Posts tagged with "Gowanus Green":

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Gowanus: Sunk or Saved?

The Environmental Protection Agency balked at the Bloomberg administration's controversial proposal to clean up the Gowanus Canal, favoring its own Superfund program in an announcement today, as had been expected. In a statement, regional administrator Judith Enck said  that, after much consultation with concerned parties, the EPA "determined that a Superfund designation is the best path to a cleanup of this heavily contaminated and long neglected urban waterway." The Bloomberg administration opposed the designation for fear it would stigmatize the waterway and drive off developers who were planning projects on the polluted canal's shores. Lo-and-behold, Toll Brothers, which had been planning a 2,000-unit mixed-use complex designed by GreenbergFarrow, has already nixed its plans. We also hear from a source that the Gowanus Green project by Rogers Marvel on a city-owned site is also on hold until it can shore up lending, assuming it can. As for the proposed rezoning, no word yet from the Department of City Planning, which had also been awaiting the Superfund decision before it proceeded. Marc LaVorgna, an administration spokesperson, called the EPA's decision "disappointing," though he did say that the city would still aid in the clean-up efforts. "We are going to work closely with the EPA because we share the same goal—a clean canal," he said. It appears the mayor was right about the threat Superfund designation posed to development on the canal, though the question of whether such projects should have taken place anyway, given even the possibility of Superfund levels of contamination, also has been answered. UPDATE: Looks like City Planning will be holding off for the time being, as we suspected. Here's the explanation we just received from spokesperson Rachaele Raynoff:
We’ve just gotten the news and we’re continuing to work on understanding the impacts of the designation on the potential for moving forward with a rezoning to facilitate appropriate development and remediation. Clearly, the Superfund designation adds a layer of additional complexity (and uncertainty) to an already very complex process.
UPDATE 2: Curbed has word from the folks at Gowanus Green that they have yet to give up on their project, though they do acknowledge that it will be more challenging.
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Really, Toll Brothers? Really!

When developers began proposing sizable developments for the shores of the Gowanus Canal a few years ago, at best it was viewed as yet another gonzo deal conceived of those frothy boom years. At worst, it was a bad joke. After all, this is the same body of water known to carry STDs. And so, when the federal EPA agreed to consider the contaminated body of water for Superfund status, that could only be a good thing, right? Not if you're one of those developers, as the Observer reports today. Or, believe it or not, the Bloomberg administration. Writes Eliot Brown:
The controversy centers around the nature of the Superfund program. The Bloomberg administration and developers contend it would drag out the cleanup for years, potentially stymieing both economic development and, ironically, environmental cleanup in the process. [...] For developers, this approach is frustrating. The city is rezoning the lots around the northern sections of the canal, and developers had hoped to build a new residential neighborhood, bordering what was to be a quaint stream lined by parkland and bike paths. But given the way the Superfund program assigns blame, developers worry that they could be designated as potentially responsible, and would therefore be unable to get financing to build. Further, the stigma of a Superfund designation, they worry, would drive away potential buyers, pushing down the value of the area. [Emphasis added.]
Yeah, no kidding. The Times followed up, passing along the city's official argument's against the move:
Daniel Walsh, director of the Mayor’s Office of Environmental Remediation, said a Superfund cleanup would likely take more than two decades, putting at risk more than $400 million of private investment already committed to the area for housing and other development. Speaking at an informational forum on Tuesday night held by Representatives Nydía M. Velázquez and Yvette D. Clarke, both Democrats from Brooklyn, he said that cleanup projects like the city’s planned dredging of 1,000 feet of contaminated sediment at the bottom of the canal, at a cost of $15 million, could also be at stake. “These investments are part of the a plan that the city has developed to remediate the canal that is collaborative and efficient, rather than embarking on a Superfund process that is, at its core, an adversarial process focused on finding responsible parties for past contamination,” Mr. Walsh said. But a designation could steer hundreds of millions of federal dollars toward a comprehensive cleanup, and neighbors at the meeting were split on their support for the Superfund designation. Mr. Walsh was both booed and applauded during his remarks.
That developers like Toll Brothers would write letters opposing such a cleanup is not surprising, morals be damned. That they're still scrambling to even build in these outlying areas of the outerboroughs shows just how stuck these developers are in pre-recession wonderland. It's exactly the sort of questionable thinking the city should be protecting us from, not promoting. After all, which is worse? Living in a Superfund site knowingly or unknowingly. Granted, yes, we do have full faith in the appropriate remediation of these sites, but wouldn't their wholesale recovery--and with the polluters instead of the public and the developers themselves footing the bill--be the desired outcome? After all, Greenpoint has complained for years of heightened cancer rates and other health problems from a similarly polluted waterway. Sure, the ground under your apartment might be clean, but what about the site next door? No amount of letters or flashy marketing can change that fact. Now where's Seth Myers when you need him...