At its May 28, 2019 general meeting, the Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group passed the following resolution calling for greater coordination between the New York City Department of City Planning and the New York City Department of Environmental Protection to address additional loading of contaminated CSO solids that may result from the proposed rezoning of Gowanus, in order to protect the Superfund Remedy.

The resolution, addressed to City Planning Director Marisa Lago and NYCDEP Commissioner Vincent Sapienza, reads as follows:

Resolved, as the proposed Gowanus neighborhood rezoning could impact the Superfund process and remedy through increased loading of contaminated CSO solids in the Canal, the Gowanus CAG hereby requests that the Department of City Planning (NYCDCP) and Department of Environmental Protection (NYCDEP) work closely together to coordinate mitigation of negative impacts. To ensure agency compliance, we further request regular updates on coordination efforts by providing written answers to questions unaddressed at the March 26 [2019] general CAG meeting (below) and responding to our comments on the impacts of the Gowanus Neighborhood Rezoning and Related Actions.

Questions from March 26 CAG Meeting:

  1. Will the proposed increase in density as a result of the rezoning impact the annual volume and frequency of CSO contaminated solids discharged into the Gowanus Canal and throughout the East River and New York Harbor?
  2. How will the timeline and phasing of eventual construction projects as a result of the rezoning impact and overlap with Superfund clean-up efforts?
  3. In order to accurately assess the impact of the proposed rezoning on the Superfund Remedy, will DEP calculate CSO discharge volume and frequency by each CSO-shed, incorporate data from real-time water quality monitoring and data collection, and model impact based on both Projected and Potential development sites in the Gowanus Draft Scope of Work?
  4. Can DEP commit to providing a current and ongoing publicly accessible record of infrastructure upgrades and system improvements as well as a mechanism for tracking proposed mitigation measures identified in the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Gowanus rezoning?
  5. There have been several infrastructure upgrades that include direct discharge of treated stormwater into the Canal. Their performance needs to be proven in pilot projects, in order to adequately support the Superfund remedy. At the general CAG meeting on March 26, 2019, DEP made a commitment to reporting on monitoring results for Sponge Park and the High-Level Storm Sewer. What is the timeline for these monitoring programs, and when will the CAG have access to the results?
  6. The Superfund Record of Decision specifically requires that new development mitigate additional sewer loads that could compromise the Superfund remedy (p. iii, par. 4). Which City agency(ies) or PRP(s) will be responsible for ensuring compliance with this, or will it be passed to the private developer, as was the case with 363-365 Bond? If so, how will the developer be monitored for compliance?
  7. The Superfund Record of Decision specifically requires that CSO retention tanks are sized to “accommodate projected additional loads to the combined sewer system that result from current and future residential development, as well as periods of high rainfall, including future rainfall increases that may result from climate change” (p. 8, par. 5). How will added density impact plans for the CSO infrastructure required under the Superfund ROD?

You can download a copy of the full resolution here: Gowanus CAG Resolution_DEP DCP Coordination_5.28.19.

At its May 28, 2019 general meeting, the Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group passed the following resolution requesting independent analysis of the potential for preservation of the entire Gowanus Station building located at 234 Butler Street.

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

Resolved, the Community Advisory Group (CAG) requests that EPA engage independent consultants to conduct further site and engineering analysis investigations with respect to retention in place of the City Of New York Water Supply – Distribution GOWANUS STATION building, located at 234 Butler Street.

The CAG asks for an independent consultant to conduct its own analysis to determine whether DEP’s 234 Butler analysis is on point, preferably a consultant familiar with historic preservation practices, such as Jan Hird Pokorny. The CAG asks that the Gowanus Station building be preserved in its entirety.

Background: A previous resolution regarding the request for an independent engineering analysis of this building was passed by the CAG in March 2018.

The CAG was not able to provide direct Section 106 consultation regarding the proposed Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between June of 2018 and February, 2019.

The original resolution was drafted by the CAG’s Archaeology Committee. You can download a copy of the full resolution here: Gowanus CAG Resolution_234 Butler_5.28.19.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation last week announced that cleanup of the former Citizens Manufactured Gas Plant site at Smith Street and 5th Street, also known as Public Place, will begin in June. The project should be completed in less than two years, with work being performed by contractors on behalf of National Grid, with supervision by NYSDEC.

NYSDEC will host a public discussion about the cleanup activities prior to the start of work. You can drop in any time during the session to ask questions and discuss the project. Details are as follows:

Thursday, June 13th
7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
PS 372, The Children’s School (Gym Entrance)
291 1st Street
Brooklyn, NY 11215

For more information, you can download a Fact Sheet about the project here.

The Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group’s Land Use Committee met on Tuesday, March 5, 2019, at the offices of the Gowanus Canal Conservancy, at 543 Union Street.

CAG Members present:

David Briggs
Katia Kelly
Andrea Parker
Peter Reich
Maryann Young
Susan Yung

Item 1

Katia updated group on resolution regarding more cooperation between DCP and DEP.

Action

None required. Resolution will be presented at next CAG meeting for a vote.

Item 2

Peter described a condition next to the Carroll Street Bridge when water is draining out of the high-level storm water outfall and the adjacent CSO during dry weather. Based on conversations with DEP, the probable cause is water flowing into the pipes during high tide and flowing back into the canal during low tide. It’s possible that the tidal gate may be getting blocked with debris, delaying the return flow of the water.

Action

Peter will follow up with DEP.

Item 3

Current communication with and support from CB6 could be better, particularly given the risk that the rezoning presents to the Superfund cleanup remedy.

Action

All agreed that there should be a more proactive dialogue between the CAG and CB6. Dave agreed to reach out to the CB6 Chair and District Manager.

 

The Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group’s Land Use Committee met on Wednesday, April 3, 2019, at the offices of the Gowanus Canal Conservancy, at 543 Union Street.

CAG Members present:

Katia Kelly
Hildegaard Link
Andrea Parker
Peter Reich
Sue Wolfe
Maryann Young
Susan Yung

Guests:

Terri Thompson, National Grid

Item 1

Discussed CAG comments on EIS Scoping for rezoning, and reviewed draft notes for comments prepared by Andrea.

  • Need to pass CAG comments at April 23 CAG meeting in order to present at April 25 EIS scoping hearing.
  • Andrea suggested that CAG comments on scoping should focus on specific impacts to the Superfund remedy, including CSOs and contaminant migration.
  • Katia suggested drawing additional comments from specific CAG resolutions that have been passed, including:
    • Public Place Marine Bollards, January 2019
    • SW Bowne Protection, January 2019
    • Safe Egress, October 2018
    • 1st Street Turning Basin, October 2016
    • Marine Habitat at the Head of Canal and Marine Life, June 2016
    • Ecological Restoration, May 2012
  • Hildegaard suggested directing these comments to DCP Waterfront Director Michael Marrella, and inviting him to a CAG meeting.
  • Terri noted that the most consensus ever seen at a CAG meeting was on March 26, when members were united over CSOs.
  • All agreed that scoping comments should be split into two – one specific to Superfund impacts, and the other covering previous pertinent resolutions above.

Item 2

Discussed DEP/DCP presentation to CAG on March 26.

  • All agreed that presentation by agencies showed an unacceptable lack of coordination
  • Further discussion of need to have all agencies in the same room to discuss impacts of rezoning proposal, and that CB6 should convene this.
  • Discussion of need to ensure that DEP and DCP are meeting regularly, and have a plan to manage compliance with ROD requirement that “redevelopment projects will need to take mitigation measures to prevent or offset additional sewer loadings.” (ROD p 72)
  • All agreed on drafting letter to DEP, DCP and electeds to express that presentation was unacceptable, and to demand a binding legal agreement with the community to ensure compliance with ROD requirement above and monthly updates on coordinated progress at CAG meetings.

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The Gowanus Canal was designated a federal Superfund site in 2010, initiating a complex, multi-year clean-up of more than a century’s worth of toxins and other contaminants.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has completed a successful pilot dredging and capping of the 4th Street turning basin, and is now turning its sights on the process of cleaning the entirety of the canal, beginning at the head-end near Butler Street, in 2020.

Please join us at a public town hall meeting on May 29 for an important update on the canal clean-up, the future timeline, and an idea of what to expect as the work progresses. Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez will give a keynote, and representatives from the EPA will present a project overview and look-ahead. The public will have an opportunity to ask questions following the presentation.

Please RSVP via Eventbrite.

At PS 133, 610 Baltic Street at 4th Avenue, in Brooklyn.

 

Please click here to download a printable, shareable PDF version of the flyer.

Gowanus Canal CAG Meeting
Tuesday, April 23, 2019
Mary Star of the Sea Senior Apartments, 41 1st Street

Announcements:

Doug Sarno opened the meeting at 6:35.

Project Updates

Natalie Loney, EPA Community Involvement Coordinator, presented the updates:

There hasn’t been much change since the last report. The 95% design report is due from the City on April 30. The wall design has been finalized. The 4th Street Basin artifacts that were extracted are not going to be disposed of. EPA is in negotiation to store material with a property owner in Red Hook, and those items will stay there safe until final disposition.

Questions & Answers

CAG: Where’s Christos?
EPA: Christos is not here because there aren’t major updates. He sent me instead.

CAG: Was under the impression he would come answer some specific questions at this meeting – sent by email.
EPA: We will work to make sure we have answers.

CAG: Is the EPA going to comment on the Gowanus EIS scoping?
EPA: Yes, it is our intent to comment on the EIS.

CAG: Are you going to testify on Thursday at the Public Scoping meeting?
EPA: We will probably send them in writing – I don’t think we plan to testify.

CAG: One of the questions to Christos was what the process would entail if we needed to amend the ROD (Record of Decision)?
EPA: There have been examples of ROD amendments and things that are a little more involved. I can’t give specifics because it’s speculative. It is determined by the level of complexity around changes to the remedy. A ROD amendment is not necessarily required.

CAG: Some were under the impression that opening the ROD will change things?
EPA: This is a Brian Carr question. We have had Superfund sites before where they had to do an Explanation of Significant Difference (ESD), this does not require reopening the ROD. I don’t know as all of this is still theoretical. EPA is not committing to a path because we have not gotten to that point yet.

CAG: When will work at the north end of the canal begin?
EPA: First section is supposed to begin in the next year or so.

CAG: Including the actual physical work on RTA1?
EPA: I assume it will.

CAG: And the cut-off wall construction?
EPA: I think those things will happen concurrently – if dredging is June 2020, the cut-off wall will be prior to that.

CAG: I know there was a date in the ROD that if the City’s management of sewage wasn’t sufficient, there would be further action, when is that supposed to happen?
EPA: If the bottom of the canal is clean but there is continued CSO, the City has to clean up to the level where it was before the change. It depends on when the tank remedy is implemented. The City would be responsible for cleaning up for the number of years following the monitoring and the EPA will make sure they do that.

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Gowanus Canal CAG Meeting
Tuesday, March 26, 2019
Mary Star of the Sea Senior Apartments, 41 1st Street

Announcements:

Doug Sarno opened the meeting at 6:35.

The Department of City Planning (DCP) and Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) are here at the invitation of the CAG.

February minutes approved.

Beginning in March, the CAG notes are going to try to be turned around faster, if there are any comments or revisions, they will be made, then we will post the minutes as draft minutes and then vote formally at the full CAG.

Project Updates

Natalie Loney, EPA Community Involvement Coordinator, presented the updates.

Two outstanding items the CAG has been concerned about are the potential tunnel project to replace the CSO tanks, and the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) for historic preservation at 234 Butler Street. EPA still needs to schedule a meeting with the Region II Administrator, Pete Lopez. In terms of the tunnel project, Christos Tsiamis says there are no new updates. EPA has already signed the MOA. There has been a question about DEP, which will be addressed in their presentation tonight.

EPA & CAG Questions & Answers

CAG: Can you confirm the other parties have signed the MOA? It is an agreement with SHPO, EPA, and others?
EPA: Not sure who the signatories are on the MOA referring to 234 Butler.

CAG: Are there any updates on the Fulton MGP site?
EPA: Some movement on the wall but in terms of other stuff, no.

CAG: In terms of the tunnel, would it be helpful if the CAG put forth opinions to the Regional Administrator?
EPA: Don’t think so; it is not so much a decision point as much as providing technical information about what the project means.

CAG: Can the tunnel be put in under the same Record of Decision (ROD)?
EPA: There is already a ROD on this. Doing the tunnel would require a different ROD.

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Gowanus Canal CAG Meeting
Tuesday, February 26, 2019
Mary Star of the Sea Senior Apartments, 41 1st Street

Announcements:

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.

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