Monday, April 25, 2016

Will the Gowanus Canal Clean-Up Be DELAYED?

PLEASE COME to this very critical EPA Meeting at PS 32 tonight to hear how and why the Gowanus Canal Clean-Up might be on a new and avoidable "slower speed".

WHEN:  Monday, April 25, 2016
TIME:  6:30PM 
WHERE  P.S. 32 located at 317 Hoyt St., Brooklyn, NY

The public is urged to ask questions tonight and to comment directly to the EPA.  (See address below)

"The agreement between the City and EPA on the siting of the tanks allows DEP to inflate the cost, will mean the taking of private land in Gowanus, and most importantly, will expose the community to contaminants longer than absolutely necessary."  PMFA
Comments will be accepted by EPA until May 16:
Additionally, comments can mailed or emailed to: Walter Mugdan, U.S. EPA Superfund Director 290 Broadway, Floor 19, New York, N.Y., 10007

Please see:
EPA Region 2 Administrator Judith Enck Just Blinked and May Now Have Allowed New York City to Delay the Gowanus Canal Superfund Clean-Up

This Coming Monday, EPA To Hold Community Meeting To Explain Proposed Agreement With New York City On Siting Of CSO Tanks That Are Part Of Superfund Clean-Up

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Dear EPA Administrator McCarthy (from CORD): We need your HELP in Gowanus!

Last week, Feb. 16, 2016, the PMFA Blog featured a post entitled "Dear EPA Administrator McCarthy, Gowanus Needs Your Help!" and "Why I Reached Out To Washington Regarding Our Polluted Canal"  in which author, Katia Kelly, explains in detail the mess that has become the EPA decision-making process for the Gowanus Canal clean-up.  LINK

A member of the CAG/Community Advisory Group she writes about her great disappointment in the fact that "politics, not science or engineering seem to have 'contaminated' the process" of the "long-promised environmental EPA clean-up of the Gowanus Canal." LINK  CORD agrees. 

Ms. Kelly explains her disappointment "is not with EPA's Region 2 team, which has been overseeing this particular Superfund project. Headed by Gowanus Canal Project Manager Christos Tsiamis, Legal Counsel  Brian Carr and Community Involvement Coordinator Natalie Loney, the team has worked tirelessly to move the project forward in record time for the good of local residents."  Again, CORD agrees.

She "lays the blame squarely at the feet of Region 2 Regional Administrator Judith Enck, who appears to be disregarding her team's scientific findings and recommendations in order to accommodate the City of New York, one of the primary polluters of the Gowanus Canal."  LINK  CORD agrees with these statements above completely.

Like Ms. Kelly CORD originally wrote to EPA Administrator Judith Enck a few months ago expressing our concerns. LINK  However, we received no response or other action from Ms. Enck.

We, too, recently decided to write to Administrator McCarthy (See our complete letter below). Like Ms Kelly, we feel "in Gowanus, getting rid of raw sewage, liquid tar and PCPs  should be the only environmental justice issue Judith Enck should care about," and that "hopefully, Washington can and will remind her of this." LINK

And we are not the only ones who are very concerned with the recent political maneuvering of Ms. Enck.  Another Gowanus CAG member, Joseph Alexiou, author of the recently published book, "Gowanus, Brooklyn's Curious Canal" wrote about these issue for the Curbed Blog recently.  On Feb. 15, 2016, Alexiou published, "In Gowanus, Stalled Canal Clean-Up Leads Community & Developers to Align" LINK

Perhaps you, too would like to send a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy?   Email: The mailing address is:
Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20004

Here, below, is the letter we sent:

February 2, 2016

Dear EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy,

Our organization, CORD, has held a seat on the Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group since its inception. 
Prior to that, we were a very vocal proponent in the "Superfund Me" Gowanus Canal campaign.

Once nominated, we had the opportunity to get to know and work with our EPA Region 2 "Team", Walter Mugdan, Christos Tsiamis, Brian Carr and Natalie Loney. We have come to respect their devotion to our community and deeply appreciate their transparency and professionalism.

More than that, we consider our EPA team part of our community because they have consistently shown us just how much they care. 

Attached please find a copy of a letter we sent to EPA Region 2 Director Judith Enck back in November, 2015.
We are aware that others from our community sent similar letters to Ms. Enck at the same time.
We were so pleased with the original plan for the Gowanus Canal as stated in the Record of Decision, with its suggested retention tank site locations, which would provide the results we need in a timely and cost effective manner. 

Most importantly, this remedy, in the configuration suggested would also offer us a Gowanus Canal not easily re-contaminated--in short a win-win-situation. 

It confuses and saddens us that this well conceived, thoughtful, even, frugal plan may be scrapped.
Plans that include Land seized by the City of New York through eminent domain, inevitable, expensive legal wrangling, time and resources wasted. This seems to be what NYC, the main PRP, desires and what Region 2 Administrator Enck is considering!

As CAG members, we were presented an alternative plan by a developer named Alloy.  Their presentation included a gift to NYC and the community of park space. 
Doesn't it make sense to at least consider that offer- which again saves the taxpayers of NYC millions of dollars and still provides additional park space to the community? 
Alloy has even expressed openness to the idea of locating the retention tank on their site should the deal with them go through. 
In addition to that, organizations who protested the ROD suggested site locations have expressed approval of the Alloy plan as well.

We do not understand what is driving Ms. Enck's thinking. It certainly does not seem to coincide with the scientific, factual, sensible thinking that we have come to trust from our EPA Team. 

After reading about the decisions made in Flint, Michigan- where political positioning seems to have trumped scientific reasoning and common sense, we know that we want the decisions that will affect our community for decades to come to be weighed and made based solely upon scientific and engineering expertise.
We thank you for your time.

Lucy DeCarlo, Rita Miller, Triada Samaras
Co Founders, CORD/Coalition for Respectful Development


Please find more information about this issue at our recent CORD posts

"Questionable "policies" under EPA Administrator Judith Enck and a sea-change of attitude by the EPA toward NYC, a Gowanus Canal PRP!" 

"Eminent Domain is Unnecessary, UNFAIR, and Fiscally Irresponsible in Gowanus! (Part Two)" 

"CORD says...New York City Seizing personal property through Eminent Domain is Unnecessary, UNFAIR, and Fiscally Irresponsible! (CORD Letter to Administrator Judith Enck)




Monday, February 8, 2016

Sex, Death, and the Planet

Moderated by Bonnie Webber
How Population Impacts Climate Change
Elizabeth Burleson, Burleson Institute & Legal Advisor for 
IUCN to the Climate Talks - Population and Water/Environment
Mark Harris, author of Grave Matters: A Journey To A Natural Way of Burial
David Leven, Executive Director of End Of Life Choices New York.  He will speak about pending legislation in Albany regarding end of life decisions.

DATE: Wednesday, February 10
TIME: 6:30 PM Refreshments and Networking, Program 7 PM
PLACE: Seafarers and International House - 123 East 15th Street, corner Irving Pl. Manhattan
Donations Welcome !

Subways: 4/5/N/Q/R/ Union Square Station 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Questionable "policies" under EPA Administrator Judith Enck and a sea-change of attitude by the EPA toward NYC, a Gowanus Canal PRP!

The recent Gowanus Canal CAG general meeting was a thoroughly confusing and depressing affair. But more on that in a moment.

First the basic facts:  

The CAG General Meeting was held on Thursday January 19, at PS 58 in Carrolll Gardens.  It was open to the public.  Superfund Director, U.S. EPA Region 2, Walter Mugdan presented updates to the audience on the possible future locations for the two retention tanks, an issue that has become contentious as the City of New York, one of the PRP's, puts pressure on the EPA.  Notably absent was Christos Tsiamis, the EPA Remedial Project Manager U.S. EPA Region 2 for the Gowanus Canal Clean-Up, who for years, has been patiently and diligently presenting the actual science of the Gowanus Canal clean-up to the CAG, as well as thoroughly explaining the rationale and best clean-up design for the community. 

 Above:  EPA Administrator speaks to the Gowanus Canal CAG

Mugdan stated that the first retention tank, the Owl's Head tank site, had been decided but that "no decision" has been taken on the second retention tank location yet.  This second tank site has been the subject of much controversy lately.

Paradoxically, Mugdan explained that while the EPA agrees that the best location for this second tank is under the swimming pool in Thomas Greene Park (and was the original Tsiamis plan), the City of NYC instead heavily favors a site along the Gowanus Canal at the head of the Gowanus Canal.  This latter plan requires the use of eminent domain (!) to seize three plots of private land with what amounts to public tax payer dollars. (See our thoughts on the unfairness of eminent domain being used for this retention tank at:   "Public dollars might be found by using a percentage of our water bills," one NYC elected official mentioned, to the huge dismay of some in the audience.

Furthermore, while Mugdan reassured the audience that this latter option would not delay the Gowanus Canal clean-up, there was a general feeling in the audience that in fact the clean-up WOULD in fact be delayed due to process of eminent domain costing protracted legal time and monies.  "The City's proposal, which includes condemnation proceedings and potentially lengthy lawsuits, obviously has the potential of delaying the environmental clean up of the Gowanus Canal significantly and it will add a lot of uncertainty." PMFA

Mugdan did not have a good answer as to why the EPA would feel pressured to side with the City, which is a PRP, but it was clear that when he said "polices" were to blame, that in fact he was referring to the pressures of NYC politics as usual.  Mugdan admitted the coal tar amounts under the proposed private properties were far LESS than under the swimming pool and parkland which he called the "mother load" of contaminating coal tar.  FYI: The City of New York has a website describing the dangers of this coal tar at  Thus science, logic and efficacy would seemingly back the first plan.

However Mugdan did admit that the NYC Parks Commissioner was vehemently against the siting of the second retention tank under the swimming pool at Thomas Greene Park as this tank might need a head house that would need to be situated on the existing parkland where the pool is located.  There were obviously many holes in this line of thinking and the argument was surely based on no science or math as the head house dimensions are unknown and the possibility of locating the head house near the parkland rather than ON the parkland have never been seriously considered. 

Furthermore, several CAG members pointed out the that the same NYC Parks Department actually knew about this mother load of coal tar when it authorized the existing park and swimming pool. The then NYC Parks Commissioner situated this public City Park (dumbly) right on top of this mother load of contamination.  Thus, the exposure to the public by these harmful toxins did not stop this ill-conceived NYC Parks design.  Why then, would the EPA, an agency of the federal government, give the NYC Parks Commissioner so much gravitas now?

One of the CAG members commented that local politics seemed to be driving the latest decisions of the EPA, not science.  Mugdan answered he liked to think of the word "policy" not "politics." However many in the audience remained unconvinced as well as unimpressed by such semantics.  

CORD wrote Judith Enck, Administrator for U.S. EPA's Region 2 Office U.S. EPA about our severe reservations regarding the use of eminent domain to site the second retention tank. 
We forwarded this letter to Mayor DeBlasio, Senator Schumer, Governor Cuomo, and many other elected officials.

Katia Kelly, Community Activist and Neighborhood Blogger wrote:  "Why would the EPA Region 2 under the leadership of Judith Enck, which has prided itself on keeping its own timeline, open itself up to uncertainty and time delays?  And why does it seem to cater to the City, which is a PRP?  After all, there is a real possibility that the City is trying to use eminent domain to delay the clean-up process?  Historically, one City administration after the other has been successfully kicking the problem down the road.  That is why we needed the EPA to interfere in the first place."

Judging from the comments to her story, many in our community have become both skeptical and depressed by the recent turn of events.  The EPA, a federal government agency, and once this community's hope for a healthier and safer environment seems to have gotten in bed with the wrong party lately, a PRP in fact, under the questionable leadership of Judith Enck.   

And where on earth did Christos Tsiamis go?


More Information at These Useful Links

Eminent Domain is Unnecessary, UNFAIR, and Fiscally Irresponsible in Gowanus! (Part Two) 

CORD Letter to Judith Enck

In a Strange Twist EPA's Region 2 Administrator Judith Enck May Let Policies Rather Than Science and Engineering Contaminate Gowanus Canal Superfund Clean-Up PMFA
Tonight, EPA To Update Community Board 6 On Sitting Of CSO Retention Tanks Mandated By Gowanus Canal Superfund Remedial Plan PMFA

PRP Definition at the EPA

Friday, January 8, 2016

“Gowanus: Brooklyn’s Curious Canal,” reviewed in the NY Times!

Congratulations to fellow community activist, and fellow Gowanus Canal CAG member, 
Joseph Alexiou, 
whose book on the Gowanus Canal, 
“Gowanus: Brooklyn’s Curious Canal,”
was just reviewed in the NY Times!
Way to go Joseph!

Above: The Gowanus Canal flooding during Huricane Sandy Digital Photo c. Triada Samaras 2013

And please see my Gowanus Canal Hurricane Sandy photos and other items at:

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Eminent Domain is Unnecessary, UNFAIR, and Fiscally Irresponsible in Gowanus! (Part Two)

Above image from

We at CG CORD have said it before:

We at CORD believe the cost of seizing private property in Gowanus for the siting of the retention tanks for the Gowanus Canal clean-up is OUTRAGEOUS when a better solution is obviously available.  LINK

And yet at the Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group/CAG meeting last night we learned New York City (NYC Department of Parks and the NYC Department of Environmental Protection) still think it s good idea!

And the money used for this seizure will be our TAXPAYER dollars which could so be much better spent on infrastructure, current public housing, schools, hospitals, libraries, and so much more.  

"The sentiment against the City was best expressed by a Gowanus NYCHA resident, who said: "Right now, the City does not have the money to support public housing.  These people [meaning Alloy] are coming in to give you land versus going to court to do eminent domain. I don't understand going to court because it is going to take money and time to do this." She felt that the money could be better spent on public housing."  

We at CORD find it totally confusing and discouraging that now, after so much hard work, dedication and planning, the City of New York (see links above) is indeed still serious about making major changes to the Gowanus Canal clean-up timeline.  And that NYC is still willing to toy with the legal decision that is the Gowanus Canal Record of Decision (ROD), made by the Federal Government/EPA.  LINK 

We feel strongly the EPA or the Federal government  and NOT the City of New York, has been our SOLE friend and sole true ally in this Gowanus Canal clean-up process.

Why is our very own city so tone deaf to our needs?
Why does NYC wish to seize private property so eagerly using our own tax dollars?
Why does NYC deny the lengthy and costly process of seizing private property and deny the years litigation will surely add to the Gowanus CAnal clean-up?

And who amongst our POLITICIANS will dare to stand up and LISTEN to us?
Who will dare to represent and protect the actual interests of the PEOPLE in our community?

Triada Samaras, CORD Co-Founder



With the "Protect Our Homes" petition, CORD was formed in May, 2007. This petition arose as an overwhelmingly negative response to the coming of the over-sized 360 Smith Street Development at the corner of Smith Street and Second Place (Aka Oliver House; aka 131 Second Place). This petition, which had well over three thousand signatures, led to a new zoning text amendment in summer of 2008.

To: Our Elected Officials, Community Leaders, The MTA:
(MAY, 2007)

We the undersigned Carroll Gardens homeowners and residents, are appalled by the "as of right" ruling which allows owners and developers to erect buildings in our neighborhood with no regard to the impact they will present to our quality of life and the value of our homes........