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City officials meet to discuss Newtown Creek response

City officials met with elected official representatives and North Brooklyn community leaders this week to outline their response to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Superfund recommendation for Newtown Creek.

Several deputy mayors, including a new appointment to the mayor’s office of environmental remediation met with representatives from Council member David Yassky (D-Williamsburg), Assemblymember Joseph Lentol (D-Williamsburg), and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz’s office on December 1 in City Hall to discuss a bevy of political, environmental, and legal ramifications if the EPA proceeds with environmental remediation along the polluted Brooklyn waterway.

“We don’t have the same kind of active participation that Gowanus seems to have, and as far as I know the city does not seem to be setting up an alternative plan,” said Amy Cleary, a spokesperson for Assemblymember Lentol. “For this to be cleaned up we really do need to rely on the EPA to step in. That means that the community must be aware of the issues involved and it is done in a way that protects the community, gets the creek cleaned up, and is cognizant of the different issues that are at play.”

The following day, city officials repeated their presentation for several community board members and parks administrators in advance of a public hearing that will be held on December 8 in Williamsburg.

With the EPA’s public comment period for Newtown Creek ending on December 23, mayoral spokesperson Marc LaVorgna indicated that the city will be submitting its position to the federal agency before the deadline,

“We always ensure we are meeting with the local community to learn more about what people are thinking, learn what the issues and priorities various stakeholders are focusing on and incorporating what we learn into our decision making process,” said LaVorgna. “We had similar discussions in regard to the Gowanus Canal and we go through a similar process when making choices on any project that has an impact, large or small, in local communities.”

According to sources who attended the meeting, the city will not be offering an alternative plan for remediation as it did with the Gowanus Canal earlier this summer, but will appeal to elected officials to support cleanup efforts and get the state Department of Environmental Conservation more involved in the process.

In November, the EPA has met with community stakeholders, environmental advocates, and small business owners with properties along the creek to answer questions about Superfund. The most common questions surrounded the legal liability of potentially responsible parties and the time line of the cleanup. Department of Environmental Protection officials have noted that they do not believe the city will be held legally liable by the federal government for the cleanup of Newtown Creek, as they are in the Gowanus Canal, although negotiations are ongoing.

A public hearing regarding the Superfund designation of Newtown Creek will occur on December 8 at 6 p.m. in Automotive High School at 50 Bedford Avenue. It is open to the public.

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