Velázquez & Simon Join Community Groups to Voice Concerns over Gowanus Rezoning Environmental Impacts, September 8, 2021

Brooklyn, NY – Earlier today, Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY) and New York State Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon held a press conference to voice their concerns with the City’s Gowanus Neighborhood Rezoning Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). The lawmakers, both of whom represent the Gowanus neighborhood, are urging the City to reevaluate the study, which they argue does not adequately consider the consequences of climate change in Gowanus or combined sewer overflow into the canal Superfund cleanup. 

“As I have said in the past, New York City’s infrastructure is not where it needs to be to withstand climate change. Tragically, we saw this again last week with Ida,” said Rep. Velázquez. “When it comes to the Gowanus rezoning the City’s environmental impact statement is wrought with inconsistencies and contradictions, as pointed out by EPA and many groups. And most importantly, it does not properly take into consideration the impacts of climate change on the Gowanus community and on the ongoing cleanup of the Gowanus Canal, which is an EPA Superfund site. That’s why Assemblymember Simon and I are asking the City to revisit their draft environmental impact statement when it comes to the rezoning of Gowanus. This is an issue of environmental justice, a sustainable future, and as Ida has proved, it could not be more important.”

“I join Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez and the community in urging the City to revise the Gowanus rezoning DEIS to address the significant inconsistencies and contradictions identified by the EPA. It is mind boggling that the City thought it could ignore the EPA’s recommendations, and are apparently planning to issue a final EIS this week, without correcting the contradictions and using updated modeling, instead of data from 2008. The City’s recalcitrance in following EPA’s orders for this Superfund site, combined with its use of Pre-Sandy, Pre-Superfund data in the DEIS tells us that NYC is making believe that it can do business as usual. The City shouldn’t play games with data to evade remediation and costs. Mother Nature will not be fooled. The City must plan for the future and focus on the public’s health. In the aftermath of two severe storms that claimed the lives of over a dozen New Yorkers, we must address climate change as the Code Red crisis it is, and act to ensure the health and safety of current and future residents of the area,” said NYS Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon.

On August 9, 2021, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sent a letter to the Director of the New York City Department of City Planning, which points out inconsistencies including a reliance on outdated data in the City’s DEIS and non-compliance issues. That letter is online here.

Today, Velázquez and Simon sent a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio which cites the EPA’s letter and raises several concerns over the City’s DEIS for Gowanus rezoning.

Below is a quote from the letter:

“Based on the current DEIS, it is abundantly clear that the City cannot assure that sewer overflows won’t be increased and therefore compromise the cleanup and health of the canal and local residents and workers. The City needs to get it right before it proceeds and that means a full and responsible cleanup instead of non-compliance with EPA orders on the overflow tanks. The tanks should be the bare minimum. The City needs to do much more now to ensure responsible development in the future, especially with record setting storms now being the norm. Mother Nature will not be fooled by the City’s use of pre-Sandy, pre-Superfund data.”

At today’s press event, Velázquez and Simon were joined by members of Gowanus Neighborhood Coalition for Justice, Gowanus Canal Conservancy, Public Housing Civic Association, FUREE, FROGG, Forth on Fourth Avenue, and Voice of Gowanus.