Locals Question $1.2 Billion Cost of Gowanus Canal Tank Project, Say Gowanus Station Can Be Saved

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The debate over the cleanup of the toxic Gowanus Canal continues.

At a community meeting this Thursday, May 17, hosted by Councilmember Stephen Levin, the Department of Environmental Protection will present their proposed design for 1.5 acres of public space, a headhouse and a CSO (combined sewer overflow) tank at the head of the canal. (The tank is part of the cleanup.)

Residents are concerned about the ballooning cost of the project and the demolition of an iconic industrial pumphouse building, the 1913 Gowanus Station, to make way for the tank.

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The cost of the entire project has grown from $77 million to $1.2 billion, according to local blog Pardon Me For Asking. Much of that is due to the cost of acquiring the privately held Gowanus Station via eminent domain.

“The cost of this tank has spiraled out of control,” said Pardon Me For Asking blogger Katia Kelly in a post Tuesday. “Let us ask the hard questions at Thursday’s meeting.”

Proposed site for the first SCO tank. Courtesy of EPA

Proposed site for the first SCO tank. Courtesy of EPA

Some feel that the current proposed plan can remain without the destruction of the Gowanus Station.

“We can save Gowanus Station and still build a CSO tank, but DEP needs to show the will to make this a win-win,” said Gowanus resident and preservationist Brad Vogel. He suggested that the building, “a mere sliver on the perimeter” of the larger proposed site, could be saved if the placement of the headhouse and tank is adjusted.

In December, the Landmarks Preservation Commission rejected requests from Gowanus residents to landmark the Gowanus Station building.

Last month, the City Council voted 49 to 1 to select and acquire the site (as well as neighboring lots at 242 and 270 Nevins Street) through eminent domain. Local Council Member Stephen Levin voted yes; Brad Lander was marked absent. The single no vote came from Kalman Yeger, who represents David Greenfield’s former areas in southern Brooklyn, including Sheepshead Bay, Kensington, Midwood, Bensonhurst and Borough Park.

The meeting is an “opportunity to get a broader scope of folks involved in the discussion,” said Alicia West, the DEP’s Director of Public Design Outreach.

[Photos by Susan De Vries unless otherwise noted]

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