The feds must reject plans to close the beloved Double-D pool in Gowanus for up to nine years to make way for a giant underground sewage container, say local residents.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency is forcing the city to build two giant underground cisterns near the Gowanus Canal, which will store water during storms so that less raw sewage flows into the Gowanus Canal, as part of the so-called Superfund cleanup of the fetid waterway. The city’s Department of Environmental Protection on June 30 revealed the final site proposals it has made to the agency — all of which involve putting one tank beneath or near the pool, which it says could put the watering hole out of action for almost a decade, as first reported by DNA Info.
Local activists say they will fight any plan that includes shutting down their cherished pool.
“We are actively protesting the fact that they’re even thinking about that,” said Sue Wolfe, president of Friends of Thomas Greene Park, an advocacy group for the park that houses the pool, which is bounded by Douglass and Degraw streets, and Nevins Street and Third Avenue.
The city authority says it has presented its environmental overlords with two main plans for the site (see them for yourself here). One is to build the tank underneath the park, and place all the equipment that filters junk and gross smells out of the water on either part of the parkland or the other side of Douglass Street. It says it could also scrap the extra equipment, but the area would then be plagued by (more) foul odors.
The city claims it would have to shut the pool for up to nine years for construction and cleanup, and the whole project would cost between $534 million and $650 million. The federal agency in the past favored building the tank on this site.
But the department says it would rather buy an adjacent lot across Nevins Street, on the banks of the canal, and build the tank and equipment there. It claims the project would be cheaper, costing $490 million — including the land purchase — and would be easier to build, as the site is closer to the canal’s existing waste treatment system.
But the second plan won’t necessarily save the neighborhood natatorium from jackhammers — the city says the federal environmental agency will still likely use the opportunity to close the recreation facility so it can be gutted, cleaned, and rebuilt, as it sits on heavily contaminated land that used to house a gas plant. That process would take up to four years, the city says.
The Environmental Protection Agency says it hasn’t had a lot of time to look over the city’s proposals, but it is skeptical that buying private land for the tanks would be cheaper than using city-owned parkland, and doubts that it would take nine years to build the tank under the pool, said the agency’s canal-cleanup project supervisor Joel Singerman.
Pool advocates say they support the plan to put the tank over the road, but not the four-year clean-up. The community facility, which offers free meals to kids and hosts sports programs and summer camps, is the only swimming spot and green space within walking distance for many locals — including two nearby public housing facilities — and neighborhood residents simply can’t go several summer seasons without it, said Wolfe.
“There is just no other park in the area and there is no other pool,” she said. “People love this pool and the park.”
The city also announced its proposals for the second Gowanus stink tank, which it thinks should go on the canal-side land at Second Avenue and Fifth Street known as the Salt Lot, or alternatively across the road at Second Avenue and Sixth Street.
The Environmental Protection Agency will announce in fall where it plans to build the tanks. Construction is expected to begin in 2018.