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August 2013

When Superfund Designation is Good News


“We need to make sure that potential is equitably shared.” - Michelle de la Uz, executive director of the Fifth Avenue Committee.

The toxic Gowanus Canal seems an unlikely place for a real estate boom, but it happens to run between Brooklyn's increasingly popular Carroll Gardens and Park Slope neighborhoods. The land surrounding the canal was the “Wild West of real estate speculation” until the recession hit and the canal was declared a federal Superfund site, says Michelle de la Uz, executive director of the Fifth Avenue Committee.

Working class and poor families, some of whom have been in the neighborhood for generations, worried about being displaced by luxury condos and escalating rents. “The Superfund status designation was a good thing because it, along with the recession, put the brakes on runaway development—and the Superfund mandates a place at the table for residents to provide their vision of what they would like in a revitalized Gowanus Canal,” de la Uz adds.

A Trust grant of $50,000 will help the group organize and educate residents—involving them in rezoning discussions so they can participate in planning. “The clean-up unlocks the potential of many sites and therefore the Gowanus neighborhood as a whole,” says de la Uz. “We need to make sure that potential is equitably shared.”

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