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Gowanus Canal CAG Meeting
Tuesday, September 26, 2017
Mary Star of the Sea Senior Apartments, 41 1st Street


Doug Sarno opened the meeting at 6:35 p.m.

The August meeting summary was approved with no revisions.

The Gowanus Town Hall with Nydia Velázquez was tentatively re-scheduled for 11/16.

Project Updates (Christos Tsiamis, EPA Remedial Project Manager)

The second phase of the pilot study in the 4th Street Basin will begin in early October, not in August as previously scheduled. The potentially responsible parties (PRP) will conduct the activities associated with this project. The first phase of the work was conducted last year to remove debris; this phase is designed to study the planned dredging and capping system according to the clean up plan.

There will be equipment and barges in the 4th Street Basin. Preparatory dredging to create enough space to allow access for more equipment further into the 4th Street Basin is planned to begin October 5. The first activities will be to stabilize the shores. Bulkhead work should occur between 10/23 and 10/31 and continue into November. By the first week of December, dredging should be ready to begin. The dredging will occur over at least two months, capping should take place by the end of April or beginning of May 2018. During this work, there will be some barges moored in the canal and the canal will be narrowed, so you won’t be able to access the 4th Street Basin next to Public Place.

EPA will conduct a meeting with the PRPs in November to discuss the 65% design for the cleanup activities related to the dredging and the capping of the upper portion of the Canal. By this design phase, the scientific and engineering questions (e.g. what kind of cap, how will the sediment be treated, where will the sediment go) have to be answered.

By November, the designs of the upper canal bulkheads that have not been completed or planned by private groups will also be released. The PRP group will submit a draft final bulkhead design by mid October.

The aim is to use results from the 4th Street Basin pilot as lessons and apply them to the entire area. EPA will incorporate lessons from the pilot into the 95% design scheduled for February 2019. EPA will try to share the lessons learned from the pilot while the studies are being conducted and compiled. There are lengthy internal reviews.

New York City government’s role in the cleanup may look something like that at the 1st Street Basin, where the city took measurements, did work, and incorporated measures for EPA to review.

Quite a bit of contaminated soil removal is about to be completed at the Powerhouse site. A cap was installed there and reviewed by Brian and Christos from the EPA. This cap is more stringent than NYS Brownfields policy requires for site development, as EPA requires additional work to prove whether any contamination will continue there.

Bulkhead Collapses

At the Lowe’s site, EPA determined that a combination of weather conditions (including lots of rainfall) and poor infrastructure led to the bulkhead collapse

  • There is future potential for the same collapse to happen for the rest of the bulkhead
  • EPA recommended restoring the length of the bulkhead along the entire property
  • Similar to conditions at the 525 Smith Street bulkhead collapse
  • Work is progressing within timeframe of reconciliation.

EPA assumed oversight of the Fulton Wall where the former MGP was located, and two different storage tank locations are proposed.

  • EPA has met with National Grid
  • Preliminary design has been submitted
  • There is a subcontractor in place, and EPA is making sure that there is coordination between National Grid and NYC DEP, so the less complicated design choice has been selected
  • There wasn’t much happening with the bulkhead work because it depends on the materials of the bulkheads.

Questions and Answers

CAG: Where does DEC have control over the Fulton MGP site?
EPA: The EPA controls the construction of the bulkhead, overseeing and completing the order with National Grid, which interlocks with the same as NYC’s order from last year. There is work contingent on who controls the site (parcels 6 & 7). If the storage tank is along the Canal, it has EPA oversight. If the tank is in a park (City property), the oversight and control is done by New York City with EPA supervision. If the City does not acquire the land, DEC has more control.

EPA’s criterion for the MGP plan is that it cannot become a pollution source. Designing a wall is different. National Grid has accepted EPA’s recommendations on the wall design and width to Union Street. EPA wanted to leave as much free water as possible, and eliminate any escape of tar. These are different recommendations than DEC’s. EPA will bring the designs to the CAG by November if not before. The order signed with the City (April 25, 2017) dictates that DEC takes control of parcel 1 after construction.

CAG: Design commissioners explain how the tank next to the canal – design can mesh with historic buildings and park in a video – why was that tank location [mentioned in the video from NYC DDC, not EPA] not where we are hearing about it or a parallel design chosen?
EPA: EPA has not approved anything yet. For the Superfund project, the city doesn’t need all the approvals they’re getting. They need certain approvals for privately owned properties for eminent domain reasons. NYC goes through their own processes for EIS and land acquisition activities and EPA isn’t directly overseeing or correcting it, mostly monitoring the timely fulfillment of what EPA requires from them. If the city doesn’t work within the time frame (to preset two designs by 4/25/2018), it will have to abide by EPA’s initial recommendations. Consent agreements – DEP is doing what they are supposed to do to design for EPA and NYC. EPA doesn’t know what NYC DDC presented in that video because it was in relation to different obligations. EPA encourages NYC citizens to write to and follow up with NYC about certain specific aspects of the designs.

CAG: When is the next time it makes sense for the CAG to discuss the tanks?
EPA: We are still in the preliminary stages. EPA has to approve before it comes to the CAG, so NYC understands what the footprint will look like. Within that footprint there will be equipment. When there is agreement between EPA and NYC at the 65% design.

CAG: Do you have a date for the 1st Street Turning Basin work?
EPA: We would like the wall to be built in 2018.

CAG: Where will the 4th Street Basin October work be?
EPA: Work will be conducted in the water, not from shore. The straight part before it turns, from the turn all the way to the bridge.

CAG: Sediment disposal – is that something CAG will weigh in on? How will that be decided?
EPA: EPA’s method of sediment disposal: low-concentration will be mixed with cement so it cannot leach and used as landfill cover.; high-concentration materials will be sent offsite to be destroyed thermally (with heat). All sediment will be taken off site by barges. The barges will de-water the sediment for disposal. Public Place will be the staging area (same as for debris removal), as it is the only space large enough. Material from the 4th Street Basin will be transported there and then treated and staged for disposal.

CAG: The CSO tank that has been certified from NYC Department of City Planning will go to the ULURP process at Community Board 6 on October 26, then to the Borough President, and City Council.
EPA: For any design to be finalized it has to be approved by EPA – specifically Christos.

CAG: With 4th Street will there be a 5th Street? The straight part before it turns, from the turn all the way to the bridge, about 2/3rds of it. Doesn’t include if the turn will be capped.
EPA: No – that’s a separate project. They are incorporated but separate.

CAG: Is all the dredging technology identified?
EPA: The treatment and disposal technology is industry standard – known but there are still certain things to decide based on specific site conditions.

CAG Communication Plan Discussion

The Facilitation Committee drafted a new CAG communication plan. Each committee has the responsibility to maintain its own member lists and produce meeting minutes. The Facilitation Committee is seeking help in posting information, not opinions. They get information to Doug for the monthly e-blast. The press release list needs to be updated. There is a VIP list including agency officials that was put together more recently. It was decided that CAG resolutions should be finalized by committees and then sent to Doug to distribute according to the latest contact lists.

EPA noted that no spokesperson makes it hard for the media to report on what is happening. Once a month may not be sufficient because EPA gets asked and doesn’t have a point of contact or spokesperson about these matters.

Questions and Answers

CAG: Will EPA have any public signage at the 4th Street Basin?

EPA: Whole Foods wouldn’t allow us to have a table set up on their property. Signage won’t happen. If you look at 3rd Street there is private property on the other side. In terms of signage, it is unlikely.

CAG: How about under the bridge?

EPA: Will have to ask DOT – not on land, cannot put on private property. EPA will discuss fact sheet similar to the debris one if people come up during removal, contractor will share.

CAG: How do we decide what gets posted and what doesn’t [on social media or e-blast]? For instance sharing or posting this video from DDC.

EPA: There are 30 PRPs, let’s say one of them makes an announcement, do you share it? No, because it is just one entity. Things have to be approved. DDC is just one party within a larger party – it doesn’t mean anything for the long term until it is approved by the EPA.

Resolution to Request Damage Assessment on 10 Canal Sites

There is a Natural Resources Damage Assessment (NRDA) program to add funding for environmental restoration projects on the canal. The NRD Trustees presented to the CAG in the spring and we don’t know what is happening now.

This resolution helps identify sites that the community believes are important for environmental restoration and may help to speed up the process.


How far do the Sunset Park Piers extend? To Sunset Park?

Bushwick Inlet Park is between the two so they could increase the size – if we don’t do anything they’re going to put the restoration sites in Jamaica Bay. If the goal is to keep it close, there may be some more sites to add to the resolution.

There are greenspaces around public housing under NYCHA control – was that a discussion in selecting these sites? Eymund will share NYCHA spaces to include in the list, would like to see the resolution identify sites on a map.

This will not be the last opportunity to comment on NRDA. They will not be starting the process until after the cleanup is complete.

We are acting early because lots of communities miss the boat on natural resources and waterfront restoration.

Most of the Red Hook parks are outside of the watershed.

Canal Bed – outside watershed but aquatic restoration so waterfront doesn’t need to be within because it improves water quality.

There are miscellaneous public properties within the watershed.

By indicating that the list is “preliminary,” it doesn’t keep us from adding more sites later.

Could identify NYCHA properties within the watershed.

EPA: the ultimate settlement is between the Natural Resource Trustees and PRPs – it makes sense to talk to them about potential projects as well.


17 voting members were present, representing a quorum.

Motion to change to “preliminary sites” was passed.

Motion to add “Bush Terminal Park ”was passed.

Motion to add “NYCHA and public places” was passed.

Full resolution as amended was passed, 16 in favor, 1 opposed.

Committee Reports

Facilitation/ Outreach

With November 16 Town Hall date, the October meeting is important – Andrea to send facilitation meeting finding point person, email.

Land Use

David Briggs not here next Tuesday – can they skip a month? Yes.

Water Quality/Technical

Met last month, meeting October 2nd.

August meeting addressed the signage – the Newtown Creek sign is not ADA-compliant because the yellow is not outlined. Questionable whether including “Gowanus” on signs is good or if it becomes a target for thieves. Seeking input on sign so there can be a resolution next month; will be circulated. It is 11×17 and will be shared via email. Sign design will be coordinated with EPA.

The meeting adjourned at 8:27 p.m.

CAG Members Present

Sabine Aronowsky
Dave Briggs
Diane Buxbaum
Michelle de la Uz
Eymund Diegel
Marlene Donnelly
Nathan Elbogen
George Fiala
Rafael Gomez de Luna
Katia Kelly
Louis Kleinman
Hildegard Link
Eric McClure
Andrea Parker
Peter Reich
Brad Vogel
Maryann Young (alternate for Rita Miller)

Other Alternates

Mark Karkowski
Sue Wolfe

EPA and CAG Support
Doug Sarno, CAG Facilitator
Brian Carr, EPA
Christos Tsiamis, EPA
Natalie Loney, EPA

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