been here with Congresswoman Velázquez [that location was Wyckoff Gardens 11/16/2017]. Gratitude for the community, not an isolated group here. Acknowledges the city and groups – DCP and DEP – thanks to the PRP National Grid, with the New York State partners DEC and DOH. We are not just dealing with toxic remediation, but also the combined sewer overflows.

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The New York City Department of City Planning will make an informational presentation of the Gowanus draft zoning proposal to Brooklyn Community Board 6’s Landmarks and Land Use Committee on Thursday, February 26, at 6:30 p.m., at Public School 133, at 610 Butler Street.

The meeting is open to the public. Please arrive promptly if you would like to be guaranteed a seat.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on February 22nd announced a plan to preserve certain features of the historic Gowanus Station building, also known as 234 Butler Street (pictured below), in conjunction with construction of an underground sewage capture tank at the site the building currently occupies.

The Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group had recently passed a resolution asking that the building be preserved in full if the EPA and New York City agree on the construction of an underground storage tunnel, rather than a storage tank, as the city has proposed. The Memorandum of Agreement between EPA and the New York State Historic Preservation Office only extends to preservation of certain elements of the building’s façade.

You can read the EPA’s full press release on its agreement to preserve portions of the building here: Gowanus Butler St Bldg FINAL NEWS RELEASE.

Additionally, you can read EPA Region 2 Administrator Peter D. Lopez’s letter to Gowanus Canal CAG regarding the matter here: GowanusCAGfinaltr22219.

At its January 22, 2019 general meeting, the Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group passed the following resolution calling for preservation of the Gowanus Station building in full if the plan for a CSO storage tunnel is adopted.

The resolution, addressed to the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), New York State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), Environmental Protection Agency Region 2 (EPA), and Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP), reads as follows:

Resolved, the Gowanus Canal CAG calls on DEP, SHPO, and the EPA to spare and retain in place the entirety of the two-story portion of the national historic register-eligible Gowanus Station building at 234 Butler Street if DEP and the EPA ultimately decide to pursue the CSO storage tunnel option discussed at the November 27, 2018 CAG Meeting.

Background: As noted by DEP at the November 27, 2018 meeting, the proposed tunnel alternative would require less space at the head-of-canal site than the current CSO tank planned for the site. Accordingly, this resolution expresses the CAG’s support of Peter Reich’s statement at the meeting, noting that the CAG supports saving the whole building in place if the tunnel alternative is ultimately selected.

The original resolution was drafted by the CAG’s Land Use Committee. You can download a copy of the full resolution here: Gowanus CAG Resolution 012219 Gowanus Station FINAL.

At its January 22, 2019 general meeting, the Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group passed the following resolution on the retention of existing marine bollards at the Public Place site.

The resolution, addressed to the New York City Department of City Planning, and the Environmental Protection Agency Region 2 Administrator, reads as follows:

Resolved: the Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group (CAG) requests that the existing marine bollards along the Gowanus Canal bulkhead of the Public Place site be retained and saved for reincorporation in public places in the Gowanus area.

Further resolved: the marine bollards should be retained and reincorporated in Gowanus even if they must be removed from their existing context, stored, and reinstalled at a later date to facilitate construction of the cutoff wall planned for the Public Place shoreline. Efforts should be made to reinstall the bollards in an historically authentic manner so that vessels may continue to use them to dock along the Gowanus Canal bulkhead in the future.

The original resolution was drafted by the CAG’s Land Use Committee. You can download a copy of the full resolution, including relevant background information, here: Gowanus CAG Resolution 012219 Marine Bollards FINAL.

At its January 22, 2019 general meeting, the Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group passed the following resolution on protecting the historic S.W. Bowne Grain Storehouse and preventing navigational hazards from impacting the cleanup.

The resolution, addressed to the New York City Department of Buildings and the United States Coast Guard, reads as follows:

Resolved:

The Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group (CAG) requests that the NYC Department of Buildings (DOB) take enforcement action to the full extent permitted by law against the owner of the historic S.W. Bowne Grain Storehouse building at 595 Smith Street along the Gowanus Canal, given that the owner is in violation of a posted DOB order following a fire in the summer of 2018. The CAG also requests that DOB present to the CAG’s Archaeology Committee in February 2019 regarding what enforcement action has been taken, as well as actions taken to ensure that the building does not collapse and create a navigational hazard near the mouth of the Gowanus Canal.

Be it further Resolved:

The Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group (CAG) requests that the United States Coast Guard take enforcement action to the full extent permitted by law against the owner of the historic S.W. Bowne Grain Storehouse building at 595 Smith Street along the Gowanus Canal, given that the owner has not shored up the bulkhead on the property that partially collapsed in 2017. Additional collapses have occurred since and are likely to continue, posing the threat of hazards to navigation near the mouth of the Gowanus Canal. These hazards could limit the ability of vessels associated with the superfund cleanup from accessing the Canal as needed.

The original resolution was drafted by the CAG’s Land Use Committee. You can download a copy of the full resolution, including relevant background information, here: Gowanus CAG Resolution 012219 Bowne Storehouse FINAL.

At its January 22, 2019 general meeting, the Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group passed the following resolution calling for creation of a Programmatic Agreement for addressing the preservation of archaeological artifacts salvaged from the 4th Street turning basin.

The resolution, addressed to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (the “EPA”), the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, and the New York State Historic Preservation Office, reads as follows:

Resolved: EPA and the PRP’s pursuant to Section 106 be responsible for maintaining all cultural material recovered and retained from the 4th Street Turning Basin Pilot Project and currently stored on a privately- owned space. The EPA indicated the cultural materials must be removed by the end of January 2019.

Resolved: These cultural materials are of interest to the Gowanus community and the CAG members as tangible remnants of the community’s past, therefore the cultural materials recovered from the 4th Street Basin Pilot Project and cultural materials removed subsequently during the cleanup of the Gowanus Canal as the project proceeds, be addressed in the Programmatic Agreement (PA).

Resolved: The Archaeology Committee and the Gowanus community enough time to find a temporary or permanent repository for the cultural materials recovered from the 4th Street Basin Pilot Project, therefore, it is the EPA’s responsibility to secure a location and find the monies to relocate these items and store the collection until the disposition of cultural material excavated from the Gowanus Canal channel is resolved through a PA.

Resolved: The Archaeology Committee asks that EPA follow the guidelines set by the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation regarding community input, consultation and review of documents, including the PA, relating to historic properties within the project’s Area of Potential Effect (APE) and cultural material recovered from the Gowanus Canal project.

Resolved: Members of the Gowanus Community, including CAG members shall be the custodians and trustees of all artifacts recently discovered and all artifacts discovered in the future in the Gowanus Canal Corridor during the remainder of the Gowanus Canal Superfund cleanup.

The original resolution was drafted by the CAG’s Archaeology Committee. You can download a copy of the full resolution, including relevant background information, here: Gowanus CAG Resolution 012219 Artifacts.

Please join us for our next General Meeting, on Tuesday, February 26, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., at the Mary Star of the Sea Senior Apartments, 41 1st Street, in Carroll Gardens. All of our meetings are open to the public.

AGENDA (all times are approximate)

6:30 – 6:45 PM: Welcome and Introductions

6:45 – 7:15 PM: EPA Project Updates

7:15 – 8:00 PM: Annual Review of CAG Activities

  • What is working and not working?
    • Committee operations
    • Leadership Team
    • Resolutions
    • Membership
    • Other issues 

8:00 – 8:30 PM: CAG Committee Action and Updates

  • Admin Committee
  • Water Quality and Technical Committee
  • Archaeology Committee
  • Land Use Committee
  • Outreach Committee

8:30 PM: Adjourn

On January 22, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection presented an overview of the Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) storage tunnel the agency is proposing as an alternative to the Gowanus Canal CSO storage tanks that the city agreed to construct in a consent agreement reached with the US Environmental Protection Agency in 2016.

To see the full NYC DEP presentation, click here.

Click on the image below for a larger rendering of the proposed CSO tunnel alignment.