Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group Meeting
Tuesday February 25, 2014
41 1st St. Brooklyn NY 11231, Mary Star of the Sea, Community Room
CAG Members Present
Michelle de La Uz
New York City has sued the State over the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s directive that the city increase final water quality outcomes such as upgrading classifications and standards as the endpoint of Long-Term Control Plans.
Update from the EPA
- Reached out with regard to the Gowanus bridges. There is funding for repairs and that involves two types of work: above and below water level.
- EPA will be able to work with the City to expedite the process.
Met to review a new member application, but there was no quorum to be able to vote.
- Focus on making website a viable informational tool.
- Need assistance on upkeep, or having new help. Time and person-power are big issues getting things updated.
- Outreach to elected officials to attend meetings, and invitations for specific elected tonight.
- Next meeting will be a Thursday evening.
- Logos and taglines were submitted, will be sent around as a package.
- Alternative locations for meetings to get more community members – specifically Wyckoff Gardens.
- Committee formed to draft a letter to the NYTimes in response to OpEd to change Superfund Law.
- Outreach with regard to Bridging Gowanus participants about CAG and information
- Eymund Diegel & Brooklyn Preservation Council:
- NY Times features renderings of proposed 1st Street basin, and Marylander site
- Proposals will be asked for soon with regard to the commemoration of the Battle of Brooklyn
- Letter written to DOT from the CAG with regard to bridge maintenance. Circulated, no comments from CAG received – the letter will be sent ASAP.
- City has submitted a request with the Army Corps for dredging, curious about why the City would dredge the Canal if the EPA would be doing that due to Superfund cleanup. Comment period ends 27th of this month.
- Letter drafted to request public hearing on why the City would use taxpayer dollars.
- The dredging is related to the operation of the Flushing Tunnel, and would be interim dredging.
- DEP clarified: This was ordered by the state prior to the Superfund site, attempting to decide how to integrate the two projects.
- EPA: There has been no coordination. EPA will send comment on the project to the Army Corps.
- Does the Superfund Record of Decision trump the Army Corps of Engineers?
- NYC is the agency that would be undertaking the dredging under an order from NYS
- If the Corps issues a permit, then the dredging can go ahead? Not clear at this point.
Council Member Steve Levin
- His district includes the top two blocks of the Gowanus. He is supportive of the Superfund project, wants to make sure that this work is done right. The new DEP Commissioner (Emily Lloyd) should be great.
- Several years ago the Douglass DeGraw Pool (city pool, community resource) was saved. That it is chosen as a spot for the retention tanks raises concerns. There is also an MGP site nearby.
- Wants to make sure that all aspects of pollution contributing to the Gowanus are addressed, and that all PRPS are doing what they are supposed to do. Would like to see other potential sites considered for retention tank. Wants to make sure that pool stays a pool and the park is not disrupted as a park. Wants to make sure that all pollution aspects are addressed: includes CSOs and that is thoroughly addressed in this process and if that means that retention tanks are needed I defer to the wiser judgment of the EPA.
- Wants to be sure that who is paying for what is clear, and that there is liability in this process, and that all interested parties have a say.
Q: DEC has to dig up the pool to deal with MGP site?
- As far as Levin is aware DEC has not said they need to dig up the pool.
Q: How can we ensure that the pool once taken out would be replaced – who do we pressure/ask/gain power?
- Make sure that all stakeholders hear that this is a priority: direct at City (Council Members, Mayor, Parks Dept., etc.)
- Work with other PRPs to negotiate what goes where to possibly save the pool if need be.
Q: City is responsible for siting tanks?
- Christos Tsiamis (EPA Project Manager for Gowanus Canal Cleanup): EPA suggests locations and gives the city the flexibility to suggest alternate locations, but ultimately it is an EPA decision. City has hired contractors and therefore the process is moving forward.
- With regard to contamination of the park, feasibility study is still under way but work will be done on the park, and the fact of the matter is that there WILL be work done on that site no matter what.
- Potential for the city to provide new open space between the park and the canal – new pool can be built on that site prior to the current pool being demolished for remediation, the park can be sized to the city open space standards
Q: How do we in the community address Mayor de Blasio’s political record that seems counter to the health of Gowanus? How do we ensure that the de Blasio administration will not steamroll the community?
- Make sure to talk to the Mayor directly, as well as DEP Commissioner.
ACTION: Invite new DEP Commissioner Emily Lloyd to April CAG meeting.
Q: Use of rainwater tanks as a Superfund solution instead of sewage overflow tanks?
- EPA can suggest where tanks of any kind can go. Carroll Park can become part of the Superfund site for the purposes of the work that the EPA is doing.
Q: What would process be for recommendations for rainwater collections look like?
- The City has a program for green infrastructure and the EPA has discussed this with the City with regard to their green infrastructure (to reduce CSOs by 15% citywide).
Q: Suggestion is that Superfund tell DEP to add rain tanks to city properties for retention tanks.
- The Record of Decision (ROD) has already occurred.
- 200 million gallons of retention for sewage overflow will not compare appropriately to the current Carroll Park CSO issues.
- During flood events other tank pumps have failed – if we design them better it will not be a problem.
Council Member Brad Lander
Excited to work with Emily Lloyd to appropriately site the CSO retention tanks. Excited to pair the retention tanks with land-use questions and the City’s long-term efforts to improve water quality.
Q: First resolution of CAG was to request water-quality reclassification that included a limit on pathogens. CAG members disappointed in what appears to be a too-low standard for the water quality
- Brad is not currently prepared to commit to insisting to reclassification yet because there is not a Long-Term Control Plan for Water Quality in the area.
Q: Can we connect questions of land use around the canal to include more commitment from NYC agencies to develop a long-term plan that seeks continual improvement in the neighborhood?
- Bridging Gowanus and other efforts from Brad seek to reunite land use and long-term planning with issues of water quality in Gowanus.
- Brad unable to comment yet as to new city administration direction.
Q: EPA asked why not have the City cover, for an incremental cost, 100% of overflows?
- Lots of opportunities to get zero net overflows, but it is important to remember there are many watersheds and hundreds of overflows all over the city.
- CAG noted that Gowanus has a greater volume of pathogens so should be given priority.
Q: How can we mix Bridging Gowanus and the CAG?
- The Bridging Gowanus framework is not a space to debate Superfund process, but Brad will encourage people to come to CAG meetings, etc.
Q: The community is begging for a hydrological study to determine the impact of development and flooding for properties that are raised vs. not raised.
- We should look at hydrology together with recommendations from SIRR and other city initiatives.
Q: Can we make guidelines stronger and require all properties to be compliant? How can we use this opportunity to create a model for the way that other coastal communities will handle the reality of climate change and changing hydrology? It is hoped that this administration will embrace this opportunity.
- It is important to remember that neighboring communities will have to partner with others in order to address parallels and issues that impact those communities, or that what happens in one can impact the other (Gowanus/RedHook issues)
Q: In NYC, the law gives very little say to communities in Land Use decision. Some kind of method for a vote a la participatory budgeting for land use? ULURP process is perceived as a joke.
- Bridging Gowanus is supposed to be that model. Able to offer more than simple yes or no answers.
Q: The strongest proposals that come before the City Planning Commission come from communities where there was consensus before the ULURP process began. Testimony is very important.
Q: It is not clear where Bridging Gowanus is going.
- The goal is to develop as much consensus as possible. Step 1 is about shared values and goals. Step 2 is to create working groups to develop a set of ideas to advance these values. Step 3 is how do we talk about those spaces where there is less consensus and how do we talk about both sides of any debate.
- This will all be used to inform Brad and his land-use policy.
Q: Can we get rid of the Board of Standards and Appeals?
- It is in the City Charter – would take vote of all NYers
Q: How can the CAG relate to the Bridging Gowanus project if the CAG is limited to the Gowanus cleanup?
- Brad wants to think about some kind of tighter connection.
- Many CAG members (show of hands almost universal) also attend Bridging Gowanus meetings, which is meaningful.
- Brad will link Natalie Loney’s TED talk to the Bridging Gowanus website.
Q: Can designation can be used to leverage higher standards for cleanup/retention?
- Perhaps we can write it into the zoning to be compliant
Q: A lot of work starting in areas that are not part of the catchment area. Can we begin a conversation about how work in places like Atlantic Yards? Can we see the larger picture despite the funding being contained.