Not Even Toxic Waste Stops Gentrification: 3 New York Superfund Sites in Developing Neighborhoods

Archive articles, federal documents, slideshows and more on the three big cleanups now underway in New York.

The Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn.
Photo Credit: bobistraveling/Flickr

In the past five years, the federal Environmental Protection Agency has designated three sites in New York City to be part of the Superfund program, which goes after past polluters for financial penalties that it then employs to offset the massive cost of cleaning up decades-old industrial toxins.

One site is on the northern border of Brooklyn with Queens at Newtown Creek, tainted largely by oil. Another is the Gowanus Canal, whose bottom is coated with a sludge referred to as "black mayonnaise." The newest is the former Wolff-Alport Chemical Company on the Ridgewood-Bushwick border, a quiet spot adjacent to a cemetery where former owners had a habit of flushing radioactive material into the sewer.

All three sites are highly contaminated. But as a team reporting effort by Gothamist and City Limits' Emma Turetsky reveals, they also happen to sit in neighborhoods that are either deep into or on the verge of a wave of development, gentrification and all the complex impacts those forces will deliver.

Below you'll find key background info and archived articles on the sites and the issues at play there:

The Gowanus Canal

You can see the entire EPA case file on the Canal here, including its recent administrative order to the city related to some of the clean-up planning.

From our archives, check out our early probe into which companies might have to foot the bill for the clean-up. Later on, we reported on the EPA approving a clean-up plan for the canal.

Newtown Creek

See the EPA case history here. And to learn more about the combined sewage overflow or CSO problem—a big factor in the ickiness of both the creek and the Gowanus, our 2007 investigation may provide background.


We first wrote about this site back in 2012 as part of a larger look at Brooklyn's brownfields. Last December, the EPA decided Wolff-Alport would joint Newtown and Gowanus as a Superfund site. The site's history and toxicity are detailed in the federal documentssupporting the Superfund designation.

Jarrett Murphy is the editor-in-chief of City Limits.
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