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FROGG Hops to Meet Legislators

In the wake of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s reelection, Cobble Hill environmental activists are joining with their neighbors in Park Slope, Carroll Gardens, and the Gowanus to lobby elected officials to put their weight behind the EPA’s Superfund recommendation for the Gowanus Canal.

“The important thing is that science wins at this point,” said Friends and Residents of Greater Gowanus (FROGG) member Betty Stoltz. “We are still attempting to get support from all the elected officials, but we are feeling hopeful that the decision will get made by scientists, not for political reasons but for environmental reasons.”

On November 18, FROGG, the Park Slope Civic Council, the Cobble Hill Association, South Brooklyn Neighborhood Alliance, and Park Slope Neighbors joined several environmental groups to meet with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) to discuss ways of moving the EPA’s Superfund recommendation forward.

Gillibrand, a member of the Senate’s Superfund, Toxics and Environmental Health Subcommittee, could emerge as a key player in the cleanup of the site.

“The senator’s staff is meeting with local community groups to hear their concerns surrounding the clean-up of Gowanus Canal. A top priority for the Senator is hearing directly from her constituents on all important issues that impact Brooklyn residents,” said Angie Hu, a spokesperson for Gillibrand.

So far, the Bloomberg administration has been reluctant to endorse the federal agency’s plan to remediate the creek, instead proposing their own alternative plan in July to clean the site and announcing a $150 million project in October to improve water quality and reduce its odor impacts.

“This project is a big step toward a comprehensive clean-up that will reduce odors, improve the canal’s ecology, and encourage recreational use of this waterway. And by continuing our partnership with the Army Corps of Engineers, instead of risking years of delay through the Superfund process, we can get the canal cleaned-up as thoroughly as Superfund, but more quickly and efficiently so that this neighborhood continues to grow and thrive,” said Bloomberg.

Environmental activists, such as FROGG member Maureen Donnely, disagree, claiming the alternative plan was part of a public relations campaign in the early fall that seems to have dissipated.

“The general sentiment now is that there is nobody supporting the city’s plan in any way,” said Donnely.“The city’s plan was nothing more than a delay tactic and they never intended to be viable. They got what they wanted, they got a delay.”

Donnely and other FROGG members have been encouraged by recent events regarding the EPA’s Superfund recommendation, which included the revelation last week of four new responsible parties towards pollution at the Canal.The city, Con Edison, Chemtura, and the U.S. Navy join National Grid as suspected contributors towards the build-up of toxicity in and around the Gowanus Canal.

“The reaction to that is good, I’m glad they’re actually beginning to seriously work on this,” said Stoltz. “This is a work product, essentially, and it’s heartening to see it’s a work product that the EPA has produced.”

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