Thursday, October 23, 2014

Picture Of The Day: Squash

Display on Douglass Street, off Smith Street.

Notes On Congresswoman Velázquez's Informational Meeting With EPA, DEP And NYCHA At Wyckoff Gardens

Last Night at the Wyckoff Gardens Community Center
Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez
Walter Mugdan, Superfund Division Director, US EPA, Region 2
Natalie Loney. EPA Region 2 Community Involvement CoordinatorIMG_1521
Councilmember Brad Lander
Eric Landau, Associate Commissioner, Public Affairs at 
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Luis Ponce, NYCHA Vice President of Operations
Joe Ann Brown, representative of Warren Street Houses' tenant associationIMG_1540
NYCHA resident asking about a job training institute as part of Superfund clean-up 
Gowanus NYCHA resident asking for help in getting his car replaced after Hurricane Sandy

Congresswoman Nydia Velézquez hosted an informational meeting at Wyckoff Gardens Community Center last night with representatives of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, New York City Department of Environmental Protection and of New York City Housing Department (NYCHA).

The meeting was meant to engage low-income housing residents in the Gowanus Superfund process, as well as to give residents of Gowanus Houses and Wyckoff Gardens, who were particularly hard hit by Hurricane Sandy, the opportunity to address issues of flooding and aging infrastructure. In particular, representatives of both apartment complexes have repeatedly complained of raw sewage in their basement and and gurgling out of their kitchen and bathroom sinks and tubs.

"Since the beginning of this process," the congresswoman told the community,  "one of the top priorities of mine, as well as the other elected officials, has been to assure community involvement and input, and I must say that EPA, under the leadership of Judith Enck, has kept this in mind throughout.  That is why the inclusive process implemented by EPA has resulted in a better strategy. Going forward, we must continue to insure that the public is familiar and comfortable with how the canal is remediated. That is why it is not only important to have the meetings with the Gowanus Superfund Community Advisory Group, but also to bring some of the meetings here. I need and I want to see more participation  from Public Housing residents."

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 2 was represented by Walter Mugdan, Superfund Division Director and by Natalie Loney, Community Involvement Coordinator.

Mr. Mugdan reminded the community that it has been exactly one year since the EPA issued its Record of Decision (ROD), which represents the finalized cleanup plan for the Gowanus Canal. He explained that there are two major components to the Superfund clean-up. The first component consists of dredging the heavily contaminated mud at the bottom of the canal and to carefully managed the material and to ship it to authorized, appropriate disposal locations outside of the New York area. In addition, the deeper contaminated soil that can not be removed will be capped to isolate it from the water and from aquatic life.
The second component relates to preventing raw sewage overflow from recontaminating the canal after it is dredged. In the ROD, the EPA is ordering City of New York to site two retention tanks near two major outflows, RH-034 at the top of the canal and  OH-007 near the 5th Street turning basin.
"We have determined in our decision, that there will have to be a significant reduction in the amount of Combined Sewage material that goes into the canal when it rains.  In order to build the tanks that will be necessary to capture the extra sewage rainwater,  the City of New York, which is responsible for doing this, will have to find a location for these tanks."

Natalie Loney gave an in depth presentation on how the Superfund program works and where in the process the Gowanus Canal Superfund stands today. [ You can access a video of Ms. Loney giving a similar presentation at TedX Gowanus here.]

Eric Landau, Associate Commissioner, Public Affairs at NYC Department of Environmental Protection  spoke about the 'many things that are going on in Gowanus.
"There is a lot that DEP is involved in here in Gowanus currently," he said.  DEP is in the process of installing High Level Storm sewers, "which will help with the flooding and will have a CSO benefit."  The City, with New York States Department of Environmental Conservation,  'is working on reducing CSOs in the canal" by putting together a long term control plan.
In addition, DEP is installing Green infrastructure elements like bioswales to capture rain water so that it does not get mixed with sewer water.

Last month, the DEP submitted to EPA two potential locations for each of the two CSO retention tanks mandated by the Record of Decision.  
For the retention basin at the head of the canal, near Outfall RH-034,  DEP has suggested Thomas Greene Park, a public park.  The second proposed location is made up of three privately owned lots across the street on Nevins Street between Butler, De Graw and Sackett Street.

For Outfall Number OH-007, DEP has identified the  City-owned Salt Lot at Second Avenue at the edge of the canal.  The second location is located between the canal and 5th Street.

"This is a long process.  From this point to when we get back to EPA and the community with the one site [for each tank] that we think makes the most sense, it is the end of June [2015]. From now till June, there are still a lot of things that need to be looked at, including cost and how the community feels about the various locations.  We are very well aware of how the community feels about the Thomas Greene Playground.  We definitely heard that and we take this very seriously. That is also why it is our second rank site according to our criteria."

What Landau failed to mention is that Thomas Greene Park is publicly owned already,  whereas the alternative site for Outfall RH-034 across the street is privately owned and would need to be purchased, presumably by means of Eminent Domain.  The businesses currently operating on the land would need to be relocated.
All that would cost time. legal expenses and money to purchase the land.  Considering that on its website , DEP states that it "believes that the cost of the tanks would be five to ten times higher than EPA has estimated", it is hard to believe that the agency would rank the privately owned site higher than a site that it already owns.

Landau also failed to mention that Thomas Greene Park sits on top of a former Manufacturing Gas site for which New York DEC is currently finalizing an environmental remediation plan under the State Brownfield Program.  The coal tar that currently sits under the park and the pool will most likely have to be dug up anyway, which means that placing the retention tank there could save additional money.

Finally, Luis Ponce, NYC Housing Authority's Vice President of Operations, was able to address the sewer back up issue that were foremost on the minds of most Gowanus Houses and Wyckoff Gardens residents who came out last night.
Ponce explained that since receiving the complaints, NYCHA had determined that the problem was  the result of stoppage within the buildings'  waste pipes, most probably caused by grease being poured into the kitchen drains.  The catch basins had been cleaned out and the situation resolved.
"This is definitely a NYCHA issue, not a Gowanus Canal issue," Ponce stated.

1928 photo of the former MGP site at Douglass Street, where Thomas Greene Park is now

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A Moment In Time: The Field Trip

They had taken a field trip to the Brooklyn Heights Greenmarket to buy small pumpkins and apples.
Afterwards, they posed together for a group photo on the steps of Borough Hall. 

New Organization Formed To Oppose Gowanus Parole Facility In Gowanus

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One of my readers forwarded me an email she received from Councilmember Brad Lander yesterday in regards to the NYS Department of Corrections centralized parole facility that is currently being built on 2nd Avenue in Gowanus.
The new three-story 55,000-square-foot facilty is slated to open in 2015.  It will allow about 5,000 parolees to check in with their supervisors. Roughy 300 to 400 daily visits by parolees are anticipated.

In his email to those who signed a petition against the facility, Councilman Brad Lander  points to a new organization called Gowanus United, which is made up of neighbors, business owners, and civic groups, that have vowed to fight the facility.  The organization cites lack of security, increase of traffic and proximity to churches, parks and churches as a reason for its opposition.
It is interesting to note that on the organization's web site, none of these civic group nor businesses identify themselves.

The Councilman's email also refers to a meeting Gowanus United will hold on Thursday, October 23rd at 6:30 PM at AL-Madina School, 383 3rd Avenue ay 5th Street.

As I mentioned previously, it is important to note that this is not a prison, but a place for people who have served their time to check in with their parole officer. It is also important to note that zoning on the site allows such use.
Perhaps, Councilman Brad Lander and the business community's time would be  better spent introducing local job training programs that could provide parolees with real skills and jobs in Gowanus. 

And for all those citing additional traffic in Gowanus as a reason to oppose this facility, where was the outcry when Whole Foods opened its destination store just a block away at Third Street and Third Avenue?  I would bet that the gourmet market attracts a whole lot more cars to the area than this facility ever will.  Just saying.

EarthSong: A Climate Realty Concert" At St. Paul's Church On Carroll Street This Week-End

This week-end, St. Paul's Church, in collaboration with the "Climate Reality Project" will be hosting two free concerts in Carroll Gardens. On Saturday, October 25 and Sunday, October 26, Chameleonic, a chorus of 40+ voices will perform "EarthSong: A Climate Reality Concert".

Here are more details:
"Chameleonic under the direction of Vince Peterson, Artistic Director will present EarthSong: A Climate Reality Concert, at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on Saturday October 25 at 8 pm. and again on Sunday, October 26 at 5pm. The concert features the music of Frank Tichelli, Imogen Heap, Michael Jackson, and Harry Belafonte.

Chameleonic is an off shoot of Vince’s premier group Choral Chameleon.
It is a choral music training ground for avocational musicians. Every year in October, this chorus of 40+ voices presents a free outreach concert series to raise awareness about important issues that affect us all. This year they hope to raise consciousness on mans need to be good stewards of our planet and what the consequences will be if he doesn’t."

199 Carroll St. (between Clinton and
Saturday, October 25th at 8pm
Sunday, October 26th at 5pm

Altan Cleaners On Court Street Bids Farewell After Losing Lease

Another day, another business closing its doors in the neighborhood.  This time it is Atlan Cleaners at 191 Court Street near Bergen Street in Cobble Hill.  A sign in the window indicates that the small store will be gone at the end of October due to losing its lease.
An even bigger 'store for rent' sign has been affixed above the business' neon sign.

Did you use Altan? Can you recommend alternative dry cleaners/ shirt laundering places in the neighborhood?

Is 'Amazon Fresh' Staking Out Turf In Carroll Gardens?

Photo credit: Maryann Y.

Earlier this month, it was announced that  'Amazon Fresh' is coming to Brooklyn.  Obviously, the grocery delivery service has begun to stake out turf in Carroll Gardens. Yesterday, four Amazon Fresh trucks were parked in close proximity to each other on Court Street.  Two of the trucks were stationed directly in front of Union Market, the neighborhood's gourmet supermarket. That probably was not unintentional.
The bright green vehicles did not seem to be out for delivery. Rather, it appeared that they were just parked there to advertise the service.

Amazon Fresh offers free same-day and early morning deliveries for orders of $65.  For a limited time, all Amazon Prime members in eligible zip codes in the New York metro area can use AmazonFresh for free. (I just tried and the 11231 zip code is eligible.)

In addition to pantry staples, fresh produce and prepared food, Amazon Fresh also offers products from local shops and restaurants like Red Hook Lobster and Calexico.

Obviously, Amazon Fresh will give Fresh Direct some competition. But what effect will it have on our neighborhood grocery stores?
Will you try the service or will you continue to frequent Carroll Gardens' brick-and-mortar businesses?

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Picture Of The Day: Across The River

On a recent evening at Brooklyn Bridge Park.

Nydia Velázquez To Host Public Meeting With EPA, DEP And NYCHA At Wyckoff Gardens, Gowanus, This Wednesday

Congresswoman Nydia Velézquez will be hosting  a community informational meeting at Wyckoff Gardens Community Center this Wednesday October 22 at 6:30PM with representatives of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,  New York City Department of Environmental Protection and of New York City Housing Department (NYCHA).
State Senato Velmanette Montgomery, Assemblywoman Jaon Millman and Councilmembers Brad Lander and Ste Levin will als be attending.

The agenda includes a presentation on the Superfund clean-up of the Gowanus Canal as well as the siting of two retention tanks to control the raw sewage that flows into the canal during rain events.

Most importantly, this is an opportunity for residents of Gowanus Houses and Wyckoff Gardens, who were particularly hard hit by Hurricane Sandy, to address issues of flooding and aging infrastructure. Representatives of both apartment complexes have repeatedly complained of raw sewage in their basement and and gurgling out of their kitchen and bathroom sinks and tubs.
These issues probably relate more directly to the City and to NYCHA's inability to invest in better and newer plumbing than to the Superfund clean-up, but this meeting will give residents the opportunity to direct their complaints to the appropriate agencies with the elected representatives present.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Kapri Jewelry: Another Long Time Neighborhood Business Forced To Close Because Of High Rents

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Kapri Jewelry at 198 Court Street in Cobble Hill just recently closed its doors and the storefront is now for rent..  A sign on the door indicates that the closure was a result of "'excessive rent."
Granted,  Kapri certainly did not carry fine pieces of jewelry, but if you needed a gold chain repaired or a new battery for your watch, this was the place to go.
Luckily, the owner promises to continue offering repair services to the community as soon as he finds a new location.  In the meantime, he can be contacted at the number on the flyer above.

Meanwhile, North Star Real Estate Group  has listed the storefront for $5,000 a month.

TD Bank Branch Will Open In New Union Sackett Building At 340 Court Street This Saturday

The windows of the ground floor commercial space at 340 Court Street in the new Union/ Sackett building have been plastered with TD Bank posters announcing a new branch opening for quite a few months now.
Apparently, the branch will officially open its doors this coming Saturday, October 25th.  TDBank is sending out invitations to local residents for the grand celebration with a promise of gifts for the first 100 customers.
Forget the gifts.  Most of us are probably more interested in finding out if this branch has a free coin counting machine.

By the way, what is your experience with our neighborhood banks? Does one stand out for customer service?
And here is another question for you: Why don't most banks with branches in Carroll Gardens offer mortgages or home equity loans for three family homes in a neighborhood full of such buildings?