A glossy flier urging residents to “just say no” to designating the Gowanus Canal a Superfund site is turning off some of the very people it was created to sway.
“This will delay a cleanup for decades while the government and property owners are tied up in court fighting one lawsuit after another,” the document, put out by the group Clean Gowanus Now!, reads. Membership information on the flier is limited to describing the group, whose address is a post office box, as “residents and property owners.”
“The anonymity is cowardly,” said local resident and blogger Katia Kelly. “What is it they’re hiding? If they are so convinced Superfund is not appropriate for the Gowanus Canal, then why not attach your name?”
Kelly, who strongly supports designating the canal a Superfund site, said she is also puzzled by the group’s Web site, cleangowanusnow.org, which also doesn’t list members’ names. “This just rubs me the wrong way,” she said. “Everyone involved in the debate has been very open about attaching our names.”
A member of Clean Gowanus Now! who wished to remain anonymous because he⁄she was not authorized to speak for the group, said the group is made up of developers, property owners and community activists who oppose Superfund, a federal initiative aimed at cleaning the nation’s most polluted sites. The person said a list of 25,000 households were purchased from a commercial mailing house for roughly $500, but the flier itself was done pro bono.
“They try to present themselves as local residents, with the same interests as local residents, when in fact, property owners and developers do not share the same interests,” said Gowanus resident Margaret Maugenest. She pointed out that in a recent Gotham Gazette article penned by Toll Brothers Senior Vice President David Von Spreckelsen, a link to Clean Gowanus Now! takes the reader to Toll’s web site. Toll, which is planning a massive residential development along the canal, said the link was an error of the Gazette’s and will be corrected. Toll has hired consultants Geto & deMilly to lobby against the designation, which it argues will thwart any private investment in the region for decades.
Local developer and Clean Gowanus Now! member Deb Scotto, the only person quoted on the flier, said there is no cabal. “The flier was ready before the organization was,” she said. “There is no massive secret here.”