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Bloomy reveals Superfund hypocrisy

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Mayor Bloomberg’s environmental officials have erred greatly — and acted hypocritically — by continuing to reject federal Superfund designation for the Gowanus Canal even as they prodded the feds last month to go ahead with the very same toxic designation for the Newtown Creek on the Brooklyn-Queens border.

This two canals, two strategies approaches raises one central question: if Superfund is good enough for the Newtown Creek, Mr. Mayor, why isn’t it good enough for the Gowanus Canal?

The mayor’s office says that the conditions in both waterways are different, but that’s bureaucratic balderdash. The canals are both horrifically polluted and need to be cleaned up at once.

The main difference is that the Gowanus is sought after by developers who want to build luxury housing along its banks. The mayor supports that effort.

We’ve long backed private housing development in the canal zone, too, but because no developer controls the waterway itself, the government must step up and do the job. Last year, we backed the federal Environmental Protection Agency over the city, which has failed to clean the canal under this mayor, his predecessor, his predecessor’s predecessor and all the predecessors going back to the final mayor of an independent Brooklyn, Frederick Wurster.

The city’s two-pronged approach would first seek voluntary contributions from responsible polluters and then tap into the federal Water Resources Development Act as a funding stream for dredging the canal.

But that funding requires annual Congressional approval — like hundreds of other worthy clean-up sites all over the country. Even the Army Corps of Engineer official who would oversee the Gowanus clean-up can’t predict what would happen.

Where would the canal rank? We asked the official, Tom Shea. “I don’t know,” he said.

He doesn’t know? And this is the program that is the main pillar of the mayor’s plan?

At this point, the mayor needs to set aside the turf battle. Superfund designation is best for the Newtown Creek and the Gowanus Canal.

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Reader Feedback

Land use follower from Prospect Heights says:
I don't see either choice as demonstrably better than the other. Superfund designation does not equate to timely clean up (or clean up at all). It will, most likely result in lengthy litigation between potentially responsible parties (PRPs) and between PRPs and the EPA. Reviewing the history of EPA's clean ups of superfund sites is not very encouraging. It's ironic that the common name for CERCLA ends in "fund", when in fact, there are seldom any funds available to clean up sites if it becomes difficult or impossible to compel PRPs to adequately clean up a site.

Clearly the City's plan is no guarantee of a quick clean up as well. However, I do not necessarily see any hypocrisy in wanting the City to control the clean up of a site that is attractive for development of housing, while deferring to the EPA's desire to control the Newton Creek cleanup. I'm not familiar with a side-by-side comparison of the contamination of both bodies of water, so I can't take any position about whether a difference exists between the two. Yes, development means that developers will make some money, but revitalizing the gowanus canal is something everyone should want.

I guess I don't think there is a cut and dry right choice in the matter, and it may be a situation where we should be careful for what we wish for, b/c we might just get it.
Jan. 14, 2010, 10 am
Judah Spechal from Bed_ Stuy says:
It's simple, I don't think anyone's looking to develop residents at the Creek. Plus, it's the switch things going on. The Fed's will lay off of the Canal. That's your Billionaire Developer Mayor at work
Jan. 14, 2010, 2:52 pm
Josh Anthony from Park Slope says:

Land use follower from Prospect Heights : Great, insightful, informed comment. Thank you.

Never jump to conclusions, people!
Jan. 14, 2010, 11:36 pm
Steve from Slope says:
"The mayor’s office says that the conditions in both waterways are different"

That's totally true. Rich developers want to build along the Gowanus. Those are "different conditions."

LOL
Jan. 15, 2010, 11:38 am
Alley from Brooklyn Heights says:
Another example of our politicians caving into to the lesbian agenda.
Jan. 21, 2010, 9:39 am

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