Thursday, May 26, 2016

A Letter to the EPA

Dear Walter,

My husband and I are Carroll Gardens homeowners living just a few blocks from the Canal. 

We discussed what we would  like to say to you regarding the pending agreement between EPA and NYC at great length. 

Should we express our frustration? Anger? Dismay? Disappointment? Outrage?

Should we shrug and say- well, at least the clean up plan is still a go-we suppose it will eventually be finished. 

Does it really matter to us that it will be a multi year delay, be much more expensive and have to be re cleaned at further taxpayer expense?

Is the seizure of someone else's private property our problem? Are the losses of businesses and jobs that are not our own really significant?

Will the recontamination of the Canal due to the delayed timing (which by your own estimate can be anywhere from 2-8 years) of the retention tank construction/installation post capping and cleaning really make the Canal that dirty?

And then it hit us. 

When the Canal was nominated to the NPL there were many people, some business owners and residents as well as local organizations who loudly protested. They claimed the Superfund status was not needed. 

They screamed it would take too long, cost too much, endanger property and business and send jobs packing. 

Our then Councilman, now Mayor DeBlasio was quoted as saying " the Canal is dirty but it is not that dirty."

The EPA submitted a timeline to the community, began its work and continued to prove those naysayers wrong on each and every one of their points. 

So, what we wish to say to you today is that this agreement, coincidentally (?) supported by many of the same people and organizations who opposed the NPL listing--provides us with EXACTLY what the City of New York and the naysayers predicted. 

This clean up will now take longer, cost taxpayers much more money, properties will be seized and lost to those owners, jobs will be lost and businesses will be sent packing. 

And in the end, Bill DeBlasio's statement will be true--the Canal will be dirty but not that dirty. 

We hope that you will reconsider. Don't sign the agreement. Please defend and enforce the original ROD. 

Rita and Gerry Miller
103 2 Place

Brooklyn, NY 11231

Letter to the EPA re: the current deal on the table

Dear Superfund Director Walter Mugdan and EPA Administrator Judith Enck,

It is with many regrets that I write to you regarding your latest plans for the Gowanus Canal Clean-Up. Please understand I am long-time citizen activist who has spent untold hours, always as a volunteer, listening to you.
I have trusted you implicitly. I have believed in you.  I have been with you every step of the way in the long and complicated Gowanus Canal Clean-Up process.  

As a CAG member, I have reported your words back to the community and I have patiently explained your logic and your thinking in good faith, always believing that you had our highest interests foremost in your minds.

I am not paid by anyone to follow you.  Nor am I part of any non-profit group or organization or greater plan.  I belong to CG CORD which is an all volunteer coalition.

I am a resident, a home owner, a landlord, a community member, and a concerned citizen.  My only objective has always been to advocate for the smartest, fastest, most comprehensive and least expensive Gowanus Canal clean-up.  This is for the sake of my children, my neighbor's children, my children's children and for the sake of our shared eco system. In other words I care deeply about the present state of our community, the one in which we inhabit, and its future.

Nowhere in my thinking did I forsee a possible delay in the Gowanus Canal Clean-Up.  Never in my wildest dreams did I forsee the taking of three private properties for the canal clean-up when other properties "for sale" exist across the street as I write thisIn addition, developers like Alloy have tried to present valid and creative alternatives to the City.  

Nowhere in my imagination did I imagine that the Gowanus Canal clean-up would involve a New York City land grab.  Never did I forsee the calling of a contaminated area "valuable parkland."  Nowhere in my wildest dreams did I imagine the Gowanus Canal would get re-contaminated with CSO's for years and years after the initial dredging was done!  

And perhaps last and worst of all, never did I ever imagine the Federally Funded EPA would be beholden to a PRP, the City of New York.

You say this is the best you, the EPA, can do.  And that you would like my comments now. This has been a lot to wrap my head around.  I am confused, bewildered and I feel betrayed.  To me, it would appear as though you, the EPA, is rudderless, that you have caved into the demands of NYC, its ruthless politicians and political system, and that you have lost or gambled away whatever power you once had.  I so hope I am wrong.

Therefore I can only say loudly and clearly:

This deal rankles me on so many levels, some of which are mentioned above,  But the primary one is this:  We the residents have trusted you the EPA to do what is best for our community NOT what is politically expedient!  We have entrusted you the EPA with the health and welfare of our children and our children's children!  New York City is a PRP.  How will making a deal with a PRP play out in the EPA's future in other communities?


Sincerely yours,
Triada Samaras 
Artist, Adjunct Art Professor, Art Professor in Residence
Kean University and William Paterson University, New Jersey

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Will the Highly Contaminated Gowanus Canal Clean-Up be DELAYED Several Years? Probably!

Will the Highly Contaminated Gowanus Canal Clean-Up be DELAYED Several Years?  

Time is quickly running out for the public to comment on the recent Gowanus Canal Superfund Clean-Up Developments!  Please write to EPA Superfund Director, Mr. Walter Mugdan by 5/31/2016 to voice your opinion on the deal the EPA is about to sign with the City of New York.  
Demand a faster clean-up!  
Protest the taking of private lands to accompany this clean-up (eminent domain)!


Walter Mugdan 
U.S. EPA Superfund Director 
290 Broadway, Floor 19 
New York, N.Y., 10007

To read the CORD letter recently sent to Administrator Enck and Director Mugdan
please click on this LINK.

For more background on these critical issues please see:

Our Letter to Administrator Enck and Director Mugdan Regarding : Gowanus Canal Administrative Settlement Agreement And Order For Remedial Design, Removal Action and Cost Recovery

CG CORD/Carroll Gardens-Gowanus 
Coalition for Respectful Development

Regarding :
Gowanus Canal Administrative Settlement Agreement And Order For Remedial Design, Removal Action and Cost Recovery 
May 24, 2016

Dear Administrator Enck and Director Mugdan,

It is with deeply conflicting emotions and heavy hearts that we write to you regarding the pending agreement between the EPA and the City of New York.

Our organization, CORD, is a completely volunteer group. We are local residents,home owners, business owners, parents, children and grandparents. We do not have nor have we ever sought not for profit status.  We receive funds from no one and we do not seek or accept donations. We devote our time to our community simply because we care.

Once the Gowanus Canal was nominated to the NPL, we spent a great deal of time advocating for it. We celebrated its listing. We championed your presence in our neighborhood and we listened very carefully to you.

We immediately applied for and became members of the Community Advisory Group and carried back all of the information we received there to our members.

We established a relationship with our EPA "team". We rejoiced in the accessibility and transparency they provided. We grew fond of them and still believe that they represent the finest example of how any government agency and its employees should conduct themselves.

When the ROD was issued, because we were listening carefully, we understood that the only "negotiable" part of the ROD was the inclusion of a containment facility in Red Hook. The Red Hook community said 'NO' and it was dropped.

But, in spite of the fact that EPA often spoke of how they do not get involved in land use--and that only the containment facility was negotiable, the retention tank sitings were suddenly up in the air.

We were certain that common sense, a sense of purpose and fiscal responsibility would prevail. But unfortunately, a grandiose Gowanus 

land-use plan somewhat disguised as a crusade to save a swimming pool that is situated above highly contaminated earth, is going to delay the cleanup by a number of years.  This will cost private property owners their land, businesses their livelihood, many employees their jobs and taxpayers a big hit to their pockets.

Add to the above the most painful cost of all--a recontamination of the expensive Canal cleanup before anyone gets to enjoy the fully realized benefits of this costly and complicated remediation.

We understand that EPA gets an assurance that NYC will not pursue litigation regarding the necessity of the retention tanks. Okay. That is a good thing, we suppose, but it comes at an extremely high price to the community and seems pitifully inequitable.

So, although we understand that the EPA has tried to make a deal with NYC that appeases some folks, eliminates the possibility of (even more) lengthy litigation, and eventually gets the job "sort of" done, we so hoped and believed that "sort of" would never be good enough for our heroes at the EPA.

Finally, we cannot help but wonder what kind of precedent this will set with the other major PRP, National Grid as well as for other future Superfund sites.

We were the first ever Superfund site in NYC.
The plan and subsequent ROD was as big, bold, encompassing and complicated as the Gowanus is contaminated.

The cost analysis was calculated, thoughtful and responsible. 

The rewards were to be enormous- a healthier environment, an urban waterway with drastically reduced toxins AND pathogens surrounded by many acres of open green space along its banks.

We loved it. We believed in it. We counted on it. 

How tragic that this historic project will not be remembered in this way. Instead, it's legacy will be the Superfund site where the EPA did, indeed, get involved in land-use. 

It will be the site where a great deal of taxpayers' monies were spent on a job that was only "sort of" successful. 

The waterway's quasi-clean condition necessitating further remediation post-cleaning and capping will certainly appear wasteful--a black eye to the Superfund program since after all, you were supposed to be the final word. 

And worst of all, the Superfund site where the Record of Decision became the Record of Indecision and Genuflection to Political Pressure brought to us by the Grand Puppeteers--the Development Gods of NYC. 

It is all so terribly disheartening and sad. 

Co-Founders Lucy DeCarlo, Rita Miller, Triada Samaras
CG CORD/Carroll Gardens-Gowanus Coalition for Respectful Development
Cell 917-558-6157

Monday, April 25, 2016

Will the Gowanus Canal Clean-Up Be DELAYED?

PLEASE COME to this very critical EPA Meeting at PS 32 tonight to hear how and why the Gowanus Canal Clean-Up might be on a new and avoidable "slower speed".

WHEN:  Monday, April 25, 2016
TIME:  6:30PM 
WHERE  P.S. 32 located at 317 Hoyt St., Brooklyn, NY

The public is urged to ask questions tonight and to comment directly to the EPA.  (See address below)

"The agreement between the City and EPA on the siting of the tanks allows DEP to inflate the cost, will mean the taking of private land in Gowanus, and most importantly, will expose the community to contaminants longer than absolutely necessary."  PMFA
Comments will be accepted by EPA until May 16:
Additionally, comments can mailed or emailed to: Walter Mugdan, U.S. EPA Superfund Director 290 Broadway, Floor 19, New York, N.Y., 10007

Please see:
EPA Region 2 Administrator Judith Enck Just Blinked and May Now Have Allowed New York City to Delay the Gowanus Canal Superfund Clean-Up

This Coming Monday, EPA To Hold Community Meeting To Explain Proposed Agreement With New York City On Siting Of CSO Tanks That Are Part Of Superfund Clean-Up

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Dear EPA Administrator McCarthy (from CORD): We need your HELP in Gowanus!

Last week, Feb. 16, 2016, the PMFA Blog featured a post entitled "Dear EPA Administrator McCarthy, Gowanus Needs Your Help!" and "Why I Reached Out To Washington Regarding Our Polluted Canal"  in which author, Katia Kelly, explains in detail the mess that has become the EPA decision-making process for the Gowanus Canal clean-up.  LINK

A member of the CAG/Community Advisory Group she writes about her great disappointment in the fact that "politics, not science or engineering seem to have 'contaminated' the process" of the "long-promised environmental EPA clean-up of the Gowanus Canal." LINK  CORD agrees. 

Ms. Kelly explains her disappointment "is not with EPA's Region 2 team, which has been overseeing this particular Superfund project. Headed by Gowanus Canal Project Manager Christos Tsiamis, Legal Counsel  Brian Carr and Community Involvement Coordinator Natalie Loney, the team has worked tirelessly to move the project forward in record time for the good of local residents."  Again, CORD agrees.

She "lays the blame squarely at the feet of Region 2 Regional Administrator Judith Enck, who appears to be disregarding her team's scientific findings and recommendations in order to accommodate the City of New York, one of the primary polluters of the Gowanus Canal."  LINK  CORD agrees with these statements above completely.

Like Ms. Kelly CORD originally wrote to EPA Administrator Judith Enck a few months ago expressing our concerns. LINK  However, we received no response or other action from Ms. Enck.

We, too, recently decided to write to Administrator McCarthy (See our complete letter below). Like Ms Kelly, we feel "in Gowanus, getting rid of raw sewage, liquid tar and PCPs  should be the only environmental justice issue Judith Enck should care about," and that "hopefully, Washington can and will remind her of this." LINK

And we are not the only ones who are very concerned with the recent political maneuvering of Ms. Enck.  Another Gowanus CAG member, Joseph Alexiou, author of the recently published book, "Gowanus, Brooklyn's Curious Canal" wrote about these issue for the Curbed Blog recently.  On Feb. 15, 2016, Alexiou published, "In Gowanus, Stalled Canal Clean-Up Leads Community & Developers to Align" LINK

Perhaps you, too would like to send a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy?   Email: The mailing address is:
Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20004

Here, below, is the letter we sent:

February 2, 2016

Dear EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy,

Our organization, CORD, has held a seat on the Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group since its inception. 
Prior to that, we were a very vocal proponent in the "Superfund Me" Gowanus Canal campaign.

Once nominated, we had the opportunity to get to know and work with our EPA Region 2 "Team", Walter Mugdan, Christos Tsiamis, Brian Carr and Natalie Loney. We have come to respect their devotion to our community and deeply appreciate their transparency and professionalism.

More than that, we consider our EPA team part of our community because they have consistently shown us just how much they care. 

Attached please find a copy of a letter we sent to EPA Region 2 Director Judith Enck back in November, 2015.
We are aware that others from our community sent similar letters to Ms. Enck at the same time.
We were so pleased with the original plan for the Gowanus Canal as stated in the Record of Decision, with its suggested retention tank site locations, which would provide the results we need in a timely and cost effective manner. 

Most importantly, this remedy, in the configuration suggested would also offer us a Gowanus Canal not easily re-contaminated--in short a win-win-situation. 

It confuses and saddens us that this well conceived, thoughtful, even, frugal plan may be scrapped.
Plans that include Land seized by the City of New York through eminent domain, inevitable, expensive legal wrangling, time and resources wasted. This seems to be what NYC, the main PRP, desires and what Region 2 Administrator Enck is considering!

As CAG members, we were presented an alternative plan by a developer named Alloy.  Their presentation included a gift to NYC and the community of park space. 
Doesn't it make sense to at least consider that offer- which again saves the taxpayers of NYC millions of dollars and still provides additional park space to the community? 
Alloy has even expressed openness to the idea of locating the retention tank on their site should the deal with them go through. 
In addition to that, organizations who protested the ROD suggested site locations have expressed approval of the Alloy plan as well.

We do not understand what is driving Ms. Enck's thinking. It certainly does not seem to coincide with the scientific, factual, sensible thinking that we have come to trust from our EPA Team. 

After reading about the decisions made in Flint, Michigan- where political positioning seems to have trumped scientific reasoning and common sense, we know that we want the decisions that will affect our community for decades to come to be weighed and made based solely upon scientific and engineering expertise.
We thank you for your time.

Lucy DeCarlo, Rita Miller, Triada Samaras
Co Founders, CORD/Coalition for Respectful Development


Please find more information about this issue at our recent CORD posts

"Questionable "policies" under EPA Administrator Judith Enck and a sea-change of attitude by the EPA toward NYC, a Gowanus Canal PRP!" 

"Eminent Domain is Unnecessary, UNFAIR, and Fiscally Irresponsible in Gowanus! (Part Two)" 

"CORD says...New York City Seizing personal property through Eminent Domain is Unnecessary, UNFAIR, and Fiscally Irresponsible! (CORD Letter to Administrator Judith Enck)





With the "Protect Our Homes" petition, CORD was formed in May, 2007. This petition arose as an overwhelmingly negative response to the coming of the over-sized 360 Smith Street Development at the corner of Smith Street and Second Place (Aka Oliver House; aka 131 Second Place). This petition, which had well over three thousand signatures, led to a new zoning text amendment in summer of 2008.

To: Our Elected Officials, Community Leaders, The MTA:
(MAY, 2007)

We the undersigned Carroll Gardens homeowners and residents, are appalled by the "as of right" ruling which allows owners and developers to erect buildings in our neighborhood with no regard to the impact they will present to our quality of life and the value of our homes........