The Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group’s Land Use Committee met on Monday, June 11, 2018, in the offices of the Gowanus Canal Conservancy at 543 Union Street.

Committee Members present:

David Briggs
Diane Buxbaum
Marlene Donnelly
Andrea Parker
Peter Reich
Triada Samaras
Brad Vogel
Sue Wolfe
Maryann Young


Terri Thompson, National Grid

Item 1

Recommendation for CAG representative to Councilmember Levin’s Gowanus Visioning Committee.


After a lengthy and spirited discussion, all agreed that the committee recommends Peter Reich as the representative. Dave will ask the CAG to vote on this at the next meeting.

Item 2

Time frame for an agreement between the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and EPA on the design (size) of the headhouse at the north end of the canal.


After a second lengthy discussion on EPA and DEP’s role regarding a final design decision on the CSO facility at the head of the canal, and the timeline for such a decision, it was concluded that a question regarding the process will be posed to the EPA at the June 26 CAG general meeting. Dave will circulate suggested language for the question.


Gowanus Canal CAG Meeting
Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Mary Star of the Sea Senior Apartments, 41 1st Street


Doug Sarno opened the meeting at 6:40.

The March meeting summary was approved with no revisions.

The April meeting summary was approved with no revisions.

Project Updates

Christos Tsiamis, Remedial Project Manager for EPA, presented the updates.

The visioning process must be a cooperative process. The CAG Resolution was also addressed to EPA – it is a community process. We think it should be an open meeting. EPA met with Council Member Levin and Ben Solotaire yesterday and made it clear that what was discussed was not approved layouts by EPA or the City. There are imperfections, and we hope that the broader community, in coordination with the CAG, will engage so that the community is assured EPA and the City are on the same page. The City’s Department of Environmental Protection said that DEP and EPA were not on the same page at that meeting.

Without most of you noticing, the bulk of sediment in the 4th Street Turning Basin has been removed. 10,000 cubic yards of sediment – averaging 600-700 cubic yards a day. We are very pleased with that. There is still some sediment at the corners and edges that require specialized equipment. A couple spots are in the native sediment. Under the general plan, EPA will stabilize these parts. Because of the smaller size of the pilot area, EPA has decided to excavate, so there’s going to be a depression and then stable material in the inside.

Following the specialized operations, they will lay the cap. Now they’re down 10-12 feet at the bottom. We are surprised how much debris was moved. Lots of plastic, wood, big rocks, tires, some items that were separated as potential archaeological elements.  A number of bricks with stamps, roll bearing, a port-hole from a ship (but no ship), a metal wheel from a car, odd metal parts. A fairly contemporary heat exchanger. There was a scrapyard right next to this location.

The Potentially Responsible Parties (PRPs) have been asked to stage the oversized items that cannot be shipped to New Jersey. EPA is willing to do a visit in the next week or so with the archaeology committee.

CAG: Does the surprising amount of debris change the speed of dredging?
EPA: We anticipate we will be able to separate and stabilize within two years according to the timeline – very happy with how this operation went. Remember, we have to put down three or four layers. Right now there are winds blowing, so that changes things. There was some damage to the Whole Foods esplanade – this is being worked out between Whole Foods and the PRPs; the agreement is that the original contractor and the PRPs are paying the whole cost.

CAG: Will that repair happen after the sheet piles go in at the Fourth Street Basin?
EPA: Unsure, but Whole Foods wants them in after the dredging but before the capping.

CAG: Will the metal barrier currently in place stay there?
EPA: They will be below the water level – the one in the barrier across will stay there until the 3rd Avenue Bridge work is finished, and will keep that cutoff wall under the bridge.

CAG: Is it safe for canoers? How far will the walls come out?
EPA: We want to make sure it is safe.

The other thing EPA promised was a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) about the building at the top of the canal within the footprint of the design of the detention tank. EPA does have drafts but is not sharing them yet – still lots of give and take and conversations. Some briefings as far as scheduling conflicts happened later than earlier, and EPA will circulate it in the next few days and send it to Doug.

We have been in touch with State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), and have taken the CAG comments and incorporated all the comments. We will ask for further input on how we represented what the CAG has shared in approximately one month. We have had consultations for six months. As we promised and as Brian said, you’ll have the ability to provide input again, and EPA will come up with a final decision in mid-summer, probably by July.

Read more »

The New York City Department of City Planning (DCP) last week released its long-awaited outline for the Gowanus rezoning and neighborhood plan, Gowanus: A Framework for a Sustainable, Inclusive, Mixed-use Neighborhood.

According to the DCP website:

Gowanus: A Framework for a Sustainable, Inclusive, Mixed-use Neighborhood is a roadmap for potential goals and strategies, including recommended land use changes, to be developed and implemented as part of a Neighborhood Plan. The framework is the culmination of more than 100 hours of public outreach and community meetings to solicit input since the Gowanus PLACES Study launched in October 2016. (More information about the Gowanus PLACES Study is available on the Project Overview and Milestones tabs). It is informed by previous reports and studies, including Bridging Gowanus, and ongoing community efforts by government agencies and community stakeholders and organizations.

The vision laid out in this framework aims to foster a thriving, inclusive and more resilient Gowanus where existing and future residents and workers are able to participate in civic, cultural and economic activities and where a wholly unique resource – the Gowanus Canal – can thrive and play an active role in that equitable and sustainable growth.

The Department of City Planning will present an overview of the report to Brooklyn Community Board 6’s Executive Committee on Monday, June 11, at 6:30 p.m., at PS 32, 317 Hoyt Street, in Carroll Gardens.

You can download the complete report here:

Recent dredging of the Gowanus Canal’s 4th Street Turning Basin, where contractors are conducting pilot work to test the efficacy of methods for cleaning and capping before rolling out the effort to the rest of the canal, have turned up a lot of junk, especially old tires.

But not everything being removed from the canal’s muck is mundane. Notable items include a brass porthole, a ship’s anchor, lots of stamped bricks, and a pair of 40-inch-diameter wooden wagon wheels, pictured below (photo by J. Bream, taken on May 18).

Gowanus Canal CAG Meeting
Tuesday, April 24, 2018
Mary Star of the Sea Senior Apartments, 41 1st Street


CAG Facilitator Doug Sarno opened the meeting at 6:42 p.m.

Approval of minutes from the March meeting was postponed.

Project Updates

Christos Tsiamis, Remedial Project Manager for EPA, presented the updates.

The 4th Street Basin Pilot Project

After the concerns about noise and vibration damage resulting from the initial pile-driving activities, EPA directed the team to conduct future pile-driving using a Giken Silent Piler, which produces fewer vibrations and disturbances on land and buildings. Use of this new technology has been going very successfully, so contractors are finishing the piling this week in preparation of support for dredging and capping. Should be re-starting activities next week.

CAG: So you’ve been driving sheet piles?
EPA: Yes, it is very quiet – you can’t even hear it, only the engines.

Beginning in November, there was a recommendation to get this technology and we did. We will be dredging, and then capping, in this pilot.  We anticipate those activities will last through the end of the summer. The goal is still to begin dredging of the main canal sometime in late 2020. This is still within reach, even with the bulkhead delay.

Moving north, the design of the First Street basin continues. Further north, the cutoff wall for the Fulton Manufacturing gas plant will be in place from top of the canal to Union Street; the design began when National Grid was working with New York State, so EPA made some fixes and created a 50% design. Once there is agreement on all the elements, we don’t have to divide stages; the 95% design should be completed by May 2018. EPA expects a finalized order to be signed, based on the schedule, by December 2019 or early 2020.

The new bulkhead is being installed in front of existing bulkheads – the top of the new wall sticks above the water. The design was done for two reasons:  too much encroachment, and deciding to use the Giken Press at the 4th Street basin.

CAG: How tall is the bulkhead?
EPA: About 50 to60 feet total; this is part of the remediation to prevent tar from coming in.

CAG: Will that wall be vulnerable to something hitting it?
EPA: Yes, it is a thick, steel bulkhead.

There is usually a two-foot offset from existing barrier besides water.

Finishing up with designs for the First Street basin by 2019. The 95% design should be complete in a month. Regarding 4th Street – just readjusted the design, anticipate both the wall and construction will be done by 2018 and completed by 2020.

Read more »

Gowanus Canal CAG Meeting
Tuesday, March 27, 2018
Mary Star of the Sea Senior Apartments, 41 1st Street


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

Project Updates

Christos Tsiamis, Remedial Project Manager for EPA, presented the updates.

The 4th Street Basin Pilot Project

Planning on starting the dredging pilot by end of March. The new equipment for driving sheet piles was going to be available for a limited time. When vibratory hammers were initially used there were problems like cracks in the pavement and issues caused by the vibrations of the hammer. In the canal, near where we operate, the EPA wanted to use a piece of equipment that is a silent press. It has an arm and with sheer power pushes the sheet pile through the soil into the subsurface. There’s a small auger next to the sheet pile that softens the ground as it goes and creates minimal vibration. EPA was not able to use this equipment until the equipment became available. Began dredging Thursday and Friday of last week.

EPA learned that the equipment could come via barge and they suspended the dredging work and now they’re going to use the silent press. A 50-foot portion will be tried. A segment of sheet piles on the Whole Foods side had not been driven into depth yet and will be completed with the silent press approach. 350 cubic yards of sediment was dredged before suspending work for trials with the silent press. On Wednesday, March 28, we will start using the new equipment to become familiar with it. If possible, will conduct concurrent operations to dredge and install sheet pile simultaneously. It is a little complicated, but we like complicated. The pilot study started with some modifications. Began by working with National Grid to install the wall at the top of canal on the eastern side. EPA took over once sheet pile issues became clear and asked National Grid to use the silent press and that’s what is happening there. It is important for EPA to try this equipment at the 4th Street Basin, as this is the pilot study for the remainder of the dredging process.

Historical Preservation Analysis for Building at Nevins & Butler Street

EPA distributed the letter from the New York State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) in response to the last CAG meeting with an assessment of the City’s EIS. The SHPO letter stated that whatever is created, it has to be in the context of the historic district. In the last meeting with the city, EPA expressed vocally that they are not in agreement. Mainly, the height of the proposed building is too tall. Trying to find ways with NYC to reduce that height to fit with the surroundings in the area. EPA has asked for comments and then will at some point make a decision.

EPA is working with New York State regarding fish-consumption signs, and they have a sign prepared that will be circulated. Once EPA gets feedback, they will decide where the signs should be placed. There are also pamphlets from the New York State Department of Health about public health aspects of handling fish and wildlife.

Read more »

The US EPA and National Grid on Tuesday announced a $100 million agreement pertaining to the Superfund cleanup of the Gowanus Canal, particularly work at the head-end of the Canal and in and around Thomas Greene Park, including replacement of the Douglass and DeGraw Pool and provision for a temporary pool while remediation work is carried out.

The full text of the EPA’s press release follows below.

(New York, N.Y. – May 29, 2018) Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a $100 million agreement with National Grid for cleanup of the Gowanus Canal Superfund site in Brooklyn, New York. The milestone settlement will support cleanup work near the head of the Gowanus Canal, including the cleanup and restoration of Thomas Greene Park, as well as the Douglass and DeGraw Pool.

“This agreement will enable the remediation and revitalization of a heavily contaminated waterway and one of the neighborhood’s most popular recreational areas,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “EPA is prioritizing the Superfund program so that sites in densely populated urban areas, such as the Gowanus Canal, are addressed quickly and thoroughly.”

“Administrator Pruitt is revitalizing the Superfund program and this settlement will acceleratethe cleanup of one of the nation’s most contaminated waterbodies,” said EPA Regional Administrator Pete Lopez. “This agreement harnesses the power of community partnerships to address contamination underneath a cherished public park and pool while advancing the redevelopment of the surrounding neighborhoods. EPA, together with National Grid and the City of New York, will continue to work closely with the community on the design and construction of both a temporary and replacement pool and park.”

“I’m pleased to see this settlement agreement reached as it will mean community resources are maintained during cleanup of the Gowanus Canal,” said Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY). “I thank the local EPA staff who have worked so diligently on this project over the years. It is important that the community retain access to a nearby pool during the remediation of the park site and Canal. To that end, I will continue working to ensure maximum community input in securing atemporary and permanent replacement for the pool.”

Under this settlement, National Grid will, among other obligations:

  • Build a sealed bulkhead/barrier wall on the east side of the Canal between Butler and Union Streets to prevent coal tar from spreading to the Canal and to support dredging;
  • Address contamination at the Thomas Greene Park through excavation and mixing cement into contaminated soil (a process called solidification) to permanently lock up coal tar and other contaminants;
  • Design, site, and construct a temporary swimming pool to operate while the park is closed; and
  • Design and permanently replace the pool and impacted park areas.

Read more »

Gowanus Canal CAG Meeting
Tuesday, February 27, 2018
Mary Star of the Sea Senior Apartments, 41 1st Street


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

Project Updates

Christos Tsiamis, Remedial Project Manager for EPA, presented the updates.

The 4th Street Basin Pilot Project

The preparation work for the pilot has been arduous and taken longer than planned. The silver lining is that this is a pilot. A big part of the pilot is to identify any problems with the technologies we will be using now before we begin the actual work. EPA anticipates being able to begin dredging by the first week of March.

Historical Preservation Analysis for Building at Nevins & Butler Street

John Vetter, EPA archaeological consultant, presented an overview of the historical preservation work.

This is part of an ongoing process that many here have been a part of. We looked at the turning basin, did we find any exciting artifacts? No. We haven’t even found what we anticipated, which would be a great collection of handguns. Now they’re looking at 8-million-gallon sewer overflow tanks, which means the city faces constraints in the siting and engineering of the facility. The EPA’s responsibility suggests that under Section 106, we have to identify what is there and if construction of the facility will have an effect on any historic facilities and how we could avoid, minimize or mitigate these impacts. EPA is working with its partners and getting input from all of them, including NY State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission, NYC DEP, and the community. EPA wants feedback on the potential historic impacts and the options to mitigate those impacts.

Read more »