The Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group’s Land Use Committee met on Tuesday, May 2, 2017, in the offices of the Gowanus Canal Conservancy at 543 Union Street.

Committee Members present:

David Briggs, Rafael Gomez de Luna, Katia Kelly, Rita Miller, Andrea Parker, Peter Reich, Triada Samaras, Deb Scotto, Sue Wolfe, Maryann Young


Terri Thomson, National Grid

Item 1

Research was presented on the presence of mosquitos and rats in salt marshes and concerns were raised that this could be a community health concern in the Gowanus neighborhood.

It was pointed out that salt marshes clean/filter water through the process of phytoremediation and support wildlife that eat mosquitos.

Question: are there other salt marshes in NYC and have they increased the nearby mosquito and rat populations?

There are salt marshes in Inwood and Alley Pond.


It was agreed that further study is required to fully understand if there are community health impacts of new salt marshes.

Item 2

The April 19 email from the NOAA Habitat Restoration Specialist, Carl Alderson was reviewed. A question was raised about whether Gowanus’s lost ecosystem (oysters, crabs, birds) that was partially re-established in the late 1990s when the pumping station was working could be restored under the NRDA.

Other points/questions on the applicability of the NRDA were raised including a) how to define a waterway that has been continuously damaged by its use for transport and industry (e.g. coal tar and CSOs) and b) what level of cleanliness is required by the Clean Water Act and how does this fit into NRDA requirements?

One “big idea” is to implement infrastructure projects across the Gowanus watershed to help eliminate CSOs.

For proposed infrastructure projects under the NRDA, can a maintenance budget be included?

Another big idea: creating a Gowanus Museum that speaks to the political and community will to create a restored Gowanus ecosystem. The museum could include a history of the canal, a research center, information related to the Superfund cleanup, etc.  Honeywell’s Onondaga Lake Visitors Center is a good example and was designed and built by Honeywell to provide the public with access to the significant work taking place by scientists, engineers, and skilled craft laborers from the surrounding area.


Committee will decide how to best present these and other questions/suggestions to the NRDA trustees.


Gowanus Canal CAG Meeting
Tuesday, April 25, 2017
Mary Star of the Sea Senior Apartments, 41 1st Street


Doug Sarno opened the meeting at 6:30 PM.
The March meeting summary was approved with no revisions.

Project Updates (Christos Tsiamis, EPA Project Manager)

We have differences of opinion about schedules that came up fairly recently. I had given National Grid a schedule for the Canal; the deadline for design completion is end of summer 2017. We have three design stages: 35%, 65%, and 95%. The 35% design was due in October 2016 and they met that deadline. It was not reasonable to ask for six months to complete the 65%, and six additional months to complete the 95%. I was getting schedules that were not to my satisfaction and could not assess the progress of the work. Finally, I directed the group to give me a schedule to compare with the one we had, which I received two months ago.

  • There is a big difference in the schedule for summer work (the end of the pilot which started with removal of debris, and will now will finish with removal of sediment and capping of the 4th St Basin next to Whole Foods). I had wanted this completed by the end of the year, but the schedule now goes into 2018. I still believe it can be done.
  • This schedule difference gets magnified in the overall design for remedy, which has to do with how we approach the project. The 100% design is now expected February 2019, according to group schedule.
  • What does this mean? You saw a press release talking about completion in 2022. After design completion in February 2019, we would have to prepare bids and an RFP, so it would be 2020 before we get started with the cleanup. We have estimated it will take 2 years for RTA1, RTA2, and RTA3 each, so we are now going into 2026 to complete that part of the cleanup. We have two other sites, and if we add a year to each, conservatively speaking, we are going to the end of the next decade (2030).

Our principle from the beginning was to build from work that already exists (for example, USACE) and add what’s necessary for us to exercise good engineering judgment and make decisions. For example, EPA spent a lot of time and couple of million dollars to do the in-situ stabilization pilot study in 2015. That is not what is happening with the work EPA is seeing now which forces me to send an email to them saying “stop – you’re wasting your money and my time.” The group has chosen to repeat things, which slows down the work.

One important thing, before we start dredging and capping is to fix the bulkheads in the Canal. From our perspective, it makes sense to go out there and do that. Brian and I have gone and spoken all these years to individuals and prepared orders – we’ve been successful in completing a number of bulkheads, and new constructions will occur in the near future. We are separating the tasks, but National Grid and the group for the 4th Street Basin are talking about getting a general contractor to do all the work that needs to be done. That’s not necessary: you can decouple the bulkhead construction from the rest of the work.

Combining them is not better for the project – it only magnifies the difference in overall project schedule. We are not happy about this – I’m doing everything in my power to push the work forward, and have issued a number of directives in the last month – one is to send me the engineering drawings for bulkheads in the 4th Street Basin.

This brings me to the question about the budget. One thing that came out of the last meeting is that we eventually found some money, but what will be available to us will bring us to about the end of the summer. The design with the City, by the order, goes to April 2020. So for now, we have another 3 years, with 2 to 2.5 years for the design of the Canal. You can do the math to figure out how much money we’ll need. This will be an issue continuously until we get additional funds. We are looking at 2 or 3 PRPs who have not settled, but there is no rush on their part to settle, so we can’t tell you if we’ll have an agreement in the next nine months. We will continue the work in the Canal and we’ll leave it to DEP to describe the progress we’re making in the design of the tanks and the 1st St Basin.

Read more »

Please note that the next general meeting of the Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group will take place on Tuesday, August 1, at 6:30 p.m., at Mary Star of the Sea, 41 1st Street, in Carroll Gardens.

This is a deviation from our regular fourth-Tuesday-of-the-month schedule. There will be no regular August meeting later in the month.

The CAG will resume its regular monthly meeting schedule on September 26.

Please note that the Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group Outreach Committee meeting originally scheduled for June 9th at 8:30 a.m. has been postponed.

We’ll post a new date to the calendar as soon as we’re able to reschedule.

Gowanus Canal CAG Meeting
Tuesday, March 28, 2017
Mary Star of the Sea Senior Apartments, 41 1st Street


Doug Sarno opened the meeting at 6:30 PM.
The February meeting summary was approved with no revisions.

Project Updates (Christos Tsiamis, EPA Project Manager)

  • Fourth Street Basin – Last fall’s pilot involved debris removal, as part of larger pilot that will be complete with the dredging and capping of the portion of the basin next to Whole Foods; right now EPA has the 50% design for that portion of the pilot and is looking to complete it in the coming months. We anticipate being out in the basin and doing work in summer, depending on the schedule. The work will involve installing bulkheads to support the dredging, then dredging the basin, removing the material, and treating it on a barge at Public Place. Once the material is stabilized, it will be sent offsite, as described in the Record of Decision (ROD). Once we’re finished dredging, we will cap that portion of the basin, which will complete cleanup for that part of the Canal.
  • The First Street Basin, located adjacent to the Powerhouse property, is filled in. The ROD calls for excavation and the basin will be restored to waterway once EPA is done. We are working with the city to finish the design in the coming months; the goal is to start construction by the end of the year or early next year.
  • The Powerhouse property is not part of the Superfund site but does have a PCB problem. It’s being cleaned up under the NYS Brownfields program, but EPA wants the site cleaned to levels that won’t turn it into a source of recontamination of the Canal. We will keep the CAG posted.
  • The design of the entire upper Canal cleanup (RTA) involves similar aspects to the Fourth Street Basin, but is more complicated because we need to stabilize the banks so that when the dredging happens, there’s no collapse. The properties are individually owned and every bulkhead reconstruction has to be done in co-operation with the property owners. In cases where the owners are not willing to do the work, EPA will coordinate with PRPs to make sure the design and construction will be on time for all the different bulkheads north of the Fourth Street Basin and the start of dredging, in late 2018.
  • EPA goals are based on what we think is a reasonable allocation of time for engineering projects; the parties we work with have different schedules, which requires lots of discussion to reconcile.
  • Bulkhead restoration and reconstruction involves many legal arrangements between EPA and the owners, and EPA and PRPs. Brian Carr (EPA attorney) will describe what kind of work is involved.

Read more »

At its April 25, 2017 general meeting, the Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group passed the following resolution, originally proposed by the CAG’s Archaeology Committee.

Henry Willems
NYS Department of Environmental Conservation Division of Environmental Remediation 625 Broadway
Albany, NY 12233-7017

By Email:

Site Name: Gowanus Canal Northside
Site Code: C224080
Program: Brownfield Cleanup Program

The following comments have been prepared by the Archaeology Committee and approved by the full Gowanus EPA Community Advisory Group for consideration as part of the DEC lead cleanup of contamination on this site.

There is reason to believe that this brownfield site may have significant archaeological remains from the events that took place during the August 1776 Battle of Brooklyn. The area is noted as the place where General Washington’s army operated Fort Box, a one-gun fort to guard the Freek’s mill-pond passage across the Gowanus Creek. Maps from 1776 indicate this passage across the creek met solid ground on the west side at the location of your C224080 cleanup site.

Historic references, both maps and historical documents, state that Fort Box was located in the vicinity of present-day Sackett and DeGraw streets on the western side of the Gowanus, which is the same area as the proposed brownfield clean up.

An eyewitness account of the 1776 Battle of Brooklyn, as seen from the west side of the Gowanus, near Fort Box, was given by a Private Joseph Martin in a book he wrote in 1830 under the title, A Narrative of Some of the Adventures, Dangers and Sufferings of a Revolutionary Soldier. The present-day historian, David McCullough, referenced Private Martin’s writings in his book, 1776.

Read more »

The Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group’s Land Use Committee met on Tuesday, April 4, 2017, in the offices of the Gowanus Canal Conservancy at 543 Union Street.

Committee Members present: David Briggs, Rita Miller, Andrea Parker, Peter Reich, Triada Samaras, Sue Wolfe, Maryann Young

Item 1

Could the 7th Street and Lowe’s turning basins become salt marshes? After some discussion, it was agreed that they should be included in the list of areas that the NRDA trustees consider for restoration.


The committee will compile a list of areas and contact the trustees.

Item 2

Questions from committee member: “What are salt marshes?” and “Do they increase mosquito populations/problems possibly posing a problem for residents nearby?” Answer: Salt marshes support different types of plants, fish, birds, and invertebrates.


More research required on the mosquito issue.

Item 3

Carl Alderson of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the waterfront planning person for the Department of City Planning will be invited to the next committee meeting.


Andrea will invite both individuals.

Item 4

A list of public and private land/waterways that could be considered for ecological restoration under the NRDA was developed. Sites include the Salt Lot, all turning basins, street ends, extension of the 4th Street turning basin east of 3rd Avenue, Long Bank Park (behind Home Depot), Lowe’s parking lot, and the former Pathmark site.


The committee will present a list to the NRDA trustees.

Item 5

Questions regarding the assessment: What are the injuries that the trustees have identified? What can we ask for? Is loss of open space a potential damaged resource since it affects humans’ access to fresh air and maintaining a sustainable environment that can support plant life, trees, birds, fish, etc.?


Andrea and Dave will forward the questions to Carl Alderson.

Please join the Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group’s Outreach & Education Committee for our regular monthly meeting. We’ll be meeting in the offices of the Fifth Avenue Committee, at 621 Degraw Street, in the large conference room on the ground floor (if the front door is locked, please ring the doorbell and someone will let you in).

We’ll be discussing plans for outreach at EXPO Gowanus, a possible community update town hall meeting, and other business.

As always, this meeting is open to the public.

Please join us for our next General Meeting, on Tuesday, April 25, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., at the Mary Star of the Sea Senior Apartments, 41 1st Street, in Carroll Gardens. All of our meetings are open to the public.

DRAFT AGENDA (all times are approximate)

6:30 – 6:40 PM: Introductions

  • Introductions
  • Approval of minutes from March meeting

6:40 – 7:00 PM: Project Updates, Q&A

  • EPA

 7:00 – 8:00 PM: Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) Facilities Project Draft Environmental Impact Statement

  • New York City Department of Environmental Protection

8:00 PM: CAG Committee Action and Updates

  • Archaeology Committee (proposed letter to NYS DEC)
  • Outreach Committee
  • Water Quality and Technical Committee
  • Administration Committee
  • Facilitation Committee
  • Land Use Committee

8:30 PM: Adjourn

Coming up at the Brooklyn Historical Society…

Superfund Brooklyn
Tuesday, April 18, 6:30 pm
$10 / $5 Members

Reserve your spot!

Three major environmental remediation project sites lie within or on Brooklyn’s borders, and each at big development sites: Newtown Creek, Gowanus Canal, and Wolff-Alport. Join Jarrett Murphy, Executive Publisher of City Limits, as he talks to a panel of experts about the history of these sites, cleanup efforts, and what this means for the borough. Panelists include Walter Mugdan, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Superfund Division Regional Director, Willis Elkins, Program Manager at Newtown Creek Alliance, and Michelle de la Uz, Executive Director of the Fifth Avenue Committee.