Gowanus Canal CAG Meeting
Tuesday, June 27, 2017
Mary Star of the Sea Senior Apartments, 41 1st Street


Doug Sarno opened the meeting at 6:40.

The May meeting summary was approved with no revisions.


Project Updates

Christos Tsiamis, EPA Project Manager, presented the updates.

Two things have happened since last meeting:

  • EPA received a proposal for the Fulton Wall. If you recall, EPA is overseeing National Grid for the construction of the Fulton Wall – we had our first meeting after we issued the order. National Grid has submitted a proposal, which we are currently reviewing and we’ll go on from there, so that process has begun.
  • We finalized the order with the Power House for work we’re going to do there. EPA is overseeing the cleanup work we’ve deemed necessary with regard to the Power House being a potential source of contaminants to the Canal, and also building the bulkhead in front of that property to specifications so it will be able to withstand dredging. We’ve been coordinating closely with the state on the Power House project.

Over Memorial Day there was partial collapse of the bulkhead on the Lowe’s property. We understand the CAG has drafted some language regarding that collapse. Let me explain to you what happened – we were not there, but we were alerted by the community. Natalie and I went there the day after the collapse and inspected the area.

  • Based on the inspection, I issued (through EPA Staff Attorney Brian Carr), a list of required actions that we asked Lowe’s to undertake, which includes the following:
    • Put a turbidity curtain around the collapsed portion of the bulkhead so no further suspended matter goes into the Canal
    • Remove all the large debris (big chunks of concrete and pieces of wood) from the Canal
    • Stabilize the area and reconstruct the entire bulkhead at the Lowe’s property (recommended)
    • Before the above, a plan for how they’re going to go about these actions
  • EPA detected soil erosion behind the existing bulkhead. This is the right time to replace it, since EPA will eventually require them to put in a bulkhead that can withstand the dredging action (the request to reconstruct the bulkhead now is an accommodation). Lowe’s hired Langan Engineering and initial steps have already been taken (the debris is being cleaned up).
  • With regard to the proposed language of the CAG resolution:
    • From our inspection, I don’t know exactly how that bulkhead was constructed but it’s not really an engineered bulkhead; it’s a few layers of cribbing at best, not a bulkhead with deep foundations. At this stage we will require them to install an engineered bulkhead for dredging purposes.
    • All bulkheads we’ve been installing (several so far) are engineered to do exactly what the CAG resolution says.

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The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation announced recently that the Con Edison Third Avenue Yard will be remediated under the State’s Brownfield Cleanup Program. NYSDEC will accept public comments on the draft Remedial Investigation Work Plan through September 8, 2017.

The Third Avenue Yard is a nearly seven-acre site bounded to the north by 1st Street, to the south by 3rd Street, to the west by 3rd Avenue, and to the east by 4th Avenue. Con Edison currently uses the property as a utility service center, which includes storage, fleet fuel dispensing, a repair garage, parking of fleet and staff vehicles, administrative offices, and a truck flushing area.

The site was a tidal wetland until 1860, when it was covered with fill, and then housed Washington Park, the home ballpark of the predecessors to the Brooklyn Dodgers, until approximately 1918, when it was converted into warehouse space.

The remedial investigation will define the nature and extent of contamination in soil, surface water, groundwater and any other parts of the environment that may be affected. Elements of the investigation will include:

• Installation and sampling of soil borings to determine the extent of PCBs, manufactured gas, petroleum and urban fill contamination.

• Installation and sampling of additional groundwater wells to determine current groundwater conditions.

The investigation will inform the creation of a cleanup plan, which will also be subject to a 45-day public comment period.

The proposed Remedial Investigation Work Plan is available for review at the following locations:

Brooklyn Public Library – Pacific Branch
25 4th Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11217
Phone: (718) 638-1531

Brooklyn Community Board 6
250 Baltic Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201
Phone: 718-643-3027

Project-related questions and can be directed, and comments on the Draft Remedial Investigation Work Plan submitted, to:
Michael Haggerty
NYS Department of Environmental Conservation
Division of Environmental Remediation
625 Broadway
Albany, NY 12233-7017
Phone: 518-402-9688
Email: michael.haggerty@dec.ny.gov

Site-related health questions can be directed to:
Gregory Rys
New York State Department of Health
Empire State Plaza Corning Tower Room 1787
Albany, NY 12237
Phone: 518-402-7860
Email: BEEI@health.ny.gov

Click here for a copy of the project Fact Sheet.

More information about the site and contaminants found in its soil and groundwater are available here.

Gowanus Canal CAG Meeting
Tuesday, May 23, 2017
Mary Star of the Sea Senior Apartments, 41 1st Street


Doug Sarno opened the meeting at 6:40.

The April meeting summary was approved with no revisions.

MS 38 7th grade students presented their projects for the Gowanus Canal Thomas Greene Park resiliency project.

Project Updates (Christos Tsiamis, EPA Project Manager)

The first item was regarding the Fulton cutoff wall and activities related to building the overflow tanks and the cleanup of Thomas Greene Park.

  • National Grid has been issued an order and will be working under EPA’s oversight to build the Fulton cutoff wall. The state decision regarding Thomas Greene Park included some cleanup at the park at an appropriate time and the construction of a cutoff wall by the Canal to stop the tar from flowing into the Canal.
  • The EPA’s ROD for cleaning up the Canal had a provision whereby some work was being conducted by the state at the former MGP plants (Public Place, Fulton, Metropolitan). The ROD stated that under certain circumstances, EPA might have to assume the lead for that work, and that’s what’s happened now. One of named circumstances was a matter of coordination. What changed from the time the state issued the ROD and now? A subsequent agreement between EPA and the City about the placement of the retention tanks. In that consent agreement, it was agreed that the City would have the choice of building the tank right next to the Canal or at Thomas Greene Park. The City’s preferred site was the head of Canal but that’s private property and there are complications. EPA put time limit on that decision in order to ensure that the cleanup can move forward and required the City to prepare two parallel designs. Right now, the City is moving under the premise that they’ll be able to acquire or take by eminent domain the location next to the Canal. There is certain work required to build the tank, including environmental investigation and construction, and the City is responsible for these things.
  • In the state decision, National Grid is obligated to build the wall and we will have two different entities working on this: National Grid will work under state supervision and the City will work under EPA supervision for installing the tanks. To improve coordination, the state and EPA agreed it would be best for EPA to take the lead, which is the rationale for the National Grid order. In two weeks, EPA will meet with National Grid to discuss the specifics of building the wall and then will move on and brief the CAG.

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The Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group’s Land Use Committee met on Tuesday, July 18, 2017, in the offices of the Gowanus Canal Conservancy at 543 Union Street.

Committee Members present:

David Briggs, Rafael Gomez de Luna, Andrea Parker, Peter Reich, Buddy Scotto, Sue Wolfe

Item 1

The Gowanus Canal Conservancy (GCC) shared their recommendations for potential NRDA restoration projects on the Canal: Salt Lot, Lowe’s Bulkhead, edge of Pathmark site along water, Home Depot waterfront, and GBX site. Other locations to be considered: street ends, turning basins, Public Place waterfront, Carroll Park, Thomas Greene Park, and Under the Tracks Playground. RTA-1 (retention tank and head house at the north end of the canal) is a possible site if it can be demonstrated that it benefits the ecological restoration of the canal.


Committee will inquire at next CAG meeting if NRDA process is moving forward and if sites have been selected by the NRDA trustees.

Item 2

Temporary community facility for D&D Pool and Thomas Greene Park.


Committee will draft a resolution that urges city agencies to identify the potential sites under consideration for the temporary pool and park facility.

The Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group’s Land Use Committee met on Tuesday, June 6, 2017, in the offices of the Gowanus Canal Conservancy at 543 Union Street.

Committee Members present:

David Briggs, Katia Kelly, Andrea Parker, Peter Reich, Buddy Scotto, Maryann Young

Item 1

Recent presentation by the Health Department at the CAG meeting regarding safe consumption of fish and shellfish in the Gowanus Canal.


It was agreed that the Land Use committee supports the Water Quality/Technical Committee’s concern with the Health Department’s report presented at the last CAG meeting and its intention to urge the Health Department to take a stronger position on not eating Gowanus fish and crabs. Dave will send an email to Marlene Donnelly.

Item 2

Bulkhead at Lowe’s parking lot has collapsed.


Committee will draft a resolution that urges the EPA to carefully consider engineering solutions for bulkhead restorations that are affected by subsurface conditions and future dredging operations.

Item 3

Potential opportunity at collapsed bulkhead.


Area could be a designated NRDA site for ecological restoration. Ideally, the NRDA trustees can reach out to the current property owner and discuss options.

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.

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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.

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