The Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group’s Land Use Committee met on Tuesday, March 5, 2019, at the offices of the Gowanus Canal Conservancy, at 543 Union Street.

CAG Members present:

David Briggs
Katia Kelly
Hildegaard Link
Andrea Parker
Peter Reich
Maryann Young

Guests:

Terri Thomson, National Grid

Item 1

Hildegaard Link presented notes/feedback from the Leadership Committee meeting.

Action

Committee passed along some suggestions, Dave Briggs forwarded suggestions that he had sent to Doug Sarno, Eric McClure, and Brad Vogel.

Item 2

Committee discussed impact of DEP’s retention tunnel.

Pros include: a) it can be expanded, b) a better park is possible, and c) less intrusive construction.

Cons include: a) it will take longer, b) it puts the ROD at risk, c) there are unknown subsurface conditions, and d) increased energy consumption.

Action

More questions can be asked at the March 26 CAG meeting. Andrea Parker pointed out that the tunnel directs CSO only to the Red Hook treatment plant.

Item 3

How should the CAG formulate a response to the city’s Draft Zoning proposal?

Action

None required at this time; conversation will be continued after March 26 meeting.

Item 4

All agreed that many agencies may not be aware of the zoning or its impact.

Action

Dave agreed to notify CB6 with a request that an intergovernmental agency panel presentation be made to the community.

The Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group’s Land Use Committee met on Tuesday, February 5, 2019, at 280 Nevins Street, on the 2nd floor.

CAG Members present:

David Briggs
Rafael Gomez de Luna
Katia Kelly
Louis Kleinman
Hildegaard Link
Amy Motzny
Andrea Parker
Peter Reich
Brad Vogel
Sue Wolfe
Maryann Young

Guests:

Terri Thomson, National Grid
Chris Reynolds, Gowanus Current

Item 1

Peter Reich informed the group about the North Gowanus Visioning Committee’s meeting with Con Ed regarding the disposition of their empty lot on Nevins Street between Butler and Baltic. Con Ed has made it clear that the site is not available for a temporary pool/community center. Within the next year, they will install battery storage infrastructure on site. In about 10 years, as the Gowanus community grows, a substation will be built. Con Ed is considering including an electric-vehicle charging station on site.

Action

Committee agreed that the NGVC should request that Con Ed provide for onsite storm-water retention plus community benefits that benefit the entire neighborhood.

Item 2

Dave Briggs mentioned that he had contacted DEP about considering a hydropower station as part of their retention tunnel proposal. Con Ed expressed interest in this at the NGVC meeting.

Action

NGVC to follow up on this at its next meeting.

Item 3

Amy has set up a Google Doc where people can add their questions about DEP’s retention-tunnel proposal and its impact. Questions raised by the committee during the meeting include the following:

  1. Can it have more capacity?
  2. Is the tunnel designed for the full build-out of the Draft Zoning Proposal?
  3. How will the tunnel impact the Red Hook sewage treatment plant, since some part of the Owl’s Head sewer shed will be redirected?
  4. Is it possible to locate a temporary pool on the south lot of the original retention-tank site, or on the lot currently occupied by the Eastern Effects studio?
  5. What is the sequence of construction?
  6. Can the lot south of the new, smaller head house be mapped as a public park?
  7. How much staging area is still required?
  8. What is EPA’s position on the tunnel?
  9. Can the tunnel be bigger?
  10. Can onsite blackwater retention be considered to mitigate the impact of the new zoning?

Action

Committee and CAG members will continue to add questions.

Item 4

Committee agreed that Council Members Lander and Levin should be asked to attend the March 26 CAG meeting when DEP and DCP will present to the CAG.

Action

Dave will forward the request to Doug Sarno.

The Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group’s Outreach Committee met on Thursday, February 21, at 9:00 a.m., in the offices of the Fifth Avenue Committee, at 621 Degraw Street.

CAG Members Present

Karen Blondel
Louis Kleinman
Eric McClure

Guests

Natalie Loney, Community Involvement Coordinator, EPA Region 2
Reggie Philip, Director of Business Development, Fairfield Inn Hotel, 181 3rd Avenue
Vijay Lilboy, Fairfield Inn Hotel

Memorandum of Understanding moving forward, should have word fairly soon.

The tunnel concept presented by NYC DEP is of great interest to the CAG; EPA is still analyzing it, and will let the CAG know once they’ve reached a conclusion. There is a signed agreement between the EPA and NYC regarding the storage tanks.

Christos Tsiamis and Brian Carr will be present at the February CAG meeting.

Louis Kleinman: there’s a stark difference in cost for the Newtown Creek tunnel vs. the Gowanus tunnel. CAG would like to have a better understanding of the cost differences.

Natalie: Layperson’s take is that the land acquisition is more expensive in Gowanus, and that the engineering would be more complicated in Gowanus.

Louis: tunnels have surpassed tanks as a remedy around the world because of scalability. People in Gowanus are deeply skeptical of the city’s motives.

Newtown plan has always been for a storage tunnel, not tanks.

Owner of the Fairfield Inn Hotel is interested in the Gowanus rezoning, and the canal cleanup.

Superfund Town Hall

Need to coordinate dates between EPA and Dan Wiley. Aiming for April/May. Weeks of April 15 or April 22 or May 28 (Congressional recess those weeks).

EPA might be able to cover the cost for using PS133.

Weeknight vs. weekend day? Weekends are a challenge for EPA, since that’s outside of regular work hours. Do residents of public housing have a preference? Maybe attend a Gowanus Neighborhood Coalition for Justice meeting to ask?

Send a letter to Red Hook East & West, Wyckoff Houses, and Gowanus Houses to remind them that they have a role in the CAG.

Natalie will discuss internally whether EPA is comfortable with DEP presenting at the Superfund Town Hall regarding the tunnel concept.

Louis: we should do a version of the Newtown Creek Acronyms and Glossary of Terms. Would be great to have available at every CAG meeting for people attending meetings.

Louis: public housing representatives should post info about each upcoming meeting on their bulletin boards. Create a one-pager.

More timely production and approval of CAG meeting minutes? Something to raise with full CAG.

Gowanus Canal CAG Meeting
Tuesday, January 22, 2019
Mary Star of the Sea Senior Apartments, 41 1st Street

Announcements:

Katia Kelly and Brad Vogel opened the meeting at 6:35 p.m.

Project Updates: Kevin Clarke, New York City Department of Environmental Protection

NYC Department of Environmental Protection: Presentation on Gowanus CSO Storage Tunnel Alternative to Proposed Gowanus CSO Tanks.

In lieu of the Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) storage tanks. The city has to build two tanks: an 8-million gallon tank at the Head End (RH-34), and a 4-million gallon tank at the Owls Head site to abate OH-007.

DEP has met all the EPA Superfund milestones and will continue to do so.

The tunnel idea came out of a discussion about other water bodies, Flushing Bay and Newtown Creek, where DEP is pursuing tunnels under those bodies for stormwater, so when looking at those, it occurred to DEP to explore the potential to use a tunnel for Gowanus as well. The tunnel would be a 16-million-gallon, soft-ground tunnel to follow the alignment of the canal.

There are assets on the water side, like the pumping station, many built more than a hundred years ago. Very expensive, but built to last. We have to make the right decision when building this kind of thing. At a minimum, the tunnel would hold 16 million gallons – four million more than the capacity of the two tanks – this would give the same solids capture. Reduces CSO RH-34 outfall from about 6 discharges to 4.  At Owls Head, it goes from 4 to zero. The tunnel is easier to construct, and has less construction impact. The headhouse would be about the same size as the lot at the RH site. There is no longer above-ground facilities so we can be more flexible with the design of the open space. The cost is estimated at $1.2 billion.

The City has already acquired the necessary parcels  The timeline would be a little bit longer and the schedule is more aggressive. The tunnel provides a scalable system – we can extend the tunnel further than the alternatives we looked at, and will continue to look at, including following down Second Ave and fixing drainage in Red Hook and Park Slope.

The timeframe for completion could be 2030. This follows the rezoning; everyone knows the area is ripe for development. This would help plan for population growth and resiliency. There is street flooding, and occasionally sewer backups. As sea level rises, it is harder to get sufficient flow – the tunnel makes that easier and protects against rising sea level.

Read more »

Gowanus Canal CAG Meeting
Tuesday, January 22, 2019
Mary Star of the Sea Senior Apartments, 41 1st Street

Announcements:

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

October meeting summary was approved. September summary still awaiting revisions from Marlene.

Project Updates

Christos Tsiamis, EPA Gowanus Canal Project Manager, presented the updates.

Happy to be here with you – there will be good tidings in terms of progress.

We have completed the 4th Street Basin pilot study, drawn the conclusions on how to proceed – which methods will be used to clean up the canal. Second, 95% design of the Fulton IRM Barrier – the barrier wall from the top of the canal to Union Street to prevent coal tar from coming into the canal and harming it. Completed the design and anticipate receiving 95% design by year end for 1st Street Turning Basin excavation. Right now from technical point of view by spring, we will be able to start the countdown of the clean up in months, not years.

The 4th Street Basin pilot project is complete and it is the first time in 150 years a portion of the canal has a clean bottom.

Two more things:

  • The New York City Department of Design and Construction is about to grant approval to proceed with two larger-than-present storm water basins at 9th Street within days or weeks, and those would alleviate flooding, and at point of discharge, the water into the canal there would be treated.
  • Happy to say all these objects that we fished out of the 4th Street Basin will be brought to Public Place – if they’re not already there – and from archaeologist reports, most of the materials are not of archaeological importance on a national level and not preservable for Superfund, but in conversing with the CAG, there is an interest in preserving it as an interest of the community. Tentatively, week of December 10 there will be a viewing by interested members of the CAG for those objects. Arrangements will have to be made by groups interested in obtaining or possessing those objects. Somewhere until the middle or end of January, they will be stored there and then have to be taken.

Brian Carr, EPA Site Attorney, noted that within the last month, the city has acquired the properties at the head of canal for the CSO storage tank. The design of a tank for the park is no longer required. The design for the clean up of the park is going to proceed. There should be schedules in the coming six months detailing how long the process will take, including the process and design of the temporary pool or pools. One of the benefits of the fact that the tank will not be in the park is that park clean up will happen faster, and happen in sections, so in the long run, the park will be out of commission for a shorter period of time, and the clean up of the park is a slightly secondary part to getting the Fulton Barrier wall constructed.

EPA Regional Administrator Pete Lopez

Pete Lopez is the Regional Administrator for EPA Region II, which includes New York, New Jersey, and Puerto Rico, and eight federally recognized Indian reservations. There is a team of dedicated folks to try to find the best response to legacy contamination as well as clean up CSOs.

[Full video of Administrator Lopez’s discussion with the CAG is available here.]

Administrator Lopez thanked the EPA Gowanus staff present: Natalie, Christos, Brian, Doug in Superfund, Elias, Chris Lyons, and Walter Mugdan, who has spent much of his life on sites like this in Region II. I forget the other location of where I have been here with Congresswoman Velázquez [that location was Wyckoff Gardens 11/16/2017]. Gratitude for the community, not an isolated group here. Acknowledges the city and groups – DCP and DEP – thanks to the PRP National Grid, with the New York State partners DEC and DOH. We are not just dealing with toxic remediation, but also the combined sewer overflows.

Read more »

The New York City Department of City Planning will make an informational presentation of the Gowanus draft zoning proposal to Brooklyn Community Board 6’s Landmarks and Land Use Committee on Thursday, February 26, at 6:30 p.m., at Public School 133, at 610 Butler Street.

The meeting is open to the public. Please arrive promptly if you would like to be guaranteed a seat.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on February 22nd announced a plan to preserve certain features of the historic Gowanus Station building, also known as 234 Butler Street (pictured below), in conjunction with construction of an underground sewage capture tank at the site the building currently occupies.

The Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group had recently passed a resolution asking that the building be preserved in full if the EPA and New York City agree on the construction of an underground storage tunnel, rather than a storage tank, as the city has proposed. The Memorandum of Agreement between EPA and the New York State Historic Preservation Office only extends to preservation of certain elements of the building’s façade.

You can read the EPA’s full press release on its agreement to preserve portions of the building here: Gowanus Butler St Bldg FINAL NEWS RELEASE.

Additionally, you can read EPA Region 2 Administrator Peter D. Lopez’s letter to Gowanus Canal CAG regarding the matter here: GowanusCAGfinaltr22219.

At its January 22, 2019 general meeting, the Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group passed the following resolution calling for preservation of the Gowanus Station building in full if the plan for a CSO storage tunnel is adopted.

The resolution, addressed to the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), New York State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), Environmental Protection Agency Region 2 (EPA), and Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP), reads as follows:

Resolved, the Gowanus Canal CAG calls on DEP, SHPO, and the EPA to spare and retain in place the entirety of the two-story portion of the national historic register-eligible Gowanus Station building at 234 Butler Street if DEP and the EPA ultimately decide to pursue the CSO storage tunnel option discussed at the November 27, 2018 CAG Meeting.

Background: As noted by DEP at the November 27, 2018 meeting, the proposed tunnel alternative would require less space at the head-of-canal site than the current CSO tank planned for the site. Accordingly, this resolution expresses the CAG’s support of Peter Reich’s statement at the meeting, noting that the CAG supports saving the whole building in place if the tunnel alternative is ultimately selected.

The original resolution was drafted by the CAG’s Land Use Committee. You can download a copy of the full resolution here: Gowanus CAG Resolution 012219 Gowanus Station FINAL.

At its January 22, 2019 general meeting, the Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group passed the following resolution on the retention of existing marine bollards at the Public Place site.

The resolution, addressed to the New York City Department of City Planning, and the Environmental Protection Agency Region 2 Administrator, reads as follows:

Resolved: the Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group (CAG) requests that the existing marine bollards along the Gowanus Canal bulkhead of the Public Place site be retained and saved for reincorporation in public places in the Gowanus area.

Further resolved: the marine bollards should be retained and reincorporated in Gowanus even if they must be removed from their existing context, stored, and reinstalled at a later date to facilitate construction of the cutoff wall planned for the Public Place shoreline. Efforts should be made to reinstall the bollards in an historically authentic manner so that vessels may continue to use them to dock along the Gowanus Canal bulkhead in the future.

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: Gowanus CAG Resolution 012219 Marine Bollards FINAL.

At its January 22, 2019 general meeting, the Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group passed the following resolution on protecting the historic S.W. Bowne Grain Storehouse and preventing navigational hazards from impacting the cleanup.

The resolution, addressed to the New York City Department of Buildings and the United States Coast Guard, reads as follows:

Resolved:

The Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group (CAG) requests that the NYC Department of Buildings (DOB) take enforcement action to the full extent permitted by law against the owner of the historic S.W. Bowne Grain Storehouse building at 595 Smith Street along the Gowanus Canal, given that the owner is in violation of a posted DOB order following a fire in the summer of 2018. The CAG also requests that DOB present to the CAG’s Archaeology Committee in February 2019 regarding what enforcement action has been taken, as well as actions taken to ensure that the building does not collapse and create a navigational hazard near the mouth of the Gowanus Canal.

Be it further Resolved:

The Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group (CAG) requests that the United States Coast Guard take enforcement action to the full extent permitted by law against the owner of the historic S.W. Bowne Grain Storehouse building at 595 Smith Street along the Gowanus Canal, given that the owner has not shored up the bulkhead on the property that partially collapsed in 2017. Additional collapses have occurred since and are likely to continue, posing the threat of hazards to navigation near the mouth of the Gowanus Canal. These hazards could limit the ability of vessels associated with the superfund cleanup from accessing the Canal as needed.

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: Gowanus CAG Resolution 012219 Bowne Storehouse FINAL.