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June 26, 2009

U.S. House Approves Funding for Gowanus Canal’s Sponge Park

Washington, DC –The U.S. House of Representatives has approved $300,000 in federal resources for the development of a “Sponge Park” esplanade along Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal.  The project, spearheaded by the Gowanus Canal Conservancy, incorporates greenery to absorb and manage excess surface runoff and help improve the water quality of the Canal. Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez (D-N.Y.) applauded the effort for taking an innovative approach to improving the quality of life for neighbors of the Gowanus Canal. 

“This project would create much-needed public space, while addressing ongoing environmental concerns.   Cleaning-up the Gowanus Canal will never be effective if we don’t also come up with solutions like the Sponge Park that prevent future contamination,” Velázquez said. 

In April 2008, the Gowanus Canal Conservancy unveiled its design plan for the Sponge Park.  The proposal, created by dlandstudio in Brooklyn, includes a series of public waterfront spaces.  The project uses two strategies to naturally improve the water quality of the Canal.  First, vegetated swales will be built alongside the sidewalks and planted terraces will be incorporated to absorb storm water runoff.  Second, specific plants will be chosen that can absorb and break down toxins, heavy metals and biological contaminants from sewage.  Combined, these strategies will significantly decrease the amount of runoff entering the Canal and remediate contaminants already in the water.

“I am committed to securing federal resources for projects that make a real difference in the lives of working families.  The residents of Brooklyn who live and work near the borders of the Gowanus Canal deserve better access to the waterfront and a place for outdoor recreation,” Velázquez said. 

Over the past decade, Congresswoman Velázquez has worked to clean-up the canal and bring sustainable development to the area.  She has secured more than $2 million in federal funding for the Gowanus Canal and Bay Ecosystem Restoration Feasibility Study to identify the best approach for restoring the canal.  The study is being conducted by the Army Corps of Engineers and the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NYC DEP) to assess current environmental problems.  Using data collected during this study to fully understand and evaluate the extent of contamination, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently nominated the Gowanus Canal as a federal Superfund site.   A public comment period on the nomination ends July 8, 2009.

“My top priority is protecting the health of the community and fostering local economic development through the remediation process.  A complete clean-up of the Gowanus Canal will bring long-term benefits to this beautiful and vibrant Brooklyn neighborhood,” Velázquez said. 

The funding for the Gowanus Canal Conservancy was included in the FY 2010 Interior and Environment Appropriations bill, which was approved today.  The resources will be allocated through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s STAG Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Project.  The legislation now goes to the U.S. Senate for approval.

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