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Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group Meeting
Tuesday February 10, 2015
41 1st St. Brooklyn NY 11231, Mary Star of the Sea, Community Room



Strategic Planning meetings will be happening in parts over the next couple of months.


EPA Update from Christos Tsiamis, EPA Project Manager for the Gowanus Canal Cleanup

Tremendous progress from EPA and National Grid

There are crews on the canal, starting work on 2/11

  • Collecting data on canal for Pilot Study at 7th street turning basin
  • Teams are collecting data from Whole Foods to just above the 9th Street bridge
    • There will be barges and different sampling equipment
    • Identifying different techniques for identifying and understanding the mobility of the liquid tar, and more closely defining the areas where it is necessary to apply stabilization/remedy techniques
  • There will be a continuous presence from now until Summer
  • Actual stabilization of the basin will continue around the beginning of May
  • National Grid contractors doing the bulk of work now, EPA contractors will come in after sometime in March
  • Local businesses have been helpful, and there is a lot of cooperation from local businesses.
  • EPA is able to use the Public Place site as a staging area, which is being graded for setup, there will also be a floating dock at this location


Update on Holding Tanks

  • Working to get city to comply with the ROD requirement for constructed holding tanks.
  • NYC prepared citing report and narrowed the choices to 2 sites for each of the two locations, with preferences for each.
  • NYC is required to select final sites by end of June this year
    • EPA believes the City has enough information to make decisions


Update on Other Projects

  • Lightstone property: 17k cubic yards of cleanup
    • Cleaning additional portions as required
    • EPA believes this work is going well, and that their requirements are being addressed
  • Powerhouse Property under renovation/repurposing for Art Center
    • Contamination on the site (PCP) is being addressed under Brownfields program
      • EPA has different priorities about contamination and has additional requirements to ensure that contamination does not enter the canal from this site. EPA is communicating these things now, and anticipates they be met by end of 2015
    • NYC has the power to excavate and restore the 1st street basin
      • A design contractor has been hired to explore this (AKRF)


How is EPA Cleaning the Canal?

  • How is EPA approaching beginning the work at the 4th street basin
    • EPA will start at the basin in order to work out kinks in the remedy process before the EPA impacts any traffic in the canal
    • In particular the convenience of semi-busy businesses is beneficial to test out the work before moving to more populated/denser populated parts of the canal area
    • EPA also has a leeway in terms of the extent to which they can get into the work for encroachment (in case contamination runs 25, 45 or more feet in depth)




CAG Member: Is AKRF in charge of the archeology portion of the 1st basin?

Christos: There may be an archeologist who doesn’t works for the government doesn’t mean they are incompetent

CAG Member: It could mean they are prejudiced

AKRF Principal identifies himself, and says the organization uses the best practices and works to address these issues

Christos: The EPA was satisfied with the City choice of contractors, and notes that these contractors will continue to send update reports and take into consideration the sensitivity of the



  • AKRF has worked with the professional archeology agencies and has scientific and objective basis. Continual approval of regulatory agencies.
  • Consulting Archaeologist John Vetter will join us at the Feb 24th 2015 meeting to discuss in greater depth

CAG Member: The City has agreed to move up its timeline for the siting of retention tanks, but what does that mean?

EPA: There is no guarantee – but they said so. EPA would like to see something in writing.

CAG Member: State DEC had some decision in December?

Christos: DEC was supposed to come up with a plan for the Fulton MGP site where Thomas Green Park is. The DE was supposed to give us a copy of the plan early – and has not yet done this.

CAG Member: What happened to the OK the Land Use Committee gave to Con Ed for a substation? Now there is a lot of development already there.

EPA: The City has ConEd doing pre-utility work in prep for the upcoming Carroll St high level sewer system. It is unclear if this is the same, and what it might be

CAG Member: What are the four locations for retention tanks?

Christos: 1) Western Area of Thomas Greene Park 2) Three private lots from the top of the canal on Nevins to Degraw. 3.) Salt lot and adjacent property currently bus parking 4) East Side of where correction facility is being built, occupied by private property

CAG Member: Will there be some synergy between state DEC MGP cleanup and the siting of the retention tanks

CAG Member: 4th street basin announcement seems like big news that we haven’t heard before, and does this mean that the work will go in two directions simultaneously after 4th street basin? Outreach committee would need to adjust their timeline

Christos: No, the top of the canal will be where the work begins after the pilot study and move south.

CLARIFICATION: Pilot study is in the 7th street basin and occurs in the Spring on the Park Slope side of the Canal.  Work begins in the 4th street basin, and then will go top to bottom

CAG Member: What does the data collection look like from a pedestrian standpoint

Christos: There will be barges, and equipment will be lowered into the canal that might use light, electrodes etc. Drilling and core samples will also be taken.

CAG Member: Has the community been notified that this is happening and that they should not worry if they see?

Natalie Loney: It’s not intrusive and its just preliminary, but the EPA can provide some materials for CAG members to send to their organizations

Christos: You should be the conveyers of information to the community, we have provided the information and we anticipate that you spread the word.

Natalie: We will provide basic language for you to get the message out

Brian Carr: We are in the basic stages of putting together a distribution chain regarding the set-up for canal users while the EPA is working in the Canal

National Grid Rep: In response to a request from our last workshop we have created some public information for people about what to expect to see/communicate

CAG Member: Will barges be able to get by the floating dock in the staging area?

Christos: It will require coordination, and this is the subject of continuous discussion with National Grid.

CAG Member: What about depth of canal?

Brian Carr: We will restore navigational capacity and so things that cant currently be barged in will be able to be

CAG Member: What are the working hours

Christos: We don’t have our subcontractors selected, but likely Monday to Friday and 7-5ish

CAG Member: Community members are worried about the contaminated soil being transported by truck out of the site, dust/dirt etc. We were told barging out wasn’t an option, but if the bridges will be fixed can we do that?

Christos: Because I wanted it to be done by then. I had many conversations and am working- we are talking about small quantities and we should be finished now

CAG Member: Concern about the trucks and the soil. Community doesn’t want more trucks or soil. Will be finished BEFORE the bridges are fixed


Update from Brian Carr, EPA Attorney, on PRPs

  • EPA issued orders in March and May to various PRPS in the city, and over the last ten months they have been meeting and fighting it out, and are very close to reaching an interim resolution on sharing costs and going through a mediation process to divide up the cost among themselves.
  • Current goal is that by September we will begin negotiations with all parties to pay for $500mllion cleanup. They are currently divvying up the design costs (30-50 mil)
  • If they don’t agree to negotiate, then EPA can just force them to do it anyway



CAG Member: Who are the PRPS

Brian Carr: List of all PRPS is on the webpage, 30+ parties: New York City, National Grid, Honeywell, Verizon. Will send the order.

CAG Member: Could a small company declare bankruptcy and get out of it?

Brian: The last company that declared bankruptcy paid us $4 million, and $15 million for cleanup of their properties. So no, one can’t get out of payment.





Reviewed applications, hasn’t done much.



  • No meetings since last Full CAG meeting.
  • Working on planning for large community update in Red Hook.
  • Seeking help with planning for this. No date for next meeting



  • No recent meetings, waiting for John Vetter



  • Riverkeeper and WQ members went to meeting that the DEC was holding on Water Quality classifications
    • Public hearing postponed and extended public comment periods about revising the WQ Classifications
    • MOTION: Proposal to submit a statement coming from the CAG as an organization including resolution to have the WQ classification increased to include harmful pathogens. Statement is in support of any action that helps us achieve our stated goal of improving canal water quality
      • Supports the DEC work to make two classifications (1, SD) of water bodies swimmable
      • Supports the CAG early goal of improving local water quality

MOTION PASSES: Unanimously

  • State quality classification proposes adding pathogen limits on water bodies, bc the EPA wants all water bodies to be swimmable even if its not being used for that.
  • Misunderstanding on how this plays into the fact that the DEP is suing the state over the reclassification of Alley Creek


Other Business

Strategic Planning

  • EPA hopes to get the CAG to be a standing organization with some sense of structure and leadership. How will the CAG move forward.
  • EPA wants the CAG to have the flexibility to take action, make and negotiate resolutions for action and approval on items that move quickly in the community.
  • EPA wants the CAG to be more effective in terms of flexibility, moving forward, and planning and achieving goals
  • Refashioning/Re-evaluating
    • Don’t want to leave the CAG in a position where it cannot move forward
  • Population of GOWANUS is increasing and new entities are moving into the neighborhood- the CAG needs to be a resource for the neighborhood and these newcomers
  • Dog and Pat have been exploring potential challenges and issues that need to be addressed as CAG
    • Timely information exchange
    • Systems to get info out


Interviews for NEW CAG MEMBERS

Applications reviewed in Fall 2014 (5)

  • Admin makes recommendation
    • Out of 5 applications, 4 mentioned an organization called FUREE and it appeared from these applications that it would need to be made clear who would be the official FUREE rep.
    • 2 are recommended, 3 had no ruling
      • Theresa Brown: FUREE rep
      • Joanne Brown: Member at Large
    • Point of Information on FUREE: Families United for Racial and Economic Equality
      • Longtime community organization working with job creation, wellness, and equity in new development
    • Beverly Corbin: FUREE representative
    • Theresa Davis: Member-at-Large
    • Nikiea Jones: Member-at-Large
      • Works with youth
    • Jewel Backer: Member-at-Large
    • Joanne Brown: NYCHA Communities United




ANNOUNCEMENT: Brad Lander will attend the 2/24 meeting to present the Bridging Gowanus framework. CAG should take a look at the draft on and prepare comments and questions for the next meeting


Summary of Actions

MOTION: Proposal to submit a statement coming from the CAG as an organization including resolution to have the WQ classification increased to include harmful pathogens. Statement is in support of any action that helps us achieve our stated goal of improving canal water quality

  • Supports the DEC work to make two classifications (1, SD) of water bodies swimmable
  • Supports the CAG early goal of improving local water quality

MOTION PASSES: Unanimously

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