The Gowanus Canal was designated a federal Superfund site in 2010, initiating a complex, multi-year clean-up of more than a century’s worth of toxins and other contaminants.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has completed a successful pilot dredging and capping of the 4th Street turning basin, and is now turning its sights on the process of cleaning the entirety of the canal, beginning at the head-end near Butler Street, in 2020.

Please join us at a public town hall meeting on May 29 for an important update on the canal clean-up, the future timeline, and an idea of what to expect as the work progresses. Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez will give a keynote, and representatives from the EPA will present a project overview and look-ahead. The public will have an opportunity to ask questions following the presentation.

Please RSVP via Eventbrite.

At PS 133, 610 Baltic Street at 4th Avenue, in Brooklyn.


Please click here to download a printable, shareable PDF version of the flyer.

Gowanus Canal CAG Meeting
Tuesday, April 23, 2019
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:

There hasn’t been much change since the last report. The 95% design report is due from the City on April 30. The wall design has been finalized. The 4th Street Basin artifacts that were extracted are not going to be disposed of. EPA is in negotiation to store material with a property owner in Red Hook, and those items will stay there safe until final disposition.

Questions & Answers

CAG: Where’s Christos?
EPA: Christos is not here because there aren’t major updates. He sent me instead.

CAG: Was under the impression he would come answer some specific questions at this meeting – sent by email.
EPA: We will work to make sure we have answers.

CAG: Is the EPA going to comment on the Gowanus EIS scoping?
EPA: Yes, it is our intent to comment on the EIS.

CAG: Are you going to testify on Thursday at the Public Scoping meeting?
EPA: We will probably send them in writing – I don’t think we plan to testify.

CAG: One of the questions to Christos was what the process would entail if we needed to amend the ROD (Record of Decision)?
EPA: There have been examples of ROD amendments and things that are a little more involved. I can’t give specifics because it’s speculative. It is determined by the level of complexity around changes to the remedy. A ROD amendment is not necessarily required.

CAG: Some were under the impression that opening the ROD will change things?
EPA: This is a Brian Carr question. We have had Superfund sites before where they had to do an Explanation of Significant Difference (ESD), this does not require reopening the ROD. I don’t know as all of this is still theoretical. EPA is not committing to a path because we have not gotten to that point yet.

CAG: When will work at the north end of the canal begin?
EPA: First section is supposed to begin in the next year or so.

CAG: Including the actual physical work on RTA1?
EPA: I assume it will.

CAG: And the cut-off wall construction?
EPA: I think those things will happen concurrently – if dredging is June 2020, the cut-off wall will be prior to that.

CAG: I know there was a date in the ROD that if the City’s management of sewage wasn’t sufficient, there would be further action, when is that supposed to happen?
EPA: If the bottom of the canal is clean but there is continued CSO, the City has to clean up to the level where it was before the change. It depends on when the tank remedy is implemented. The City would be responsible for cleaning up for the number of years following the monitoring and the EPA will make sure they do that.

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Gowanus Canal CAG Meeting
Tuesday, March 26, 2019
Mary Star of the Sea Senior Apartments, 41 1st Street


Doug Sarno opened the meeting at 6:35.

The Department of City Planning (DCP) and Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) are here at the invitation of the CAG.

February minutes approved.

Beginning in March, the CAG notes are going to try to be turned around faster, if there are any comments or revisions, they will be made, then we will post the minutes as draft minutes and then vote formally at the full CAG.

Project Updates

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

Two outstanding items the CAG has been concerned about are the potential tunnel project to replace the CSO tanks, and the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) for historic preservation at 234 Butler Street. EPA still needs to schedule a meeting with the Region II Administrator, Pete Lopez. In terms of the tunnel project, Christos Tsiamis says there are no new updates. EPA has already signed the MOA. There has been a question about DEP, which will be addressed in their presentation tonight.

EPA & CAG Questions & Answers

CAG: Can you confirm the other parties have signed the MOA? It is an agreement with SHPO, EPA, and others?
EPA: Not sure who the signatories are on the MOA referring to 234 Butler.

CAG: Are there any updates on the Fulton MGP site?
EPA: Some movement on the wall but in terms of other stuff, no.

CAG: In terms of the tunnel, would it be helpful if the CAG put forth opinions to the Regional Administrator?
EPA: Don’t think so; it is not so much a decision point as much as providing technical information about what the project means.

CAG: Can the tunnel be put in under the same Record of Decision (ROD)?
EPA: There is already a ROD on this. Doing the tunnel would require a different ROD.

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At its April 23, 2019 general meeting, the Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group passed the following resolution demanding that the City-sponsored Gowanus Neighborhood Rezoning not compromise the Superfund remedy by allowing proposed density to increase combined sewage overflow (CSO) into the Canal.

The resolution reads as follows:

Resolved, the Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group (CAG) demands that the City-sponsored Gowanus Neighborhood Rezoning not compromise the Superfund remedy through allowing proposed density to increase combined sewage overflow (CSO) into the Canal. To protect the remedy, we demand that:

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Gowanus Canal CAG Meeting
Tuesday, February 26, 2019
Mary Star of the Sea Senior Apartments, 41 1st Street


Doug Sarno opened the meeting at 6:35.

Because of the Federal government shutdown, we did not get to conduct our January year in review, so we have put that on tonight’s agenda.

Project Updates: EPA

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

The EPA is heading toward these milestones:

  • Complete designs for the sheet-pile wall running from Union Street to the top of the Canal
  • Design for the excavation and restoration of the 1st Street Basin
  • PRPs to submit 90% design for the top of canal cleanup
  • To receive NYC’s retention tank plans.

In November, EPA was working on a number of designs toward completion, then the government shutdown hit. Because the designs involve a lot of communication between the teams, the Potentially Responsible Parties (PRPs), and the EPA, there is a lot of effort happening now to catch up and get to the completion of the designs. In March and April, the EPA expects to have the complete designs for the sheet-pile wall that runs from Union Street to the top of the Canal on the east side. That sheet-pile wall will prevent the top from coming down the Canal at the Fulton site. EPA and the NYC Department of Design and Construction (DDC) have been working closely on the design for the excavation and restoration of the 1st Street Basin. We expect the design to be completed in the next few weeks (after February 26). By May, EPA expects the design group of the PRPs to submit the 90% design for the cleanup of the upper canal to the top of the canal. According to the 2016 Consent Order, the City of New York is obligated to submit plans for the retention tank at the top of the canal by April, 2019.

Proposal to Use Tunnels instead of Tanks

When Pete Lopez, the Region II Administrator, was at the CAG meeting in November, he spoke about the ,NYC Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) proposal to dig a storage tunnel in lieu of the tanks. The EPA understands DEP presented this idea to the CAG during the shutdown but EPA was not present. EPA is evaluating that proposal in depth. Once EPA’s technical team and EPA’s legal team review the plans, they will bring it to the administrator. After that, the EPA will let you know how the project was evaluated and the decision on the tunnel vs. tanks.

The idea of tunnels was raised by a PRP. The process and design for the tunnels has not stopped. From time to time, after EPA makes a decision, new ideas come up from EPA or PRPs. When this has happened in the past, EPA has tried some of the ideas that didn’t work and the PRPs still paid. The EPA is evaluating the idea. EPA gets to make the decision, not the City; these issues are complex. DEP thinks of going deep and we think deep before we go.

Historic Preservation Decision of 234 Butler Street

The City now owns the lot at 234 Butler. EPA worked with the NY State Historic Preservation Office on the preservation of this building because the community felt it needed to be considered for preservation.

Back in 2017, EPA noted that the building at 234 Butler should be considered for historic preservation. The City’s position was they would preserve certain historical features but the building would be demolished. EPA came up with a way to preserve the entire corner façade – 30 to 50 feet of the Butler Street facing – and there was a draft memo of this in spring of 2018. We received comments from the CAG and lengthy comments from NYC. To preserve in place what EPA wanted would be very costly, and might not keep the building façade safe. The Regional Administrator found a way to satisfy both the City and the EPA, as well as the advisory council for historic preservation. There is a draft decision to preserve those walls. In order to address the City’s concerns about whether it was possible to keep the wall standing, they’re going to dismantle them carefully brick by brick – no wrecking ball – and then restore and rebuild with the pediment and everything and incorporate it in the new head house. What EPA will do is have the responsibility of overseeing the dismantling to make sure it is being done carefully. The time will come when the City will build the head house. Under the agreement, the City has to do it, but how it is integrated involves the community. EPA’s mandate does not include architectural elements. The City is going to have to amend the approval so it aligns with EPA work.

Read more »

Please join us for our next General Meeting, on Tuesday, March 26, 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.

AGENDA (all times are approximate)

6:30 – 6:45 PM: Welcome and Introductions

6:45 – 7:15 PM: EPA Project Updates

7:15 – 8:00 PM: New York City Department of City Planning and Department of Environmental Protection

  • The two agencies are invited to provide information on how the tunnel proposal and land use changes in the neighborhood will impact the Superfund process and remedy.

8:00 – 8:30 PM: CAG Committee Action and Updates

  • Leadership Committee
  • Admin Committee
  • Water Quality and Technical Committee
  • Archaeology Committee
  • Land Use Committee
  • Outreach Committee

8:30 PM: Adjourn

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

CAG Members Present

Sabine Aronowsky
Eric McClure

Superfund Town Hall, week of May 27? Wednesday, May 29? CAG meeting on May 28?

Sabine will follow up with Dan Wiley and Natalie Loney. High-level Superfund update. Will contact PS133 and Wyckoff Houses about holding May 29.

Eric to send current timeline doc to Natalie and ask her to review and suggest updates. Then circle back with Andrea for updating.

Eric to draft an email announcement for the Town Hall meeting and a press advisory, once we settle on a date.

Sabine has a glossary of terms from FAC’s environmental justice work that might serve as a draft for a CAG version.

Does Doug send the draft agenda for CAG meetings to the full CAG email list?

Next CAG Outreach Committee meeting Thursday, April 18, 9 a.m.

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


Terri Thomson, National Grid

Item 1

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


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.


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?


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.


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


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.


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.


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?


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.


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


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.