January 13, 2021
Contact: Voice of Gowanus

Group to City: Drop Sewage-Spewing Gowanus Rezone

GOWANUS - Community coalition Voice of Gowanus questioned a Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) claim that the proposed Gowanus rezoning would slightly reduce combined sewer overflows into the Gowanus Canal.

"We don't buy it. It's an entirely bogus claim," said Marlene Donnelly of Friends and Resident of Greater Gowanus, a member of the Voice of Gowanus coalition. "The city, public officials, and community groups all claim they want no additional combined sewer overflows from the rezoning - and seem to be acting like that will be the case because of one presentation about a draft rule, but it's simply not true. DEP's figures are based on highly questionable assumptions - and it's clear the rezoning should not be certified in light of how many grave questions remain."

In addition to calling on the City of New York to drop the rezoning, Voice of Gowanus calls on the local Gowanus city council members and community coalitions like the Gowanus Neighborhood Coalition for Justice to oppose certification of the Gowanus rezoning given that: a) the city has not yet released the Environmental Impact Statement and will not provide more than five days across a holiday weekend to review before certification (which is wholly inadequate given the massive scale of the proposed rezoning), and b) it remains highly unlikely that CSOs will be reduced to zero by the rezoning.

The city's proposed Unified Stormwater Rule (USWR) is being touted by certain officials as proof that the rezoning will not increase the more than 360 million gallons of raw sewer water that surge into the Gowanus Canal annually. But it is a flimsy pretext, as shown by the number of serious community questions about the draft UWSR that remain unanswered by DEP. Questions like:

- What if all “potential and projected development sites” are built out in Gowanus – how would that level of development affect the USWR’s applicability to the Gowanus area?

- Given expected increases in sanitary flow and theoretical reduction of stormwater contributions, will CSO discharges into the Gowanus Canal be more heavily concentrated with noxious sewage, and how would that impact water quality?

- How would rezoning-based development and the USWR affect the scale of individual CSO outfalls and sewer capacity leading to those outfalls?

- How is DEP going about its modeling of baseline drainage conditions in Gowanus?

As of today, the answers to these major questions are not known.

“Serious, fundamental questions about combined sewer overflows into the Gowanus remain with all the rezoning’s proposed development,” said Miranda Sielaff of Voice of Gowanus. “Our community needs more time to review the proposed storm water rule, look at the Environmental Impact Statement when it is finally released, and determine how or if EPA oversight will play into this scenario. Certification of the rezoning on January 19th would ignore concerns that are critical to this community. There's no way we can be confident right now that the rezoning will benefit our local environment.”