Tens of millions of gallons of raw sewage will flow into an already stinky
Gowanus Canal if Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project is built,
borough officials were told this week.
The (very) raw numbers for Ratner’s mega-development — new residents
filling several thousand apartments and hundreds of thousands of basketball
fans flushing the toilet tens of millions of times per year — are
being seized upon by project opponents as evidence that the development
is too big.
“These power-brokers don’t think their raw sewage smells,”
said Carroll Gardens hell-raiser Buddy Scotto, who started raising his
own stink about the canal when he went to Washington to lobby then-Vice
President Nelson Rockefeller.
Scotto and other advocates of canal zone development worry that Ratner’s
huge project might foul the air — literally — for other builders,
such as Shaya Boymelgreen, who is building the 400-unit Gowanus Village
on the banks of the canal.
Columbia University hydrologist Franco Montalto cautioned that development
of any kind would overwhelm the area’s sewage treatment plant in
“Any big project will have an impact,” said Montalto, who briefed
borough officials on his muckraking sewage report at Borough Hall this
“But what’s different [with Atlantic Yards] is the magnitude
of the impact.”
No matter how glistening Ratner’s 17 skyscrapers and Frank Gehry-designed
basketball arena will be, the sewage created in its bathrooms will flow
into an antiquated, city-run sewer and waste treatment system — which
gets overloaded when rainwater mingles with untreated sewage during heavy
As a result, 27 billion gallons of untreated wastewater drains into waterways
around the city each year.
On the Gowanus Canal, there are 13 spigots spewing the bile after storms
— burying that fetid corpse of water under more fecal bacteria.
Fixing the problem — by ripping up all the old sewers — would
cost billions, city officials say.
A cheaper solution, at least for city taxpayers, would be to force developers
to cut down the amount of waste coming out of their projects.
But that’s not reasonable either, according to the Department of
“Developers just connect to the system,” said DEP spokesman
But some developers connect less to the system, Montalto said.
“More residents means more problems,” he said
Downstream, Gowanus-area activists already smell something rotten —
even before Ratner breaks ground.
The draft environmental impact statement for the Atlantic Yards, which
is expected to be released next month, is required to address the impacts
of the project on area infrastructure, including sewage and storm water.
“How the Red Hook Water Pollution Control Plant will be affected
by the project will be part of this analysis,” said Jessica Copen,
a spokeswoman for the Empire State Development Corporation.
The plant is operating well below capacity on an average dry-weather day,
Michaels said, but it is completely swamped when it rains.