Clarke’s less-than-super stance on the Gowanus Canal

“Neither of them can do it alone.”

Rep. Yvette Clarke stymied both Superfund supporters and detractors on Monday night, refusing to endorse either a federally-driven clean-up of the Gowanus Canal or one favored by the Bloomberg administration.

Instead, Clarke, representing the 11th Congressional District, told neighbors gathered at Christ Church on Clinton Street that she favors a “collaborative approach.”

“First of all, neither of them has what it takes to deliver what they’re saying right now,” the two-term representative said.

Clarke said that she is wary of “false promises” and suggested that if the polluted Gowanus Canal were designated a Superfund site, the clean-up process could take over 20 years to complete.

“If the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] is going to do a Superfund designation, I want to see a realistic timetable,” Clarke said.“I want to see the funding that’s going to be utilized to make this happen. I want to see the plan for executing this in a timely manner.”

So far, the congresswoman says that has not happened.

Clark, however, said that she has been in talks with EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson about Superfund designation.

“I’m waiting to hear from Administrator Jackson that she has what she needs for this Superfund designation to go forward and really get this job done,” Clarke said. “She has said to me that she is conversation with Mayor Bloomberg.”

Clarke balked at the idea that her position means that she supports Bloomberg’s approach to cleaning up the Gowanus Canal.

“What I’ve said, is neither side can do the job without the other,” Clarke said. “In other words, the mayor can’t do it without the fed, and the fed can’t do it without the mayor.”

Local gadfly Buddy Scotto complained that after 40 years of effort, he’s tired of waiting for the Gowanus Canal to be cleaned up, and suggested that hundreds of millions of dollars in private investment could be lost if the polluted waterway is granted Superfund status.

“We’re not willing to wait anymore,” Scotto said. “We’re impatient about waiting. You want to jeopardize the loss of $450 million of private money that’s ready to go in there now? That’s insane.”

Longtime resident Katia Kelly supports Superfund designation, and saidthat she is confident the EPA can clean up the Gowanus Canal.

“The only people that seem to be concerned about the timeline are either the politicians or the developers,” Kelly said. “The community doesn’t seem to care. I’ve lived for 25 years next to the Gowanus Canal. I want it cleaned to the highest level that it can be cleaned, and it’s not going to be done by Mayor Bloomberg. It’s going to be done by the EPA and the federal government.”

Others said that the principal behind Superfund designation is forcing polluters to pay for the cleanup.

“We shouldn’t be discussing whether or not federal funding is there,” area resident Steven Hart said. “The private funding is there. It needs to be cleaned by the people who made this mess in the first place. The EPA is the only agency that has the ability to do that. Mayor Bloomberg and the city have no legal standing to bring that to bear.”

Betty Lester argued that the 3,000 residents already living near the polluted canal around the Gowanus Houses simply cannot trust the city to thoroughly clean the waterway.

“What’s going to happen to us when they start a half approach to cleaning?” Lester wondered. “We cannot be assured that the city can clean that canal the way it should be.”

Instead, Lester said the eagerness to cut out the federal government is based on greed, and the desire of private developers to cash in.

Scotto complained that developers are being demonized as “almost un-American.”