City breaks ground on $1.6B project to protect Gowanus Canal from pollution

March 15, 2023

Image via WikiCommons

New York City on Wednesday broke ground on one of two new underground storage tanks that will prevent pollution of Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal. The $1.6 billion project will prevent up to 12 million gallons of sewer overflow from entering the canal during rainstorms and flooding events. The first tank, bounded by Nevins Street, Butler street, and Degraw Street, will hold up to eight million gallons of sewage waste and include 3.6 acres of public open space on the waterfront.

Rendering of the headhouse for the first tank. Image courtesy of Office of Mayor Eric Adams

Both tank projects will include a headhouse building containing the tank’s electrical and mechanical systems, as well as odor control equipment and screens to remove debris from the sewer overflow, according to a press release.

The second tank, which will be located at a bend in the canal at Second Avenue and Sixth Street, will be able to hold up to four million gallons of sewer overflow. Like the first tank, the second will have its own headhouse and waterfront public open space.

“In our dense urban environment, thinking outside the box is key to bringing new green spaces to New Yorkers, and this critical combined sewer overflow infrastructure project is yet another wonderful example of interagency collaboration, creativity, and partnership towards that goal,” NYC Parks Commissioner Sue Donoghue said.

“The 3.6 acres of brand-new open space at these two sites will collectively provide new recreational amenities and waterfront access where none previously existed, and we congratulate DEP and the EPA for the progress made on improving water quality in Gowanus.”

Rendering of the headhouse for the second tank. Image courtesy of the Office of Mayor Eric Adams

The two-acre open space will wrap the entire 1,770 linear feet of waterfront at the site and include amphitheater seating, lawn space, and a shaded outdoor classroom. The design will also include a 3,000-square-foot tidal wetland on the peninsula’s southwestern tip which features water access at the Second Avenue street end, and NYC’s first-ever public ADA-accessible kayak launch at the Sixth Street turning basin.

The city has already begun work on the site and has been gaining critical feedback from the community for the past year in order to inform the design of the tank and open space.

“Today’s groundbreaking will protect the Gowanus Canal from pollution and deliver acres of new public spaces and waterfront access to New Yorkers,” Mayor Eric Adams said.

“This project is a powerful statement about our city’s adaptability and determination, and we’re not stopping here in Gowanus. We want to make sure that every waterway in New York City is clean enough for the dolphins we saw in the Bronx River to swim in, and whenever we have opportunities to bring new public open spaces to communities that are crying out for them, we’re going to seize those chances.”

In 2010, the Gowanus Canal was designated as a Superfund site, a polluted location designated by the United States Environmental Protection Agency for cleanup. As part of that designation, the EPA is currently removing 581,000 cubic yards of polluted sediment from the bottom of the canal and capping the bottom to prevent further pollution, according to a press release.

In November 2021 after nearly a decade of debate, former Mayor Bill de Blasio’s rezoning plan for Gowanus was approved. The upzoning includes the creation of 8,000 new apartments in the neighborhood within the next decade, with over one-third set aside for low-and-moderate-income residents. The plan also includes investments into public housing and sewer infrastructure.


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