Thursday, August 28, 2014

Even ART can not heal broken Gowanus







































Even ART is powerless is the face of Gowanus Canal chemical contamination.

 

















Last night, a group of unaffiliated and highly concerned Gowanus residents staged a silent, community art protest at the ArtBridge art opening held at the contentious Lightstone Development on 2nd and Bond Streets in Carroll Gardens/Gowanus Brookyn.

Residents, including families with young children, donned white masks, with the words "TOXIC PLAN" and "TOXIC LAND" and silently gave out flyers with a list of bullet points in a performance art community protest piece.  Their presence was so calm and seamless that many people attending the art opening mistakenly thought the protest was part of the main event.  The Brooklyn paper referred to it on Friday as a "bohemian face-off."




Many of the community protesters, artists and/or artisans themselves, explained they were not protesting the artists in the exhibition per se, but rather the PRETENSE for the exhibition.  Being creatives themselves, they understand very well that art can be a powerful vehicle to reveal the truth or to conceal it.  Moreover their target was certainly not their fellow artists. 




The Artbridge exhibition, mentioned recently at CURBED, garnered the comment,
“No matter how pretty the art is, nothing can mask what's been going on behind the fence.”  This comment was the general thinking behind last night's event. 

To the locals who live and often work in Gowanus, the Artbridge website words, "Art, we believe, is a powerful connective tissue that helps to reshape and inspire the physical and social character of neighborhoods in transition" ring hollow indeed in an area besieged by both the chemical contamination of the EPA Superfund Designated Gowanus Canal, and the recent Lightstone Development.  ART is not a miracle worker.  Just ask EPA Project Leader for the Gowanus Canal Clean-Up, Christos Tsiamis, a published and highly regarded poet as well as chemical engineer LINK


The Gowanus community has been suffering through a miserable spring and summer this year near the Lightstone Group's development site.  The ginormous Lightsone construction site has been creating untold noise, shaking, noxious odors, and other nuisances since its inception a few months ago, while the Gowanus Canal remediation is in its early stages   LINK.  Residents, community members, and even the EPA have been increasingly frustrated by the official and dismissive response by the NYC DEC/Department of Environmental Protection.  The EPA has even written a public letter to the NYC DEC telling them the city must comply with the ROD. 

Community members note that any construction projects near the Gowanus Canal ahead of the EPA clean-up might stir up unknown contaminants in the brownfield soil that become airborne and could be harmful to human health. On July 21, 2014, the New York Post reported that on "stinky brown goo bubbling up from drains around the Gowanus Canal" LINK

The latest community outrage has been over the extreme smell of gas at the site.  Mounds of petroleum soaked soil are being stockpiled until it is removed, reeking of heavy gas odors that are causing great concern for residents, especially parents of young children as to the possible health hazards of these eye stinging odors.  



Gowanus locals have been reaching out constantly to Councilman Brad Lander's office and to several New York City agencies.  Recently the group: Gowanus Preservation Society aka Take Back Gowanus has been attracting many new members in the Gowanus community and challenging Councilman Lander's vision for the future development of Gowanus as the complex issues embedded in the Gowanus Canal clean-up become clearer and clearer, and clearer than any Gowanus Canal "Poo Poo Tsunami" can dish up.

CG CORD
cgcord@gmail.com


For More Info See:

EPA
Gowanus Canal ROD/Record of Decision
http://www.epa.gov/region02/superfund/npl/gowanus/pdf/gowanus_rod_qs_as_final.pdf

Gowanus Canal Superfund Designation
www.EPA.gov/region2/superfund/npl/gowanus/  

New York Post 
Stinky Brown Goo Bubblin Up from Drains Around the Gowanus CAnal
http://nypost.com/2014/07/21/stinky-brown-goo-bubbling-up-from-drains-around-toxic-canal/

PMFA/Pardon Me for Asking
"A Whole Lot of Noise, Shaking, Toxic Smells, and Traffic Jams at Lightstone Group's Mega Construction Sight in Gowanus"
http://pardonmeforasking.blogspot.com/2014/06/a-whole-lot-of-noise-shaking-toxic.html

Brooklyn Paper
"Bohemian Face-Off as Activists Crash Gowanus Art Party"
http://www.brooklynpaper.com/stories/37/36/dtg-lightstone-art-show-protest-2014-09-05-bk_37_36.html?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

Curbed
"Public Art At Huge Gowanus Site"
http://ny.curbed.com/archives/2014/08/25/281_union_ave_fully_leased_public_art_at_huge_gowanus_site.php

Gowanus Your Face Off
"Fight for Gowanus"
http://www.gowanusyourfaceoff.com/category/brooklyn-3/gowanus/fight-for-gowanus/

Gowanus Preservation Society
https://www.facebook.com/GowanusPreservation

EPA-DEC Enforcement Agreement http://www.dec.ny.gov/regulations/33040.html 

"Video of Raw Sewage Spilling Into Canal"  http://www.doobybrain.com/2010/09/27/video-of-raw-sewage-spilling-into-the-gowanus-canal/



Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Community's "Take Back Gowanus" vs. Councilman Lander's "Bridging Gowanus"

Hello from CORD!
The Take Back Gowanus meeting held last week on Wednesday, July 9th, 2014 at 7pm at the Green Building, 452 Union Street/Bond exuded passion, concern, knowledge, timely issues, and optimism.

Over 100 people attended this first meeting held at the Green Room and put together by a consortium of neighborhood groups including:  Friends And Residents Of Greater GowanusVoice Of GowanusCarroll Gardens Coalition for Respectful Development, and Save Kentile,

Take Back Gowanus (now called the Gowanus Preservation Society) was created as an alternative to the sterile, scripted, and manipulative "Bridging Gowanus" meetings organized by Councilman Brad Lander in which the constituents of Councilman Lander have been feeling shut out of any meaningful decision making or planning for the future of Gowanus.  Instead the community has been feeling rather coddled by a Councilman who clearly has his own agenda with the Gowanus Canal re-development plan.

“The year-long process was touted as a real chance for community stakeholders to jointly shape a vision for the future of the neighborhood.  In reality, the "Bridging Gowanus" community meetings have been highly curated affairs, seemingly designed to divide stakeholders at small group tables, making a more inclusionary discussion impossible. Facilitators at each table stuck to rigid scripts that seemed expressly designed to get specific comments and a pre-determined outcome.”  (PMFA Link)

On the other hand Take Back Gowanus strove to
“allow the community to engage in a real, honest conversation and to demand a real collaboration between our community and the City of New York.” (PMFA Link)


The result was a Take Back Gowanus meeting that was participatory and thus lively, thought provoking, and even messy at times, as any truly democratic process always is.

We at CORD hope this first meeting is just the beginning of what will be an organized and concerted effort on the part of the community to become a part of the Gowanus decision making process.  In the very near future Councilman Lander will present the community with a plan for the Gowanus that looks unlikely to warm the hearts of many current residents, business owners, and constituents in the Gowanus Area.  The plan for a corridor of high rise residential buildings (likely to be rental units) along the Gowanus looks like a real possibility unless the community can mobilize to stop it.

Among other things the Take Back Gowanus community favors: 
  • maintaining and allowing expansion of manufacturing and business
  • repurposing/reusing current structures 
  • human scale development
  • contextual development to truly BRIDGE the Carroll Gardens and Park Slope neighborhoods 
  • no high rises or topographical changes on the banks of the Gowanus which is also in the flood Zone A and must be evacuated in emergencies.
The only way to prevent such a plan (by Councilam Lander) from occurring is with a concerted and coordinated community effort to stem the tide.  This means real footwork such as demanding a combined hydrological study/ infrastructure analysis be conducted by the proper authorities so that we can assess our current needs and our situation.  

We call  on our electeds to demand a comprehensive study analyzing what it is we are lacking now in the present moment.

  • For example, why is sewage rising in our neighbors' sinks? 
  • What improvements are needed to meet our current situation? 
  • What improvements will be necessary in order to grow? 
  • Only once equipped with this vital information should we move forward. 

A thoughtful analysis of these questions is in order and hopefully the attendees at the meeting last week are up to this task and are ready to dive in to getting some answers!

CG CORD


LINKS to Other "Take Back Gowanus" Stories

On-air 
The Brian Lehrer Show:  Taking Back the Gowanus Canal
WNYC story about Gowanus that aired recently 

Gowanus Residents Debate Future of Area

Disparate Factions Unite to Take Back Gowanus From Overdevelopment

Take Back Gowanus Challenges Brad Lander's "Shared Values"

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Take Back Gowanus! Meeting Wednesday Night 7/9/2014

Take Back Gowanus
A Truly Democratic Community Led Forum on the Future of Gowanus This Wednesday!


Please join your neighbors this Wednesday and let's show our elected officials what democracy really looks like. 
Take Back Gowanus!
Wednesday, July 9th, 2014 
at 7pm at the Green Building, 
452 Union Street at Bond
Brooklyn


From the ever-eloquent PMFA Blog:

"A consortium of  several neighborhood groups that include Friends And Residents Of Greater GowanusVoice Of GowanusCarroll Gardens Coalition for Respectful Development, and Save Kentile, have organized a "Take Back Gowanus" forum on Wednesday, July 9th, 2014 at 7pm at the Green Building, 452 Union Street at Bond.

The purpose of the meeting is to bring local residents, business owners, and manufacturers together for a true democratic discussion on the future of Gowanus. The goal of "Take Back Gowanus" is to create a manifesto of what the community wants to see in the neighborhood they live and work in.

The need for such a forum arose from the dissatisfaction and suspicion felt by many who have attended "Bridging Gowanus" community planning meetings convened  by Council Member Brad Lander together with several other local elected officials...

The year-long process was touted as a real chance for community stakeholders to jointly shape a vision for the future of the neighborhood.
In reality, the "Bridging Gowanus" community meetings have been highly curated affairs, seemingly designed to divide stakeholders at small group tables, making a more inclusionary discussion impossible. Facilitators at each table stuck to rigid scripts that seemed expressly designed to get specific comments and a pre-determined outcome.
That outcome likely will involve changing the zoning of much of the area from manufacturing to mixed-use which will allow developers to build more housing along the Gowanus Canal.

"Take Back Gowanus", on the other hand, will allow the community to engage in a real, honest conversation and to demand a real collaboration between our community and the City of New York.

Please join your neighbors this Wednesday and let's show our elected officials what democracy really looks like.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Local Gowanus Community Very Frustrated with Councilman Brad Lander's "Bridging Gowanus"

Hello from CG CORD!

The local Gowanus community is very very frustrated with Councilman Brad Lander's "Bridging Gowanus" meetings.


The Brooklyn Paper, PMFA Blog and Brownstoner featured this story yesterday. (See Links below)

Calling the process: opaque, non-democratic, and non-responsive to the community, several community group leaders demanded more say in the conversation about the future of the Gowanus Canal area at "Meeting Member Three" held on Wednesday in Boerum Hill.

In addition, a community member mentioned that residents of Warren Street Houses have recently had to deal with raw sewage in their basement and and gurgling out of their kitchen and bathroom sinks and tubs.  For these very disturbing photos please see PMFA

A new:
"Take Back Gowanus Meeting" 
Democratic and Transparent
will be held
July 9, 2014
at 7 Pm
at the Green Building 
(452 Union Street at Bond Street)

ALL are Welcome!



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/

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

CAG Meeting Summary and DEP Commissioner Emily Lloyd's Visit



The Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group (the CAG) met on Tuesday, June 24th at the St Mary Star of the Sea Residences.
 
There was a large turnout of CAG members, local elected officials, community residents and other interested parties there to greet and listen to the Department of Environmental Protection's relatively new (three month old) Commissioner, Emily Lloyd, address the community regarding the newest turn of events in the Gowanus Canal's Superfund saga.

A bit of backround, the Gowanus Canal, the very first Superfund site in New York City, and what has been called the most polluted waterway in the entire country (mostly because of its unique stew of sewage and toxic chemical compounds) is at a point in the Superfund timeline where the problems have been identified, a workable solution for cleanup and a plan to prevent re-contamination post cleanup has been achieved and the US Federal Government's Environmental Protection Agency (the EPA) has issued what it a legal document to those responsible for the pollution (known as Responsible Parties) who are now fiscally responsible for the cleanup,to comply with those plans. LINK to ROD
http://www.epa.gov/region2/superfund/npl/gowanus/ri_docs/692106_gowanus_canal_rod_9_27_13_final.pdf

This legal document, called a Record of Decision (or a ROD, for short) was issued back in September of 2013.  Its recommendations were not kept secret from the the City or any of the parties-rather, there were numerous, ongoing discussions regarding the cleanup and what would be involved.

There are many responsible parties involved, but the chief party is the City of New York. Why?
Well, the sewer system is set up in such a way that the sanitary waste basically gets flushed and pursues its predetermined path to the appropriate water plant for treatment and "disposal". The "runoff" water ( i.e. rainfall, street hosing and the accumulated garbage, oil residues,etc) that run along the gutter and into the street sewers share some of that "pathway"--the result? No problem in dry weather--but during rain--and not even that much of it, the combined sewage and runoff overwhelm this old system and we, the residents living near the Canal, have what amounts to an open sewer running through the heart of our neighborhood. See the "Poo Poo Tsunami" http://www.doobybrain.com/2010/09/27/video-of-raw-sewage-spilling-into-the-gowanus-canal/

This combined sewer overflow system (known as CSO'S) is not unique to the Canal or Brooklyn. It was and is part of the antiquated infrastructure of this city, but in our case, this system presents not only a bacterial, disease laden disaster for our community, but a chemically dangerous one as well since the toxic compounds that are the chemical component of the Canal's disgusting stew are known to attach themselves to the solid waste that is, as we speak, just floating by like a taxi wiling to give a free ride.

EPA solution?  Install a system (retention tanks) where the sanitary (really, unsanitary) waste can be held back during rainfall so that the waste, the street runoff and rain do not wind up "combining" and overwhelming the existing sewer system.

Once the rain and its ensuing runoff has subsided. the waste can be released and head on its merry way to the appropriate treatment plant---no open sewer, no free ride for any chemical compounds that may have runoff into the system during the rain and a cleaner, healthier Canal and therefore, environment for us all.

The EPA has scouted out and suggested two city owned properties suitable for underground tank installation
One at the location known as the salt lot on Fifth Street and Second Avenue, the other, within the Thomas Greene Park---A good portion of this park is required to undergo a cleanup by the New York State Department of Conservation since it  is sitting on a former gas plant manufacturing site and oozes toxic chemical compounds into the canal as well as into the ground the Park sits upon.

The park and the pool which many area residents enjoy, will have its use interrupted by the cleanup--retention tank placement or not.
The EPA did not choose this site capriciously....it is city owned land which saves NYC's taxpayers from purchasing costs, acquisition fees, etc and time.

More importantly, it sits at the head or the top of the Canal---a position which would allow the underground tank to grab those solids and hold them at a point PRIOR TO them entering the canal where they have already, undoubtedly picked up some additional matter and PREVENT them from attracting and depositing any chemical compounds that may have seeped into the canal further down its course.

So, why is there a problem? The City of New York does not seem to want to do this --- even though they are now not only required to do so under the ROD, but also under a Unilateral Order issued by the EPA to the City. LINK to EPA Administrative Order

The  City, under this new Mayor, issued a reply, which basically, the way we see it says, we, THE CITY, don't agree with you. The retention tanks you are suggesting may not be necessary, They may even be, under the law, requiring us to clean up to a higher degree than we have to. We are not saying we won't do it but we reserve the right to keep objecting to it, the proposed locations and the whole suggestion right now. 

This brings us to Commissioner Lloyd's visit to the CAG.
Commissioner Emily Lloyd is a warm, charming lady with a sweet smile and an engaging, calm, earthy manner.
Basically, she said that the City "never said that we weren't going to do it"--in reference to the retention tanks. When questioned about the City's wording in their reply letter, she calmly said we shouldn't pay attention to that. These are letters from lawyer to lawyer--nothing more...HUH?

Commissioner Lloyd claimed that they, the City, were still seeking appropriate locations for the tanks and had hired a consulting firm (Brown & Caldwell) to scout out additional possible locales.

 Apparently, the consulting firm, paid for by, as Ms Lloyd put it, "rate-payers", NOT "tax payers" money ( aren't all rate payers, tax payers too??) --- found scores of sites, most of which were not owned by the city--and some of them nowhere near the head of the canal.

But, Comm Lloyd claims that once some potential locations are automatically dismissed (like schools, NYCHA properties, houses of worship and residences) it will narrow down the field considerably.
The City will get back to the EPA by the end of September with their "list".
We assume that the rate payers are also going to pay for the production of that "list" as well as all the other steps in between the scouting and the final product. Think about it-does it really take almost four months to weed out the schools, NYCHA properties, houses of worship and residences??

Do the rate payers get a say in any of this?
Ms Lloyd said  that  she believed that there were private landowners who would be willing and eager to have their property purchased by the city on this list.

As rate payers, we now officially object....why should we pay for land ( at least in the Greene Park instance--right at the source of the incoming solids) situated in a less ideal location than the one the city already owns?

Ms Lloyd herself said in regard to retention tank locale, "...as I understand it, more North is better than farther South."
Yes, we know that there is fear that the park and pool will be lost--if not permanently, then for an unacceptable period of time. Yes, we know that  there is consternation regarding the pool being situated on or close to the retention tank. We do not take this lightly.

NYC has the ability to provide temporary respite for the community and really has the moral obligation to provide a park and pool to the community that they can use and feel comfortable with--whether that means re-locating the pool to another area within the park or purchasing property to locate it adjacent to the park.  THAT is something we rate/tax payers would not mind having our money spent on. 

The City has known for decades that all the former gas plant sites were polluted--the EPA told them just how much---rectifying  THAT is something we rate/tax payers would not mind having our money spent on.  That could not possibly cost more than what they are doing right now and it benefits everyone.

Commissioner Lloyd pointed out that we rate payers have seen our water bills rise more than 100% over the last eleven years.....how could the DEP even consider not using what they already own to fix a problem which they allowed to continue? If they need to purchase a parcel adjacent to the Park for recreational use and new pool installation, so be it. But to waste time and money bickering over the inevitable is not just wasteful. It is irresponsible.

Now let's cut to a Daily News article that appeared online sometime after 4PM yesterday. LINK to NY Daily News Article
In that article Ms Lloyd talked about retention tanks "not being good neighbors".  Whether that is true or not remains to be seen.
It is only an underground storage tank, not a treatment plant. And although it is true that there will be some kind of maintenance involved, it is hard to believe that it could be more inconvenient, disgusting or as unhealthy as what runs through our "neighbor", the Gowanus Canal, right now.

Also in that article, Comm Lloyd's boss, Mayor de Blasio basically said that
the city is "still seeking cleaner greener solutions to the problem."
What WE hear is more legal fees paid by us rate/tax payers, more wasted time and the open sewer still in operation---so the city can avoid obeying the law and preserve its right to keep objecting to the EPA's order.

Gee...almost sounds like a tale of two cities....doesn't it?
To be continued.......

Is New York City really serious about cleaning the Gowanus Canal? "Canal Clean-Up 101" for the City of New York



Hello from CG CORD!

Is the City of New York really serious about cleaning the Gowanus Canal?
Or is NYC committed to indefinite stalling and wrangling with the EPA at the taxpaper's and the water bill payer's expense?

We at CORD are very very concerned.

"Over decades, the City has never shown the will to clean the toxins at the bottom of the canal which cause  real environmental hazards, nor has it ever addressed the Combined Sewer Overflow issue in any meaningful way." PMFA
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HzWOOqPAEgs
While we compile our CORD summary from last night's CAG meeting we want to call your attention to a vital blog post at PMFA http://pardonmeforasking.blogspot.com/2014/06/dep-commissioner-lloyd-at-last-nights.html

Author Katia Kelly's blog summarizes the main points so well that we feel it should be a must read for all of us citizens of the Gowanus area and those who plan to invest their lives and monies and futures here.  And the City of New York should read it as well.

We could even call it "Gowanus Canal Clean-Up 101" for the City of New York.

CORD

Monday, June 23, 2014

Gowanus Canal CAG Meeting Tuesday June 24!

Hello from CG CORD!

The scheduled June Gowanus Canal CAG meeting will be held June 24, 6:30 PM at Mary Star of the Sea Apartments at 41 First Street, Brooklyn, NY 11213 (between Hoyt and Bond).

NYC DEP Commissioner Lloyd will be joining the CAG, and we also have resolutions from Water and Technical. 

All are welcome to attend.
CORD

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