Conflict over Gowanus Canal Superfund Status


Add the Gowanus Canal clean-up to the long list of the things the city and the state can't seem to agree upon. The announcement by the EPA last week that it was considering making the Gowanus Canal a Superfund site at the behest of the state's Department of Environmental Conservation has the Bloomberg administration up in arms. The city, which has made reclaiming and rezoning the land along the canal a priority in recent years, says that the litigious Superfund process could take decades to play out given the long list of parties that is potentially liable. “A comprehensive approach to the remediation of the canal is required, one that will not only cut off all upland sources to the canal but also will include an overall remedy to the canal itself,” said a spokesperson for the state. "Of the 1,500 federal Superfund sites to date, no river cleanup has been successfully completed," countered Daniel Walsh, the director of the Mayor's Office of Environmental Remediation, at a public forum at PS 32 in Carroll Gardens last night. "This is not the EPA's fault, but it does speak to the enormous complexity of identifying responsible parties and suggests that a cleanup could very likely take more than two decades." Council Member David Yassky supports the involvement of the Feds, telling WNYC, "If [the canal]'s cleaned up, we can then have housing and restaurants and the whole waterfront life right alongside it. But first we gotta clean it up." Toll Brothers has already threatened to walk away from its 577-unit project should the EPA step in; Hudson Companies, which is slated to develop the other large development project, is similarly frustrated by the 11th-hour curveball. One of Hudson's principals, Alan Ball, provided us with this comment:

If the feds are not bringing any money, what do they add to solving the problem?Who are these deep pocket private responsible parties (PRPs) they think are out there? A GE, a Honeywell, an Exxon Mobil? If not, they are only looking at National Grid (Keyspan) and the City of New York – and ultimately the tax payers and energy consumers of NYC. And why is this happening NOW after the City has finally – after decades of delay - committed the funds to repairing the flushing tunnel and prepared a plan for addressing CSO events, the Army Corps is prepared to start dredging, and National Grid has committed to cleaning up the uplands areas through the NYS Brownfields Program.

The 60-day comment period has now begun. The Observer notes that sites that make it to the comment period "more often than not" end up getting designated.
Gowanus Plan Panned [NY Post]
Developers: Gowanus to Build or Not? [NY Observer]
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