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Over a year ago, the Gowanus community heard the Gowanus Canal Conservancy’s plan to create a “Sponge Park” on a Verizon parking lot near the highly-polluted canal.  Today, the Brooklyn Paper reports that Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-Carroll Gardens) has earmarked $300,000 to implement a pilot version of this community-based plan.

The Conservancy envisions the park as a tool to help reduce runoff into the canal, and to help soak up toxins from the waterway, which is so polluted that the EPA is currently considering it for federal Superfund status.  (The City opposes this pottential designation, arguing that it could manage the cleanup more effectively.)

The $300,000 is not enough to implement the full park, the Brooklyn Paper reports, but could potentially result in a one-block esplanade.

This monthly feature profiles a plan included in Planning for All New Yorkers: An Atlas of Community- Based Plans in New York City, an interactive, online tool created by the Municipal Art Society and the Community-Based Planning Task Force.

May is Labor History Month, and given the current economic climate and the national push toward a sustainability agenda, the talk of the town is creating jobs in the sustainability industry.  A New York Times article last year described the national attraction to these “green jobs”: “Labor unions view these new jobs as replacements for positions lost to overseas manufacturing and outsourcing. Urban groups view training in green jobs as a route out of poverty. And environmentalists say they are crucial to combating climate change.”

Last year, Bronx environmental organizations Sustainable South Bronx (SSBX) and Green Worker Cooperatives released a plan for an Eco-Industrial Park at Oak Point. This plan explores the feasibility of developing a $36 million dollar eco-industrial park on an approximately 28-acre, waterfront brownfield site in Hunts Point, in the South Bronx. The site is located in the western corner of the Oak Point rail yard next to Bruckner Boulevard, across the river from Rikers Island.
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As the above flyer indicates, Brooklyn Community Board 6 holds an informational meeting tonight with the Environmental Protection Agency.  They will discuss the EPA’s plans to designate the Gowanus Canal as a federal Superfund site.  The meeting will be at 6:30pm at the P.S. 32 Auditorium, 317 Hoyt St.

Also Gowanus-related, the Fifth Avenue Committee’s Accountable Development Working Group meets tomorrow, and will discuss the formation of a Gowanus Tenants’ Union.  This meeting will be from  6-8pm, at Fifth Avenue Committee, 621 DeGraw St. near Fourth Avenue (R train to Union).

As  the New York Times reported last week, the federal Environmental Protection Agency has proposed to add the Gowanus Canal to its list of Superfund sites.  If the canal, one of the most polluted bodies of water in New York, does get Superfund designation, the EPA will attempt to track down polluters and force them to pay for the cleanup.  If said polluters can’t be found (a likely scenario since many companies that polluted the canal with everything from pesticides, to coal tar, metals, oil, and even gonorrhea left the area long ago), the federal government will fund the cleanup.

According to an EPA representative who spoke to the Times, most proposed Superfund sites are eventually listed, depending on the results of the 60-day public comment period, which began for the canal on Thursday.  The potential listing has already sparked controversy in the neighborhood, with developer Toll Brothers stating that they would not move forward with their planned development in Gowanus if the canal is officially designated.

Tomorrow night, Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez and Congresswoman Yvette Clarke will host a Public Information Forum on the Gowanus Canal Superfund nomination:

When: 7pm, Tuesday April 14

Where: PS 32 Auditorium 317 Hoyt Street (between Union & President Streets)

You may also submit your comments online (note: this was incredibly difficult to find!) or via email. (Note Docket #EPA-HQ-SFUND-2009-0063).

Since 2000, The Community-Based Planning Task Force has been leading the effort to create a more meaningful role for communities in New York City’s planning and decision-making processes.

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