Double D-saster! Gowanus pool could shut for nine years under Feds’ closure plan, says city

The Brooklyn Paper
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Don’t miss our updates:

No tanks!

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.”

Locals have been fighting the tank plan since the feds announced it in 2013 and earmarked the pool as a likely location due to its toxic heritage and close proximity to sewer pipes.

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.

Reach reporter Allegra Hobbs at or by calling (718) 260–8312.
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018: Updated with comments from the Environmental Protection Agency and more info from the Department of Environmental Protection.
Today’s news:
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Don’t miss our updates:

Reasonable discourse

Susan from Park Slope says:
They would rather their kids continue to swim in a pool that rests on "heavily contaminated land?" Talk about being short-sighted! Take the 4 year plan, dummies. There is a large public pool in Red Hook, which is less than 2 miles away.
July 6, 2015, 7:08 am
Me from gowanus says:
Does the owner of DEP's preferred site know this? I hope they are holding out for a huge windfall. At a prior meeting DEP indicated that they were willing to use eminent domain to aquire property which would add to the cost of the project in terms of both time and money.

At last week's the EPA also said that it is unlikely that this will take nine years as some things are redundant.
July 6, 2015, 7:52 am
Me from Bay Ridge says:
You have to feel sorry for the government officials in NYC. So many complainers, all the time. It's a wonder anything at all gets done.
July 6, 2015, 7:53 am
Mom from Clinton Hill says:
Sad. There were plenty of properties on 4th ave that could've been parks. Maybe the Whole Foods lot.
July 6, 2015, 7:57 pm
Doug from Boerum Hill says:
The current location of the pool and the adjacent park rest on land that is heavily polluted from decades of oil storage and gas production. They have been covered with 18 inches of "clean" fill, and this is called adequate to protect children playing there. Reality, not a bad joke.

I agree that 9 years is unrealistically long and is probably being used by the City as part of a juvenile good/bad scenario to get what they want, which is buying that lot and locating the tank close to the feeder pipes for the sewer system. Yes, the pool may have to close for several years but when it returns it will be on a thoroughly cleaned site (of course, the rest of the park looks like it should be better cleaned as well.)

As for the kids being deprived of a pool (which may incidentally be endangering their health), a 2-4 year closure ending in a better facility may be the trade off. Shuttle busses to Red Hook and Sunset Park pools can probably be negotiated, or bus/train passes for getting to the Sunset Park pool very easily.
July 7, 2015, 9:47 am
Mom from Gowanus says:
Now where did this writer get the notion that the "community" wants to keep pool sitting in toxic contaminated land rather than having those toxins removed!

The only person named here who wants to keep the toxins in the park is Sue Wolfe, and doesn't she have a financial stake in that outcome? So just who in the community wants to keep that contaminated site as-is?

Sorry Ms Hobbs, but this is lame reporting. It looks like it was derived from a phone conversation from the PR people at DEP or FAC.
July 7, 2015, 9:50 am
Mom2 from near Gowanus says:
It is an Environmental Justice OUTRAGE that the pool was built on top of that vat of toxic soup in the first place.

This paper should offer some real evidence that there are any real local activist that actually believe it would be better to keep those toxics in our park. when there is a clear opportunity being presented to "sincerely cleanup the site". Such a chance may not ever come again.
July 7, 2015, 10:04 am
BUG Mama Thornhill from Gowanus says:
MOM2, you are 1000% correct, of course, but back then, Gowanus was mostly Latino, old Italian and industrial-- groups all easily ignored, let alone the common disregard for Brooklyn in general.

Now we are reaping the poison harvest of those bad decisions, alas.


July 7, 2015, 6:30 pm

Comments closed.

First name
Last name
Your neighborhood
Email address
Daytime phone

Your letter must be signed and include all of the information requested above. (Only your name and neighborhood are published with the letter.) Letters should be as brief as possible; while they may discuss any topic of interest to our readers, priority will be given to letters that relate to stories covered by The Brooklyn Paper.

Letters will be edited at the sole discretion of the editor, may be published in whole or part in any media, and upon publication become the property of The Brooklyn Paper. The earlier in the week you send your letter, the better.

Keep it local!

Stay in touch with your community. Subscribe to our free newsletter: