Thursday, February 27, 2014

National Grid Currently Performing Pilot Study At Public Place In Gowanus

Screen Shot 2012-04-30 at 9.21.52 AM
A view of Public Place from 4th Place in the 1930's
National Grid Presentation To CB6
After a few delays, National Grid recently began a pilot study at the Public Place site in Gowanus.  The study will help the utility company design a clean-up plan for the 5.8 acre track of land along the heavily polluted Gowanus Canal.
The following information has been posted by National Grid:
National Grid and its contractors are now performing the pilot study activities at the former Citizens Manufactured Gas Plant (MGP) – also known as Public Place. The site is bound by Smith, Huntington and Fifth Streets and the Gowanus Canal. 
Pilot study work, including timber pile extraction and sheet pile driving along the Gowanus Canal and on the surrounding land, is scheduled to begin the last week of February, weather permitting. We anticipate the duration of this project to be approximately five weeks. During this time, you may experience noise and vibrations associated with pilot study activities. We will be monitoring and evaluating air, noise, and vibration during this process. 
The testing conducted during the pilot study will be used to design a remedy that delivers a safe and successful cleanup while limiting disruption to the community and achieving a long-term solution. Information gained during the Citizens pilot study will also be used for remediation efforts at the former Metropolitan and Fulton MGP sites.National Grid is committed to keeping the community informed of our activities during the construction period. We will continue to post updates on our website ( and distribute updates via email. 
For more information on the activities mentioned above, the pilot study in general, or if you would like to be added to our distribution list, please leave a message on our hotline at (718) 403-2084 or email us at
Here is some background on the site:
From the 1860s to the early 1960s,  the Public Place site was the home of the former Citizens Gas Light Company's 12th Ward Gas Work Plant,  where coal and petroleum products were turned into flammable gas. The gas was used for cooking, lighting, heating and commercial purposes in the surrounding neighborhoods.
Unfortunately, one of the by-products of this gasification process is coal tar, a black viscous liquid, which is harmful to the environment.  At Public Place, coal tar has been found at depths of 150 feet.
When the Citizens Gas Works plant was decommissioned in the 60s, the site was given to the city 'by condemnation' as public land in 1975. Hence the name "Public Place".
Citizens Gas Light Company later sold to Brooklyn Union Gas, which became Keyspan, which is now National Grid.
The responsibility for the clean-up falls on National Grid. The work will be done under the supervision of NYS Department of Environmental Conservation.
Since some of the coal tar has been found to ooze from the site into the Gowanus Canal, the US Environmental Protection Agency, which declared the canal a Superfund site in 2010, is also involved.
EPA has named National Grid a Potential Responsible Party [PRP] which means that the company will contribute to the Gowanus Canal clean-up.

Public Place has been slated for development by the City of New York . The Gowanus Green project, as it is ironically named, would bring 770 units of affordable housing to the shores of the Gowanus.
One has to wonder how prudent and realistic it is to build housing on such historically polluted land.
Many in the community are skeptical that the site will ever be safe for human habitation.


Anonymous said...

Speaking of that last image - what is that empty lot that is off of Smith and around 5th Street or so? Just a cement truck parking lot? Whatever it is, they don't use hardly any of that space - I'm surprised that hasn't been sold off yet, being on Smith and all.

Katia said...

The lot currently used by the cement company and the area where the trucks are parked are part of Public Place and belong to the City of New York.