Gowanus rezoning must not compromise canal cleanup: Feds

Crap-alanch: The city has to figure out how to keep all the waste generated by the 20,000 new residents it's planned rezoning would bring out of the Gowanus Canal.
Brooklyn Paper
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Uncle Sam isn’t taking any of the city’s crap!

Federal environmental officials are anxiously counting the turds of some 20,000 new residents that would move to Gowanus in the wake of a city-backed rezoning, and they’re demanding local officials create a plan to protect the neighborhood’s notoriously fetid canal from the extra waste amid a more than $1.2 billion federal cleanup of the waterway, according to the fed in charge of cleaning Brooklyn’s Nautical Purgatory.

“In the coming weeks and months and years we will be looking at those numbers and we will be asking the city and the developers to take measures to mitigate any effects that these big numbers might have on the remedy,” said Christos Tsiamis of the Environmental Protection Agency at the May 28th meeting of the local watchdog group the Gowanus Community Advisory Group.

Current residents flush about 179,000 gallons of wastewater into the neighborhood’s sewage system per day, and federal officials had planned to install two massive tanks — capable of holding four and eight million gallons, respectively, and priced together at $1.2 billion — near the canal to accommodate sewage overflow, which normally vents into the waterway during heavy rain.

But as the prospect of a neighborhood up-zoning looms, Department of City Planning officials now predict that the daily wastewater dump could swell to a whopping 2 million gallons per day, and Tsiamis said at the meeting Tuesday that it’s up the city to strategize how to prevent that waste from entering the canal.

Tsiamis is also concerned that large-scale development will cause additional rainwater to pour into city sewers, thereby further exacerbating overflow, and Tsiamis wrote to the Department of City Planning to demand they analyze that issue as well.

Gowanus Councilman Brad Lander — whose vote, along with Boerum Hill Councilman Stephen Levin’s, is key to approving the city’s rezoning scheme — suggested that in lieu of expanding the already hugely expensive tanks planned by the feds, that developers could be required through the rezoning to install their own retention facilities when construction new buildings.

“The CSO outfalls could be tied into tunnel or tank infrastructure being designed for this purpose, which is the public option” said Lander. “The private option — if it’s not feasible to tie it into those, then developers could in addition to having to detain their stormwat er, detain their grey water for a period of time, their sewage.”

As a proof of concept, Lander pointed to a luxury condominium on the distant Isle of Manhattan, called the Solaire, which features a rooftop garden that collects rainwater in a 10,000-gallon tank.

And the local lawmaker added that, while the increase in wastewater would be significant, it is ultimately manageable given existing treatment facilities, including the Red Hook and Owls Head treatment plants, which have capacities of 60 million and 120 million gallons per day, respectively, according to city records.

“You have to look at that in context of wastewater treatments,” Lander said. “It’s not a trivial increase but relative to the wastewater system it’s a relatively modest increase.”

Reach reporter Kevin Duggan at (718) 260–2511 or by e-mail at Follow him on Twitter @kduggan16.
Updated 2:44 pm, May 30, 2019
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Reasonable discourse

Mike from Williamsburg says:
Good. The city anticipates this and is planning for it. The EPA is showing that is aware and is going to hold the city to mitigating it. Can we expect the NIMBYs to shut up now?
May 30, 2019, 5:02 pm
Jim from Cobble Hill says:
No rezoning. The local transportation services are already over capacity and not a single thing is going to done to add more. We don't need more imports from flyover country.
May 30, 2019, 5:28 pm
Mike from Williamsburg says:
I didn't actually need Jim to answer my question that No, the NIMBYs will never shut up. What the NIMBYs hate is living in New York itself, other people, new people, and sharing opportunities they would rather hoard.
May 30, 2019, 7:05 pm
Pardon Me says:
The report Brad Lander appears to refer to for the Red Hook and Owls Head treatment plants, "which have capacities of 60 million and 120 million gallons per day" is several years old and was done when Michael Bloomberg was mayor. His term ended in 2013. Lots of new buildings went up in and around Gowanus during that time, all tapping into those two sewers. Shame on you, Brad! Next time, give us updated capacity numbers.
May 31, 2019, 4:58 pm
Charles from Bklyn says:
Here we go again. Let's afford developers who have paid-to-play a zoning change that will compromise the cleanup and allow more people near this sick waterway. It's unconscionably wicked to put people in a situation where they will risk their health for a luxuxy rental or condo near a superfund site.
June 1, 2019, 11:35 pm
Susan Y. from Gowanus says:
I had to move the day of Hurricane Sandy into Carroll Gardens from a Park Slope eviction by a disgruntled vengeful ex–boyfriend. WHO KNEW ABOUT ALL THE —— THAT ENTERS THE CANAL WHILE PARK SLOPE GOT GENTRIFIED FOR 25 YEARS? I didn’t know until living in this area for 6 years and attending Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group (CAG) meetings. There are 600,000 homeless in the streets of NYC & I would’ve been on the list if I didn’t have a family who owns a 100 year old building. Upon reading this article, Brad Lander's statement for developers "could be required through the rezoning to install their own retention facilities when construction new buildings.” DOES NOT GEL Already, there are fetal waste floating in front of the newly built privately built "affordable" Lighthouse building on the canal. Imagine a future with other shoddy "developed" buildings along the canal. "Pardon Me For Asking" (local Gowanus newsletter) has kept local residents informed with photos of raw sewage floating in the Canal: Also here's more info from "Pardon Me For Asking" states: 1) The toxic 1.8 mile long Gowanus Canal, an EPA Superfund site, still needs to be remediated. 2) The City of New York still allows raw sewage to drain into the canal during heavy rains and has yet to build Combined Sewer Overflow retention tanks mandated by the EPA to address current conditions. The City has no plan in place to address the additional sewage of 20,000 new residents. which the EPA estimates to be 11x the current amount, once Gowanus is fully built out. 3. The area is a FEMA flood zone A and experienced severe flooding during Hurricane Sandy.
June 2, 2019, 10:37 am
Rachael from Red Hook says:
A most absurd fall back statement these officials are using: " it is ultimately manageable given existing treatment facilities, including the Red Hook and Owls Head treatment plants". Why would the Gowanus - Red Hook communities even care about what can be managed at these treatment facilities when the city sewer system isn't capable of conveying the local waste to those far-off treatment plants? And if they can't get the sewage slop to the treatment plants today, why would anyone expect they will get the additional slop to these treatment plants after such a massive build-out?
June 2, 2019, 5:43 pm
John from Gowanus says:
—— you Lander, you developer bootlicking piece of ——. Not surprising that as soon as this canal gets slated to be cleaned up the developer parasites pounce and the rest of the neighborhood's residents can get ——ed.
June 11, 2019, 1:17 pm

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