Monday, October 2, 2023

Tomorrow! New York State DEC to hold hold a "Community Availability Session" in Carroll Gardens/Gowanus to discuss building on toxic land

This is the latest in from Voice of Gowanus. This is a very important meeting with New York State DEC, a community availability session to discuss how to reduce the risk of building on toxic land in Gowanus/Carroll Gardens.

See you there!

Gerry --

Tomorrow, Tuesday, 7-9 pm at PS 372, 512 Carroll St, Brooklyn, NY 11215

NYState DEC will be holding another in person “Community Availability” session to discuss their solutions for implementing Soil Vapor Intrusion systems which are meant to reduce the risks of building on toxic land.

Soil Vapor Intrusion systems rely on barriers, thick plastic sheets that are used to separate the toxic land below ground from the structures above them. Although this practice has been implemented in other parts of the state, we are extremely concerned that it is a poor solution to a much deeper problem here in Gowanus.

Soil Vapor Intrusion Barriers have NEVER BEEN DONE in a challenging environment like Gowanus, at sea level, in a flood plain, with antiquated failing sewage infrastructure. We should not be their guinea pigs. As we saw during the floods last week, water finds a way. So do toxic chemicals. We must protect health and human safety by remediating the land to pre-disposal conditions as required by law! Learn more on Voice of Gowanus

We hope you’ll join us and wear a Voice of Gowanus pin in solidarity. Or even better, wear a trash-bag poncho to show that vapor intrusion barriers are just a temporary solution at best!

New York State and Governor Hochul's response to this crisis are dangerous and inept. We demand people over profits. The sequence of events is wrong. The carcinogenic land must be cleaned up before it’s too late.

Gowanus is on the frontlines of climate change. With deep legacy pollution, how can we effectively prepare for the future if we aren’t properly cleaning up the past??

Please donate and we hope to see you tomorrow.

Voice of Gowanus

Tuesday, April 4, 2023

DEC Community Availibility Session April 20 at the Children's School

This is an important public meeting April 20th. Show up to ask hard questions of NYS Departmentt of Environmental Conservation about the comprehensive cleanup which should happen, of hazardous, contaminated land where residential development is planned + effects of flooding.

Program Update for Gowanus Canal Area

Brownfield Clean-Up Program and State Superfund

Program Sites

Community Availability Session

Thursday April 20, 2023, from 7 - 9 PM

P.S. 372, The Children's School, 215 1st St., Brooklyn

Monday, March 20, 2023

Letter to Governor Hochul at Voice of Gowanus

Here is a link to sign a letter to Governor Hochul. 

Please sign and share with your friends and neighbors!

This Coalition Letter Which Requests That Governor Hochul Comprehensively Remediate All Toxic Sites in the Gowanus Canal Community to "Pre-Disposal Conditions".

Voice of Gowanus is a grass roots, community led coalition, fighting complex issues. 

NY Post: DEC took 2 years to warn of toxic vapors at Gowanus shuffleboard club

The environmental safety news from Gowanus is not good.

As reported in the NY Post on March 18, 2023:

'State environmental officials waited nearly two years to alert the public that cancer-causing vapors over 20 times the amount considered safe escaped from polluted soil along the Gowanus Canal — and into a nearby shuffleboard club.

The Department of Environmental Conservation learned of the alarming levels of toxic vapors in March 2021 while conducting air-quality tests inside Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club — but the hipster haven remained open throughout, since the agency deemed the century-old building was “safe.” 

The agency only documented the stunning finding late last year in public records buried on its website. 

On Friday, DEC spokeswoman Haley Viccaro admitted to The Post that it could have done a better job alerting locals to the looming health hazard, and “are evaluating potential improvements to enhance this process and ensure this information is clear and informative of these comprehensive, science-based efforts to protect public health.”


“I can pretty much draw a line to where I’m living to why I have cancer,” said Margaret Maugenest, 71, a longtime resident who lives a block away from the club. She was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2019. 

“There’s no history of cancer in my family; I eat well; I have a healthy lifestyle, and yet I get colon cancer and am reading about all these cancer-causing materials in the soil we are surrounded by,” she added.


The revelations only came to light thanks to the grassroots group Voice of Gowanus, which hired an Ithaca, N.Y.-based environmental database firm, Toxics Targeting, that recently discovered the damning DEC documents. 

The records showed March 2021 air levels of the cancer-causing chemical trichloroethylene, an industrial solvent, were nearly 22 times above acceptable levels at the shuffleboard club. 

“The DEC in 2021 should’ve put up signs in the club, published public notices in local papers, and sent mail alerts to people in the neighborhood,” said Walter Hang, who heads Toxics Targeting. “All they did was make obscure references in dense technical documents regular citizens wouldn’t know about or can’t decipher.”

A state-approved project is currently underway to reduce the fumes by venting out underground contaminants. Several follow-up tests over the past two years – including one in November — have since shown the hipster hotspot’s air quality at “safe” levels despite slight traces of trichloroethylene still remaining.

However, some longtime club patrons and workers fear their health might already be at risk because its unclear how long Royal Palms’ indoor air was toxic.

“I blame the state government 100%, but at this point I’m done going back there for my own personal safety – and it’s sad because I spent many nights there,” said a Park Slope resident who played in Royal Palms’ shuffleboard leagues since 2019.


Environmental laws in this country are so weak and hard to impose, and the fact that this went unnoticed for so long is an example of how weak they are,” the person added.

Royal Palms opened in 2014 at 514 Union Street, in a building previously used as a die-cutting factory. It’s one of many former manufacturing sites in the neighborhood whose underground soil is saturated with toxic coal tar, a byproduct of former businesses making coal gas.

Over the past century, much of the coal tar – dubbed “black mayonnaise” by longtime residents — also seeped into the Gowanus Canal, which is one of the nation’s most polluted waterways and undergoing a massive federal cleanup.


The DEC learned Royal Palms had air-quality issues after the building’s owners, Avery Hall Investments, applied for financial aid in early 2021 through the state’ Brownfield Cleanup Program to move ahead with a larger mixed-use development with housing on adjacent property it owns. 

Local residents, however, said they didn’t become aware until the site’s remediation plan was updated in December and DEC sent out fact sheets in an email blast many of them didn’t get.

Royal Palms co-owner Jonathan Schnapp said the club has remained open because DEC assured him it’s safe.


“We’re not scientists, and we’re not experts, but we trusted the DEC; we continue to trust the DEC, and we would never do anything to put our staff or our community at risk,” said Schnapp, adding the club recently signed a lease extension to remain in business through at least 2033.

Viccaro said the DEC “did not have information of potential for contamination” until the site’s owner was accepted into the state cleanup program because there’s “currently no requirements” to test indoor air. She called the mitigation system at Royal Palms “effective.”

However, Hang and many Gowanus residents said the cleanup project doesn’t go far enough because it doesn’t entirely purify the toxic soil lurking underneath and around the building — only some of it.

“The state needs to start proactively remediating sites like this around here immediately,” said Seth Hillinger, a 46-year-old software developer who lives nearby and occasionally frequents Royal Palms.

“This shouldn’t only be a warning flag for this business, but the plenty of others built along toxic sites along the canal.”

This news was also featured at Gothamist:

Toxic fumes detected at popular Brooklyn shuffleboard club for past 2 years

Sunday, March 5, 2023

Monday March 6, 2023 / Virtual Town Hall with US Army Corps of Engineers


Dear Colleagues and Neighbors,


Please join us this Monday evening for an important virtual town hall discussing resiliency proposals by US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) for Gowanus and Red Hook in the September 2022 NYNJ Harbor and Tributaries Study (HATS). As you may be aware, the current deadline for public comment on these proposals is March 7. This town hall is an important opportunity for community members to discuss their concerns with USACE directly as they formulate their comments. In order to permit community members more time to comment, Rep. Goldman and Rep. Velazquez have formally requested that USACE extend the deadline for public comment to the end of this month.


We hope you will be able to join us in learning more and offering feedback to USACE on their proposals impacting our communities. We would also be grateful for your help in letting community members know about the town hall. Information is below and flyer is attached. 


WHAT:        Rep. Dan Goldman and Brooklyn CB6 Virtual Town Hall with US Army Corps of Engineers

WHEN:        Monday, March 6 – 7:00-9:00 PM



This meeting is open to the public. All are welcome. 


Thank you, and we hope to see you virtually on Monday! 


Kristen Rouse (she/her)

Deputy District Director

Congressman Daniel S. Goldman 

New York Congressional District 10

Cell: 917-699-3154

Saturday, February 11, 2023

January 24, 2023 Gowanus Canal CAG Meeting Gowanus Canal

The January 24, 2023, Gowanus Canal General CAG Meeting was held on January 24, 2023, virtually.

A link to the meeting is here:

Of particular interest is the report by EPA Chief Engineer Christos Tsiamis who made several critical points about the lack of safety in the development of Public Place under the current remediation plan. Equally important is his statement that the EPA’s Superfund activities are not, NOT, contained just between the bulkheads. (See highlighted area below)

CAG Member George Fiala has written his second article about the latest developments at the CAG at the Red Hook Star-Revue:

Public Place battle tamped down by EPA scientist, by George Fiala 2/10/23

"After the revelation last month about a provocative letter sent by some Gowanus Superfund Community Advisory Group (CAG) to EPA heads, some thought that the next monthly meeting would be filled with fireworks (see our last issue). However, Chief Engineer Christos Tsiamis, who has been providing updates to the project almostevery month for the past dozen years, diffused all thoughts of conflict between the members who wished to develop housing on Public Place (city-owned land near Public Place), and those who demanded a more rigorous cleanup of the long-standing pollution there."  (edit)

"Then the topic got to Public Place, where Tsiamis became animated." 

“The other thing I would like to talk about is Public Place. That is a site which is of concern to the EPA. I have to report that not much progress has happened. To recap, EPA sent a letter to the State in February 2022 and that letter repeated the assessments that I have made about the site, which were also confirmed by our consultant. To date, National Grid, under NY State’s oversight has undertaken a groundwater study in that site which to me is not clear about how it is connected to the recommendations that we have made. To date, the State has not provided any answers to the recommendations we made almost a year ago.   So that’s where we are."

"The concerns that I expressed in December 2020 remain. In order to ensure the safety of those that would populate the buildings on that site, including a school and buildings with low-income people, the tar and the groundwater contamination would have to be contained. We are not talking about going and pulling tar 100 feet deep. We are talking about the shallow and intermediate zones. I will not stop repeating this because I think it’s my scientific responsibility and my responsibility as a manager for the Superfund site. One of the reasons I feel that this is important is that National Grid, under the State DEC, is not being required to go deep enough to properly ensure the public’s safety."

"And because of that we wrote an order that require them to go deep. There are things that have to be done at Public Place, political and other interests set aside, these things have to be addressed. And so I am repeating that here personally, I have made the assessment, our consultant Jacobs made an independent assessment, and these assessments were sent by our Director to the State. I am disappointed that no progress has occurred." 

"It’s a good time to make a clarification once and for all, because I have made this many times in the past." 

"The clarification is that the EPA’s Superfund activities are not, NOT contained just between the bulkheads. Those of you that are not hearing this – hear it again – not contained just between the bulkheads. Only the EPA decides the physical extent of the site. And I believe that the Record of Decision, not what I believe, what is a fact – the Record of Decision, which is a legal document, signed in 2013, gives us the jurisdiction to act on heavily contaminated sites that affect the site that we are dealing with."

"It is our responsibility as public servants to really be truthful to the mission of the agency and to whatever the law requires us to do. And the law requires us to attend to sources of contamination that can affect the cleanup. And so, we have the jurisdiction—the jurisdiction to step in if no one else steps in. I would say it’s just not right to put people on top of contamination. And I’m not asking anyone to go down 100 feet. I’m not impractical but at the same time we have a responsibility to… I don’t know those people who are going to live there—but we would be amiss if we did not take the measures that have to be taken."


Monday, January 23, 2023

General Cag Meeting Tuesday January 24, 2023

 CAG General Meeting Tuesday January 24, 2023

CAG/Gowanus Advisory Group

Tomorrow evening (Tuesday January 24, 2023 there will be a virtual meeting of the General CAG.

The public is welcome!

Please use this ZOOM link:


Tuesday, January 24, 2023

DRAFT AGENDA  (all times are approximate)

6:30 – 6:40 PM: Welcome 

CAG Member Introductions 

6:40 – 700 PM: USEPA Updates 


7:00 – 8:00 PM: Discussion of Potential CAG Reforms 

CAG Working Committee Presentation 

CAG Discussion on How to Proceed

CAG Decision on Path Forward

8:00 – 8:30 PM: CAG Business and Committee Updates

Admin Committee

Archeology and Historic Preservation Committee

Land Use Committee

Outreach Committee 

Water Quality/Technical Committee

8:30 PM:  Adjourn

Guests are welcome to comment and ask questions using the chat function

The next CAG Meeting will be February 28, 2023 at 6:30 PM Via Zoom

From the CAG Facilitator:
"As was noted previously this is a normal CAG meeting with EPA updates and Committee reports. The main topic is for the working group to present its ideas and thoughts about the potential reform process for the CAG based on the issues and recommendations from the November CAG meeting and for the CAG to discuss and decide how it wants to proceed."


Doug Sarno
Gowanus Canal CAG Facilitator
202-596-2660‬ office voicemail
703-927-6265 cell


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........