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Editorial: It’s Obama’s river now

The Brooklyn Paper
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The Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to declare the Gowanus Canal a federal Superfund site is welcome news for all of us who support a clean environment and development in the future Venice of New York.

But the announcement of the 10-year, $500-million, federally overseen clean-up could not be received without a little sadness.

Yes, everyone in Brooklyn has long known that the canal is a toxic cesspool, but having the waterway officially dubbed a Superfund site links it in history to some of the worst places in the country.

Horseshoe Road. The Upper Hudson River. Love Canal. The Gowanus Canal. That’s some pretty sobering company.

What is even more anxiety-provoking is the magnitude of the 12-year, $500-million job ahead. Yes, it is certainly a good thing that the Gowanus is now on the national environmental agenda. But tremendous hurdles remain before the waterway is actually clean.

For one thing, there’s the cost. Despite its name, Superfund is not a pool of money from which the EPA can start writing clean-up checks. Yes, the agency has lined up nine polluters that will be soaked for the costs, but that process is lengthy and not always successful. And one of the identified polluters is the City of New York, meaning that local taxpayers will bear some of the cost of the remediation.

Beyond that, EPA officials say it will take years before they can even determine the best way to clean the canal, plus another five (yeah, right) to actually do the work. Each step in that process is fraught with possible delays.

In the best-case scenario the canal will be made cleaner than it has been since it was first dug — and almost immediately befouled — in the 1850s. But while all this EPA-overseen work is going on, millions of gallons of raw sewage will continue to be dumped into the canal on rainy days, thanks to the city’s antiquated sewer systems.

The EPA is confident that the city and state will fix that problem, but it will cost billions — money that has not been fully allocated. The city and state has punted on that responsibility for years.

We have argued that the fastest way to push the city and state to do the right thing would be to encourage residential development along the canal, thus creating a constituency that would demand change. The Superfund declaration this week ended that possibility — putting the Obama Administration under even more pressure to get this thing right.

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Reader Feedback

JudahSpechal from Bed-Stuy says:
Obama's river??? Is that the new name now. This is worst than I suspected. Take two asprins and go right to bed, immediately. Please not in the same room as your parent company. You must stay away until this virus pass. This NYPOST virus is really spreading. I'm concern that cun-na-lumpus has spread to your extremes. Soon you might loose flexibility. Your paper once covered more community news. Tell me, is News Corp giving you guys more vacation days than you had when you were independent?
March 4, 2010, 10:42 am
Janice Lolly from Gowanas says:
This is clearly a government intervention aimed at cleaning up a predominantly lesbian neighborhood to make space for assorted others.
Is it any coinciednce that this cleaning money has come right after the announcemnet of the construction of a new lesbian mega-club on the banks of the canal? Certainly not. I think that even assorted others who aren't lesbians can see that this is lesbi-phobic aggression when it's at its very worst.
March 4, 2010, 12:59 pm
JudahSpechal from Bed_stuy says:
That's a lot of hate you have there Janice. Is it possible you was rejected by a lesbian? I know a few who are single. I can hook you up. But you first must drop the hate. It gets complicated when it meets love.
March 4, 2010, 3:13 pm
Paco from Cobble Hill says:
Brooklyn Paper.... you make no sense sometimes (often).
"The fastest way to push the city and state to do the right thing would be to encourage residential development along the canal, thus creating a constituency that would demand change."

You admit its a toxic wasteland, yet you to put people on its banks? Would you live on top of it? It's already dangerous for people blocks away, why put more people at risk? And if new residents chose to love there, you think they'd argue in favor of something that would tear up their backyards for a decade?

The only responsible thing to do is to clean it up, then build. I think a great residential community can, and will, be developed there in the long run, but its highly arrogant to set one up before its safe.
March 4, 2010, 5:51 pm
Publius from Bklyn Heights says:
Paco: The Paper's "editorial board" is all about arrogance and hypocrisy. Does anyone in Bklyn take this "paper" seriously?
March 4, 2010, 11:31 pm
Harmony from Park Slope says:
In the spirit of fairness I think that reffering to it as Obama's river is bit off. Can we call this the George Bush river/canal instead?
March 5, 2010, 8:37 am
Lavender Lake Louie says:
"We have argued that the fastest way to push the city and state to do the right thing would be to encourage residential development along the canal, thus creating a constituency that would demand change."

SO Gersh, why didn't the Brooklyn paper purchase one of those cute Scarano condos and get moving on some community activism to get the canal cleaned?

Because the Brooklyn paper is an ideological idiot and this armchair activism is worse than retarded.. It is dangerous. Now you play the race card when it comes to the environmental cleanup of the most polluted and toxic sites in America? Shame on you.

The Brooklyn Paper has proven itself once again to be an unfortunate and useless waste of trees and brain cells.
March 5, 2010, 3:37 pm
GPMango from Park Slope says:
Residential development now is not a good idea. Let the canal be cleaned first, then build. But first, the raw sewage problem must be fixed. I'm no plumber but it would be great if the Brooklyn Papers could figure out and explain to readers how and why the sewage gets into the canal on rainy days in the first place. Maybe the sewage pipes should be rerouted to a treatment center, then the clean water could be pumped back into the canal?
March 6, 2010, 1:13 pm
nobody from all over says:
hey what happened to the comment that named a name purportedly affiliated with this paper?
March 6, 2010, 3:36 pm
jay from pslope says:
haha stupid Brooklyn Paper calling this Obamas canal. What a joke! You are just mad because Bloomberg was not able to keep this project away from the feds, Now Bloomberg can't feed fat and fraudulent contracts to "clean it up" to Marty Markowitz and his crew of bums. Who do you think you are fooling?
March 6, 2010, 11:15 pm
Me from Park Slope says:
Just leave the filthy crap alone yuppies...U want Brooklyn, theres Brooklyn 4 ya!
March 11, 2010, 9:52 am

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