GOWANUS – The Brooklyn Supreme Court gave the NYC Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) the green light last week to proceed with the acquisition of three properties in Gowanus to build an eight million gallon Combined Sewage Overflow (CSO) tank and head house as part of the EPA’s cleanup of the Gowanus Canal.
Back in April, the City Council voted 49 to 1 to allow the city to acquire through eminent domain the 100-year-old Gowanus Station building, at 234 Butler Street, as well as two neighboring properties at 242 Nevins and 270 Nevins Street, to build one of two CSO tanks. A second 4 million gallon CSO tank will be installed by the Fourth Street Basin on city-owned land. The CSO tanks will hold excess rainwater and sewage during heavy storms, preventing both from flowing into the canal. The tanks will then pump the runoff to a wastewater treatment plant.
In an agreement with the EPA, if the city fails to successfully acquire the Butler and Nevins Street properties by April 2020, the larger of the two CSO tanks will instead be placed at Thomas Greene Park. DEP insists that building the CSO tank at the head of the canal places the facility “immediately adjacent to the existing DEP sewage pump station, making construction and operation simpler, less expensive and less disruptive to the community.” This location would also prevent the need to build at Thomas Greene Park—preserving the Double D Pool. The plan to place the tank along the canal would also allow for the development of a new public outdoor space on top of the facility.
DEP is currently waiting for the court’s approval to be officially filed. Once completed, the City will be able to proceed with formally acquiring the three properties. The acquisition process is expected to take approximately one month, according to a DEP spokesperson. The city plans to “permanently acquire” 234 Butler and 242 Nevins for the underground CSO facility, while 270 Nevins (the southernmost property located between Degraw and Sackett) will be acquired for eight years and serve as a staging area during construction.
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DEP has worked with a third party to determine the value of the properties and will negotiate with the owners on a final price for each building. If an agreement on price cannot be reached, the “Court may determine the final price,” the spokesperson said.
Once the City formally acquires and owns the three properties, the NYC Department of Housing Preservation & Development (HPD) will serve as the landlord for the tenants at 234 Butler and 242 Nevins and will assist them with relocating as well as provide “relocation benefits” which include moving and related expenses. Tenants of 234 Butler and 242 Nevins will need to relocate by Spring 2019.
HPD has already met with several of the tenants, according to DEP. The City has also enlisted Cornerstone Relocation Group to help the tenants find new homes.
Since 270 Nevins Street will only serve as a staging area during construction, the current tenant will not need to vacate as early as the others and will be able to relocate at a later date. The NYC Economic Development Corporation will work with the tenants of this building during the relocation process.
DEP will present schematic designs for the head house and public outdoor space to the Community Board 6 Parks/Recreation/Environmental Protection Committee on Wednesday, October 17. The location and time of the meeting will be confirmed soon. DEP presented preliminary designs in July during a Public Visioning Session coordinated by Council Member Stephen Levin’s office, but DEP has since incorporated some changes based on feedback from the community and NYC Parks.
Some locals oppose the city’s plan to demolish the Gowanus Station building located at 234 Butler, on the corner of Nevins, and called on the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) to landmark the building earlier this year. The LPC decided that the structure lacked “architectural significance and integrity” due to too many alterations to the structure over the years. The brick Beaux-Arts structure was erected in 1913 by the City’s Department of Water Supply, Gas & Electricity to serve as a pumping station for the Gowanus Canal.
The 234 Butler Street property is currently owned by Salvatore Tagliavia who runs his business, Sanitation Repairs, Inc., from the building which has been in his family for 45 years. Tagliavia told BKLYNER in April during a vigil held to save the building that he and the other impacted property owners have tried negotiating with the city, offering part of their land for new park space if the CSO tank is built at Thomas Green Park instead. The city refused their offer.
Tagliavia told BKLYNER on Thursday that DEP has kept him updated on the progress of the acquisition and confirmed that representatives from HPD have met with him.
He has had his property appraised and will wait to see what the City offers him. When asked where he thinks he will relocate his business, he says “probably not Brooklyn” since real estate is so “overpriced” in the borough.
Tagliavia added that he is not happy with how the City has handled the situation by displacing and “inconveniencing building owners, business owners, everyone.”