Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group Meeting
Tuesday May 27th , 2014
41 1st St. Brooklyn NY 11231, Mary Star of the Sea, Community Room
Representative from Councilmember Brad Lander’s Office
There will be an urban-design workshop and urban-planning process workshop soon
EPA UPDATE: Christos Tsiamis, EPA Project Manager for the Gowanus Canal Cleanup
Record of Decision (ROD):
Formal ordinance has been signed with all Potentially Responsible Parties (PRPs), except the City of New York, and the design is moving forward with a unilateral order. Only Chevron has not complied. National Grid has been selected to take the lead, and EPA has prepared and will be submitting comments soon.
A pilot study will take place in the middle of the canal in one of the turning basins where the design will be tested. EPA is meeting with the City regarding its approach to the installation of retention tanks and the project at the 1st Street basin. There has not yet been agreement on the method of design or the timing of the project.
EPA meetings with Lightstone have produced satisfying agreements to carry out EPAs requests for clean up. Community members concerned about work on the site and potential for recontamination have received assurance from the EPA that all of the souls(?) have been tested. Christos assure the community that all work will happen to his satisfaction meaning that the contamination will be gone.
Q: How can you be sure that any agreement signed between the EPA and the City will be upheld? NYC has a long history of failing to comply?
A: Superfund has more legal powers to hold the city accountable for cleanup and will do so, no matter the difficulty.
Q: Are you working on the engineering design for the cap?
A: No, for everything – dredging, dewatering, etc.
Q: How will the dewatering impact bridge movement and bridge traffic? This seems like it could be a big issue for dewatering via barge and the transport of materials out.
A: The EPA and City are discussing the correct time frame for bridge use, as some are in various states of repair.
Q: Is the City retention-tank siting deadline still July 1?
A: No, this has moved, but decisions are imminent as the EPA continues to pressure the city,
Josh Levin from NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer’s Office
Comptroller’s office has started “Sandy Oversight Unit” to monitor all of the funding that comes from state and federal monies. Audits are going to be taking place to determine how to ensure funding is dispersed properly.
Q: How can the Comptroller’s office help the community get the City to comply in paying for the cleanup of the Canal?
A: The chief topic of this audit is going to focus on the spending of monies related to Sandy cleanup and recovery, but the office of the Comptroller has the charter mandate to audit city agencies to see where money is being spent and why, so it is possible that this may happen.
Q: Is an on-the-ground team reaching out to the entire community?
A: The office is working on launching an extensive outreach program presently.
Q: Build It Back was mainly about small single-family homes. Will this extend to multifamily housing?
A: The office is looking to create programs for all kinds of buildings and housing. The City has billions of dollars to spend to rebuild and recover, and it is the responsibility of the Comptroller to explore how that money is being spent and ensure that it is being spent wisely and given to people who need it the most.
Q: How much are you working with HUD?
A: We are focusing primarily on money given to the city but networking with a Federal agency has not yet occurred. Expect that HUD will have some insight where money given to the city is concerned.
A call for general participation in committees and meetings!
Last meeting on May 9th. Committee discussed organizing quarterly/bi-annual open houses. Proposing that sometimes those open houses would be part of the regular CAG session, or at other events. This would serve as a way to speak broadly about the work of the CAG to people who are interested in joining as members.
New resources have been posted on the website. No response from DEP Commissioner Emily Lloyd, invitation sent to her email address and in hard copy.
Complete press list is now in the Constant Contact account.
Next meeting June 5th at Old American Can Factory, 232 3rd Street, at 8:30 am.
Met over a new-member application, Joseph Alexiou. Recommends his being voted in, but he is on vacation; vote will occur at the June meeting.
Q: Is there any incentive to get people to show up to meetings?
A: We would love ideas. The Charter has information about when people get voted out, etc., and in September membership will be reevaluated.
Water Quality Committee
Letter went out.
Newtown Creek CAG meeting report: Department of Health (DOH) community health assessment. DOH wants a Newtown Creek Specific Fish Advisory, which they chose NOT to issue for Gowanus.
Natalie has some administrative housekeeping:
New facilitation: The goal of the new facilitation for the CAG was to ensure that the current CAG take more and more ownership of the CAG and the meetings. There have been many milestones, but there should be some deliberate reflection on what direction the CAG should go in. Within the next year work will begin on the Canal, and the CAG could see a renewed interest or influx of new interest, and it may be beneficial to consider what the future role of the group is now.
CAG Member: I think that Natalie is 100% right, as work gets done we will have new folks and it will be important to ensure that we have the materials ready to get them up to speed for this.
CAG Member: What about a large open house and educational opportunity to bring the community together when we have new updates?
CAG Member: Charter mandates that the CAG be a go-between for the Community and the EPA. How can we ensure this happens?
CAG Member: Getting the community out and about, perhaps offer some walking tours and visuals.
CAG Member: It seems as if the CAG’s original role was to help shape the ROD. Where are there continued opportunities to impact the project moving forward?
A: The EPA is now implementing what was in the ROD. Issues now include ‘tweaks’ and smaller issues.
CAG Member: Moving forward as the citizens’ police force that makes sure that the ROD takes place in all of the ways that the community is expecting this to happen, and that the law is carried out as it has been said it would.
CAG Member: Get the general public interested by having some kind of an event at the Douglass Street flushing tunnel mechanism.
CAG Member: I suggest we put our ideas to paper, and then get them up on paper and visually in front of us so that we can devote a considerable amount of time at the next meeting to consider what we want.
Doug Sarno: The CAG lacks structure, and has resisted it. Committees don’t meet, a lot doesn’t get done, but if the CAG wants to do organized tours and outreach and be a place where the community can come to for help, then the CAG needs some kind of structure to do something.
There are 60 people on the CAG, but the average attendance is about 15.
The Admin committee will be sending an email to ALL members to assess their interest in remaining members of the CAG. That way, a clear picture will emerge of who wants to continue to be a member, and who is interested but not attending,
Community Member: pointedly remarks on lack of community outreach, suggests we get some better outreach, and organization, because the CAG has not achieved any better organization in the last six months.
Community Member (from City Planning): Remarks on the cloudy process for where to direct questions from community members who have them and how that might move forward. Who will be responsible for what: EPA, other agencies, etc?
Summary of Actions
Topics for Future CAG meeting
The next meeting will feature a heavy discussion about the role and future direction of the CAG, including whether or not and how to give the organization structure in order to perform its duties, as the group decides it should.