Tuesday, April 14, 2009

At Last Night's Gowanus Superfund Meeting


Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez
Walter Mugdan, EPA

Angela Carpenter, EPA

State Senator Daniel Squadron

Judith Thompson. local resident

Buddy Scotto

Buddy Scotto Getting Rather Angry

Pardon me for asking, but at last night's meeting on the Gowanus Canal Superfund Nomination, did you hear that the EPA normally measures pollutants in parts per millions, and sometimes in trillions, but that in the Gowanus Canal , pollutants are measured in parts per hundreds?

Did you also hear that on the Hazard Ranking System, the minimum score of eligibility is 28.5? The Gowanus scored 50 out of 100 on the very first test. No further tests were necessary to convince the US EPA to nominate the canal as a Superfund site.

According to Walter Mugdan, US EPA Director of the Emergency and Remedial Response Division, there can be no rational discussion about whether the canal needs to be cleaned up. The meeting last night was more about the when and how.
The primary objective, Mugdan explained, is to identify the sources of the contamination , clean up the sites along the Gowanus, and then to dredge the bottom of the 2 mile long canal.
He minced no words when he stated that a lot of money will be needed, and that it may take time. The progress "will be slower than you may hope, but faster than you might fear" Mudgan told the audience. He assured residents that the site will have a high profile, high priority and "will get a lot of attention."

Calling the Gowanus the city's most blighted area, he assured the audience that work on the flushing tunnel could continue as planned and that New York City's plan for the rezoning of the canal area would not have to be delayed. On the contrary, the EPA's clean up would be completely consistent with the wishes of the community as expressed through zoning.
Responding to critics who maintain that property values will drop sharply if or when the Gowanus would be declared a Superfund site, Mr. Mugdan mentioned that property values are more a function of the real estate market.
" There is no sane person who does not know that this area is heavily contaminated. We did not tell anyone anything that they did not know about the pollution."

Well, maybe he could sit down with some of our elected officials who supported development along the canal prior to a thorough clean-up. Our own Councilman Bill DeBlasio was all too eager to bring low-income housing to the heavily polluted shores of the Gowanus.
I sure would love to hear what he has to say about it now.

Dear Readers, what is your opinion on this and what is your vision for the Gowanus Canal?

Read More On The Meeting On Found In Brooklyn

For Home Page, click Pardon Me For Asking


Anonymous said...

After last nights meeting, I looked up the history of the Hudson River NPL listing that EPA was so proud to indicate would start clean-up next year, it was listed in the mid 1980s, over 25 years ago for a cleanup to start. Most of us won't live to see a clean canal based on that track record of "sucksess".

Also, regarding the CM Deblasio, if you were listening to what EPA and DEC were saying, the land along the canal needs to be cleaned before the cleanup of the canal can start so its the same thing the community has been hearing for the last several years; the only difference now is that there is going to be divestment and "running for the hills". Take a cue from Toll Bros. not EPA on how development will work, it won't so they'll have to wait and wait and wait for the canal cleanup. Also as they indicated the Army Corp, now can't go forward with their proposed restoration project, they need a specific congressional authorization and funding to be able to perform such work and don't have it.

Lastly, the idea that there are 3 Keyspan MGP sites that caused this leaves out the 200 or so former noxious uses easily identifiable from the Columbia Study, it's nice to know got to visit the area for the first time yesterday and don't have any familiarity with what has been happening.

Anonymous said...

I don't know what meeting the previous commenter was at, but last's night's event at PS 32 was a breath of fresh air.

Someone is finally interested in actually cleaning the canal, not in attempting an "ass backwards" approach of dumping housing on top of a toxic canal and hoping the new residents will magically fix the problem, when the old-timers have spent decades trying with little success.

Wake up. It's time for the Superfund!

Anonymous said...

The canal does not belong to Toll. It does not belong to the Scottos. It belongs to the public. The canal has been a known problem for over 100 years. I have been waiting twenty years for a clean canal and others much longer. What is a few more? 15 years ago or more I attended a presentation by the USACE at St. Agnes Church. One of the issues much discussed was the sediments. The canal could be dredged, the problem was disposal. Of course funding was also a problem. Now we have funding, commitment, and it sounds like a way to dispose of the toxic sludge. We should welcome this effort. If it is a matter of people no living to see a clean canal, Toll is no guarantee. It will be years before that project is occupied by currently phantom residents that will bring political pressure to clean the canal properly. Why not do it now?

As for Toll, quite possibly their threat to back out is a canard especially since their contract to purchase was contingent on obtaining a rezoning which they did. They can wait it out if need be if they are the healthy company they purport to be or resell. A clean and safe canal will generate investment.

Anonymous said...

though not part of your comments, the comment made a CB6 member shows a complete lack of the history of the canal and past uses around the canal. One is left to wonder why making the canal a "Super Fund" site is so unsetting. Could it be that some folks see their wallet being less fat.

Anonymous said...

There were a few missing words in the 7:39 comment, but I think I understand the gist: the EPA is slow and does not know the situation yet. Well, if they don't know the situation, then slow and steady is a good approach. If there are 200 other reasons besides Keyspan why the Canal is "noxious," I imagine that still means it should be cleaned.

The key point of this blog and the meeting is that the ongoing joke that is the Canal (such that the word "Gowanus" translates to pollution for those who know it) has been scientifically confirmed and the government wants to address it...slowly or otherwise, with gov't funding. The toxicity has been there 100 years. At best, Toll Bros would have put a 2-foot blanket of dirt on it (literally, that was their plan). The EPA will eliminate it. If this doesn't take another 100 years then we're ahead. And the downside is it will delay or cancel a towering, ill-conceived, untimely, traffic/school/fire-access nightmare, sewer-overflowing, condo project which is only desirous to the builder and those directly financially profiting from it.

Batman said...

There is such massive hate for Buddy Scotto, but come on. I mean, I disagree with him too, but he's been in this neighborhood longer than us all, he's put his money where his mouth is, and yes, he does want to make money, but don't we all?

Anonymous said...

This is the EPA email address to leave a comment .
the Feds have the resources to Do the job , clean the canal .
The toll Bros. have an agenda .
I say call in the Calvary .
It's Super-fund time !!! HORAY !!!!

Anonymous said...

We have to keep an eye on the The Bloomberg administration . They are in bed with the Toll Brothers . What have they done over the last eight years ? Now that the feds are looking Bloomberg finally says something.
One of the few good aspects of our current "economic readjustment " is that the Real Estate industry's power can possibly be questioned .

Anonymous said...

I have lived in this neighborhood all of my life and most of it just a half block from the canal.My concern with the superfund is not only the depreciation of home values but should I wish to refinance my house I won't be able to because banks will not lend money on properties in close proximity to a superfund site. I want a clean canal, but there must be a better way.

BestViewInBrooklyn said...

The Brian Lehrer Show had him on this morning, so any one who wants to hear it can go to WNYCs site to hear the podcast.

Well done in letting us hear what went on, Katia.

Anonymous said...

Commenting on "At best, Toll Bros would have put a 2-foot blanket of dirt on it (literally, that was their plan). The EPA will eliminate it." 1. There's no such thing as just 'eliminating it'. They might reduce it's size or toxicity but it doesn't just go away and EPA also caps. 2. Please correct me if I am wrong (and I hope I am) but from what I heard last night, superfund will only clean the canal itself...there was no mention of the contaminated land along it so we are still at a crossroad. Can someone clarify that? We all agree the canal needs cleaned but if you do some digging on past + present superfund projects you'll see it's not something to be entered into lightly.

Anonymous said...

If the banks lent you money near a toxic canal in a FEMA flood zone, they'll lend you money near a Superfund site.

It sounds like you might have fallen prey to developer scare tactics.

Anonymous said...

Flood Zone? Hardly. The worst is an AE zone, there's not even any VE zones next to the canal. Or, did you not know that there are different types of flood zones?

I am in favor of Superfund status, as it has a certain balance to it after all of these years, but the homeowner who posted is correct, it will massively de-value his property for a long time. The speculators will be worse off, but it will still affect homeowners in the area.

Anonymous said...

But no one is talking about the upside here. what will a clean canal do to property values?--only good things.
Home values would suffer far more if Toll were to just build next to the toxic water and all those new community members ended up sick like Love Canal.

It's just so much more sensible to address the problems through a method that looks at the area-wide problems and so far no other branch of government has been able to put such a process on the table for consideration here. This is the only hope offered so far. And the city should be shamed--these people who have delayed the flushing tunnel work for soooooo long. The city has been dragging their feet on getting this water to comply to the 1972 Clean Water Act--the city had had more than 30 years of delaying this work and what I here from the mayor's office last night was that they want to delay cleaning the Gowanus yet again by stopping this process. Sham on the mayor's office, putting developer's interest above the health of our community!

Anonymous said...

I am 1000 per cent favor of Superfund status!!

Let's clean up this canal right! Celarly this job is far too big for the city and state to handle and anyone who builds housing there now is asking for lawsuits!

The EPA said everything but the word "D-A-N-G-E-R-O-U-S" last night...we are all at risk in Carroll Gardens! The mayor should be publicly shamed for his ignorant and greedy stance, and Buddy Scott should just develop a retirement community in Arizona or farther and then move there himself with his daughter, and that looney CB6 woman who is on the "2030 PlaNY committee" (ahem, the plan with the 'newly re-calculated' population stats for NYC)

Even if the population of NYC does ever explode, I very much doubt the bulk of it will land on any kind of 'Love Canal' type site (the current Gowanus Canal)

Anonymous said...

The mayor and Toll should be embarrassed by their negative statements on the Superfund proposal, and to use an old man scotto to do their dirty work!

Anonymous said...

Where's Bill? David Yassky has publicly stated that he supports the clean up but our own councilmember who was such a strong advocate for Toll has been silent. Is it taking him this long to develop the spin?
I think I am going to support Bill's campaign for public advocate because the thought of his answering complaints of new residents regarding stench, rising canal water, basement flooding, etc. amuses me.

Anonymous said...

The community does need to acknowledge Mr. Scotto as a leader who's legacy will include the cleanup and development of the Gowanus. He has done a tremendous amount of work. Many of us would not have even been at last night’s meeting if not for him. If fact there might not have even been a meeting like it. It does look like the canal will finally get cleaned and developed.

We recently witness the historic decline of the financial industry due in a large part because greed took over reasonable and sensible management of resources. The largely self regulating financial industry had no safe guards to protect even themselves and subsequently our whole economy. There is a point where commercial enterprise needs to be limited, watched and regulated by the public via good government. Government can still serve the public good. In a large part that was the platform our President was elected on. Having the EPA step in and for whatever debate it generates is good. It seems like the truth may be served towards the goal of a better outcome and clean canal.

The EPA involvement is not likely to help the community get the desired reduction in height and density at the Toll Brother site or at Public Place and many feel marginalized by the process that is allowing these projects to go forward even with so much community opposition. We do not have a sense that our local politicians are listening to us or have our best interest in mind as the rush to get development done in Gowanus has unfolded. Many of us feel some vindication at the EPA's evaluation after our claims of the toxicity of the site were not taken seriously. It all may add up to the Toll site and Public Place eventually going forward as planned. We may not have much control over all of that ultimately. But we may have a much cleaner canal and surrounding Gowanus.

Many parts of the process of how development gets done, by big money, favoritism and half truths has been highlighted in the last 2 years. I acknowledge Mr. Scotto has advocated for change longer than most of us and his personal savvy has taken us a long way. Hopefully we will continue to change the system by getting more savvy about how all this works and how we can be more effective to assert what the people in our community want, which is, responsible good new development.


Anonymous said...

Dear Vince,
You've drunk the Kool_Aid if you think that Mr. Buddy's Scotto's motivates for the Gowanus are purely altruistic. I was in Casa Rosa 25 years ago, and Mr. Scotto was at the next table telling a reporter how the Gowanus was not as dirty as everyone said, and how it would be a great place for residential development. He's been singing the same song, but now he has succeeded in getting the big bucks developers here, putting innocent people here at great risk because of all the toxins and comtaminants in the water and land.

Sam Rosenthal said...

Check out my variation on the logo.


Sam (half a block from Monte's)

Katia said...

Hi Sam,
your link doesn't seem to be working. Would you mind sending it again?
Would love to see your version.