Yesterday was Earth Day, and while some New Yorkers chose to celebrate by going car-free, others took a more spiritual approach: as the New York Times details, a group of Franciscan friars, nuns, and local residents gathered at the Carroll Street Bridge to pray for a miracle, pouring holy water into the Gowanus Canal as part of the annual Blessing of the Gowanus.
It would take a whole lot more than a few bottles of blessed water to even begin to combat the filth that pervades the fetid, sewage-filled canal, which was designated a federal superfund site in 2010. But the insurmountable putridness of the Gowanus didn't deter those gathered.
"Maybe Jesus is the only one who can clean up this canal," lifelong Gowanus resident Margaret Vollaro told the Times. "Nobody else is doing it. None of the politicians are doing it."
It's true that the long-promised, $500 million cleanup is now looking like it might not begin for several more years. A key component of the cleanup is the construction of two large sewage-retention tanks, and the city recently announced that it will be abandoning an earlier plan to install the tanks under Thomas Greene Park, despite the fact that it already owns that land and could thus begin work sooner rather than later. Instead, the city will look to acquire privately owned property along the canal through eminent domain, a strategy that the owners of the land have warned could delay the process for at least four years.
"They say they're cleaning it up now, but not in our lifetime—I'm never going to see it," 80-year-old Rose Castellvetre told the Times.
Yesterday, City Council members Brad Lander and Stephen Levin, along with Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, and State Assembly Member Jo Anne Simon, issued a joint statement in support of this new plan, which will locate the tanks between Butler and Degraw Streets along the canal.
"This location avoids the permanent loss of parkland at nearby Thomas Greene Park—an important community hub for children and families, which was considered as a location for the larger tank—and will actually allow us to increase open space in our community," they said. "The agreement provides strong protections, if problems arise in the acquisition of the proposed site. If the City should not meet specified timeframes for locating the retention tank on Nevins Street, the EPA can require the City to design a retention tank for construction at Thomas Greene Park."
There will be a public meeting on this latest update on Monday at 6:30 p.m., at PS 32 (317 Hoyt St at Union St). You can submit your comments (and prayers, if that's your thing) to Walter Mugdan at firstname.lastname@example.org.