Bloomy to feds: Keep your cleaning crews out of my canal!

The Brooklyn Paper
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Mayor Bloomberg last night trashed a federal proposal to dub the toxic Gowanus Canal a “Superfund site,” saying that such a designation would stifle private investment near the waterway and impede the city’s own environmental remediation.

Federal officials revealed last Wednesday that the 1.8-mile long “Lavender Lake” was on track to become part of the program that cleans contaminated areas with money seized from parties responsible for the pollution and, to a lesser extent, taxpayers.

But last night, the Bloomberg Administration declared its objection to the federal “Superfund” proposal, which was actually initiated by Gov. Paterson.

“Right now, we know that we share the same goal as Environmental Protection Agency and [state] Department of Environmental Conservation — cleaning up the Gowanus Canal so that its full development potential can be realized,” Daniel Walsh, director of the mayor’s Office of Environmental Remediation, told a crowd of about 150 people at a public hearing on the Superfund designation on Tuesday night at PS 32 on Hoyt Street.

Walsh’s comments met with catcalls, but he persisted.

“At this point, we don’t believe that a Superfund listing is the best way to achieve that goal,” he said.

Walsh added that placing the Gowanus on the Superfund registry of more than 1,600 sites nationwide would have a “chilling effect” on the Bloomberg Administra­tion’s residential rezoniong of the neighborhood — a plan that the mayor says would create $400 million of expected private development, thousands of units of housing and open space in the previously industrial neighborhood. The Superfund designation would also interfere with a $175-million effort that would pump more fresh water through the canal and also dredge 1,000 feet of highly polluted sediment from the channel’s bed, Walsh said.

“A Superfund designation could jeopardize all these plans,” he concluded.

Already, that is beginning to appear true.

Toll Brothers, a national homebuilder, has threatened that it might bail out on plans for a 447-unit apartment complex on two blocks adjacent to the channel and representatives from other potential developers said on Tuesday to The Brooklyn Paper that the Superfund listing would discourage financiers from investing with them.

Yet, the state insists that a federally led cleanup will ultimately be good for the area.

“We’re not here to stifle development,” said Robert Schick, the Department of Environmental Conservation’s director of bureau and remediation for the city. “We believe it will spur development.”

The DEC quietly applied in December to get the fetid waterway, which is the final resting place of heavy metals, PCBs, coal tar and other nasty industrial by-products at high levels, included in the Superfund program.

The DEC’s position pleased many people who felt that a total decontamination of the area ought to come before large-scale development, like Toll Brothers’ plans just south of the Carroll Street bridge, as well as a stalled Whole Foods proposed for Third Avenue and Third Street.

“The argument we heard for so long was from forces pushing for development that the only way to clean the canal was to build alongside the Gowanus. Now we see that’s no longer the case,” said Eric McClure, a member of Park Slope Neighbors.

Yet the proposal has driven a wedge through the community, too. Many attendees echoed McClure’s support the Superfund bid, but there was a strong resistance from organized labor, which does not want construction work to evaporate. Others worried that the value of their homes in the canal zone might actually drop because of the so-called “Superfund Stigma.”

The EPA-led Superfund program would be another government orchestrated effort to improve conditions in and around the canal. The city already has plans for renovating the canal’s pumping station and flushing tunnel. Meanwhile, the state oversees three brownfield sites on nearby dry land where National Grid, the gas utility, is eliminating underground sludge from previous gas plants that leak into the canal.

Representatives from the EPA said its work, which would begin with an evaluation of the waterway’s conditions and feasibility study, can compliment rather than complicate the landscape.

“The only way this site is ever going to be cleaned up is by becoming a federal Superfund site,” said Walter Mugdan, the EPA’s director of emergency and remedial response, to a round of applause.

Few details emerged about the cost or timeline of purifying the sluice.

“Timing will be slower than a lot of you might want, but it will be faster than many of you might fear,” said Mugdan.

Updated 5:12 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

TheToxicAvenger from brooklyn says:
yes, because Bloomberg has done a bang up job so far.

How can you seriously expect people to pay obscene amounts of money for condos on a Superfund site? How can TollBros possibly make their money back?
April 15, 2009, 9:58 am
Feral from Carroll Gardens says:
Bloomberg's statement was a laugh riot! I actually felt bad for the poor official who had to read it with a straight face.

If the mayor lived a block from the canal (as I do), I'm sure he'd feel quite differently about turning down this opportunity.
April 15, 2009, 10:04 am
mango from gowanus says:
something really stinks here ,first they rezone the areas around the canal after 50 years of torture ,then they drop this ridiculous bombshell, superfund bs,most definetly doesnt make sense ,,only thing making sense is bloomy telling the feds to get out
April 15, 2009, 10:21 am
gowanusdog from gowanus/CG says:
Bloomie's canal? It's a federal waterway so the feds have jurisdiction. Let the EPA do its thing. The long term benefits will outweigh the shorter term pain.
April 15, 2009, 11:09 am
Pacholo from Red Hook says:
Like Mayor Mike says "keep your dirty hands away from my clean canal and let my rich friends make some dirty money. Some poor kids are going to die but somebody got to be sacrificed." Remember Mike when you're voting for mayor!
April 15, 2009, 1:01 pm
Judah Spechal from Bed-Stuy says:
What did you all expect from the Billionaire Mayor. Here a man who was worth $4billion when he took office. Today, he's worth $20billion. He & his rich friend have done a nice job of carving up this city. When the city was running a surplus why wasn't he soo jazz about cleaning this place up? He's been in office for 8years. Now we are running a deficits & he telling the Feds to take their clean up $$ & go away. You know how he's planning to pay for the clean-up? Tolls on the East River Bridge, Congestion pricing. It's going to come from the pockets of us outta boroughers. Oh don't forget the fare hike. Soon you'll need a visa to go into Manhattan. Why can't the City, State, Fed get together with their $$ & do this clean-up together? Aren't they suppose to being this for the people? This is a joke!! I'm so jazzed for this election season.
April 15, 2009, 1:25 pm
sid from Boerum Hill says:
The EPA administrator was on the Leonard Lopate show this am. In that he says the initial stage called the investigation and evaluation stage would take no more than 3 years...maybe. Its available on the wnyc site to listen too. Superfund designation comes with no money. Its a polluter pays law. Part of the first three years is to identify the polluters. Then they try to get them to agree to pay for it after the EPA decides what needs to be done. The GE-Hudson River case is one that he describes. That case has taken just about 25 years and the first dredging hasn't been done yet. the City HAS put its money where its mouth is by readying 175 million for dredging in conjunction with the Corp of Engineers. The EPA administrator described an alternative to Superfund designation that has been used before but not in this area...maybe its time for that
April 15, 2009, 2:52 pm
Ethan from Downtown says:
Mike should have stuck with the Republican label.

His PlaNYC 2030 is all talk no action.

This is the last straw. He is arguably the most irresponsible Mayor in recent history. His pro-corporate, pro-development screw the little guy screw the neighborhoods approach is destroying what was left of this city post-Giuliani.

Horrendous. Good luck getting re-elected.
April 15, 2009, 5:07 pm
Charles from Park Slope says:
It is a time honored tradition for Republicans to fight environmental cleanups, and Bloomberg is no different. Wake up Brooklyn, and New York City ... we need a democratic mayor who will put the health and safety of people first. Yeh, the city will not be so high ended anymore, but who can afford it anyway? Vote Bloomberg and the Bloomberg 29 out of office! (Those that voted to repeal the term limits law). Lets bring the power back to the middle class; not the middle class to a polluted canal.
April 16, 2009, 12:45 am
TomTom from Park Slope says:
There's a clip of Buddy Scotto fuming at the meeting, saying that supporters of honestly cleaning up the Gowanus are only in it for their own selfish reasons...while his daughter stands to make $$$$$ only if the "cleanup" is fast and cheap, and damn the health consequences of the suckers who end up buying!
Hysterical! And it embodies the ridiculous and corrupt arguments against the Superfund designation.
April 16, 2009, 2:08 am
bkparent from Park Slope says:
People, commenting on this website is fine but make sure to submit your comments to EPA during the public comment period. They need to hear from the people who support the canal listing because, as Walter Mugdan said, this is the ONLY WAY it will be cleaned up. NYC ain't gonna do it.

Here's an idea. How about we let the federal government, which actually knows how to clean up contaminated sediments, do its job, and NYC can use that extra money that it apparently has "put aside" to reverse some of the drastic cuts to the schools.
April 16, 2009, 7:11 am
sid from Boerum Hill says:

the EPA has NO money(pocket change in the Superfund) it will be a typical New York boondoggle for lawyers. It will be decades before the responsible parties are sorted out. GE took 25 years before dredging started maybe-it has started yet!

There has got to be a better way to get it cleaned up NOW not later...
April 16, 2009, 11:25 am
Gowanee from Gowanus says:
There is NO better way to clean it up than the EPA. 9:25. And it can't be done NOW. This is extremely complicated. I know from going to years, decades, of Army Corps, DEC, DEP mtgs. FINALLY, there is hope. It WILL take time, but at least we would be heading in the right direction. YES to Superfund the Gowanus!
April 23, 2009, 10:18 pm

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