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Gowanus Canal CAG Meeting
Tuesday, November 29, 2016
Mary Star of the Sea Senior Apartments, 41 1st Street

CAG Facilitator Doug Sarno opened the meeting at 6:40 p.m. CAG members and guests introduced themselves.

The minutes of the October CAG meeting were approved.


  • Waterfront Alliance – Holiday Party Dec. 7, 2016 in office

EPA Updates

Christos Tsiamis, EPA Remedial Project Manager for the Gowanus Canal cleanup, provided the update.

4th Street Turning Basin Pilot Project

EPA has begun the debris removal pilot project near the basin next to the Whole Foods, which will take place for several months. The first phase of the pilot is for larger debris removal, and EPA has successfully removed all of the targets that were previously identified by sonar technology. During the dredging we also found a number of large rocks and some metal that were removed.

Overall, the project was successful from many points of view:

  • Able to move within small area of the basin
  • EPA took measurements around the basin for air monitoring every few minutes
  • No delays once we began the work.

Upon completion, we unloaded debris found in the canal which is still waiting for an assessment to decide if the debris can move off site.

EPA tried to remove sediment at the front portion of the basin – the mouth of the basin that joins the main canal. We dug two feet deep in order to evaluate different types of buckets for dredging the canal. The material that was moved was placed in containers in the canal and transported to Public Place, where it was mixed with cement to stabilize it – mix material to stabilize and determine if it is usable material elsewhere (landfills, etc). We are still reviewing the chemical tests to see if it is suitable for disposal in landfills.

A week ago, the EPA arranged a meeting with members of the press and other members of the committee to discuss their findings with the pilot. The EPA’s archaeologist team has reviewed photos of the objects that were removed. The general assessment is that nothing found there is of historical value.

  • The material will not be moved until some additional photo documentation can be taken for further review, there were found files, bricks, ceramic objects that could have been a part of the construction in general
  • The archaeology team wants to find more documentation throughout the dredging of the canal before concluding anything about their findings
  • Nothing salvageable from an archaeological point of view. There are requests from the community (museums, groups, etc) to have objects from the canal. Some future objects may be of importance, will be decided once found.

The actual dredging of the basin and the placement of the cap is forthcoming. The work is anticipated to be completed by late Summer 2017.

The First Street Basin

Part of the remedial design is to excavate the First Street basin, which is currently filled in. There will not be public access to the basin from the land, but there will be access to the excavated basin through the canal (via canoes, kayaks, etc). The City of New York says there will be no promenade. No private property owner has come forward to allow access in any other way along the canal. EPA met with the city, and the city is doing the work indicated under order of consent.

Retention Tanks

Kevin Clarke, NYCDEP, noted that the design contract for the tanks project began in July 2016. Work is underway to create designs for the Red Hook tank project, surveying properties and sampling. This work is almost complete.

  • Parcel 6 located on top of Canal on the east side collecting borings starting 11/30/2016.
  • Parcel 7 at the corner of Butler and Nevins St. collecting borings starting 12/6/2016.
  • Should take about two weeks each
  • The city will be conducting underground CCTV inspections near the park.

The potential for buildings to be demolished for the construction of the tanks will depend on their ultimate location which is not yet determined. If building demolition is necessary, the City would have to acquire the buildings through purchase or eminent domain by 2020. The City has been in contact with both property owners for the last few months for the construction of the Red Hook Tank. Building owners have granted full access for conduct tests. Next year there will have to be borings collected for environmental purposes, either by EPA or National Grid.

CAG Questions and Answers

CAG: What are the protections for residents near the Eastern Effects Tank?
EPA: The work is not near any of the residents.

CAG: Will the building near the Eastern Effects building with historical and aesthetic value be preserved possibly by the city?
EPA: Probably not, the building will still need to be demolished.

CAG Member: Why is the Eastern Effects Building being demolished?
EPA: For staging purposes.

CAG: Would the EPA would have to do work on Thomas Greene Park to clean up for environmental purposes?
EPA: Yes

CAG: What is the process for staging the area for the tank?
EPA: First public meeting should happen in late January.

CAG Will there be borings on the salt lot?
EPA: Yes, there will be additional borings during the design phase for the facility. Should happen outside of the existing structures. More borings along the water to format the construction.

CAG: Second thoughts about the tank and its location near water?
EPA: Would be the same in the park – most of EPA facilities are built adjacent to the water. Uplift needs to be designed for in general.

CAG: Do we have videos or media that could be put onto the CAG website as the process continues?
EPA: The EPA has media of the process for possible use on the CAG website.

CAG: Where has the debris that was removed been located?
EPA: The debris might be in NY or NJ

CAG: What do we call the group we are working with?
EPA: There are many firms, not a common language. Generally called PRPs [Potentially Responsible Parties].

CAG: Was the archaeology report created by the team we met at the basin?
EPA: Yes.

CAG: Will the 4th Street Basin be excavated similarly to the 1st Street Basin?
EPA: We completed an investigation over the summer and have not made a decision yet.

Proposed Resolution on Thomas Greene Playground

The Land Use Committee proposed a resolution to protect the trees located at the east end of Thomas Greene Park. EPA noted that it does not expect to conduct activities in the area of the Park where the trees are located, either for cleanup work or for anything else. EPA also asked that when drafting resolutions, use wording such as “requests” instead of the informal “asks” and that the CAG can not “require” action.

CAG Discussion

  • The consent order for the clean up has not been signed by National Grid yet (EPA will order National Grid to conduct the work either way)
  • Can the first sentence change from “may order” to “will order” or “intends to?”
  • The committee will review the language in the resolution – change from “require” to “urge,” change language referring to the cleanup
  • What are the processes for committees in the Gowanus Canal CAG in regards to resolutions? Can it be changed so that it is more efficient?
  • The Land Use Committee should review the resolution so that 2/3 of the committee can decide by January
  • It was questioned whether the inclusion of request for green infrastructure would be effective in a resolution for the EPA. Christos answered that the EPA has the obligation to restore the area as it originally is after any work that is done. The language needs to be framed in a way that is a request, not necessarily a demand. Just because it is included in the resolution, it does not mean that it will be included as part of the design.
  • It was noted that that the city also has a stake in deciding what happens to the park because of new storm-water laws, not just the EPA.
  • It was noted that the resolution should reflect the background and knowledge of the CAG in its language.


  • The resolution was tabled and will be revised and presented at the January 2017 meeting.
  • The CAG will discuss the overall process of building effective resolutions in the annual retreat portion of the January meeting as well.

CAG Committee Updates

Administration Committee

  • 22 organizations and 12 at large members responded to the annual survey
  • The committee must make a decision about CAG members who have not shown up
  • The application to join the CAG is currently not working because of some email glitches.

Archaeology Committee

  • Meeting next Monday
  • Battle of Brooklyn at the NY Historical Society about Gowanus

Land Use Committee

  • Mentioned above during Land Use Proposed Resolution

Outreach Committee

  • Met on Nov. 10th. Three people. Discussed using a future CAG meeting for EPA reorientation – will require a bigger venue, presentations for members of community with different levels of understanding about the project on the canal.

Water Quality and Technical Committee

  • Did not meet in November. Meeting on Monday December 5, 2016.
  • Will be looking at the proposal for BQX rail over the Gowanus

CAG Members Present

Jerry Armer
Sabine Aronowsky
Dave Briggs
Diane Buxbaum
Eymund Diegel
Sean Dixon
Marlene Donnelly
Rafael Gomez
Ben Jones
Katia Kelly
Louis Kleinman
Linda Mariano
Eric McClure
Stephen Kondaks (alternate for Red Hook Civic Association) Rita Miller
Maria Pagano
Andrea Parker
Peter Reich
Buddy Scotto

EPA, Staff and Presenters

Doug Sarno, Facilitator
Natalie Loney, EPA
Christos Tsiamis, EPA

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