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Local civic: clean or death

The Brooklyn Paper
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Arguing for the health of current — and future — residents, the Park Slope Civic Council last week threw its support behind the designation of the Gowanus Canal as a Superfund site.

For members of the civic, whose coverage area stands east of the polluted waterway, the length of time a Superfund cleanup may span, its cost, and the potential impacts to property values and prospective development are all bearable if the canal is to be comprehensively cleaned.

“I really believe they will build on a toxic site that will kill people,” said civic trustee Greg Sutton. “Superfund will [clean the site] properly. And it won’t kill people.

“We need to stop the madness — this is about the health of our community,” he continued.

The Superfund program investigates and cleans up the hazardous waste sites that pose risks to human health or the environment. The federal program shifts the cleanup costs from the public to those entities responsible for the pollution.

With its unanimous vote, the civic council has taken a contrarian opinion to the Bloomberg administration, which opposes the designation, arguing it will stifle future development and slow efforts already underway to clean the 1.8−mile waterway. City Councilmember Bill de Blasio, a candidate in the citywide race for public advocate, also opposes the designation.

“I think it’s a load of crap,” Ken Freeman, president of the Council, told trustees. “Bill is trying to have it both ways because the political winds haven’t told him which way to blow yet.”

Freeman, a real estate professional by trade, said the designation doesn’t stop any prospective developer from proceeding with its plans.

Trustee Eric McClure said the current administration has had nearly a decade to fix the canal, but has done little. Its allocation of $175 million to upgrade the flushing tunnel doesn’t go far enough to comprehensively clean the canal, he said, noting the city has conceded this point.

“Maybe we have a duty here to look out for people who don’t have a voice because they don’t live here yet,” McClure said.

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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