Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group Meeting
Tuesday, March 29, 2016
Mary Star of the Sea Senior Apartments, 41 1st Street, Carroll Gardens
Introductions and CAG Updates
- It was noted that 21 full and alternate members were present at the start of the meeting representing a quorum. A 4/5 majority of those present is necessary to pass resolutions. Alternates have voting status if the members they’re representing are absent, but otherwise cannot be counted toward any votes.
- Ed Tyre from Gowanus Residents Association attended and indicated the organization’s intent to re-engage membership on the CAG and attend future meetings.
- February minutes were distributed to all members with the agenda; no changes were suggested. The motion to adopt the minutes was approved with 18 in favor, 2 abstentions.
EPA Update (Natalie Loney, Community Involvement Coordinator, EPA Region 2)
- EPA is still in the process of selecting the site for the retention tanks. The decision will be announced soon but there is no exact date.
Questions and Answers
CAG Member: When will selection be made?
Loney: We don’t know. There are still things that have to be resolved.
CAG Member: I thought EPA was going to start dredging and not wait on the tanks decision.
Loney: The remedy consists of multiple parts. The remedial design is still moving forward, which is the major focus of the CAG. The project is not delayed.
CAG Member: Once the deal is reached, does EPA plan to come and present to the CAG first or will there be a press conference? How will EPA inform the CAG?
Loney: We haven’t finalized any press strategy. It depends on the timing but the CAG will definitely be made aware.
CAG Member: When the siting decision is made, will there also be a determination as to when tanks will be built?
Loney: A timeline is part of the design; EPA will make the decision.
CAG Member: Does the announcement take place before or after legal agreement has been finalized?
Loney: EPA will make an announcement when a legal agreement has been reached.
CAG Member: Once EPA has made its decision, can there be a lawsuit if the parties are not in agreement?
Loney: There is a legal and technical component to this decision. Everything has to be complete when the decision is made. Just like the ROD is the final decision on the remedy, this is the final decision for the tanks location.
CAG Member: Is it expected that the legal language will not alter the ROD in any way?
Loney: The ROD dictated the remedy, including the tanks. This decision determines the location of the tanks. If you have specific legal questions you can send them to me or Brian.
Water Quality & Technical Committee (WQ/TC) Resolution
- Proposed Resolution to EPA Region 2 for a Public Comment on the CSO Tanks Decision
- Since the tanks decision could impact the ROD, the committee is calling for a 30-day public comment period as part of the process. No dissent in committee.
- The proposed resolution is included below, indicated as Appendix A.
Questions and Answers
CAG Member: If the EPA and NYC Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)/Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) are negotiating, what would a comment period achieve?
WQ/TC Member: If the decision can affect the ROD, a public comment period is allowed. In Red Hook, people said they didn’t want a containment facility and EPA chose an alternative, based on the public comment period.
Loney: Under the Superfund law, there is only one required public comment period for the ROD. However, others may be declared, if, for example, a remedy has been selected but technological advances mean that it should be altered. This is called an “explanation of significant difference.” This decision does not fall in that category and there is no requirement to have a public comment period during the remedial design.
CAG Member: Is it common for the ROD to be changed? Weren’t tank locations suggested in the ROD?
Loney: The siting of the tank is discussed in the ROD; the locations were not specified but suggested, which is typical. The Superfund process starts out general and gets more detailed at every juncture – the ROD is the blueprint. The resolution is requesting a comment period on the siting decision but public comment is not required at this juncture.
CAG Member: If we did request it and it took place, would the comments have impact like comments in the past?
Loney: Under the ROD process, there are nine criteria that EPA uses to evaluate a remedy, and community acceptance is one. We’ve looked at all nine criteria and this remedy has met all of them. Now there is no mechanism to evaluate it – we’ve already gone through the process of selecting the remedy and getting community acceptance.
CAG Member: Friends of Thomas Greene Park support this resolution. We’ve been advocating for temporary and permanent replacement facilities. There have been closed-door negotiations and we would like to ensure that our concerns are taken into consideration.
CAG Member: I am opposed to the pre-amble language, it seems belligerent.
CAG Member: The time period is short enough that it doesn’t affect this process. Is there any way to know the impact of the public comments? If it hasn’t been done before, is there a possibility that this will have no impact?
Loney: There is no mechanism; we’ve already gone through the process of community acceptance. I don’t know how the comments would be folded into the decision.
CAG Member: I’d like to add that the community has changed significantly and is also a very large and diverse community. It’s like taking the temperature – the cleanup affects so many of us.
Loney: I am not trying to dissuade you but this is uncharted territory.
WQ/TC Member: The advantage is that it would become part of the public record of how EPA conducts this process.
CAG Member: The siting of the tanks has been controversial, so it’s worth having a public discussion about it.
CAG Member: This resolution is vague. It assumes that there might be or will be some changes to the ROD. What if there is no change to the ROD?
CAG Member: I’d like to introduce an amendment: strike the first paragraph and let the second paragraph stand as the resolution.
WQ/TC Member: We’ve submitted recent text that is more concise.
WQ/TC Member: [Reads revised text] I’d like to make an amendment that we change the preamble to the text I read.
CAG Member: I would have to ask for postponement to bring it back to Friends of Thomas Greene Park. If we’re going to amend the resolution, we should include both tank sites, not just the northern one.
CAG Member: Let’s strike preamble and vote on second paragraph rather than postpone.
Doug Sarno, CAG Facilitator: If a founding organization asks to postpone, we’ll postpone. That is a provision in the charter: a founding organization has the right to ask for a postponement of 30 days.
CAG Member: Let’s withdraw that amendment and go back to just approving the second paragraph.
WQ/TC Member: We accept friendly amendment to strike preamble and vote on the second paragraph.
The resolution as amended was approved with 18 in favor, one opposed, and 2 abstentions.
Land Use Committee (LUC) Resolution
- The committee met on March 1 and decided to make a statement on siting of tanks and transparency of the process. The goal is for eminent domain to not be part of the process. We want to encourage cooperation between Alloy, DEP and DPR.
- The proposed resolution is included below, indicated as Appendix B.
Questions and Answers
CAG Member: The Water Quality Committee resolution indicates lack of trust. This is an improvement because it asks all agencies to make an agreement.
CAG Member: Number 5 and 6 are not EPA’s job. It’s up to the city to make good on the park that they put on a contaminated site in the first place. I would ask that we remove EPA from number 5 and 6.
LUC Member: We’re just urging the EPA – this is our opinion.
CAG Member: In number 5 – I assume you mean both temporary and permanent loss of community resources – this needs clarification. I would drop EPA from number 6 because the park is a city facility.
LUC Member: We’re trying to set the groundwork, whatever they agree to, that allows this to happen. We don’t want them to decide on something that prevents 5 and 6.
CAG Member: I ask to include an item about community facilities and amenities. Whatever decision comes into play should not impose on additional aquatic habitat. The Lightstone video shows people fishing and doing a lot of recreation; aquatic habitat needs to be protected.
CAG Member: I don’t understand number 2. What’s being installed? What’s been installed already?
LUC Member: Whenever this retention tank is put in, and that may happen after some of this work is done, should not affect other remedies and dredging that happen first.
Loney: You don’t want the installation of the tank to negatively impact the work that has already been done in the Canal.
LUC Member: With regard to the proposed amendment [aquatic habitat], we did not discuss that in committee, so I will ask for a 30-day postponement.
CAG Member: We discussed this item online and I asked that this item be included.
CAG Member: Assuming there’s a possibility that the best solution for the tank site might require the use of eminent domain and remembering this is purely advisory, I’m not sure I’d want to tie the city’s hands.
CAG Member: The use of eminent domain here is problematic with respect to the timeline, not the public purpose.
CAG Member: The word “urges” in number 5 is great but the word “guarantee” is problematic.
CAG Member: If you add “with DPR or National Grid and other responsible parties” in number 5, that would be great. Regarding number 2 – we might want to strike that because we’re not sure what we’re actually talking about.
CAG Member: [reads suggested revised text for #2]
CAG Member: Walter Mugdan (of EPA) said that if the city was not done with the head tank in time, they would clean up whatever they messed up, if the dredging was done.
LUC Member: We don’t want them to have to do that.
Doug Sarno: If you want to include the aquatic habitat issue, there is a request to ask for postponement, does the CAG want to hold up the entire resolution or deal with that separately?
CAG Member: I don’t understand the objection to allowing that item. I think that’s a vital part here and impacts the decision on the holding tanks.
CAG Member: I don’t think the aquatic habitat is a time-sensitive issue. A decision between DEP/Alloy etc., will be made in the next month and this resolution covers most of what we discussed. This topic deserves discussion at the committee level; it will not have significant impact if it’s not included.
CAG Member: I agree. In this case, for the motion without the aquatic habitat, it is a big deal to wait 30 days because we don’t know when EPA is going to reach that decision. It’s not going to get lost; the next Land Use meeting is April 5th. This motion should be passed.
CAG Member: Aquatic habitat might be better suited for a Water Quality Committee resolution as opposed to Land Use. I would support a separate resolution for next month.
CAG Member: It’s land taking over aquatic habitat so it pertains to Water Quality and Land Use.
CAG Member: Could the engineering of the tank siting add land or take land? If it can, then it should be in here.
CAG Member: The engineering could be such that we substantially step into the water. A resolution that we do not step into the water should be one of the design criteria.
CAG Member: It’s an important topic but it needs to be clarified. The motion is time sensitive.
CAG Member: Nothing is going to be engineered in the next 30 days.
CAG Member: Numbers 5 and 6 urge “responsible parties”…
Doug Sarno: Be aware that “responsible parties” has very specific definition under Superfund.
CAG Member: What’s wrong with “all relevant parties”?
LUC Member: Add Parks and National Grid.
LUC Member: Instead of “develop solution,” let’s say “reach an agreement.” If EPA and DEP can reach an agreement, that allows DPR and National Grid to design and build a community resource.
CAG Member: EPA is not going to be telling DPR and National Grid what to do, right?
Loney: EPA will not be involved in the design of the pool and reconstruction of the park. Our involvement is really only in the areas that will involve the remedy, i.e., to ensure that any pool design will not impact the remedy.
CAG Member: Walter Mugdan and Brian Carr (EPA attorney) said EPA would add language to ensure that.
LUC Member: I’m going to try different language: “Does not interrupt the continuous use…”
CAG Member: …either onsite or in a temporary facility.
CAG Member: It’s very different to say “guarantees no interruption” than to say “no loss.”
Dan Wiley (representing Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez): Walter Mugdan said that EPA can compel the city to provide the interim pool before it gets taken away.
CAG Member: It needs to say DPR and National Grid.
CAG Member: The city of New York is responsible for putting in the replacement pool.
CAG Member: DPR should be listed as the responsible agency.
CAG Member: I would suggest the City because we don’t know what other agencies will get involved.
CAG Member: We can’t include private property owners in statements like #1 because we can’t hold them responsible. There should be absolute transparency and openness with all documents.
CAG Member: Should we take out “owners of private property?”
CAG Member: Yes.
CAG Member: I will withdraw my eminent domain concerns if we can get to a vote on the resolution.
LUC Member: The resolution as amended was read.
The resolution as amended was approved with 18 in favor, none opposed, and 2 abstentions.
The next Land Use meeting is April 5th at the Gowanus Canal Conservancy.
The next Water Quality/Technical meeting is April 4th at Mary Star of the Sea Apartments.
Water Quality wants to bring a resolution about the coal-tar site and holding-tank impacts on the community. WQ/T would like to advertise through school systems that local children should go to summer camp through the Fresh Air Fund for the entire period of holding-tank installation. This might motivate the city to complete the tanks faster and implement more extensive measures like providing children Metrocards to attend other schools.
CAG Member: Health does not come under Water Quality/Technical Committee in the charter.
Archaeology will reconvene when they figure out where they’re going with Section 106.
Dan Wiley: The Union Street Bridge needs to be replaced. CB6 was going to have a meeting about it. It hasn’t been rescheduled but might be relevant.
CAG Member: DOT was supposed to come in March but their presentation was not ready. They will most likely come in April.
The Outreach Committee discussed communication strategy for the CAG in their meeting. All minutes through September have been posted to the site. Once the resolutions discussed tonight are finalized, they can be sent to Outreach. The CAG should not wait until they’re sent to EPA before we post.
CAG Member: Did you post the full CAG application on the website?
Committee Member: We need to purchase a plug-in for the form. In the meantime, we could put a PDF of the application on the website.
All third-party articles have been removed from the website. There was a lot of discussion as to whether we should post third-party articles, which would probably require redesigning the site due to the limitations of WordPress. We talked about including an RSS feed on the site and limiting it by Google search terms.
We discussed resurrecting the CAG Google Group which would help facilitate communication and emails. We also discussed creating a quarterly CAG newsletter. We would need access to the larger CAG list (~400 people). George Fiala and Natalie could be involved in that.
Outreach will come back to the CAG in May with a draft set of proposals for improved communication.
CAG Member: I suggest that every CAG organization provide their URL or email address and we put it on the website.
Ben Jones, a local business owner, board chair of the Gowanus Canal Conservancy, and member of the district’s participatory budgeting and environmental committee applied for CAG membership. After discussion with the CAG, his membership was approved; Ben will join the Admin Committee.
Loney: April is Earth Month and the interest in the Gowanus Canal always peaks around April so be prepared to respond very effectively to communications.
Summary of Actions/Motions
- February minutes accepted without changes.
- Water Quality/Technical Committee resolution amended and approved
- Land Use Committee resolution amended and approved
- Ben Jones’s CAG membership application accepted.
CAG Members (24)
Michelle de la Uz
Sean Dixon (alternate Jeremy Chesson)
Rafael Gomez de Luna
John McGettrick (alternate Stephen Kondaks)
Doug Sarno, Facilitator
Natalie Loney, EPA
Gowanus Canal CAG Water Quality/Technical Committee Resolution
Proposed Resolution to the EPA Region 2 for a Public Comment Period on the CSO Tanks Decision
Final revised text 3-16-16:
At the January 2016 General CAG meeting, the representative from EPA Region 2, Walter Mugdan, presented information on proposed design measures for the in-line sewage tank which is to manage discharges from DEP CSO Outfall RH-034. Mr. Mugdan also affirmed that the EPA will be incorporating the cleanup of the upland contamination form the Fulton Municipal Works Manufactured Gas Plant located in Thomas Greene Park into its actions. Mr. Mugdan’s presentation indicated that impending EPA decisions on tank-siting locations may significantly impact the timeframe and remediation goals for the Canal, key aspects of this Superfund cleanup which have long been held as top priorities by the community and the CAG (namely, clean up the site – and upland sources of contamination – as quickly and as thoroughly as possible).
The CAG believes that pending EPA actions (and subsequent action or inaction by New York City) may, in effect, change the Record of Decision. Therefore, given that such a change warrants an official Public Comment Period, the CAG hereby resolves and requests that the EPA include a Public Comment Period as part of any CSO tank agreements made with New York City, and for any impending actions effecting upland Fulton MGP site remediation plans.
Gowanus Canal CAG Land Use Committee Resolution
Draft Resolution on the Proposed Siting of the Retention Tank, Head House, and Related Facilities at the North End of the Gowanus Canal
Whereas the United States Environmental Protection Agency [EPA] and the New York City Department of Environmental Protection [DEP] are currently discussing the siting of a retention tank, head house, and related facilities [the Facilities] at one or more of the following properties: 234 Butler Street, 242 Nevins Street, the Thomas Greene Park, or other directly adjacent properties [the Properties];
Whereas the siting and installation of the Facilities are directly impacted by the planned coal tar remediation of the former site of the Fulton Manufactured Gas Plant;
Whereas the proposed solutions presented by the EPA and DEP to date contemplate a timeline of four to ten years to complete the construction of the Facilities, depending on their location and possible acquisition of private property; and
Whereas the coal tar remediation and location of the Facilities will potentially displace a vital community resource currently provided at the Thomas Greene Park for an undetermined length of time; now, therefore, be it Resolved, that the EPA Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group [CAG]:
- urges the EPA and the DEP to undertake a transparent process in the ongoing discussions with owners of private property prior to reaching an agreement so that the CAG may understand the mitigating factors affecting a final agreement;
- urges the EPA and DEP to reach an agreement that does not compromise any remedies to the combined sewer overflows and coal tar contamination that have been installed prior to the coal tar remediation and installation of the Facilities;
- urges the EPA and DEP to reach an agreement that adheres as close as possible to the schedule proposed in the EPA’s Record of Decision;
- urges the EPA and DEP to reach an agreement that does not require acquiring privately- owned land by exercise of the power of eminent domain in New York State;
- urges the EPA and DEP to develop a solution that guarantees no loss of the vital community resource at the Thomas Greene Playground and Pool by constructing a temporary facility that is acceptable to the community and is operational before remediation and construction of the Facilities; and
- urges the EPA and DEP to include the planning, design, and development of a year-round community resource that, at the minimum, meets the programming, active, and passive recreational activities currently provided at the Thomas Greene Playground and Pool.
Prepared by David Briggs, Land Use Committee Chair, March 21, 2016