Thursday, June 23, 2016

ENRAGE not Engage. Councilman Brad Lander has done it again in Gowanus.

Photo of Councilman Brad LanderCourtesy of Daily News
Councilman Brad Lander has once again managed to enrage the community residents of Gowanus and Carroll Gardens by NOT engaging them as he so often promised he would.

Instead, it is politics as usual as he begins Bridging Gowanus Act II, essentially, in the dark.

Evidently, annoying many community members once was not enough. When the Bridging Gowanus process began 18 months or so ago, it was touted as a new kind of community planning--one that promised transparency, genuine community discussion and input. But when it was over, it was reduced to a survey which included a series questions and answers that assumed certain facts were already understood.

For example: would you be willing to add 2 stories to a building for a school
or 4 stories for a library or 6 stories for a hospital?

That's like asking if you would rather die by hanging, shotgun or poisoning---it assumes that you want to die in the first place.

Many complained, some refused to participate yet the press releases only speak praise of the "conclusions".

A recent City Limits article written by Abigail Lew claims that sixteen (16) participating organizations approved the take aways from this survey.

CORD contacted Lander's office to find out who these 16 organizations were--since that number did not seem accurate. We were told to contact the article's author and directed to a press release which named a couple of names. Ok. Fair enough. But, we asked Lander's office, specifically, Catherine Zinnel, our liaison, to provide us with the names of ALL of the organizations that participated in the Bridging Gowanus Experiment.

We were told that they "do not have that".  Unbelievable! When reminded that we signed into those meetings and were asked for our names AND or organization or affiliation--we were told that she would be happy to present us with a list of those organizations that will participate in the upcoming "handful of small meetings"-which you will learn more about below-but had no way of providing the original participating members. Even more unbelievable!! 

Let's fast forward to the present. CORD has learned that there have been at least two (2) closed door meetings orchestrated by Lander's office that have included City Planning and certain members/organizations in the community to discuss Bridging Gowanus next steps.

We have been told that these are NOT planning meetings--but rather a small handful of (like minded??) groups who are meeting to discuss what they have been doing over the past 18 months vis a vis Bridging Gowanus. Kind of like playing catch up with the Councilman.

If these are not planning meetings then what is City Planning doing there? Or have we gotten to the point in Brooklyn where our property taxes have provided such a surplus to the city coffers that City Planning has the time to sit and shoot the breeze with handfuls of small groups?

CORD was invited to one of these meetings (after the first two were sort of out of the bag) along with our friends at FROGG.

When we asked Lander's office why the whole community was not being included in these meetings via either a town hall meeting or a discussion at the public meetings held monthly by the Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group (the CAG), we were told that these NON PLANNING meetings being held which include City Planning employees would be non productive in such settings.

The EPA does it all the time -- It seems to work just fine when they do it.

So Readers, CORD declined the invite. We informed Lander's office that these types of meetings do not reflect the transparency, community input and exchange of ideas that occur when the whole community comes together

No one group, no one organization and no handful of like minded people have the authority to decide what happens to an entire community.

And no Councilman, or publicly elected official, who is a temporary employee of his constituents, has the right to orchestrate or manipulate any community or any community discussion to produce the outcome he or she desires.

What do YOU think?
Write to us at cgcord@gmail.com

If you would like, CORD will print you comment.  (See bottom of this page)

CG CORD

More Information at:
How Shameful!  
Without Public Announcement Councilman Lander Stepping Up Gowanus Community Planning Process http://pardonmeforasking.blogspot.com/2016/06/how-shameful-without-public.html

Which Neighborhoods will DeBlasio's Rezonings Target Next?
http://citylimits.org/2016/05/31/which-neighborhoods-will-de-blasios-rezonings-target-next/
Local Gowanus Community Very Frustrated with Councilman Brad Lander's "Bridging Gowanus"
http://carrollgardenspetition.blogspot.com/2014/06/local-gowanus-community-very-frustrated.html

Proposal for Taller Buildings in Gowanus Gets Mixed Reaction From Local http://brooklynbrief.com/disparate-factions-unite-to-take-back-gowanus-from-overdevelopment/
 
Frustration With Councilman Lander's "Bridging Gowanus" Expressed Clearly And Loudly At Last Night's Final Meeting

Gowanus activists to pol: You’re not listening! • The Brooklyn Paper

http://www.brooklynpaper.com/stories/37/27/dtg-gowanus-planning-occupy-2014-07-04-bk_37_27.html

Brownstoner Thursday Blog Wrap
http://www.brownstoner.com/blog/2014/06/thursday-blogwrap-149/ 

Frustration With Councilman Lander’s “Bridging Gowanus” Expressed at Final Meeting
http://pardonmeforasking.blogspot.com/2014/06/frustration-with-councilman-landers.html 


New York State DEC/Dept. Environmental Conservation takes a major DUMP in Carroll  Gardens, pooh-poohing the toxic poo poo in the Gowanus Canal and the resultant health risks


COMMENTS:

6/26/2016
"Reading your email regarding this so-called Bridging Gowanus Process I find this so_called Process undemocratic. I think that there is a lot of wheeling and dealing going on behind closed doors. 

How can we undo or prevent the damage that I see will be done to our neighborhood and therefore to our community?"

Regards,

Patricia Constantino
3rd Street



Tuesday, May 31, 2016

A Moving Tribute and Letter from a Carroll Gardens/Gowanus Community Member to the EPA About Its Potential "Deal' with the City of New York


May 31, 2016

Re: Gowanus Canal Administrative Settlement Agreement and Order for Remedial Design, Removal Action and Cost Recovery

Dear Director Walter Mugdan:

I appreciate your administrative team’s effort in trying to mediate the EPA’s Superfund position with the City of New York and coming out to Brooklyn to explain it. However, I still believe that Glenn Kelly was on target with his comment that the agreement between EPA and the City of New York may very well be “a problem to a solution rather than a solution to a problem.” I am writing to ask you to consider that possibility and either reject the agreement or amend it to prevent any delay and move the remediation forward as stated in the ROD. Please don’t allow the City to alter or change what has been thoroughly researched, written, approved and signed off in the ROD.

When I started my involvement in community activism, I was just an observer. As I sat and listened to the many different layers of viewpoints, I sensed that many community members all have experienced the City’s evasive tactics for many decades.  This agreement reminded of the day that Cas Holloway from the City of New York presented the City’s grand Alternate clean-up plans to the community. They spent thousands of dollars to divert the nomination. It seems that we have circled back to their plan. If so, I plead with you not to let that happen or we will lose the timely momentum that have been achieved toward the clean-up already.

Around 2008, I joined a group of grassroots activists to preserve and protect our community. I had no financial or political aspiration to get involved, only a love for a neighborhood I called my “home”. During my involvement, I have been so honored to have met many genuinely kind, generous and selfless individuals. They have become my heroes and now my extended family (Pardon Me for Asking blogger, Katia Kelly and her husband Glenn Kelly; CORD founders, Rita Miller, Triada Samaras, Lucy deCarlos; FROGG founders, Linda Mariano, and Marlene Donnelly, and so many others) These people matched my beliefs in wanting to protect and preserve the historic beauty and open space we were so lucky to have and live in.

Around 2009 a new group of people were added to my list. It was You and the Region 2 staff (Christos Tsiamis, Natalie Loney, and Brian Carr). I hung on every word you said. You and your team were straightforward and sincere to our concerns. You and your team left us feeling safe. You were known among us as the “white knight on a white horse” here to finally stand for what you represented as a government agency to protect the environment and the health and safety of the people. You promised transparency, you promised to work and listen to our community and you kept those promises. I created buttons to send out our message and to stand strong with those who were sent to protect our environment. I wore my buttons proudly and I meant every word that was written. With your support and guidance, we formed a CAG group and combined over 60 community organizations and at large members to report back to you of what we needed. You listened and understood our concerns and accommodated where you could. When the ROD was signed, sealed and delivered to us. We all believed this was the LAW, a powerful tool to move the cleanup forward. We believed the assurance that if a PRP doesn’t take action that the EPA Superfund takes over and does the work and afterward retrieves 3Xs times the cost back.  The Region 2 team amazed us with their commitment and their determination we were finally seeing the light on the other side of the tunnel.

This agreement with the City of New York, however throws me off that path of hope for a clean canal. I fear that the extended time you allowed the City the further away our goal to a clean and healthy canal will be. You and your staff will retire and new members with little knowledge and commitment will let the time slip further. The agreement is too open for interpretation and I feel the City will find again another loophole.

I believe and stand by Katia Kelly, PardonMeforAsking blogger of her thorough analysis of this action you are about to embark into with the City. This is a land grab and the City is using your sense of fairness against you and us and it seems that the EPA Administrative team has given up and dismissed the plead of the whole community.

The amazing CORD ladies have captured and summed up in their public comment sent to you on May 24, 2016 which bears repeating* (see LINK) all my disappointment, as well as my confusion on the pending agreement between the EPA and the City of New York.

Yes,” it is all so terribly disheartening and sad.”

CORD founders (Rita Miller, Triada Samaras, Lucy deCarlos), Katia Kelly, Marlene Donnelly, and Linda Mariano have always spoken “truth to power” and have always been dedicated to the purest form of community activism. They continuously fight to do the right thing voluntarily with no political or financial aspiration.  Lately they have been villainized by nonprofit groups who receive funding from the City of New York and accused of environmental injustice in order to weaken their creditability. If you know them as I do, all these false accusations are deterrents. In reality, they have inspired me to always do the right thing and never give up. They are the true meaning of Margaret Mead’s quote: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world, indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

If the agreement with EPA and the City is a done deal will you seriously consider CORD, FROGG and Katia Kelly’s concerns and amend the agreement accordingly. Will you do the right thing too and stand with us again to move the full cleanup of the Gowanus Canal forward without further delay?



Yours respectfully,

Maryann Young

Owner/Resident Carroll Gardens, and CORD Alternate, CAG

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. 

Respectfully,
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:
"PLEASE GO BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD!"
"PLEASE DO NOT SIGN THIS DEAL IN FRONT OF YOU WITH THE CITY!"
"PLEASE FIND ANOTHER AND A BETTER WAY!"

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?

Mr. Mugdan and Ms. Enck, PLEASE FIND AN ALTERNATIVE PLAN FOR THE GOWANUS CANAL!  
I KNOW YOU CAN DO BETTER!

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?  
Probably!

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)!


mugdan.walter@epa.com

or

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. 

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

CORD HISTORY:

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........

http://www.petitiononline.com/mod_perl/signed.cgi?crlgrdns