The Environmental Protection Agency overseeing the cleanup of the Gowanus Canal Superfund site said Wednesday they will proceed with plans to build a holding tank for sewage runoff under a popular public pool in Gowanus unless the city can offer a viable alternative site, The Brooklyn Paper reported. The cleanup would mean closing the Double D pool at the Thomas Greene Playground for years, and a group of Gowanus residents who rely on the pool in the summer vehemently oppose the plan.
The EPA needs an alternative site within nine months so they can start the design, said Superfund Project Manager Christos Tsiamis at a community meeting. But even if another site for the storage tank is found, the pool may have to temporarily close anyway. It sits on top of contaminated soil where a gas plant operated from 1879 to 1929. The state may require National Grid to dig up and remove the contaminated ground.
Alexandros Washburn, the head urban designer for the New York City Department of City Planning, renovated his Red Hook row house with some innovations other city dwellers could make use of, including anti-flood devices. He kept the original staircase, but added an open, overhead flight of stairs to the top story that serves as a design element and lets in light from the roof, The New York Times reported in a profile of the house and its owners. The thick kitchen counters are made from joists salvaged during the renovation. Exposed brick and persian carpets, from his mother, who grew up in Istanbul, are strong design elements throughout the house.
“Mr. Washburn bought the three-story house in 2007, for $800,000, and spent another $500,000 renovating it,” said the Times. “Six years later, he is nearly finished, except for the ground floor, which was three feet deep in water during the hurricane.”
Right now, he and his family live on the upper floors, in case of flooding, but he would like to rent out the ground-level retail space. Toward that end, he is working on a system to keep water out of his house and his neighbor’s house during the next flood. If it works, hopes to get the DOB to approve it. (more…)
Things are still not back to normal in Brooklyn neighborhoods hit hard by Sandy, including Coney Island, Gerritsen Beach and Canarsie, according to a report released yesterday by the Brooklyn Recovery Fund. The findings are pretty shocking:
*In Canarsie, foreclosure rates have more than doubled, to more than 3,000 foreclosures.
*Homeowners have run out of money for repairs. In Gerritsen Beach, “where nearly all basements and first floors were flooded,” said the report, “many families continue to live on their second floor.”
*Mold, debris, and back-up boilers in Brooklyn public housing persist. “NYCHA residents in Coney Island are intermittently without heat, battling ongoing health problems resulting from mold and debris,” the report said.
*Mold-related illnesses are common in all the areas affected by the storm.
*Many immigrants, legal and illegal, in Brighton Beach are living in unsafe conditions or “displaced altogether,” said the report.
*In Sheepshead Bay, 40 percent of businesses, most of them owned by immigrants, have closed permanently, “jeopardizing economic vitality in the neighborhood.”
*In Gerritsen Beach, residents struggle psychologically day to day, “simultaneously coping with the loss of possessions and stress of rebuilding without adequate resources.”
Above, the National Guard distributed blankets, diapers, and other supplies to Brighton Beach residents in the weeks after the storm. Many outlets have covered aspects of how the storm is still affecting Brooklyn residents one year later, below.
The Greenpoint Environmental Fund sent out a request for proposals yesterday on how to use $19,500,000, part of a settlement received from Exxon Mobil for millions of gallons of spilled oil in the Greenpoint area, DNAinfo reported. Projects can cost anywhere from $5000 to $2,000,000, and they have to take on some of Greenpoint’s environmental problems, like water quality, groundwater, air quality, or pollution reduction, according to the RFP. Only nonprofits and government bodies can submit projects, which must have significant support from the Greenpoint community. The RFP gave suggestions for potential projects, like waterfront restoration, installing a rain garden, planting trees, or making public buildings more green and environmentally sound. Above, the polluted Newtown Creek.
A controversial proposal to build a large extension on the back of a house on a landmarked Park Slope block did not pass at the community board level Wednesday night. The Landmarks Preservation Commission will consider the proposal at a hearing later this month, according to a tipster who sent us these photos.
At least 40 residents of the block have signed a petition to prevent new neighbors at 115 Lincoln Place from building a 15-foot, two-story high addition to their brownstone that would jut out into the historic “garden core” and block light and views from neighboring properties. The residents won substantial modifications to the plan at the committee level at various community board meetings, and then on Wednesday the proposal failed to pass the full board. (Votes were tied 16 for and 16 against, with many abstentions.) After that, the board voted to recommend to the LPC that they disapprove the extension, our tipster told us.
“The materials are out of keeping with the rest of the core,” she continued. “The height, width and depth are intrusive and also way out of scale with the gardens overall. The overriding fear is that this would be the thin end of the wedge for others to do the same. Landmarks guidelines suggest that preserving this kind of greensward is one of their aims.” (more…)
The New York Times took a look at Canarsie as a place to live and discovered a close-knit, diverse community with affordable homes. One- and two-family homes range from $350,000 to $600,000. The prices are still off their 2007 highs, when a two-family cost $450,000 to $725,000, thanks to the twin blows of the mortgage crisis and Hurricane Sandy.
“The mortgage crisis is only getting worse in Canarsie, and it’s been exacerbated by Sandy,” Angella Davidson, who manages the foreclosure prevention program of the nonprofit Neighborhood Housing Services of East Flatbush, told the Times. “People who already were struggling to pay their mortgage are now falling further behind, because they’re using money that should be earmarked for their mortgage to replace boilers and Sheetrock. And Sandy has forced people who were not in foreclosure to face potential foreclosure.”
Many residents faced two to three feet of flooding in their basements, and much of the damage isn’t covered by insurance. And to make matters worse, 10 percent of small homes (one- to four-unit properties) were in foreclosure in Canarsie as of June, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
But Canarsie brokers feel like the market is beginning to pick up there, based on the number of sales. “Canarsie has not recovered much from the mortgage crisis,” Jean-Paul Ho, broker-owner of Brooklyn Real Property, said, “but you can feel it in the volume of transactions. Nothing was selling last year, but now the activity is there.”
The final plan to clean up the Gowanus is in — and it’s only a partial cleanup. The EPA will dredge the canal to remove the toxic cancer-causing sludge at the bottom, but sewage from city sewer overflows will still pour into the canal, DNAinfo and many other outlets reported. (Fixing that would require rebuilding the city sewer system.) Two new overflow tanks will help reduce the sewage flowing in. In the end, though, the Gowanus may be clean enough for boating, but not swimming or fishing, said EPA regional administrator Judith Enck, above.
The New York Post had a great description of the canal’s history: “The Gowanus was built in 1848, quickly becoming one of the country’s busiest industrial waterways, flanked by gas and coal companies, chemical and cement manufacturers, plus paint and ink factories, machine shops and tanneries — all discharging into the canal.”
A toxic sludge disposal facility will not be located in Red Hook, and the location of the overflow tanks, a controversial subject affecting a nearby public pool, has yet to be determined, said DNAinfo. The cleanup won’t start for another three years, and will take about a decade. It will cost $506 million.
Superstorm Sandy hasn’t dampened gentrification in Red Hook a bit, according to a story in the New York Post. It cites several properties on the market asking between $1,995,000 and $2,495,000 as proof — though they haven’t sold yet. As for closed sales, a couple recently transplanted from Soho paid $1,300,000 for a three-story house remodeled by Red Hook-based architect Thomas Warnke. The big mixed-use condo project at 160 Imlay Street, designed by Brooklyn architects Adjmi & Andreoli, will break ground in the next two months.
The Post attributed the appeal of the area to its “small town” feel, “cute boutiques” and places to eat that rival Manhattan’s. OTOH, “unlike Manhattan, it sorely lacks public transportation and can feel desolate in the winter. But a bike path that will stretch from Greenpoint to Fairway promises to help.” So does placing heating mechanicals on upper floors, as do households mentioned in the story. “Red Hook, with its factories and low density, feels like what SoHo used to be,” said newcomer Brent Richardson.
Brooklyn Bridge Park installed a flood protection system around Jane’s Carousel on the Dumbo waterfront at 10 am this morning. During Hurricane Sandy, the 90-year-old carousel was submerged in water but survived with only minimal water damage. Owners Jane and David Walentas (founder of Two Trees), who bought the carousel at auction in 1984 and restored it to its original condition, donated the new flood protection system, which is called an AquaFence. The portable flood barrier, visible above ringing the carousel near ground level, can be folded flat and stored nearby when it’s not needed, so it won’t cover the carousel’s beautiful facade on regular, sunny days.
Thursday night at a public meeting at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, the state unveiled its plan to decontaminate the long-vacant Kent Avenue Generating Station site, which sits on the south Williamsburg waterfront at Kent and Division Street. The state’s Department of Environmental Conservation has analyzed the former power plant site and discovered several contaminants, including asbestos, arsenic, PCBs, VOCs (volatile organic compounds like benzene) and PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons). It also found an underground oil storage tank on the north end of the site, and a big part of its cleanup plan will involve excavating the tank and digging up the asbestos, which is buried a couple feet underground. The plant was built in 1909 to power elevated trains and streetcars for the Brooklyn Rapid Transit company and then sold in 1950 to Con Ed, who used it as a power plant until retiring it in 1999.
Although Con Edison demolished the century-old seven-story power plant in 2008, they didn’t start decontaminating the site until the fall of 2011. But before they pulled the building down, they did do an asbestos abatement, meaning they removed all the asbestos from the plant and disposed of it safely. Many neighbors present at the meeting were concerned that they had been breathing contaminated dust from the site, but state officials assured them that Con Ed had backfilled the ground with clean soil after pulling down the old electric power plant, and that the rest of the contaminants are buried a couple feet below ground.
A recycling center designed by architect Annabelle Selldorf is set to open in Sunset Park’s South Brooklyn Marine Terminal in October, The New York Times reported. The green building “will exploit its waterfront site to favor the use of barges, eliminating an estimated 70,000 truck trips annually from city streets,” said the story. Selldorf used inexpensive off-the-shelf steel components to create an elegant design that will house an information center for school trips. Visitors will be able to watch workers sort materials from a mezzanine in a giant shed. The new Prospect Park ice skating rink should be open by December, the story also said. It’s going to be LEED certified.
The U.S. Green Building Council has LEED certified the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s newest building, the Richard B. Fisher building, BAM announced. It’s the first newly constructed theater to receive the certification. Its environmentally friendly achievements include a 40 percent reduction in water use, energy efficiency to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 22 percent, cool roofing materials, a green roof garden, and interior building finishes with low emissions. The theater is BAM’s only new building in more than a century, and it cost $50 million to build. It was designed by H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture. GMAP