In the spirit of the 4th of July and democracy I am reposting a most fabulous comment from a native Brooklyite in response to the Superfund nomination.It could not be more opposite from the Toll Brothers rep who I understand is also a native Brooklynite (he really should be ashamed of himself)his comment does not mention the community only the development community anyway this comment is long but worth the read...please comment yourselves, click on the whale to the right.
To: Docket Coordinator
HeadquartersU.S. Environmental Protection Agency
CERCLA Docket Office - Mail Code 5305T
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue NW Washington, DC 20460
Via email: email@example.com
I am writing in response to the EPA’s Federal Docket Number EPA HQ SFUND 2009 0063. I am a Brooklyn born woman raised in Park Slope. I now live in Boerum Hill, approximately 5 blocks away from the proposed Superfund Gowanus project site. I’m also a Producer of a local Brooklyn Community Access TV Show, called Freddy’s Brooklyn Roundhouse (FBR). FBR provides a non-commercial, unsubsidized voice for community leaders and organizations from Brooklyn to address local & national issues threatening everyone’s civil liberties. Issues range from the use of eminent domain at places such as Brooklyn’s historic Underground Railroad site at Duffield street and Atlantic Yards, to Brooklynites helping to save the homes of displaced residents of New Orleans, to the growing immigrants rights movement; we bridge borough, city-wide and national topics that infringe upon constitutional rights and threaten our communities, and we support the Superfund nomination because we believe it will address the environmental threat looming over our Borough.
Along with my letter today I am submitting several links to You Tube episodes of the Freddy’s Brooklyn Roundhouse Show that highlight the communities support for this nomination and some of the outrage expressed at the tactics being used by one of the nation’s largest developer’s, the Toll Brothers, and the City to oppose the Superfund designation. Such ploys include distribution of misleading mailers regarding the Superfund, frightening local home owners into thinking their property values will plummet if Superfund designation is given, to the Toll brothers providing a dock to the Gowanus Dredgers, a community group of boating enthusiasts, in exchange for their not supporting Superfund and even putting unknowing visitors at risk by offering them canoe rides on this toxic waterway. Public parody has also been made out of this process by the City proposing their own convoluted clean up plan which neglects the fact that they have had years to take action to clean up the canal and now are only making a show since the Feds are trying to come in, diverting resources that could be used to clean up other toxic parts of the city not on the Superfund list yet still in serious need of clean up.
As a person who grew up here, I have watched the character of Gowanus, Boerum Hill, Prospect Heights, Fort Greene and Park Slope develop in an organic community driven way that has far exceeded all my childhood expectations. In the 70’s and 80’s Brooklyn was a very dirty and environmentally unsound place and everyone knew the Gowanus was toxic, you could literally smell it. We have all seen the DEP signs by the Canal for years, advising that sewage outfalls should be reported, and everyone saw and smelled these outfalls regularly and very few people called because no one ever believed it would make a difference. Those were the real times of blight in Brooklyn, and for any study to deem an area in this present day wealthy, trendy set of neighborhoods a super toxic waterway, we know to take this message seriously, especially as the area becomes more and more populated with young families. It is an insult to those of us who grew up here and a false pretense for another landgrab for one of the nation’s largest developer’s, the Toll Brothers, and the City to oppose the Superfund designation.
A lot of our parents were pioneers in the local revitalization movement choosing to live and work here during the genuinely blighted years of industrial waste, crack and crime. Their contributions, along with so many others that I know personally, grew and culminated in the reduction of criminal elements, restoration, beautification, proliferation of diverse and successful small and locally owned businesses, and the fabulous street fairs we know and love. All these activities slowly coalesced over time and brought local communities together, entire neighborhoods that remain together thru several generations now and are the reason for which most people I grew up with here have never left. It is with great pride that we cherish what has been developed locally and organically as a vibrant mixed use and cultural diverse set of neighborhoods, all unique yet sharing the same seeds of social development; placing priorities on safety, the environment, healthy public school education, museums, art, access to our wonderful open spaces and parks, and supporting local merchants blending of old and new world traditions and sustainable urbanization. All of these attributes have created Northern Brooklyn’s distinct neighborhoods’ character that compliment each other and encourage cohesion and pride. For the EPA to come in and clean up, in a comprehensive manner, something that all of us are unequipped to manage is a true gift. For the city and the Toll brothers to oppose this and just continue to build their corporate monstrosities at the junction of these toxic waterways, with projects that are out of scale and diametrically opposed in proportion, design, and socio-economic character to these neighborhoods is to insult and negate all that the people and communities have independently accomplished for the past 40 years. To impose one developer’s and mayor’s political vision and will over the EPA and the thousands that live here is irresponsible at best, criminal at worst. They clearly demonstrate over and over again that they will put profit over people and the health of our eco-system.
It is not disputed that the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn has neglected sewers combined with a history of heavy industry that has never been properly cleaned up. When the Environmental Protection Agency nominated Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal as a Superfund cleanup site on its National Priority List there was a lot of excitement that this would be a real opportunity to transform this super sick waterway into a viable estuary for us and future generations. This waterway used to be known as Lavender Lake because it glowed psychedelic hues from all the oil, coal tars, heavy metals, lead, PCB’s, toxic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH’s), Benzene/Toluene/Ethylbenzene/Xylene in it. Beyond being a chemical dumping ground for all these years, the Canal is also a highly neglected sewage overflow system where Combined Sewage Overflow points (CSO’s) spill into the Canal depositing our fecal matter, condoms, tampons and anything else that get flushed into the Canal when we have a heavy rainstorm. Recently, strains of Gonorrhea and other venereal diseases were even discovered in Brooklyn’s “Love Canal”. Beyond neglect, there have been no comprehensive health studies done in the community to study the impacts of living near such an industrial toxic mess for the residents and the larger ecosystem of plants, birds and fish. We do know that 2 years ago, a 12-foot apparently healthy baby Minke whale died within two days after getting lost and swimming just outside the locks of the Gowanus Canal. The U.S. Coast Guard nicknamed the whale Sludgy because it appeared to be covered with oily sediment from the canal!
Many of us are thrilled with the announcement that the EPA is preparing to comprehensively clean up this waterway and help transform it into a viable estuary. However, we are shocked that certain city officials and real estate interests have come out against this nomination, instead promising to clean up the Canal in a piecemeal fashion that won’t stigmatize our Borough. We strongly feel that not only is our Canal full of crap, but so are they. They have had years to comply with the Clean Water Act and they have done little and now only when their development designs are at risk do they scramble to say they need more time to develop their own alternative clean up plans. It appears these corporate and political interests don’t care about the quality of life for folks living there, but only want to continue to use the area to turn mega profits. The City has successfully lobbied to have the comment period to the EPA extended until July 8th, so they can fight against the Superfund nomination, please do not allow them any more extensions to derail this nomination. A lot of the local community is outraged at such tactics and there has been much talk on the issue. FROGG, Friends and Residents of Greater Gowanus, has created a website for people to take action to let you know that we want the Canal cleaned by the EPA. Please go online and check out the petition to read what the community is saying (www.superfundgowanus.org). We are very unhappy that several City Council members and the Mayor are not supporting their constituent’s positions and only serving the interests of giant luxury real estate developers like the Toll Brothers.
We all have a big stake in seeing a comprehensive toxic cleanup happen in a holistic manner. Beyond the long term health effects from heavy industry poisons along the Canal we must address the issues of out of scale, unsustainable development throughout Brooklyn affecting the Combined Sewage Overflow points in the Canal, that in conjunction with flooding from global warming, with no operational Flushing Tunnel, poses a real threat to our beloved Borough. When Hurricane Katrina hit, New Orleans had neglected levees coupled with antiquated oil refineries that made for a deadly environmental disaster from which many communities have never recovered. Here in Brooklyn, unsustainable development, industrial and human waste, along with more forceful flooding, could create similar catastrophic consequences along the Canal that could turn Brooklyn into a giant toxic toilet bowl!
For all of the above reasons this Superfund nomination must be approved. We need experts to remedy the toxicity and seriously address how to environmentally repair and protect this area from real devastation. The City also says there is no danger in letting them try and clean up the area and if they are not successful then the EPA could come in, yes there is danger in delay, the threat is real and the time is now. We must learn from past mistakes and remember New Orleans.
Ms. Sabine Aronowsky