Gowanus Canal CAG Meeting
Tuesday, January 24, 2017
Mary Star of the Sea Senior Apartments, 41 1st Street



CAG Facilitator Doug Sarno opened the meeting at 6:35 p.m. December minutes were approved with no revisions. Average attendance in 2016 was 19 members, which means that a quorum for 2017 will be 10 members, the same as last year (defined as 50% of the average attendance of previous year).


EPA Updates

Natalie Loney, EPA Region 2 Community Involvement Coordinator, provided the update. She anticipated that there would be questions about EPA contract freeze that had been announced by the Trump administration, though did not have any additional information from what had been reported.

CAG Member: Will the EPA have to renegotiate contracts with all PRPs?
EPA: The Superfund law was written so that it would not be buffeted by political change. The Record of Decision was created under the CERCLA law and the EPA will move forward with the cleanup. The Gowanus cleanup is funded by PRP dollars and will continue.

CAG Member: What is the gag order that is being reported?
EPA: It’s not unheard of for an incoming administration to prefer that agencies don’t speculate about programs as they get to determine policies moving forward. We don’t comment on policy but we can talk about the work we’re doing already. We’re not tweeting or engaging in policy conversations. However, you as private citizens can discuss all aspects of Gowanus.

CAG Member: Is it possible that Walter Mugdan will be replaced?
EPA: Walter is a career employee, not an appointee. Our regional administrator Judith Enck was a political appointee and resigned on the day of the inauguration. Walter, our deputy regional administrator is now the acting regional administrator until a permanent regional administrator has been appointed.

CAG Member: There was a story in ProPublica that the administration is imposing a freeze on grants and contracts. How will this affect the cleanup?
EPA: The cleanup is not grant-funded. The ROD was signed between the EPA and the PRPs – and that is still operational. Again, it is not unheard of for an incoming administration to freeze spending. In general, operations continue depending on the kind of program.

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The Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group’s Outreach Committee met on Thursday, January 12, at 6:30 p.m., in the offices of the Fifth Avenue Committee, at 621 Degraw Street.

The agenda included planning for a Community orientation/re-orientation meeting, and a discussion of EXPO Gowanus 2017.

Committee Members Present

Rafael Gomez de Luna
Katia Kelly
Eric McClure
Christine Petro


Owen Foote, Gowanus Dredgers

Owen Foote offered a number of observations:

  • Organizational structure of CAG hasn’t been adequately introduced to the community.
  • Engagement at Newtown Creek is far superior to the Gowanus CAG. Website, outreach, etc.
  • The CAG website includes no information regarding National Grid’s surcharge to ratepayers. Is the surcharge permanent? Does it sunset? Gowanus Dredgers are getting a lot of questions regarding that, and many other aspects of the cleanup.

Outreach Committee can ask for an update from National Grid and EPA regarding the details of the surcharge: how much, how long? According to Owen, ratepayers are blaming advocates of the Superfund cleanup for increased utility bills.

New York Public Service Commission? Who can explain it? State Assembly or State Senate reps.?

EXPO Gowanus Update

Saturday, May 20, Thomas Greene Park & Douglass Street

CAG tabling at EXPO – Eric did that last year on behalf of the Outreach Committee

GCC looking to involve neighborhood artists in the EXPO; Christine proposes teaming up artists with the CAG to educate and share information. Could the Outreach Committee advise participating artists on what the important takeaways are for the community?

We’ll invite interested artists to the February Outreach Committee meeting. Make sure Natalie is available. We could do a post-meeting walking tour around key features. Help them to understand the history, explain what an MGP is, etc.

Owen: What will the EPA be doing in 2017? What’s the 12-month look-ahead?

Katia: EPA will be dredging the 4th Street basin in 2017 following successful debris clearance in fall of 2016. Also opening up the head end of the 4th Street basin under the 3rd Avenue Bridge.

Can we ask the EPA for a month-by-month timetable? Info is typically more general.

Christine: How do we anticipate the information that people are going to want to know from a Gowanus Superfund 101 meeting? What do businesses want to know?

Owen: Gowanus Dredgers get a lot of questions about the cost of the cleanup, how much has been spent, is $500 million the real number, etc.

Eric reported that Congresswoman Velazquez is not available on March 7th or 9th for a Superfund 101 public meeting. Dan Wiley will supply alternate dates.

Next Outreach Committee meeting: Friday, February 10, 2017, 8:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m., at 621 Degraw Street.

The Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group’s Land Use Committee met on Tuesday, January 3, 2017, in the offices of the Gowanus Canal Conservancy at 543 Union Street.

Committee Members present: David Briggs, Nathan Elbogen, Rafael Gomez de Luna, Katia Kelly, Louis Kleinman, Andrea Parker, Peter Reich, Buddy Scotto, Sue Wolfe, Maryann Young

Guests: Ben Margolis, Chris Reynolds, Brad Vogel

Item 1

Introductions were made. Nathan presented a history of the American Can Factory.


None required.

Item 2

Dave updated everyone on the committee’s recent work.


None required.

Item 3

Nathan suggested writing a mission statement. The committee will consider renaming the committee.


Dave will distribute the two draft mission statements that were circulated early last year.

Item 4

Andrea met with a representative of the NRDA (Natural Resource Damage Assessment). The NRDA is responsible for funding and restoring the ecology of a Superfund site. Given the timeline of rezoning and imminent development, Andrea recommends that the CAG start addressing ecological issues as soon as possible.


Andrea will reach out to Natalie Loney at EPA to see if NOAA can present to the CAG. The Water Quality Committee will discuss at its next meeting.

Item 5

The resolution to preserve trees at the Thomas Greene Playground was reviewed. Based on feedback at the CAG, further revisions were discussed.


Dave will make revisions and distribute.

Item 6

Brad asked about the 5th Street turning basin extension beyond 3rd Avenue.


Committee members will inquire about this at the next CAG meeting.

The Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group’s Land Use Committee met on Tuesday, November 1, 2016, in the offices of the Gowanus Canal Conservancy at 543 Union Street.

Committee Members present: David Briggs, Andrea Parker, Peter Reich, Buddy Scotto, Sue Wolfe

Guests: Terri Thomson, National Grid

Item 1

Review of October 4, 2016 meeting minutes.


Minutes approved with one modification to include Erica Stoltz’s inquiry to DOT if any consideration had been given to naming the new Union Street Bridge in memory of Bette Stoltz.

Item 2

The heights of the new bulkheads along the canal were discussed.


It was agreed that the Department of City Planning probably regulates this.

Item 3

Peter suggested a floating garden for the 1st Street turning basin. Andrea pointed out that NOAA is responsible for the ecological restoration of the Superfund site post clean up; gardens, wetlands, etc. could be created.


Andrea will contact Carl Alderson and ask him to present at a Water Quality Committee meeting; date to be confirmed. Andrea will also invite Catherine Zinnel (Council Member Brad Lander’s office) and Kevin Clarke (DEP) to present to the committee about the turning basin.

Item 4

Two staging areas may be required for the dredging and retention tank installations at the north end of the canal.


Terri Thomson will be find out.

Item 5

A resolution for preserving the trees around the Thomas Greene Playground was discussed.


Dave will prepare a draft and circulate.


The Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group’s Land Use Committee meets tonight, February 7, 2017, at 6:30 p.m., at the Gowanus Canal Conservancy, located at 543 Union Street (enter via the alleyway on Nevins Street).

On the meeting agenda: a discussion about the Committee’s mission statement and name, potential Natural Resource Damage Assessment funding for restoration of the Canal’s ecology, and more.

All Gowanus Canal CAG meetings are open to the public.  Join us!

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.

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At its January 24, 2017 general meeting, the Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group passed the following resolution, originally proposed by the CAG’s Land Use Committee.

Whereas the community has lost a significant number of mature trees recently with the construction of the high level storm sewer along Third Avenue and Carroll Street; and 

Whereas the construction operations for a comprehensive remediation of the coal tar under the Douglass & Degraw Pool in the Thomas Greene Playground [Park] could impact the approximately 30 mature and highly productive London Plane trees in and around the Park;  

Resolved, that the EPA Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group [CAG] requests that all regulatory agencies having jurisdiction over the affected area and actions coordinate and manage the remediation to preserve as many London Plane trees as possible in and around the Park. Additionally, the CAG requests that there will not be an overall loss of trees and new trees will be planted that are better suited to survive the conditions in an environment subject to frequent flooding.

Please join us for our next General Meeting, on Tuesday, January 24, 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 – 6:45 PM: Introductions

  • Introductions
  • Approval of November meeting minutes

6:45 – 7:00 PM: Project Updates, Q&A

  • EPA 

7:00 – 7:30 PM: Land Use Committee Proposed Resolution

  • Resolution on Thomas Greene Playground (see text of the proposed resolution below)

7:30 PM: CAG Annual Operations Review

  • CAG Distribution Lists
  • Facilitation Committee Members
  • Membership, Attendance, Committee Assignments
  • Resolution Process

8:30 PM: Adjourn

The Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group’s Outreach Committee met on Friday, December 9, at 8:30 a.m., at the offices of the Fifth Avenue Committee, at 621 Degraw Street. The agenda included planning for a community orientation/re-orientation to be held at the February 2017 CAG meeting, and a discussion of plans for EXPO Gowanus 2017.

Committee Members Present

Sabine Aronowsky
Michelle de la Uz
Katia Kelly
Eric McClure
Maria Pagano
Christine Petro

EPA Representatives Present

Natalie Loney



Recap of December 8 Department of City Planning meeting on Gowanus Resiliency and Sustainability.

Should we invite DCP to participate in the February re-orientation? How about DEP? Or should we save that for the March CAG meeting?

Should we plan the orientation as a community meeting separate from the CAG monthly meeting? Who would facilitate, assuming that Doug’s presence isn’t funded.

The original concept for the February meeting was a status and recap from EPA. Should this be something different?

Natalie: There’s a lot happening at breakneck speed. The canal cleanup. Potential eminent domain condemnations (for construction of CSO retention tanks; at Wyckoff Gardens for infill development). Rezoning. It’s very confusing to people. Maybe an update on the cleanup can serve as the jumping-off point for a meeting that has a broader focus.

The objective of the meeting is to educate and inform the community about the canal cleanup, and how it relates to rezoning and development, resiliency, etc.

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Gowanus Canal CAG Meeting
Tuesday, October 25, 2016
Mary Star of the Sea Senior Apartments, 41 1st Street


  • September minutes approved.

CAG Announcements

  • A petition to rename part of Union Street to Bette Stoltz Way was distributed.
  • Message from former CAG member Angela Murphy – she misses the CAG.
  • Admin Committee requests response to this year’s member survey.
  • Newtown Creek CAG will put together an informal meeting of area CAG groups early next year.

EPA Updates

  • EPA has started the debris removal study and will use the results in planning the overall Canal cleanup.
  • The subcontractors on this project got a late start. The original plan was to take all debris to the staging area but that would really delay the process. The new approach is to ask National Grid to bring a staging barge to the project area; they started removing debris on Monday. Once they finish loading, the debris will be taken for disposal. They expect to finish before Thanksgiving.
  • EPA will continue with the next stages – dredging of soft material and capping, along with some support of bulkheads. That work will be finished by the end of 2017. Then we will have all of the information to start planning for the start of dredging at the top of the Canal.
  • Air-monitoring stations near Whole Foods are monitoring emissions that may be coming from the work; we are monitoring for volatile organic compounds, formaldehyde, ammonia, and dust particulates – we get readings every 15 minutes. EPA had four days of air-quality measurements before beginning on Monday, which are being used to establish background levels. After two days of operation, EPA has not noticed any incidents.
  • EPA is removing targeted debris (from a previous sonar scan of the bottom). We’re going to use regular dredging buckets along the Canal. At the bridge, we’re going to use different techniques in order to not damage the structure.
  • One private party will be replacing their bulkhead (the new owner of the scrap-metal operation in the southern part of the basin). A Cube Smart self-storage facility will be going up there.
  • Over the summer, EPA will work at the extension of the 4th Street basin and the 5th street basin. We will excavate and restore the basin to 20 feet beyond the 3rd Avenue bridge (we have flexibility to adjust that length). EPA has conducted an investigation with National Grid and went over 100 feet further from the point of the sample. Right now, we are interpreting the results.
  • EPA found some petroleum contamination at the 30-foot layer. This geological layer has a high quantity of organic matter. We are assessing the extent and will update the CAG once we’ve come to conclusions and decisions.
  • EPA is working with the city to open and restore the 1st Street basin. Land Use Committee recommendations, approved by the CAG, have been sent to the City. We will try to address the following points: to support marine life and wet-life species. We can provide areas to support marine life at the bottom of the Canal – it doesn’t necessarily need to be in the bulkheads. There are recommendations for a shelf on the Power House side, which would be a habitat. The proposed width is 10 feet. There’s also a possibility of a 20-foot wide shelf (the whole basin is 50 feet wide).

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