Photo credit: The Architect's Newspaper
They say eminent domain, we say blog!
Although it seems like every project has a budget overage, this one is really impressive. We’ve blogged about the Gowanus Canal sewage-tanks and about the preservation efforts surrounding the historic Gowanus Station Building. Now we are ready to discuss a news update reporting that the price of the two sewage retention tanks the city will construct as part of the effort to clean up of the area has increased.
The reason why we call it news is because that budget number has jumped more than 15 times beyond initial estimates. Go ahead, do the math…the original projected budget was $78 million and now it’s up to $1.2 billion. That’s even double the estimated cost of the entire Superfund cleanup. Those numbers came from The Brooklyn Eagle, by the way.
What’s to blame for the budget estimate increase? Eminent Domain of course! The city is planning on building the two tanks on private land acquired through eminent domain. Meaning that the city is not using city-owned property nearby that was recommended by the EPA. City officials say that the federal estimate was too conservative (no one ever gets NY prices, unless you’re from LA) and did not take into consideration the preservation of the historic Gowanus Station Building. (Remember that blog post?)
The low federal estimate also was considered by the EPA to have problems because it considered only simplistic construction methods and ignored community impact. The original cleanup budget in 2013 as proposed by the EPA was $506 million. That would include cleanup of industrial and sewer discharges. The cost of the tanks is being picked up by the city with help from National Grid.
"DEP has built several CSO facilities and since 2013 has consistently estimated the project costs in excess of $700 million," read the statement a DEP spokesperson provided Crain's.
Those following our blog also note that the plans have changed all together from the building of two tanks, one 8 million gallons and the other 4 million gallons) which would divert sewage and stormwater away from the canal to an alternative plan in the form of a tunnel. The tunnel could store up to 16 million gallons of sewage and stormwater overflow.
"DEP’s proposed tunnel alternative would include more storage, be scalable to accommodate increased population growth and cause less disruption during construction – clearly a much bigger bang for New Yorkers’ buck," a spokesperson said.
Whatever is decided, this is one project that just will not be left by the wayside. The cleanup is part of a major re-envisioning project for the Gowanus neighborhood. The area has gone from industrial to more residential, with plans to become "the centerpiece of a green, resilient neighborhood" with mixed-use development around parks and community resources. That’s according to a draft zoning proposal from the Department of City Planning.
What we do know right now is that there might be more than a few new blog posts on this topic as the budget and the project moves forward.