I attended the first C.A.G (Community Advisory Group) meeting at the American Can Factory building at 3rd Street & 3rd Avenue last night. I never thought that I would see the day when the cast of characters seen for the last couple years at the many community board meetings and court hearings (it all began with the Toll Brothers) would now be sitting together discussing the future of the Gowanus. The large group of 57 C.A.G members represented all sides and opinions on the issue of the Gowanus Canal and it’s many stakeholders included avid anti-Super Fund/pro-development people such as Buddy Scotto, the Gowanus Canal Community Development Corporation, members of groups that avidly fought for Superfunding such as F.R.O.G.G, The Park Slope Neighbors Association, C.O.R.D as well as academic representatives such as C.U.P (Center for Urban Pedagogy), Pratt Center of Community Development, local residents and business owners.
The evening began with EPA spokesperson Walter Mugdan doing a rundown on the timeline of the Superfund process. He anticipated that the whole thing will take 10 to 12 years with time for problems and delays factored in his estimate. He said the mud at the bottom of the Gowanus Canal is what put the canal on the Superfund List. The water quality of the canal is effected by the quality of the mud, which is full of toxic sediment which was measured by parts per hundred instead of parts per trillion making the Gowanus one of the most toxic bodies of water in America.
At the moment the EPA in the “Remedial Investigation” phase and has found that the mud at the bottom is 5 feet high in some areas of the canal, so dredging will be the order of business. This brought up the issue of C.S.O’s (Combined Sewage Overflow) which is the city’s concern. The sewage will continue to flow into the canal, which will continue to dissolve into the toxic mud, so how long will dredging last before it piles up again? Maintenance will be needed and I believe think that is a whole separate issue.
Mugdan gave kudos to Project Manager, Christos Tsiamis, for finishing the first phase of the Remedial Investigation which would normally take about 2 years in 10 months. Mugdon said that they should be finished with the Remedial Investigation phase by the end of the year and a full report will be available when finished. They hope to have a proposed plan by early 2012 and this plan will have a 60 day public comment period, then they hope to have a remedial design plan in 2013.
After the rundown of the time line, C.A.G members were put into discussion groups, the stakeholders were given seating assignments which created diversity in opinions in each group. The main concerns of the groups at this point seemed to regard impartial communication between the C.A.G and also how to release information to the public.
The one thing I have to say though is that although the C.A.G is diverse in its’ viewpoints, it was not really diverse as it was about 98% white, which, the last time I looked around the neighborhood of the Gowanus does not really match up to the reality of who lives in the neighborhood.
Read more details about the meeting at Pardon Me For Asking who also happens to be a C.A.G Stakeholder.