At its October 23, 2018 general meeting, the Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group passed the following resolution calling for safe emergency access to, and egress from, the Gowanus Canal.

The resolution, addressed to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (the “EPA”), Potentially Responsible Parties (“PRPs”), City of New York, NYC Department of Transportation, New York City Department of City Planning, and Council Members Brad Lander and Stephen Levin, reads as follows:

Resolved, in order to improve safety, we encourage the PRPs, the City of New York (especially DOT and DEP, whose properties abut the Gowanus Canal), and any other property owners who own and/or control land abutting the Gowanus Canal (e.g. street ends, publicly accessible esplanades, private property) to include safe emergency access to and safe egress from the Gowanus Canal. Access points should be provided every 100 feet along the relevant bulkhead section being replaced, substantially repaired, or temporarily installed.

Be it further resolved, access should be accommodated by means of a shoreline ladder, at a minimum, or by other means (see examples along the Gowanus Canal and other New York City waterways). A mix of access/egress opportunities are possible, including floating docks, sandy edges, stepped platforms, davit equipment or other soft edges. Accommodations can be installed on the marine face of any containment barrier or bulkhead and the installation of such barriers or bulkheads should, at a minimum, be designed to provide opportunity for future easy installation of access/egress devices.

Be it further resolved, we urge the placement of emergency communications like those installed at the Red Hook shoreline.

Be it finally resolved, we encourage the EPA to inform any relevant property owners of the CAG’s recommendations above when discussing replacement of bulkheads along the Gowanus Canal as part of its oversight of bulkhead repair or replacement under the Gowanus Canal Superfund Site Record of Decision.

The original resolution was drafted by the CAG’s Land Use Committee. You can download a copy of the full resolution, including relevant background information, here: CAG_181023_SafeAccess_Resolution.

The Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group’s Land Use Committee met on Tuesday, October 2, 2018, in the offices of the Gowanus Canal Conservancy at 543 Union Street.

CAG Members present:

David Briggs
Marlene Donnelly
Rafael Gomez de Luna
Katia Kelly
Louis Kleinman
Hildegaard Link
Peter Reich
Brad Vogel
Andrea Parker
Sue Wolfe


Terri Thomson
Electra Weeks

Item 1

Discussed draft resolution to address safe emergency access to and egress from the canal. Several edits were suggested.


Brad and Dave will work on it and share with the committee prior to presenting it to the CAG for approval.


EPA Region 2 Administrator Pete Lopez and his team met with the Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group on November 27, 2018, to discuss a number of issues pertaining to the Superfund cleanup of the Gowanus Canal, including updates on the progress of the project, New York City’s proposal to build a storage tunnel rather than tanks for containing Combined Sewer Overflows, and the future remediation of Thomas Greene Park.

The video includes Regional Administrator Lopez’s opening remarks, and an extended question-and-answer session with members of the CAG and the public.

Gowanus Canal CAG Meeting
Tuesday, October 23, 2018
Mary Star of the Sea Senior Apartments, 41 1st Street


Doug Sarno opened the meeting at 6:35. 


Project Updates

Natalie Loney, EPA Community Involvement Coordinator, presented the updates.

Fourth Street Turning Basin: the mats are currently being placed, and that should be done by the end of the month.

At the November CAG meeting, the Regional Administrator will be here, so this meeting is partially about capturing questions for Regional Administrator Lopez. Let Natalie know if there are questions for him.


Questions & Answers

CAG: DEP presented to CB6 about the retention tank site – why haven’t they presented to the CAG?
EPA: That’s a question for the CAG to pose to the DEP.
Doug Sarno: We have invited DEP to address the CAG. They could not come tonight. When asked whether or not they will still need to build the electrical substation work with the head house at the same time, the answer was yes.

CAG: Seems like there is new information at DEP, so that’s what I’d want to know.

CAG: EPA Regional Administrator Lopez casually mentioned something that could have a huge impact – a potential tunnel. Are we going to hear anything about that and when?
EPA: I’ll make note of it – I don’t know too much about the tunnel project.

CAG: If that’s going forward at the same time as Superfund and the overflow tanks, we need to know.

CAG: Riverkeeper and others are curious about progress on the proposals and substantive information.

CAG: We’d like an update and to be part of whatever design happens. This marks the second meeting (EPA Remedial Project Manager) Christos Tsiamis isn’t here, and that’s disconcerting. Part of what’s magic about these meetings is that we get to ask really technical questions and he answers those right away, and his presence is important in order for this CAG to stay informed.

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The Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group’s Outreach Committee met on Friday, November 9, at 9:00 a.m., in the offices of the Fifth Avenue Committee, at 621 Degraw Street.

This was the first meeting of the reconstituted Outreach Committee, and discussion was focused on the future of the Committee.

CAG Members Present

Sabine Aronowsky
Jordan Heiden, Gowanus Canal Conservancy (Committee alternate for Christine Petro)
Katia Kelly
Eric McClure


Alanna Browdy, Graduate Student, Columbia University
Christine Ghossoub, Graduate Student, Columbia University
Chongyuan Wang, Graduate Student, Columbia University

Joined by three planning students from Columbia University, who are studying Gowanus in light of the re-zoning.

They’re analyzing pro- vs. no development positions, looking for common ground, and potentially, a recommendation for a Community Benefits Agreement.

Jordan Heiden from the Gowanus Canal Conservancy sitting in for Christine.

Future of the Outreach Committee

Mission is to inform the larger community about what’s going on with the Canal cleanup.

Encouraging organizational members to publicize CAG meetings and activities, especially for important meetings, like November (Pete Lopez, EPA Region 2 Administrator, will be in attendance).

Ask Doug Sarno to circulate a note to CAG members in advance of the November meeting urging them to promote the meeting and agenda.

Put together a monthly meeting announcement to provide to CAG member organizations to communicate to their members (when there’s noteworthy stuff).

Superfund Town Hall

Last Superfund Town Hall was held at Wyckoff Gardens, October 2017.

Ask Pete Lopez to come to a Town Hall in spring 2019. There will be a milestone around the siting of the retention-tank.

Find a date, location, headline attendees. Congresswoman Velazquez and Regional Administrator Lopez. Follow up with Dan Wiley and Natalie Loney regarding scheduling.

Hold the meeting near the north end of the canal, since that’s where work will be happening. Wyckoff Houses? PS133? PS133 requires a fee and insurance (can EPA provide?).

Makes sense for the CAG to hold Town Hall meetings in locations where work is happening or will soon be happening.

Do we have a solid timeline from the EPA? Upload the current version of the timeline to the website (Sabine to provide PDF).

Ask Doug to make a few copies of the current timeline to have available at the November meeting.

Aim for having an updated timeline for CAG review at the January meeting. Ask Natalie for input on timeline.

National Grid is waiting to hear from DEP and EPA about sign-off on final location of the north-end retention tank. Katia believes the land has been acquired by the city for the canal-side siting.

Con Ed site might be appropriate for the temporary pool, but Con Ed may construct a new substation there to serve Gowanus in light of the rezoning.

December outreach meeting can focus on updating the timeline and securing a date for the town hall.

The Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group’s Admin Committee met on Wednesday, November 7, 2018, at 9:30 a.m., in the Cobble Hill Community Room at 250 Baltic Street.

CAG Members present:

Jerry Armer
Ben Jones
Katia Kelly
Rita Miller
Maryann Young (CORD alternate)

Began with review of Richard Lawrence’s application for CAG membership. Some further information is required prior to final decision. After a review of Richard’s application post meeting, it was agreed by all that he would be recommended for approval.

It was brought up that at-large membership issues were brought up at the Archaeology Committee meeting, but Admin has not changed its recommendation. At-large members who need time off should inform Admin and/or the Facilitator that they need to take a break. They may reapply when they are ready to return. Any engaged member in good standing who needs time off should not be concerned about their ability to be welcomed back as long as the cap of sixty (60) members has not been reached.

Admin suggests that the newly reformed Outreach Committee reach out to the NYCHA houses which have been inactive, and welcome them back by reminding them that their seats are there for them and an alternate.

This outreach should also be extended to everyone, particularly NYCHA residents who may wish to join us in an at-large capacity. We are quite organization-heavy (see below), and need to extend our at-large membership.

A preliminary survey result was discussed. The survey deadline was extended until 11/15/18 for those few members who still have not replied. The balance of the CAG membership was discussed. We now hold seats for 15 organizations, have 21 active organizations, and 10 (including new member Janet Aitchinson) at-large members.

We are clearly org-heavy and at-large-light. It was discussed that prospective members who have already applied as at-large members or organization members, should not be encouraged after the admin review process has been completed to change their status. Part of Admin’s duties are to try to maintain a balance, and this makes it quite difficult.

It has also been suggested that an additional item should be added to Organizational members applications in the form of a letter from the organization requesting that the applicant be their representative.

Finally, Admin discussed the role of the CAG representative on the North Gowanus Revisioning Committee and how it impacts our relationship with the DEP.

The Admin Committee has drafted the following proposal:

Although the North Gowanus Revisioning Committee (NGRC) is an extremely valuable and site-specific group, we propose that the Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group remove its representative to the NGRC.

This is in no way a reflection on our current representative, Peter Reich, who has done an excellent job.

Rather, in retrospect, we feel that the CAG and, in particular, DEP’s ability to communicate with the CAG may have been changed as a result of our representation on the NGRC.

The CAG meetings are where EPA, DEP, DEC, and all of the other agencies, as well as our local politicians, and most importantly, the community, intersect to share all of the pertinent information provided by everyone involved in this cleanup.

As a CAG, we wish to be included, as a body, in every representation and presentation the DEP, and any other agency, may provide, when it pertains to any and all aspects of the Gowanus Canal Superfund cleanup. That can only happen when our CAG meets face to face with all involved.

Gowanus Canal CAG Meeting
Tuesday, June 26, 2018
Mary Star of the Sea Senior Apartments, 41 1st Street


Doug Sarno opened the meeting at 6:35.

The May meeting summary was approved with no revisions.

Project Updates

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

The Fourth Street Basin pilot study at the top of the canal is being conducted under order with National Grid for dredging of sediments and reconstruction of the cut-off wall in the study area.  Approximately 12 feet of sediment was removed at an efficient pace. Some additional areas still need to be addressed, which have enough tar with potential to move upward and overwhelm the cap to be placed there. We studied this aspect at the 7th Street Basin pilot three years ago, and because this is also a pilot study, we did not feel like it makes sense to bring back the equipment and go after these materials at this time. We will do that when we begin the actual cleanup project. Surprisingly, the native sediment is very compact. We cannot use the buckets that dig up the soft-sediment to remove this native sediment, so as a result the process is going slower.  This lesson informs us how to approach the middle/main part of the canal. Because of the compacting, the way we’re approaching it with sand now, the process is going slower but moving nevertheless.

The engineers used new techniques to estimate contamination in the native sediment with a potential to migrate. From what we can see visually of the material, the conclusions from indirect measures proves to be that we are correct. We are learning a lot of lessons, and the pace changes according to difficulties we encounter. EPA has done a couple of excavations,  and once we’re done with that we will begin the cap, targeting the end of summer now, not June, because of the need to excavate different material. One thing we will be trying there is two ways of laying the cap – a mixture of sand and clay, then sand and activated carbon and then sand.

We will also explore how to install the cap, what is the proper technique, so this process will take time. There are two methods, 1) hydraulic, placing material out of a pipe like a sprinkler that moves back and forth, and 2) mechanical cappingusing a barge and bucket (like ones used during dredging) and placeing deposits of cap material into the water

We will try both methods side by side to decide which one to use during the full installation. This is the work remaining on the pilot; there are still lots of problems to be solved, but we’re engineers and we like problems.

The EPA has been in discussion with the PRP engineers and have recommended a different approach to meet the timeline for a February 2019 design completion date. They are allowed to submit designs a little later in April 2019, but they must hire a construction engineer up front instead of waiting until the end of the design and going to bids. So this new option means having a construction group onboard, accepted, and ready to go as soon as the design is complete, and will bring results in how quickly we can begin construction. We should start in early 2020 rather than later in the year. Dredging at the top of canal should start by 2020.

Read more »

Given the similarities between Newtown Creek and the Gowanus Canal, this next installment in City Tech’s Brooklyn Waterfront Research Center’s series of free breakfast seminars may be of interest. More info and a link to register here:

Newtown Creek was designated as a Superfund site in 2010 as a result of pollution caused by decades of heavy waterfront industry and by its having served as a basin for the sewers of adjacent neighborhoods. For decades, community organizers and environmental activists have worked to address the Creek’s contamination crisis and mitigate the impact of damaging industrial pollution.

Join us on Friday, October 12th and hear representatives of Riverkeeper and the Newtown Creek Alliance discuss their comprehensive, four-part vision plan for the remediation and restoration of the Newtown Creek. The Plan emphasizes the importance of understanding the innate complexity of an industrial urban ecosystem, from storm surge vulnerability to community health outcomes. Learn how a balanced and safe environmental ecosystem can cohabitate with industry; why waterfront accessibility is so crucial to sustainability; and what role the local community can play in the process.

Chrissy Remein currently serves as New York City Water Quality Coordinator at Riverkeeper where she develops community and stakeholder-driven vision plans for Newtown Creek and Flushing Bay. Before graduate school, Remein worked as a program manager for nonprofits like the Student Conservation Association (SCA), and spent two years in Togo as a Peace Corps Natural Resource Management Volunteer.

Lisa Bloodgood currently serves as education coordinator for the Newtown Creek Alliance, where she focuses on community science-based research rooted in ecology, biodiversity, and restoration. She is the NY Co-Chair for the NY/NJ Harbor Estuary Program’s Community Advisory Council, and serves on both the Steering and Technical Committees for the EPA’s Newtown Creek Superfund Community Advisory Group (CAG). Bloodgood also volunteers as Vice-Chairperson of Neighbors Allied for Good Growth’s (NAG) Board of Directors.

As always, breakfast is on us.

The Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group’s Admin Committee met on Wednesday, September 12, 2018, at 9:30 a.m., in the Cobble Hill Community Room at 250 Baltic Street.

CAG Members present:

Ben Jones
Katia Kelly
Rita Miller
Maryann Young (CORD alternate)

1. Two new CAG membership applications were discussed: Matthew Loyd Thomas and Janet Aitchison.

A) Both recommended for approval

B) Committee discussed the possibility of reinterpreting the Charter regulations regarding the interview and voting process.
Committee suggests renaming interview… “introduction.”

Applicants will be called to the general meeting to introduce themselves.

Since the most relevant questions are already asked on the application, members should keep their questions along those lines, especially since most applicants do not respond to or answer them on the application. For example:
– What local or civic organizations do you belong to, or are affiliated with?
– What special skills or capabilities are you willing to contribute to the CAG?
– We should try to provide a blank copy of the application to hand out at the meeting.

Timing of voting and  protocol for notification of acceptance/rejection is not really spelled out in the charter, except to say that voting should be done at the “earliest possible meeting.”

There is no protocol for timing of informing the applicant of vote results.

Admin suggests that after introductions are made, Ben, who has most graciously agreed to be the spokesperson, will inform the new prospective member that we will review all candidates and notify them of the outcome before the next general meeting. Candidates will then leave the meeting.

Voting will continue to take place in their immediate absence but results will not be given to the applicants at that time.

Candidates will be advised afterward, and if accepted, invited to attend the next meeting as a new member.

2) Discussed the necessity to reactivate the Outreach Committee, since its role is vital in disseminating information not only to the community but within the CAG itself.

Example: some committees do not meet on a regular basis or will change a scheduled meeting, so there should be a mechanism whereby Outreach can notify all CAG members of an upcoming or altered meeting. Eric has done a wonderful job of posting these things on the website, but how many CAG members actually check the website to see if there’s a meeting coming up, or if something has been changed?

The website and Facebook page should mimic the same hard information: membership list, standing committee meetings, called committee meetings, EPA press releases, CAG resolutions, etc.

The website should also include:

—updated membership list
—updated email addresses for all organizational memberss – optional for individuals
—list of active committees including Facilitation
—indication of who is the facilitator for each committee
—committee minutes could be posted

3) Admin feels that the Facilitation committee has been working well, but we need to improve committee-level dissemination of information to one another. Again, an active Outreach Committee would be very helpful in this regard.

4) Admin also feels that the EPA-provided/National Grid-sponsored neutral facilitation should continue.

The Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group’s Land Use Committee met on Tuesday, July 3, 2018, in the offices of the Gowanus Canal Conservancy at 543 Union Street.

CAG Members present:

David Briggs
Louis Kleinman
Hildegaard Link
Andrea Parker
Triada Samaras
Susan Yung

Item 1

Discussed EPA’s TASC grant for the Gowanus Canal. Hildegaard: who is the grant administrator? (According to the original CAG minutes from several years ago, Wanda Ayala is the grant administrator.) Louis: who controls the money?


Dave will follow up with Doug Sarno.

Item 2

Louis: there is a concern about the lack of safety features (e.g. ladders, low walls, etc.) that the CAG has not addressed. Andrea suggested integrating soft shoreline technology at EPA’s bulkheads that will have the added benefit of increasing wildlife habitat. Recommendations will be passed along to private landowners.


A resolution will be drafted for CAG review. Dave will reach out to Owen Foote for assistance since the Gowanus Dredgers have been working on this issue.

Item 3

Triada: requested that a member of Councilmember Stephen Levin’s office attend the CAG meetings. It was pointed out that Ben Solotaire has attended most of the recent meetings.


Dave will pass along the request to Doug Sarno.