Injunction Request Filed in Lawsuit To Annul Gowanus Rezoning

GOWANUS, BROOKLYN, November 10, 2022 — Today, Voice Of Gowanus (VoG) filed a request for preliminary injunction in NYS Supreme Court. VoG is currently appealing the denial of its Article 78 petition to annul the Gowanus Upzoning, which was dismissed this past July. 

We maintain that without an injunction irreparable harm to the Gowanus community will occur before the appeal is heard.

The injunction is required to prevent further construction activity and related toxic releases and exposure, until the court can rule on the flawed Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)

VoG maintains that time is needed to sufficiently clean water, prevent release of airborne carcinogenic toxins in the soil and groundwater, bring the sewer system into compliance with EPA orders and prepare for rising sea levels before development of the many NY State-recognized brownfield sites can occur  

Housing construction at former Manufactured Gas Plant (MGP’s) sites

Polluting parties have failed to clean up the carcinogens and other toxic material at former gas works sites, and now regulators are allowing developers to drive piles and perform other construction activity that disturbs contaminated soil and water.

Even the City's EIS concedes: “any redevelopment involving subsurface disturbance could potentially increase pathways for human exposure to any subsurface hazardous materials present”. 

The City has refused to comply with various NYS DEC and US EPA orders in Gowanus  

Construction and pile driving within this large area will exacerbate groundwater contamination and cause direct contamination of the Gowanus Canal (a Superfund site under federal supervision) from soil toxins as well as combined sewer overflows (CSO's) during heavy precipitation and snowmelt events

The City has repeatedly been ordered to reduce CSOs, and has failed to fulfill their legal obligations including the completion of two sewage-retention tanks necessary for the current population, let alone the large influx expected in the near future. 

The City committed to completing the tanks by 2028, and included the completion in their calculation of anticipated CSO's once developments occur, but has now informed the EPA that it cannot meet the 2028 deadline - the City has not indicated a new date for completion of the tanks

Urgency of a stop-work order

The EPA provided a chart indicating the significant increase in sanitary flow as it relates to the increase in population expected from the upzoning, 


                                          MGD = million gallons per day 

The assumed CSO reductions are based on revisions to the municipal Unified Stormwater Rule requiring separate stormwater collection in place of current loading into the inadequate and non-compliant combined system.

There is no evidence that the stormwater capture system will be implemented, nor that the rule will be enforced or complied with to the extent required to offset the millions of gallons of added sewage. 

Moreover, pile driving on the former MGP site that includes Public Place -site of proposed housing and school- has caused odors, indicating carcinogenic chemicals are being released during construction into neighboring homes, a school and playground. This was reported by students at the nearby International School



Richard Lippes - lead counsel in VoG lawsuit: “It is amazing to me that the City of New York apparently believes they are above the law, and can act with impunity when they fail to comply with Federal and New York State environmental laws and orders. This must stop. Hopefully, our lawsuit is the first step in ending it”

Linda LaViolette - plaintiff in lawsuit: “Apparently, NYSDEC cares more about letting developers preserve their 421a tax breaks than they care about our children”

Maureen Koetz - co-counsel in lawsuit:  “These air, land, and water assets belong to the public, and should be restored and reused safely and only after proper oversight and protections are in place.”   

Voice of Gowanus continues to push for the rule of law to prevail in a land use process that has been riddled with failures. We must ensure that environmental injustices will not be inflicted on current and future residents around the Gowanus Canal