Developers: We’ll give city free real estate to avoid sewage-tank land-grab

Your land is my land: Developer Alloy’s proposal for donating part of its property to the city to avoid seizure.
Alloy Development

It is the human-refuse-related offer too good to refuse, say these Gowanus residents.

A developer is attempting to avoid a city plan that would force it to sell its Gowanus Canal-side land to make way for a giant sewage tank, by offering instead to donate half of the property to the people of New York for zilch.

And some locals say it is a great deal — the city can save money by building the tank in nearby parkland it already owns, and the cleanup of the canal won’t get bogged down by a lengthy and pricey eminent domain process.

“It’s a game-changer,” said neighborhood resident Katia Kelly, a member of the Gowanus Superfund Community Advisory Group, a panel of locals that advise the federal Environmental Protection Agency on the cleanup. “It’s a novel idea to use architecture and urban design to solve a real problem, and if we have those tools it doesn’t make sense at all for the city to be talking eminent domain.”

The feds have been pushing the city to stick the tank beneath Thomas Green Park and its beloved Double D pool, which they say is full of toxic soil and needs to be cleaned anyway.

But the city claims that would put the swimming hole out of commission for up to nine years — far longer than the regular detox, and a prospect that many local swim fans have long railed against — while the above-ground mechanical equipment needed to run the tank would eat up valuable green space.

So in July, it pitched its own plan to requisition the land between Butler and Degraw streets and put the whole thing there instead.

Now, that land’s owners are proposing an 11th-hour alternative. Alloy Development — which is poised to sign a 99-year lease on half that space — and Marino Mazzei, who already owns the rest — are offering to donate about half of each their lots, which they say the city could use to replace space lost at the playground.

Alloy claims the plan would save the city time and money — the eminent domain process would likely take three years and end up costing $100 million, it predicts — while allowing it to pursue the lease without fear of losing the land.

“Our proposal offers a realistic collaborative approach that will save money for the city, create more park space for the community, and save time on the clean up,” said company honcho Jared Della Valle. “Eminent domain should be used only as a last resort when stakeholders don’t share the same goals. That is not the case here.”

But the city’s response so far is “thanks, but no tanks.” The gratis green space — around the size of a football field — would not be enough to compensate for the parkland it will lose, and the proposal won’t solve the pool problem, officials say.

“We remain concerned about siting the tanks under Thomas Greene Playground as doing so would significantly increase the amount of time that the playground and pool are closed to the public and would result in significantly less open space than the city’s recommendation,” said a joint statement from the parks and environmental protection agencies.

But the feds will ultimately decide where the tank goes, and Kelly hopes the developers’ pitch gets its due.

“We need some real urban design, some real solutions, and not just the city blocking everything,” she said.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.
Tanks for nothing: The city would rather just snaffle up the Canal-side land and stick the tanks and mechanical gadgets on top of it.
NYC Environmental Protection

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