In a blow to the Bloomberg administration, the federal Environmental Protection Agency has named the slithering Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn a Superfund site.
The designation would require parties responsible for the canal’s pollution — which is sure to include manufacturing companies and oil refineries that have lined the canal’s shores for decades — to clean it up. This almost always involves court proceedings. That clean up of the 1.8 mile long canal, according to the Times, will likely take between 10 to 12 years.
The decision, which has been years in the making, could set aside the Bloomberg administration’s own plans to clean up the canal, which includes dredging from the Army Corp of Engineers and sewer system upgrades.
“It’s disappointing,” said Marc LaVorgna, a mayoral spokesperson, in an e-mailed statement. “We had an innovative and comprehensive approach that was a faster route to a Superfund-level cleanup and would have avoided the issues associated with a Superfund listing. The project will now move on a Superfund timeline, but we are going to work closely with the EPA because we share the same goal – a clean canal. Local residents and businesses raised concerns about the impact of a Superfund designation on their community and we hope that the EPA will work with us to address those concerns as they move forward.”
Supporters of the designation see today’s decision as a long-awaited victory.
“After 150 years of abuse and neglect the Gowanus Canal will finally get the comprehensive cleanup that the residents of the area deserve,” stated Josh Verleun, Riverkeeper Attorney & Chief Investigator. “The toxic legacy of coal tar, PCBs, pesticides, and other contamination of the Gowanus can only be cleaned through a comprehensive Superfund cleanup; we are gratified to see the EPA stepping up to this task.”
In addition to the mayor’s alternate plan, the designation will also likely destroy development plans from Toll Brothers, who planned to build an approximately 460-unit residential development along the Carroll Gardens side of the canal. The City Council has already approved the rezoning for the project. The developer has said in the past that if the Superfund designation moved forward it would abandon the project along the canal. Toll Brothers is already reportedly eying another location in DUMBO.
The EPA will be holding a meeting Thursday in Carroll Gardens to discuss the next steps.
For more on the designation, check out these stories we ran last year — one from Toll Brothers and one from environmental group, Riverkeeper, who was supportive of the canal’s designation.
UPDATE: David Von Spreckelsen, a Toll Brothers senior vice president, told Gotham Gazette this afternoon that Toll Brothers will not be “going forward” with its project along the Gowanus now that it’s a Superfund site.
“Obviously we are very disappointed,” said Von Spreckelsen. “We had hoped that the EPA would seriously consider the mayor’s alternative plan, and obviously they didn’t. At this point, we don’t see the possibility of going forward.”
By Courtney Gross on March 2, 2010, 11:53 am
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