On October 3, 2019, New York City Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Vincent Sapienza responded in writing to US Environmental Protection Agency Region 2 Administrator Pete Lopez regarding EPA’s rejection of the city’s proposal to build a tunnel to capture combined sewer overflow rather than the tanks proscribed by the EPA.

The EPA has ultimate jurisdiction in the matter, however, and has shown no inclination to revisit its decision, which compels the city to construct an 8-million gallon retention tank near the head of the canal, and a second 4-million gallon tank on the site of the Salt Lot.

You can read NYC DEP’s letter in its entirety here.

The Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group’s Outreach Committee met on Thursday, October 17, at 8:30 a.m., in the offices of the Fifth Avenue Committee, at 621 Degraw Street.

CAG Attendees: Sabine Aronowsky, Christine Petro, Eric McClure, Jessica Roff

Review of last month’s meeting notes and action items, and of the September general meeting.

Christine has requested a fact sheet from EPA for RTA 1. No update yet. She’ll follow up with Natalie.

North Canal Visioning Group does not appear to have met recently. We need to remind Council Member Levin of the necessity to engage the community around the north end of the canal, especially with the 90% design due at the end of last month.

Sidebar conversations are happening about the order to provide a temporary swimming pool while the park remediation is progressing. Christine or Sabine will invite Benjamin Solotaire from Council Member Levin’s office to update us on the North Canal Visioning Group. Christine will double check with Andrea about whether there have been any recent NCVG meetings.

We will move the November Outreach meeting to November 14 (Sabine will confirm a meeting room and will move her standing appointment so we can go longer than an hour). Invite EPA and Levin’s office for a discussion of design processes for Fulton cut-off wall and tank projects, as well as park remediation and temporary pool.

We also need to get an update from National Grid regarding the remediation of Thomas Greene Park. We’ll invite Terri Thompson to the December Outreach Committee meeting to provide an update.

What will the impacts be of the two projects (CSO tank and park remediation) possibly going on at the same time? Will parts of the park remain open, and what kind of safety provisions will be in place to protect park users?

With 90% design of the RTA-1 clean up , will there be an opportunity for the public to provide feedback on the plan?

CAG could issue a press release after Thanksgiving with an update on the project, perhaps in conjunction with Council Member Levin’s office.

Much of these potential actions hinge on an update on the RTA-1 work. Opportunity to comment on plan, etc. Head house open space design, incorporation of Gowanus Station building façade, etc.

The Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group’s Land Use Committee met on Tuesday, September 10, 2019, at the offices of the Gowanus Canal Conservancy, at 543 Union Street.

CAG Members present:

David Briggs
Andrea Parker
Peter Reich
Maryann Young


Terri Thomson
Barbara Woods
Steve Marcus

Item 1

Member presentations about why they are on the CAG.


Dave has already reached out to Natalie and Doug. Some discussion about whether only the groups should present or if all members should present. Will discuss at next meeting.

Item 2

Andrea reported that the Gowanus Canal Conservancy’s third annual bio-blitz was the largest to date, and documented wildlife in the area around the canal.


This data should be presented to the CAG for support, and submitted to the trustees of the NRDA program with a request for a formal response and comparison to data they’ve already collected.

Item 3

Status of previous resolutions. Have they been successful?


Will review at next meeting.

EPA Region 2’s Gowanus Superfund cleanup Senior Project Manager, Christos Tsiamis, sent along the following notification yesterday:

“…NYC DEP will be shutting down the Flushing Tunnel for 10-12 weeks starting next Tuesday October 1st in order to perform the modifications to the Flushing Tunnel Discharge Chamber to address the foaming issues at the Flushing Tunnel outlet.”

Tsiamis reported that it is his understanding that the work will take place on land, on the premises of NYCDEP’s property at the top end of the canal.

At its September 24, 2019 general meeting, the Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group passed the following resolution empowering the CAG to formally submit a petition to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation requesting that the Gowanus Canal be reclassified from Class-SD to Class-I.

The resolution reads as follows:

Resolved, that the EPA Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group (CAG) formally submit a request for water reclassification or a “reclass petition” to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), Division of Water, Bureau of Water Assessment and Management. The CAG seeks to reclassify the surface waters of the Gowanus Canal through the State’s formal rule making process from its current industrial designation of Class-SD to Class-I. The current Class-SD designation mandates a minimal level of dissolved oxygen be maintained in the waters, but places no limit to levels of pathogens present in the waterway and is not protective of current and future recreational uses, which include contact recreation for families and children. A Class-I designation would impose limits on pathogen levels, both coliform and enterococci bacteria, and is necessary to ensure that children and others are not exposed to dangerous diseases due to a simple act of coming into contact with the water while recreating in, on, or at the canal.

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At its September 24, 2019 general meeting, the Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group passed the following resolution calling on the EPA to finalize a Programmatic Agreement or Memorandum of Agreement covering the Gowanus Superfund site pursuant to Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act.

The resolution, addressed to the EPA, Gowanus Canal Superfund Potentially Responsible Parties (PRPs), the New York State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP), reads as follows:


The Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group (CAG) requests that the EPA and the PRPs, as well as any contractors employed by them, refrain from proceeding with demolition, site clearance, or any other tangible preparations for the creation of the cut-off wall proposed for the east side of the Gowanus Canal above the Union Street Bridge or any other demolition, excavation, or bulkhead replacement activity along the Gowanus Canal until such time as the EPA has finalized a Programmatic Agreement (PA) or Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) covering the Gowanus Superfund site’s entire area of potential effects pursuant to Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act.

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced that it had rejected a proposal by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to substitute a combined sewer overflow (CSO) tunnel for the two CSO retention tanks prescribed in the EPA’s Record of Decision for the Gowanus Canal Superfund cleanup.

In a letter dated September 20, 2019, US EPA Region 2 Administrator Pete Lopez informed NYC DEP Commissioner Vincent Sapienza that after careful and lengthy review, EPA had decided against the city’s tunnel proposal. Lopez outlined several reasons for the EPA’s decision, which largely focused on concern over potential delays in the cleanup if a tunnel were to replace the tanks.

Click here to read the full letter from Administrator Lopez.

The Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group’s Land Use Committee met on Tuesday, July 9, 2019, at the offices of the Gowanus Canal Conservancy, at 543 Union Street.

CAG Members present:

David Briggs
Andrea Parker
Peter Reich


Terri Thomson, National Grid

Item 1

Peter asked if the committee could develop a targeted vision for the north end of the canal (Phase I of the cleanup). There is concern that the scope of the zoning and the remediation covers a large area and is very complex. If the CAG proposes a vision for a subdistrict, it could serve as a template for the entire area.


Some of this was already explored with the North Gowanus Canal Visioning Group. All agreed that developing consensus at the CAG is a challenge given the myriad perspectives. Topic will be further discussed at the next Land Use Committee meeting in September.

Item 2

Terri suggested that the CAG will benefit if each organization and at-large member gives a short presentation about why they are on the CAG at a monthly meeting.


All agreed that this is an excellent idea. Dave will reach out to Doug and Natalie.

Item 3

Andrea pointed out that the NRD process for restoring damaged ecosystems should be revisited.


All agreed that this is important. Andrea suggested inviting Carl Alderson and other trustees to a future Land Use Committee meeting.

Gowanus Canal CAG General Meeting
Tuesday, June 25, 2019
Mary Star of the Sea Senior Apartments, 41 1st Street


Doug Sarno opened the meeting at 6:35. 

A few things to plan for moving forward, along with a couple committee reports, and an update from the EPA.

Project Updates

Brian Carr, EPA, presented the updates.

Things are status quo. There is work starting on the Fulton barrier wall. Public Place work also starting. Half a dozen or so designs and negotiations with property owners for them to replace bulkheads, and we’re trying to coordinate all of these things so they fit together. We’re hopeful that’s going to work out. It will be a challenge for staging area and barges in the canal and things like that. Before I went away there was an order issued to the PRP group to install bulkheads where Flushing Tunnel is, and the property next to the head of the canal at 479 Degraw – those are the only two we don’t expect property owners to do – the property owner at 479 Degraw can do it themselves and it will be easier than what happened at Whole Foods.

For those with a history, it is part of Eastern Effects where the “poonami” video was filmed in 2010. Just next to that is the Bayside property; we have an agreement in principal for them to do their design of the bulkhead once done in September. At 450 Union, where Pig Beach is, they’re in the NYS Brownfields program, and we’re in discussion for them to do a bulkhead. A block from there, Lavender Lake and then Powerhouse are in process. Next to Whole Foods we have a bulkhead design, and then next to Carroll Street we’ve been reviewing that.  

This is an incredible amount of work, and people have special sheet piles coming from Luxembourg and places like that. In the meantime, we’re doing lower bulkheads. Smith Street properties down in Red Hook. The number of things we’re doing that are close to fruition is fairly incredible. These walls can cost $5,000 to $10,000 per linear foot and the canal is 1.8 miles long, so we’re talking about quite a lot of money, and a lot of sheet piling. Various parties are anticipating future rezoning requirements, so we’re talking to them about soft edges, and the GCC and DCP, and we are going to start seeing more Sponge Park-type of edges, and hopefully we can begin transforming the way things are done. 

We have approved the design for the 1st Street Basin, and we’ll work with PRPs later in the year about how to move forward on that. With regard to the tunnel proposal, for the moment our Regional Administrator is very carefully reviewing this, and we had an excellent meeting with him earlier today and are meeting again next week. There are so many complex issues with it, and it will take a while. The mandate we’ve been given is to make sure we do the best we can for the community. With any luck we will complete the various steps we need to take so we can begin dredging a year from now. 

Working with National Grid on the Fulton barrier wall. Some of the barges are so large, it would prevent other barges from entering. We have to work toward that so the Flushing Tunnel outlet can be installed; this is one of the most challenging processes we are facing.

We could work 24 hours a day and still not keep up – the things we have to do to not interrupt business, such as get access, assess before and after conditions. 

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