News & Politics

Superfund May Clean Out Gowanus, Luxury Apartments


Along with the stimulus bucks, New York is getting another present from the Feds: the EPA has proposed Superfund status for the Gowanus Canal. The “repository of untreated industrial wastes, raw sewage and runoff,” as EPA describes the mighty Gowanus, will, if no objections stick during a 60-day investigation, get government scientists and dredgers to clean up its “variety of pollutants, including pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), metals and volatile organic contaminants (VOCs), and significant contamination associated with coal tar.” And those Federal employees gotta have places to eat and drink, right? So it’s a big win for the neighborhood.

It might also kill the luxury apartment complex Toll Brothers are proposing to build on the canal.

“The adjacent properties will have this stigma of being located on a Superfund site,” a VP for the financially troubled developers told the Brooklyn Paper, “and I don’t think any rational businessperson would invest money in a property that has that kind of stigma attached to it.”

This seems a curious objection to us, as at their website Toll Brothers says it “looks forward to participating in the revitalization of the Gowanus neighborhood in Brooklyn,” and what could be more revitalizing than the detoxification of the Canal? Also, the developers propose to do their own “site remediation” to “protect human health and the environment.” Now they’ve got the Feds doing it for them.

But they’re not the only ones complaining: local activists worry that a Superfund cleanup might interfere with their own projects. Of course, the locals have been at this a while and the Gowanus has yet to turn into the Riviera. But don’t expect the Feds to rush it, either: Superfund sites usually stay under government supervision for more than a dozen years.


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