6/24/2009

The Word "Superfund" Scares the City! A Recap on City's "Alternative to Superfund" Presentation.


Representatives from the City of New York, Cas Holloway and Dan Watson talked in unconvincing circles tonight at their second presentation this week to discuss alternatives to designating the Gowanus as a Superfund site.

Their major points.

1. The city’s plan is exactly the same as the E.P.A’s. The dredging will be done by the Army Corp of Engineers and will be overseen by the EPA. The difference? It wound not be called a Superfund site. They see it as a stigma.

2. They feel that P.R.P’s (potentially responsible parties or polluters) would be more willing to pay up if it was on a voluntary basis. (Does anybody believe this?)

3. The monies that are NOT collected from P.R.P’s will be gotten through the Water Resources Development Act or WRDA.

This is the best part!

4. If it doesn’t work out and the big “if” lies on getting the money from W.R.D.A than they will hand the project over to the EPA and it can then become the much stigmatized Superfund site. Of course this will be a few years down the road but "what's the hurry?"

The problem is and they did not mention it but Dan Wiley from Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez’s office confirmed that there is no money in WRDA for the Gowanus!

Making the city’s plan a huge waste of money all in order to avoid the “stigma” of the word Superfund!

To quote Congresswoman Velazquez from an article from the Brooklyn Star (link below):
"The Gowanus Canal has never been included in WRDA and this is the vehicle the city is proposing to use," Velazquez said. "For the city to say that their plan relies on money that the federal government won't be able to provide is a disservice to the community."

I know this is redundant but it seems like a huge waste of time and money to me. Let the Fed’s do it!

The business owners in the audience questioned about P.R.Ps. Walter Mugdon of the EPA stepped in several times at the city’s invitation to explain things that the city obviously couldn’t answer. I think that this made the city seem less credible.

Debby Scotto, (one of the members of Clean Gowanus Now!) did comment about the “stigma” and how it will redline the neighborhood making it impossible to get insurance and mortgages. I would think the neighborhood is far past that, it’s gentrified and I don’t think there is any going back to those days. The Gowanus and Carroll Gardens are constantly being written about in the NY Times Real Estate section, fashion and design magazines etc. It will continue to be desirable. That’s why the Toll Brothers want in so bad. I would think that by allowing the EPA to step in with their plan, which they already have drawn up would cost the taxpayers far less money. The city did admit that that the taxpayers would be paying for the bulk of it their plan. Actually Walter Mugdon said that but they didn’t object!

SO….

The city on one hand says they will get it done faster and on the other hand say, “what’s the hurry?”

Cas Holloway admitted that the only reason that they came up with this plan was because the DEP requested that it become a Superfund site when questioned about their sudden interest. Reason enough alone to distrust them. They were willing to let developments happen on a toxic waste dump and only when forced have acted like they care. Ultimately it is the EPA that has the final decision on this and I hope they are not swayed by the lobbying that is probably being done in Washington despite Holloway’s claim that they are not.

Click here to read about how there is no money in WRDA for the Gowanus Canal!

Read about yesterday’s meeting over here at Pardon Me For Asking

13 comments:

Margaret said...

"What's the hurry?" is the perfect slogan for the City and the developers whose agenda the City is pushing with the Superfund "alternative". That's why the City has done nothing to clean up the canal, and has dragged its feet with the Flushing Tunnel work that should have been completed by now.
The City gets you coming and going. First they say that Superfund is too slow to get things done - the City can do it quicker. Then they ask " what's the hurry?" when the EPA says it is ready to start now. Am I missing something, or is this crazy going around in circles to nowhere with the City?

Anonymous said...

What you don't seem to understand is that the Superfund HAS NO MONEY for the cleanup. The City has $175,000,000, including $15,000,000 from the Army Corps of Engineers that will be lost if a Superfund designation is made.

You talk about the uncertainties of the City's plan, but please tell me what the EPA's plan really is and how it will be funded. All we know is that they are going to study things for a couple of years. We already know the Canal is dirty and there have been many, many studies already. The City is ready to put a shovel in the ground to deal with the CSO issue. The EPA doesn't even plan to deal with the CSOs, which are the major quality of life issue in the Canal area.

We have no idea what the EPA's cleanup will be like. If it is anything like what we have seen with countless other Superfund sites, you can write the Canal off for decades if it gets designated. Since when do we all trust the federal government so much. Because they have SCIENTISTS? Get a clue.

Anonymous said...

There was no sign-in sheet for this suits mtg (aka developers (TOLL, businesses), which is very suspect. Because at the night before mtg for ordinary residents (most of whom never received notification of the mtg, by the way) there WAS a sign-in sheet. What's up with that???!!!
The City's well-rehearsed rep. Cas Holloway didn't miss a beat trying to brainwash anyone who was trying to pay a little bit of attention into believing that the City actually HAS an alternate plan. Same old drone. Around, and around, and around.
With the City's plan, the NYC taxpayers will actually be footing more of the bill.
The Columbia Street Merchants Assn. - they are nowhere NEAR Gowanus, received invitations BY SNAIL MAIL - to attend. What's up with that?
Interns working for the City were passing out Say No to Superfund propaganda handouts paid for by the Toll Bros. Interns paid by OUR tax dollars are doing the bidding of developers? What's up with that?

Anonymous said...

The big sad story of the evening was when Deb Scotto, property owner and developer, made a statement with a tearful weepy sound in her voice that the Gowanus will be stigmatized, and the poor homeowners and property owners, innocent victims of stigmatized property, will never be able to sell their property, or increase the value of their property, or get insurance for their property. And that innocent property owners didn't know the canal land and water were contaminated. How innocent can she be when her father has been a community activist all his adult life in the Carroll Gardens/Gowanus neighborhood? Surely she must have known the industrial history of the GC, and of its toxicity.

Anonymous said...

This is all one big PR stunt to drum up support for the City's plan since support is severely lacking. I don't think the City even believes they can get job done. It seems like they are buying time to get the development through and then they will willingly turn the process over to the EPA in a few years.
Deb Scotto was laughable claiming that a super fund would "condemn" the neighborhood. Give it a break.
I noticed that many of the attendees were with GCCDC, CB6 Land Use Committee, Clean Gowanus Now! One board member of the GCCDC held herself out as business owner on the canal who might end up being a PRP. I know this person owns a real estate agency on Court Street but I am not so sure about a business on the canal unless it is for investment/future development purposes.

Mike J. said...

Many home owners seem to think that bank loan underwriters are stationed a few blocks from the Gowanus Canal and will know that it has been contaminated all these years and Superfund listing won't make a difference. That is completely false and naive to believe. Underwriters look at hard data about a community...and a neighborhood is either Superfund listed and risky or it's not. It doesn't matter that the area is artsy and "up and coming" or whatever. That is not quantifiable nor useful information. Superfund listing will undoubtedly lower property values and cause problems when you go to your bank or insurer.

Margaret said...

Heh, Mike J, due diligence for a prospective homeowner is getting an environmental report - I got one -Toxic Targeting. And if I got one, I am sure that banks and insurers are privy to the same info. And that info is quantifiable! You can be sitting at a desk on the other side of the world and find out about the toxicity issues in Gowanus. Superfund is a name. It describes the reality here. And despite that reality, this neighborhood has been up and coming, which is why TOLL wants/wanted in. But maybe, if Superfund keeps TOLL away, that's appropriate. And just in the nick of time - before you put dense population where it does NOT belong!!!!!

Anonymous said...

If only the no-superfund people (and the city) were half as scared and concerned about the health risks here in Gowanus, as they are about their financial bottom line risks!
What are they all protecting their money for, what can be of more value that a decent clean environment?

Does greed trump all?

sid from Boerum Hill said...

Stigma? The Gowanus is stigma enough. Its already a stigma that is a foolish argument. Why would the money be lost? Is there something in the legislation that pulls it? I doubt that. Another spurious argument. The one thing that is true is that lenders will shy away from a superfund site precisely because they can be held liable to pay for the cleanup if they lend and have to foreclose on the site-then they take over the responsibility from the owner they foreclosed on and NO INSURANCE covers such a designation and environmental cleanup. On the whole I lean towards the designation unless the City is willing to pay for the cleanup. If the city commits then the informal system should be used.

Anonymous said...

Sid, the taxpayers of NYC should commit the cleanup funds to cover the portion of the problem created by the city, but there are real polluters here that should be kicking in their share. Superfund has the legal standing and procedures that allow for collecting cleanup funds from those that created the problem. The city's alt-plan is all about shifting those costs to both city tax payers and the national taxpayer.

Anonymous said...

Listen, we all know that the Canal needs to be cleaned, But you people have no rational argument saying that Superfund status does not bring down property values, There is studies on it, Check out the city plan website. And even though the canal is filthy and stinky, if you add one more word to the description "Superfund" things will be 100% different as far as the neighborhood. buhbyee prospering Gowanus..YOU WILL BE MISSED

Anonymous said...

A guy from Senator Montgomery's office was handing out her fact sheet at the meeting. City must have hated it. I got a copy in an email. Good stuff worth sharing.
GOWANUS SUPERFUND LISTING FACT SHEET

SUPERFUND IS NEEDED, NOW!
“Superfund” is the easy name for a program the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) uses to clean the most polluted areas of our country. The NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation asked the EPA to consider listing the Gowanus Canal after finding the incredibly high degree of pollution in the area.

THE CANAL IS VERY DANGEROUSLY POLLUTED
The level of pollution necessary for EPA Superfund listing is measured in “parts per million.” Heavy metals and certain other pollutants in the Gowanus Canal pollution registers in parts per HUNDRED. That’s 10,000 times more polluted than the lowest emergency listing! In addition, every time it rains raw sewage overflows into the canal. The bacteria count in a recent study is shocking, more than 25 times the unsafe level.

PROPERTY VALUES WILL INCREASE
Land surrounding a clean, safe canal will be far more valuable. A thorough and expeditious cleanup will be the best thing for everyone!

SUPERFUND CLEANUP WILL BE THOROUGH AND WON’T TAKE FOREVER
Progress should be seen quickly once work starts, but the complete cleanup will take time. The cleanup has to be thorough and consistent or the canal will return to the current dangerous state. Federal designation commits the cleanup to professional, uninterrupted effort.

RESPONSIBLE PARTIES PAY, AND WORK STARTS IMMEDIATELY
Superfund cleanups are funded by the people who caused the pollution.

The EPA believes much if not most of the cleanup will be the responsibility of National Grid.
*It won’t cost the community money.
*It won’t cost home owners money.
*It won’t cost new business owner money.
*The EPA has said it won’t cost New York City more money than they are already committed to spending.
The EPA starts work immediately from Federal funds set aside for this purpose.
*Congress budgets $320 million dollars annually for the Superfund
*An additional $600 million dollars has been allocated this year alone
*President Obama is reviving the funding stream that will place an additional billion dollars in the Superfund.
The EPA is ready to go!

THE CITY PLAN
New York City has proposed an alternative plan they believe will accomplish a similar clean canal, but the City is not in the business of cleaning toxic sites. While well meaning, the City plan is completely untested and contains questionable assumptions.
*The City plan depends on polluters voluntarily doing the work themselves, to their own standards; but these polluters haven’t done anything up to now.
*The City plan doesn’t intend to clean the whole canal, and a partial cleanup will not be safe.
*The City plan would need special Congressional approval for the Army Corps of Engineers to work on the entire Canal; they legally can’t go north of the Hamilton Avenue bridge!
*The City plan has no guarantees that the funding will actually happen; it relies on the idea that Congress will give substantial special money for years to come for this one project, which is very unlikely.
*The EPA has been doing this for decades and knows what it is doing. The EPA has said *Superfund listing will incorporate all City programs and not delay any efforts currently in progress. Superfund listing guarantees action in ways the City plan cannot.

JOBS
The cleaning process itself will produce new, Green jobs. And a clean Gowanus Canal and vicinity will be a much better employment area!

HOUSING
Current plans for building housing in the Gowanus area would expose families to a life next to dangerous contamination. For the sake of all, the area must be thoroughly cleaned to Superfund standards so housing for all can be responsibly built.

Margaret said...

Hey 10:11 -Let's bury our heads in the sand. The Gowanus is toxic enough to be listed as a Superfund site, but if we don't call it that, the science will automatically be changed and it will be fine and dandy for luxury home building a la Toll Brothers. Homeowners who bought here knew good and well what Gowanus was and is - a toxic soup. Home owners will be happy the Gowanus will be cleaned through Superfund, because at the end of this rainbow, their homes will have REAL added value.