Gowanus Canal CAG Meeting
Tuesday, February 28, 2017
Mary Star of the Sea Senior Apartments, 41 1st Street
Doug Sarno opened the meeting at 6:35.
The January meeting summary was approved with no revisions.
Natalie Loney, EPA, presented the updates
- Planning for dredging of the 4th Street Basin is continuing; expect to mobilize in late August, dredging should be complete in February of next year; technical discussions between involved parties are moving forward and are on schedule.
- Project Manager Christos Tsiamis will be at the March CAG meeting and will provide more detail.
- EPA will meet with the city next week to review progress.
Questions & Answers
CAG Member: They’re working on bulkheads at the Fourth Street Basin now.
EPA: Originally the remediation plan was to start at the head of Canal and work our way down. Instead we’re starting with the Fourth Street Basin with the lessons learned and then moving to the head of the Canal.
CAG Member: How far along is National Grid in the remediation of the Public Place Site?
EPA: I don’t have an answer for that.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Activities Relating to the Gowanus Canal
Lynn Rakos, Archaeologist at USACE, briefed the CAG.
On February 27, the Corps released the Draft Integrated Feasibility Report and Environmental Assessment for the Hudson Raritan Estuary Ecosystem Restoration Feasibility Study.
- Includes eight planning regions in a 25-mile radius around the Statue of Liberty.
- Recommends that 260 sites in the HRE CRP go forward to other feasibility studies.
- Corps had been doing six other studies separately starting in the 1990s and early 2000s, focusing on restoration efforts in different areas of Hudson Raritan Estuary, all of these are now incorporated into the HRE study.
- The goal is to strengthen natural habitats and minimize environmental impacts.
- 33 projects are recommended for funding.
USACE is also conducting a coastal storm risk-management study within the New York & New Jersey Harbor and tidally affected tributaries encompassing all of New York City. Anticipated recommendations will include features that can be implemented by the Corps and others. The Corps is currently developing a project management plan and will hold public & NGO workshops in the coming months.
Questions & Answers
CAG Member: New York State has just finalized a rule – it passed sea level rise measures for planning – would this be part of the PMP?
USACE: Yes, we’re looking at all regulations, rules, what people are saying and putting it together so as not to duplicate existing efforts.
CAG Member: The City has just installed the Carroll St storm sewer (3rd Street project), which is against the New York State regulations. Would the Army Corps allow that retroactively or reroute the sewer away from Carroll Street?
USACE: I can’t answer that question.
CAG Member: Can the CAG request an extension to the public comment period?
USACE: It’s currently a 45-day period that ends April 14. It could be extended but an extension request is not automatically granted.
CAG Member: This thing covers nearly every watershed in New York-New Jersey. How much money is available in all this? 60 days is barely enough time to talk about the scope of all this.
USACE: It’s many millions – I don’t have cost figures. I don’t think the intent is that everything gets done all at once, and the Army Corps will partner with states and local governments to get these projects done.
The CAG decided to request a comment-deadline extension from USACE. The CAG also decided to invite Lisa Barron, USACE project manager, to present at the March CAG meeting, along with the Natural Resources trustees already on the agenda. The facilitator will forward these requests to the USACE on behalf of the CAG. The CAG will also extend the duration of the March meeting to accommodate the extra presenter.
The Department of Health has agreed that they will send someone to talk about the health evaluation of the Gowanus Canal. The CAG will invite them to the April meeting.
EPA distributed a request from the US Forest Service regarding a project that’s looking at stewardship of resources so that the US Forest Service can capture this information on a stewardship map. They are looking at natural resources in New York City, and hoping to identify community organizations that have taken the role of stewardship (for example, Friends of Thomas Greene Park). It’s a survey that they’re asking people to fill out on their webpage. The CAG encourages individual organizations to get their pin on the map because this is a historical survey; the more pins that show up on the map, the more likely we are to get federal funding. A CAG member volunteered to include the CAG in the survey.
In our last Outreach meeting, it was decided that the community meeting made sense as a separate event, and that the CAG would invite Congresswoman Velazquez to headline the town hall. This will be done independently of the CAG schedule.
Natalie Loney noted that she is now the community involvement coordinator for the Newtown Creek CAG in addition to Gowanus. Natalie reported that “what would Gowanus do?” is a refrain she hears repeatedly from the Newtown team. She thought it might be an interesting exercise for community outreach to reach out to the CAG there. It might be a good opportunity for a melding of minds between the two CAGs.
In the summer, there are a quite a few meetings, like the Gowanus EXPO. Should the CAG have a presence there? This is why we need a Communication Plan – we need to put it together over the next couple of months. The facilitation team will begin this process in March.
Committees were asked to affirm membership to the facilitation team for 2017. There are no changes.
The 5:45 meeting start time before full CAG meetings does not work for a lot of people. The Facilitation Committee will have a conference call to determine how to move forward. There is an outline for the Communication Plan that we’ll start with. It was noted that it will be most productive to find a time to meet in person.
The committee asked for any additional input to the Communication Plan:
- If we’re going to have a presence at any place, we need to develop flyers and materials, in language suitable for the layman.
- Can we approve a few things to post on the website? For one, the handout tonight, and the request Marlene sent from the Water Quality committee. Doug pointed out that we don’t need permission to put up a handout from a federal agency, or put a link to it.
- The CAG agreed that if a federal, state, or city agency is doing a project, that it’s appropriate to put it on our website.
- If something comes up in a committee meeting and you think it’s an important project for people to know about it, send it to Doug or Eric and we’ll make sure it gets on the site.
- On the website, for activities and events that NGOs will be having related to Gowanus and the area, should those also be on the website? That’s a bigger lift because then you have all kinds of organizations that may be doing work the CAG doesn’t agree with. It’s a bigger discussion and will be included in the communication plan. There may be exceptions for important things that people want to know about – we need a procedure for that in the Communication Plan.
Eymund Diegel has volunteered to be the facilitator. He is putting together an application for the American Battlefields program for the Gowanus waterfront – that’s our next agenda topic. Will work to identify some dates for the next meeting.
We need guidance from a certified Archaeologist like John Vetter. Eymund sent out a 59-page presentation focused on the First Street Basin, which was sent to John. Maybe it would be to our benefit for the entire CAG, if one of the Archaeology facilitators got in touch with John and asked him to provide some sort of focus. The committee was reminded that John is an EPA contractor and they need to make formal requests to Christos for John’s time.
Met on January 29, charged with putting together a clear process for determining active and inactive CAG members and tracking membership.
Will make the following motion at the next meeting:
- Any member can resign as always
- Members will be vetted according to a process
- Charter has been understood as requiring attendance (at least half of all general meetings during the calendar year)
- Does not see need to recommend charter change to clarify procedure regarding the attendance requirement and consequences
- Charter requires the Administration Committee to conduct yearly review to determine membership (via annual survey and attendance records)
- Recommends starting the survey on October 15 (one month earlier than usual) and setting deadline as November 15; any member who doesn’t respond will be removed from CAG roster.
Will make the following procedure regarding founding organizations
- Those listed on first CAG membership list from October 2010 will maintain their membership for the foreseeable future (originally there were 31, and 18 are currently active).
There are currently 18 active and 13 inactive organizations. Because this was such a big deal at the end of the year, if any organization does not have an active member, they will be considered inactive and they need to identify a member who will attend meetings according to the charter to get back on the active list.
These inactive members do not count against quorum. Quorum is calculated based on average attendance of the previous year, not the number of members.
CAG Comment: On attendance, “expected” should be changed to “required” in the charter, because people read it, and I get emails all the time about the fact that it’s not required.
Admin: The Administration Committee talked about this issue and decided to leave it as “expected.” Required doesn’t allow us to use common judgment about circumstances and valuable members will end up getting kicked off the CAG. We are a volunteer organization and we need to honor this. However, continuous low or non-existent attendance is being actively managed.
We are not kicking anyone off any mailing list, and anyone can attend CAG meetings, but membership comes with expectations.
- Last meeting was the second week of February; next meeting is Tuesday, March 7.
- Discussed natural resource trustees – feel it’s important to move quickly due to zoning, which may prevent any ecological restoration.
- Have a new mission statement.
- Discussed planning for Superfund 101 community meeting.
- Had a visit from the Gowanus Canal Conservancy, which is planning for Expo Gowanus on May 20 (will be held at Thomas Greene Park). They have artists, and they’re trying to do arts and science to bring lots of elements together at Gowanus.
- Artists visited – wanted to hear from CAG as to whether we want to be represented by an artist project. Discussed acronyms and tech language, important parts of what CAG does; will compile an acronym list.
- Will hopefully have a table there – no official CAG participation discussed.
- The Conservancy is partnering with the Fifth Avenue Committee and Friends of Thomas Greene Park. This is a fun festival where people will learn about Gowanus and important issues through enjoyable activities. This year, we invited artists to get involved through ArtsGowanus, to find out what are the important issues within the CAG and how artists can better engage people on Superfund.
- Gowanus Dredgers just got the keys to their boathouse on Second Street, and will be involved with the Gowanus Expo and artists interested in Superfund projects. They will be excavating circuit boards from the Brooklyn Navy Yard military operations, accessible via pickaxes through the landfill phase. This is the fourth time they’ve done it.
- EPA noted that this is not necessarily an appropriate course of action. There is hazardous material in the Canal and there may be PCBs and other contaminated materials in that area. The dredgers have a release and are following all the rules, especially for public access.
- Discussed whether the state will approve an action on sea level rise, and a separate action on shoreline that will affect the Canal area. Depending on the degree of de-glaciation, sea levels may rise much higher than the State projects.
- Waiting for final announcement from the State – would like to post it on the CAG
- We will compose draft comments
Doug Sarno noted that Land Use is the only committee mission statement currently in the files and asked all committees to please send him their latest mission statements. Committee mission statement do not have to be approved by full CAG.
It was agreed that we will alternate the order of committee updates in different months to accommodate folks who need to leave early.
CAG Members Present
Michelle de La Uz
Rafael Gomez de Luna
Stephen Kondaks (Red Hook Civic Association alternate for John McGettrick)
Christine Petro (Gowanus Canal Conservancy alternate for Andrea Parker)
Chrissy Remein (Riverkeeper alternate for Sean Dixon)
Maryann Young (CORD alternate for Rita Miller)
EPA, Staff and Presenters
Doug Sarno, Facilitator
Natalie Loney, EPA