Lightbulb! Gowanus residents say Con Ed holds the key to saving park from tank invasion

Lightbulb! Gowanus residents say Con Ed holds the key to saving park from tank invasion
Photo Elizabeth Graham

Gowanus residents are demanding that the federal government save a beloved park by moving a sewage tank it wants to bury beneath the green space to a privately-owned lot just a few blocks away.

The feds have said that they will install a four- or eight-million-gallon tank beneath the Douglass and DeGraw Pool and neighboring Thomas Greene Playground as part of the federally-mandated clean-up of the Gowanus Canal unless the city comes up with an alternative site by next August and park lovers say that a vacant lot at the corner of Nevins and Butler streets that is owned by energy giant Con Ed would make a perfect one.

“It’s an absolute empty lot that’s even closer to the canal than our park is,” said Sue Wolfe, president of Friends of Douglass Greene Pool.

The Environmental Protection Agency said that it would not comment until seeing a formal proposal from the city, which so far has balked at paying for the tanks and much of the rest of the federal Superfund scrubbing despite a federal mandate. That resistance has come primarily from the office of Mayor Bloomberg and it is unclear if it will continue under Mayor-elect Bill DeBlasio, who opposed the Superfund designation as a Park Slope councilman.

But a local politician said that wherever the tanks end up, saving the park and pool that serve Brownstone Brooklyn and at least three public housing developments should be top priority.

“Whether it be at the Con Ed site or somewhere else, it is important that an alternative location for the retention tanks is found so that the Double D Pool can stay open,” Councilman Levin said.

Park it: The beloved “Double D” pool and adjoining Thomas Greene Playground will close as part of the Superfund clean-up of the Gowanus Canal, unless the city has a better idea.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

The planned tank is one of two $78-million underground containers meant to catch sewage that wells up in the area’s antiquated sewer system when it rains and keep the muck from spilling into the polluted waterway.

The other tank is bound for a city-owned lot on Second Avenue between Fifth Street and the canal that the city uses to store salt and the Gowanus Canal Conservancy gardens in. The conservancy says it is resigned to relocating its office, compost gear, plant nursery, and storage —and put a hold on expansion plans — when the feds come knocking.

“It’s not a bad thing for us,” Gowanus Canal Conservancy program manager Natasha Sidarta said.

The feds have also promised to provide temporary digs for the displaced pool and playground, but park partisans say that there can be no substitute for the real thing.

Con Edison did not respond to repeated requests for comment about whether it would consider donating the weedy lot.

Reach reporter Megan Riesz at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow her on Twitter @meganriesz.
No tanks: The federal government wants to build giant tanks to keep sewage and street run-off from entering the Gowanus Canal from pipes like these.
Michael Weiss