After years of inaction, there is much progress at the Public Place site, a 5.8 acre property bordered
by Smith Street and the Gowanus Canal between 5th Street and Nelson Street in Carroll Gardens.
Public Place was used as a manufactured gas plant until 1974 when the property was turned over
to the City. Past analyses of the soil and groundwater have revealed elevated levels of benzene, lead,
mercury, chromium and zinc. Groundwater from the site continues to leak into the Gowanus Canal,
polluting the waterway.
For over 10 years, the City and Keyspan, now known as National Grid, have been negotiating a cleanup
plan for the site. In 1998, Assemblywoman Joan Millman and State Senator Martin Connor became
involved in these negotiations by urging Keyspan to readdress the remediation of Public Place. After
much discussion and negotiation, a remediation plan was reached in 2000. The New York State
Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Keyspan made specific plans to start the remediation
of the land. The Mayor's office and the Housing Preservation and Development Agency (HPD) are monitoring
the cleanup process and are creating an affordable housing plan.
Last summer, HPD put out an RFP to develop the land with guidelines to maximize the affordable and senior
housing, include open space, community facilities and green architecture. After an extensive review process,
two finalists have been selected, both of which contain open space, a portion of units reserved for seniors and
a portion of units priced below market rate. Once a developer is chosen in the next month, the property will
have to be rezoned, which requires a Uniform Land Use Review Process and an Environmental Impact
Statement to ensure the land is safe for housing to be built. Then, the actual clean-up will start and, finally,
building will begin. So, it may be several years before anyone can move in. Nonetheless, after 25 years of
talking and planning, the process is truly moving forward.