In a blow to the Bloomberg administration, the long-polluted Gowanus Canal has been named a “Superfund” site by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, a move officials fear will squash city planners’ visions of a new residential neighborhood sprouting along the waterway.
The Superfund status is intended to give a legal process to round up the money needed to clean up a site, with those who were initially responsible for its pollution likely being held liable.
But the process is one that takes many years, and one that, the Bloomberg administration has tried to argue, would be counterproductive given that it is rezoning the area to allow residential development to come in—with developers cleaning up sites themselves. Developers in the area, including Toll Bros., have tried to rally against the designation as well.
But the deck was not stacked in the mayor’s favor. The Paterson administration—led by Department of Environmental Conservation chief Pete Grannis—initially urged the Superfund status, and typically the federal government defers to the states on issues like these. While the Bloomberg administration protested, it couldn’t have helped that the Paterson administration’s former top environmental advisor, Judith Enck, is now the regional administrator for the EPA and had the top quote in the EPA’s press release announcing the choice.