Monday, August 29, 2016

Brad Lander's Magic Show, Brilliant Sleight of Hand--- And Slight to the Community....

Brad Lander's Magic Show, Brilliant Sleight of Hand--- And Slight to the Community....

The furious race to ensure that the forthcoming Brad Lander/Department of City Planning/Let's Build 'Em Big Vision of the Gowanus is compatible with the community's "input" continues.....

While the online "survey" is still available until September 15th, for those who are more interested in a less electronically controlled, more hands on approach, there are a series of smaller Bridging Gowanus events to attend and allegedly express your opinion.
We say allegedly, because this method of gathering community input is no less complicated, convoluted or crooked than the currently proffered online "weigh in". LINK

Two of these events have already taken place and this post will concentrate on them and their outcome. The first was held at the Bell House, 149 7th Street. The second at the Fifth Avenue Committee Headquarters at 621 Degraw St. 

We were presented with some poster boards exhibiting the "Overarching Goals" of Bridging Gowanus, where each goal was conveniently color coded. We were then given some corresponding colored post it notes and shown another poster board with multiple vertical columns. 


The mission was to choose a blank vertical column and claim it (temporarily) as our own and then position the appropriately colored post it paper in our vertical column, making sure that we were listing our favorite goals in order of preference from top to bottom.

Somewhere in the room Catherine Zinnel, Brad Lander's assistant and our neighborhood liaison to the Councilman, is "photographing" the board periodically--although we were never really sure what determined when it is photographed and how the sticky "data" is kept pure. After all, if three people fill three different columns simultaneously--click goes the the camera. Fine. Now two more come along--more columns filled--click--click--click. The entire board becomes filled--click--click--click--click--Then someone comes along and needs to remove one whole column of data so they can position their post it's---click?--again--click?--again--click--click--click

Catherine was very busy multitasking at the Fifth Avenue Committee function. Data collection accuracy at best was probably less than mediocre.

But, we were given another opportunity to refine, sort of, our choices. There were another series of poster boards with the goals and their sub-category goals, just like the online weigh in.

The sub goals were represented by clearly marked large glass jars. We were provided ten (10) tickets. We were presented with thirty nine (39) jars. and  instructed to place the tickets into the jars that most reflected our views of importance/preference.

Now let's think about this for a minute.

Although presented with multiple choices, you could not address each one. In fact, you were limited to preference just barely above 25% of them. Essentially,, you could not effectively express disapproval of any kind for any of them since even an empty jar did not necessarily reflect disapproval---just that there simply were not enough tickets for you to make complete choices.

This is not a weeding out/refining process--it's just  more meaningless busywork, a magic show that determines nothing--not to mention a complete waste of several types of paper goods.

So because this exercise is supposed to glean some kind of information....we were informed that both the Bell House (held on August 9th) and the Fifth Avenue Committee (August 19th)  events resulted in the hands down winner being....drum roll please...


NEWS FLASH!  This is already underway--thanks to the EPA's listing of the Canal to the National Priorities List years ago and the EPA Record of Decision issued in September, 2013. LINK

So, a thoughtful interpretation of this "data" so far, would indicate to any reasonable person that BEFORE any further development of the area proceeds CLEANUP must be insured.

So, now let's look at one of the first obstacles to EVER achieving this...

The City of New York and the EPA have entered an agreement whereby NYC does not have to site one of the two required retention tanks on the already owned City property suggested by the EPA. In fact, they have sought and have been granted several years, to use an alternate location----sites that are not city owned. LINK

The City wants and will pursue seizure of these private properties through eminent domain---a costly and time consuming legal process--where municipalities claim that the seizure of this private property is for the "greater good". LINK 

The extended time that the City has agreed to accomplish this seizure within presents our community with according to EPA Director, Walter Mugdan, a two to eight (2-8) YEAR DELAY between the actual cap and clean of the canal and the construction and implementation of the retention tank.

What does this have to do with the posters and the color paper -- the jars and the tickets?? Exactly---the whole point of sleight of hand is to distract you from what is real and true--to make you believe you are seeing something else.

In simpler terms, the bacteria and toxic laden gook that currently collects at the bottom of the canal--in some places at the rate of nearly 2 feet per year will continue to pile up at the bottom of the cleaned and capped canal from anywhere from 2 to 8 years.

You need no poster boards, no cute little pieces of sticky pretty color paper to realize that 2-8 years of collecting infected, contaminated toxic waste at the bottom of the cleaned canal equals total obliteration of even the possibility of the number one preference in the Bridging Gowanus  process from ever becoming a reality.

It would have been much more truthful to put a line through this choice--and say why right there on a poster board all its own.

As for the greater good or not, just in case you were unaware of what the EPA had suggested as the preferred location for this one retention tank, there is a park. It is the Thomas Greene Park which was basically built on one of the old gas manufacturing plants--The site is contaminated with a dangerous chemical by product of the gas manufacturing era and industry--coal tar. 

This black, mayonnaise consistency toxic goo is under the ground--forever oozing beneath the surface usually making its way in a downhill direction--which keeps it heading for and entering the Gowanus Canal. It is deeper and denser in some areas more than others--no area more so in the park  than right under the Thomas Greene in-ground pool. 

Since the EPA cleanup of the canal does not permit any further re-contamination of the canal from the uplands--measures will be taken to block the coal tar that cannot be completely removed from re oozing into the canal. So, in comes the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to clean those uplands, under the supervision of the Feds at the EPA.

In order for the park to be cleaned appropriately, parts of the park must be dug up and cleaned out---including under the pool---where a small lake of coal tar lurks.

During the clean up process, naturally parts of the park and the pool itself will not be able to be utilized. The pool must be dug up--the area beneath it cleaned out. Then and only then can the pool be replaced and open for use. This is admittedly an inconvenience but a very necessary one.

So, the EPA thought it was in the best interests of the community and we taxpayers to suggest that the retention tank could be safely and cost effectively placed within the park--already City owned land. It was possible, even preferable, according to the engineering experts at the EPA to build the tank underground and place the pool on top of the tank--what would be left would be an underground working facility with a brand new in-ground pool above it- providing a cleaner, healthier overall environment as well as-saving time and money for the City which is responsible for a great deal of the entire cleanup cost. Win all the way around--right?

The Park would probably be closed for use by the community for a couple of years, making use of the pool impossible for that time.But  it would certainly be within the City's ability to provide some kind of temporary pop up pool at another location nearby for summertime use. (The Thomas Greene Park Pool is essentially opened approximately 9-10 weeks per year) and eventually the pool could be replaced with something even better than what was there prior to the cleanup.

Instead, the City chose this opportunity to make a grab for some key land parcels at tremendous financial cost and precious Canal clean up time lost under the guise of protecting a necessary amenity to an under served community. This will NOT prevent the park from being closed nor the pool from being dug up.In fact this will probably delay the park and pool use even longer than the EPA's proposal. 

Some of our local elected officials were appalled at the idea of siting the tank in the park under the pool--by far the most logical, cost and time effective proposal.

Assemblywoman Jo-Anne Simon, for example, in a telephone conversation with a CORD member expressed her resistance to the idea by saying that this proposal would essentially remove an amenity to this under served community for a "generation".

Where in the world did that idea come from? The EPA had already proved time and time again that they could do things effectively while sticking to and at times, even exceeding their own time line expectations.So what was the problem?

No sleight of hand here---let's now look at real cost...

EPA projected cost for both (that's 2) of the required retention tanks at seventy eight million dollars ($78,000,000). Let's be fair and say costs could vary up to 20% either way--that puts the projected cost for the two tanks somewhere between $62,400,000 and $93,600,000.

EPA projected cost for the entire cleanup of the Canal (including the two tanks) was approximately $504,000,000. (take the 20% differential into consideration) and total cost could range from $403,200,000. to $604,800,000. 

Although that cost is the responsibility of NYC--we all know that means all of us are the ones eventually footing the bill.

New York City's estimated cost for one (1) of the two required tanks? Five hundred and ten million dollars ($510,000,000.) This is, of course, largely related to the cost of the privately owned land seizures and the legal fees that come along with such actions.

Don't know about you but I am not seeing that elusive greater good yet...

You do not have to be a genius to see that if the City of New York had utilized the land under the pool (remember it is being removed anyway) for the retention tank, they would have saved hundreds of millions of dollars.

Surely, if the City can come up with this 510 million dollar appropriation, for a project that should not have even cost 100 million, they could come up with a few million dollars to replace that pool with a truly spectacular amenity--maybe something indoor and suitable for year round use. And wouldn't that have been a wonderful way to provide jobs for people in the community as well as recreation and respite?

By the way, this half a billion dollar appropriation, even more than the EPA estimated cost for the ENTIRE cleanup, by NYC Department of Environmental Protection from OUR tax dollars was enthusiastically tweeted out by our magic man, Brad Lander. 

Instead of questioning this seemingly irrational decision and championing responsible, intelligent, cost and time effective spending of our money, our Representative applauds a plan that holds up the clean up for years while we wait for the City to seize what must surely be prized properties while simultaneously permitting the continuing contamination of the newly cleaned and capped Canal.

Doesn't it make you wonder why? What does Brad have up his sleeve? Doesn't it make Brad's widely promoted Participatory Budgeting Public Relations event, suddenly seem like another part of the magic show.

In Participatory Budgeting, the Community is permitted to have a "say" in one million dollars ($1,000,000) worth of our collected tax dollars to spend on projects that are normally covered by a multitude of city funded agencies and sometimes even not for profits.

Garbage pails? Sanitation. School bathrooms? School Authority. Lines in the streets? Department of Transportation. Library improvements? You would have to check with the Mayor on that one. He got $30,000,000 to spread around the city's libraries for turning a Brooklyn Heights branch into luxury housing.

The PB is a magical idea. But when push comes to shove, we at CORD would have preferred a Representative who stands up and delivers fiscally responsible decisions rather than letting us sort of play with his spare change.

So as we continue to watch and even participate in the Brad Lander Magic Show we are reminded of that Penn and Teller show--"Fool Us" where different magicians attempt to fool the expert magic men while the rest of the audience is just simply entertained.

In our community, we sit in the audience--sometimes we are even brought up to the stage to "participate."

As we watch the show we should all be aware that our tax dollars are literally disappearing down a very deep drain for reasons that we are apparently not permitted to fully understand. 

The "greater good" seems to be more like some developers' dream of waterfront housing in what was, in a previous Gowanus "framework" rezoning plan, left as property for manufacturing use.

And to be fair, Brad is not the only magician performing. We should not forget to acknowledge all of our electeds as well---not a one of whom objected to any of this waste and abuse.

Next up....we'll be talking more about more Bridging Gowanus goals....
Stay tuned!

We encourage you to send your comments to
We will only reprint if YOU specifically request us to do so.  We will never print your comment without your permission. Don't be shy...this is YOUR neighborhood!

For More Info Please See:
Brad Lander's Bridging Gowanus:  Semantics or Some Antics?

Solution to a Problem or Problem to a Solution? Community Left Wondering About EPA's Gowanus Canal Settlement Agreement with New York City 

CORD says: NYC Seizing Personal Property Through Eminent Domain is Unnecessary, UNFAIR, and Fiscally Irresponsible! 

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

"Stop Eminent Domain From Closing Our Studio!" Eastern Effects Asks Community for Help in Fighting City's Plan to Seize 270 Nevins Street 


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........