The Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group’s Outreach Committee met on Thursday, November 14, 2019, at the offices of the Fifth Avenue Committee, at 621 Degraw Street.

CAG Attendees: Sabine Aronowsky, Christine Petro, Eric McClure, Jessica Roff

Guests: Natalie Loney, Benjamin Solotaire, Terri Thomson

Agenda:

– 90% design of RTA1 clean up
 – Can EPA produce fact sheet?

– 90% sewage tank design 
 – What is the public input process?
 – Can EPA produce fact sheet?

– Fulton Cut-Off wall 
 – any discussion needed? Do we want to ask about the tugboat sinking or any project updates?

– CAG 10th Anniversary
 – what are the goals? (re-engaging old members, engaging new members, celebrating milestones?)
 – What are the outputs?  report/event 
 – Who should be engaged? 

Natalie: According to Christos, the current plan is to start dredging during the fall of 2020.

Estimated two years to dredge and cap Remedial Target Area (RTA) 1, and if all goes well, subsequent two years each for RTA 2 and RTA 3. Same process and sequence of events as the pilot effort in the 4th Street Basin.

Can the CAG create a stand-alone RTA1 timeline? Probably more helpful than the full (and now cluttered) existing timeline document. Jessica suggests that the full timeline might work better as a tri-fold.

EPA will produce an RTA1 Fact Sheet at a point closer to the beginning of work. Cut-off wall construction should begin this month, and target completion is August 2020. Must be done before RTA1 cleanup work begins.

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Last month Terri put together a meeting on the phone with NYSDEC. 

Water Quality FOILed information about some of what was said, re: 20,000 waterbodies and not enough time.

Since 2012, when the CAG submitted a resolution requesting reclassification of the Gowanus Canal, there have been eight requests for reclassification submitted to NYSDEC; four of them were in the past year.

Link to FOIL documents: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1Qvi-Kj4yWfratQixPJZlf8G_IwHQbSSz

The response was very similar to what they’ve consistently told the CAG.

One of the applications was 54 pages with absolute detail. 

There are three agency response letters that don’t say anything. 

We need another strategy that is more political – this isn’t just us – there is a unit to do reclassifications – do they just not move them? 

When you submit a reclassification application, they don’t respond with something pertinent. They want the applicant to provide all this information and wait. 

It’d be different if they said, “thanks, we’ll get to this in 35 years.”

They mimicked what they said on the phone – there’s nothing concrete that will help us figure out when or how to reclassify the waterway. 

Where were the ones that submitted? One in the Finger Lakes with lots of waterbodies in it, most in the Hudson Valley, more initiated by resident associations. 

I was thinking of asking how many have they reclassified without community input next. What bodies and how they were reclassified. Are there any internal processes/departmental processes?

The lake submissions were a little different because of freshwater/drinking water. Land use change is an initiator but obviously not prioritized. 

Sounds like less emphasis on this to be a huge comprehensive resource when we turn it in. 

Would be worth contacting Jo Anne Simon? Yes, is it worth asking the State Assemblywoman to be the petitioner? 

Once we have the application/materials ready, let’s have a resolution to the whole CAG to agree with what we’ve put together, and to have Jo Anne Simon submit it. 

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The Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group’s Water Quality/Technical Committee met on Tuesday, October 7, 2019, at Mary Star of the Sea, 41 1st Street.

CAG Members present:

Diane Buxbaum
Marlene Donnelly
Katia Kelly
Richard Lawrence
Amy Motzny
Peter Reich
Maryann Young
Susan Yung

Guests (via conference call):

Heidi Dubeck (New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Section Chief, Remediation)
Aaron Fischer (NYSDEC)
Ed Hampsten (NYSDEC)

CAG: Reclassification petition – what would make one most successful or competitive? 

NYSDEC, Ed: Some of what NYSDEC shared is basic information to give some background. One of the other documents to recommend is the annual compliance report for the SPDES program. Water management cycle. The relationship between various groups and what the function of the program is. Bureau of Water Compliance has statewide implementation so discharges: storm/waste. In particular, one unit deals with NYC compliance – DEP. We administer the CSO order for general compliance for the plants. 

CAG: A lot of us have been involved with water in the neighborhood for 20 years. Can you explain what happened to Gary Klein? 

NYSDEC: In April 2018, Ed moved over and then took over as Gary’s supervisor. Ryan Walder – chief of Metropolitan compliance section. Large portion is NYC related. Linda Allen now works for Ryan. 

CAG: We sent a resolution passed back in 2012 calling for reclassification that has gone to your division repeatedly. Do you have an explanation why we haven’t received an answer to that? 

NYSDEC: They handle monitoring lakes and streams, water quality improvement, standards and classifications are within that unit. 20,000 different waterbodies and waterbody segments across the state – [the Gowanus is] probably one or two of the bodies classified within the system. Reclassification would require NYS rule making process – within a year, you’re doing pretty well. It takes years to gather information. Ultimately you get approval and establish your rule. 

CAG: This is the same information we received in 2013. It’s now six years later and there hasn’t been any movement. We’re trying to understand how a community hasn’t budged an inch on your end. We don’t know how it’s going to get started. 

CAG: Especially when we don’t get acknowledgement of the receipt of the request. 

NYSDEC: There are 20,000 waterbodies we take care of.

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

CAG Members present:

David Briggs
Louis Kleinman
Hildegaard Link
Steve Marcus
Andrea Parker
Peter Reich

Guests:

Terri Thomson (National Grid)
Amelia Alman (New School)
Liana Nudelman (New School

Item 1

Water Quality Committee is preparing a resolution on a reclassification of the canal’s water. Louis asked Hildegaard if CB6 would consider supporting the resolution.

Action

Louis will send a request to Hildegaard that she will forward to Mike Racioppo, the District Manager.

Item 2

Discussion regarding the Gowanus Alliance email re: DEC permit for proposed withdrawal and discharge from the high-level storm sewer on 9th Street into the canal. All noted that comment period ends on November 29, prior to next CAG meeting.

Action

After lengthy discussion regarding the permit request, and the protocols at the CAG and CB6, it was unanimously agreed that no action is required at this time.

Item 3

Andrea announced upcoming public workshop on November 12 at Pioneer Works with Gowanus Canal Conservancy and Resilient Red Hook to discuss resiliency issues across Gowanus and Red Hook.

Action

None required.

Gowanus Canal CAG General Meeting
Tuesday, September 24, 2019
Mary Star of the Sea Senior Apartments, 41 1st Street

Announcements:

Doug Sarno opened the meeting at 6:35. 

Minutes from June approved. 

Project Updates

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

EPA has the “no fishing” signs ready, thanks to the State and National Grid. We have the locations the CAG agreed upon, and National Grid will be instructed to place the signs at those locations. 

We have started the work for the cutoff wall for the former Fulton manufactured gas plant on the east (Park Slope) side of the canal. National Grid contractors have been working there since late August. It is a big job, there will be a sealed bulkhead that will prevent coal tar from leaking through the sides of the canal. There is a staging area being prepared. There is a clearing operation to remove the debris at the bottom of the canal from the top of Union Street along the sides. We anticipate installation of the wall to begin in early February. 

Along with these activities, there was air monitoring, noise and vibration monitoring. There will also be some noise barriers, especially around the Eastern Effects Studio to be responsive of their needs. That work is going well. 

On September 30, EPA expects to have the 90% design from the Potentially Responsible Parties (PRPs) for Remedial Target Area 1 (RTA-1) from the top of the canal to the 3rd Street Bridge. We expect to have the 90% design for the detention tank at the upper canal on the east side. These are the detention tanks that under the Record of Decision (ROD) the DEP is required to build. This is the bigger of the two. This is for the clean canal. Both are big designs. They will undergo extensive EPA reviews. We will let you know when we will have schedules. 

CAG: Is the First Street Basin part of this design?

EPA: The 100% design is in place for that already. The design of the canal is complex because of different flow rates. A lot of work has gone into that. We’re getting to the end. 

There are a number of bulkheads in RTA-1 that have to be built. Some have to be prepared, some have to be finalized, some are submitted. There’s a lot of work for the EPA in the coming months. What has to be constructed is the bulkhead in front of NYC property, including the front of the Flushing Tunnel and in front of the outfall. The bulkheads on the west side south of Douglass will have to be constructed, designed, and reviewed from Douglass to Union in the coming months. For the bulkhead on the west from Union to Carroll, there are two properties, and we have designs that are in various stages for these properties. Carroll to 3rd Street also have to design and build, this is the entire east side. 

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The EPA has released a fact sheet detailing the construction of a barrier wall at the head end of the Gowanus Canal, adjacent to the Fulton Manufactured Gas Plant (MGP) site. The barrier wall is intended to prevent contaminated materials on the site from entering the canal, and to serve as structural support during the dredging and capping of the canal.

Barrier wall construction began in August, and is targeted for completion in  the summer of 2020. It will measure approximately 880 feet, and extend from the top of the canal to the Union Street Bridge.

You can download a PDF version of the Fact Sheet here.

The Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group’s Land Use Committee met on Tuesday, October 15, 2019, at the offices of the Gowanus Canal Conservancy, at 543 Union Street.

CAG Members present:

David Briggs
Katia Kelly
Andrea Parker
Peter Reich
Brad Vogel
Maryann Young

Guest:

Steve Marcus

Item 1

Review of 2016-2019 Land Use Committee resolutions.

Action

For resolutions where it appears that no response or action was taken by recipient(s), resend resolutions with request for a formal response.

Item 2

PRP representative. It is unclear if the PRPs, except for National Grid, each have individual representatives or a group representative.

Action

Request list of PRPs from EPA and request their representative(s) to attend at least one CAG meeting each year.

Item 3

DEP feedback on tunnel decision. Dave relayed conversation with Kevin Clarke of DEP about the community’s reaction to the EPA’s decision regarding the retention tunnel. Dave asked Kevin to forward DEP’s formal response to Doug Sarno for distribution to the CAG. During the conversation, Dave pointed out that he could not speak on behalf of the CAG, but suggested that if the DEP is seeking CAG support for the tunnel, then:

  1. the DEP should consider committing to either saving the Butler Street building in its entirety or relocating it completely intact nearby,
  2. DEP should emphasize that the tunnel solution will result in a better public park next to the head house,
  3. the CSO retention system can be expanded in the future, and
  4. DEP should demonstrate how the energy requirements for pushing the CSOs back up to the sewer system are part of an overall sustainable approach.

Action

It was decided that the committee would not make any recommendations regarding the EPA’s decision.

On October 3, 2019, New York City Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Vincent Sapienza responded in writing to US Environmental Protection Agency Region 2 Administrator Pete Lopez regarding EPA’s rejection of the city’s proposal to build a tunnel to capture combined sewer overflow rather than the tanks proscribed by the EPA.

The EPA has ultimate jurisdiction in the matter, however, and has shown no inclination to revisit its decision, which compels the city to construct an 8-million gallon retention tank near the head of the canal, and a second 4-million gallon tank on the site of the Salt Lot.

You can read NYC DEP’s letter in its entirety here.

The Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group’s Outreach Committee met on Thursday, October 17, at 8:30 a.m., in the offices of the Fifth Avenue Committee, at 621 Degraw Street.

CAG Attendees: Sabine Aronowsky, Christine Petro, Eric McClure, Jessica Roff

Review of last month’s meeting notes and action items, and of the September general meeting.

Christine has requested a fact sheet from EPA for RTA 1. No update yet. She’ll follow up with Natalie.

North Canal Visioning Group does not appear to have met recently. We need to remind Council Member Levin of the necessity to engage the community around the north end of the canal, especially with the 90% design due at the end of last month.

Sidebar conversations are happening about the order to provide a temporary swimming pool while the park remediation is progressing. Christine or Sabine will invite Benjamin Solotaire from Council Member Levin’s office to update us on the North Canal Visioning Group. Christine will double check with Andrea about whether there have been any recent NCVG meetings.

We will move the November Outreach meeting to November 14 (Sabine will confirm a meeting room and will move her standing appointment so we can go longer than an hour). Invite EPA and Levin’s office for a discussion of design processes for Fulton cut-off wall and tank projects, as well as park remediation and temporary pool.

We also need to get an update from National Grid regarding the remediation of Thomas Greene Park. We’ll invite Terri Thompson to the December Outreach Committee meeting to provide an update.

What will the impacts be of the two projects (CSO tank and park remediation) possibly going on at the same time? Will parts of the park remain open, and what kind of safety provisions will be in place to protect park users?

With 90% design of the RTA-1 clean up , will there be an opportunity for the public to provide feedback on the plan?

CAG could issue a press release after Thanksgiving with an update on the project, perhaps in conjunction with Council Member Levin’s office.

Much of these potential actions hinge on an update on the RTA-1 work. Opportunity to comment on plan, etc. Head house open space design, incorporation of Gowanus Station building façade, etc.

The Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group’s Land Use Committee met on Tuesday, September 10, 2019, at the offices of the Gowanus Canal Conservancy, at 543 Union Street.

CAG Members present:

David Briggs
Andrea Parker
Peter Reich
Maryann Young

Guests:

Terri Thomson
Barbara Woods
Steve Marcus

Item 1

Member presentations about why they are on the CAG.

Action

Dave has already reached out to Natalie and Doug. Some discussion about whether only the groups should present or if all members should present. Will discuss at next meeting.

Item 2

Andrea reported that the Gowanus Canal Conservancy’s third annual bio-blitz was the largest to date, and documented wildlife in the area around the canal.

Action

This data should be presented to the CAG for support, and submitted to the trustees of the NRDA program with a request for a formal response and comparison to data they’ve already collected.

Item 3

Status of previous resolutions. Have they been successful?

Action

Will review at next meeting.