The (New)town Creek Consent Order Signed, Sealed, Delivered
In the past week, the Supreme Court of the State of New York signed the Third Modified Judgment on Consent regarding Greenpoint’s own Newtown Creek, once again bringing the issue of creek clean-up to the forefront. The Consent Order—a lawsuit filed by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) against the New York City Department of Environmental Preservation (DEP)—will require the city to allocate $10 million earmarked for Environmental Benefit Projects (EBP) to three not-for-profit organizations, who will thusly administer funds for various remediation.
The lawsuit, which was initially brought in 1986, alleged that New York City’s wastewater treatment plant, located on Newtown Creek, was in violation of the law by failing to meet state standards. The first Judgment on Consent was agreed upon two years later in 1988, but after the City again failed to comply, a second Judgment on Consent was drawn up in 2002. Now that the Third Judgment on Consent has been authorized, the city has roughly 60 days to allocate necessary funds, to be spent on projects such as weatherization of affordable housing in Greenpoint/Williamsburg, and
retrofitting diesel trucks and school buses.
However, before the funds are allocated to the organizations that will receive them—the City Parks Foundation, who will receive approximately $7 million; the Hudson River Foundation New York City Environmental Fund, who will receive $1 million; and the New York State Energy Research Development Authority, who will receive $2 million— the State must arrange for a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to be signed by all parties involved.
While only three groups were selected to receive EBP funding, each is required to seek community input and consultation in proposing and designing all remediation projects, and is determined to do so.
“One of the main reasons we were selected for these mitigation funds is because we have a long and very successful history working with communities all across the city,” said David Rivel, the executive director of the City Parks Foundation. “We have a long and successful history of also turning around failing or underutilized park spaces, and turning them into wonderful assets for the community. One of our first projects was the Bronx River. Now, it’s beautiful—beavers building dams, herrings swimming in it. And it is very important to involve the community in this process. We will run a completely open process where everyone will have a chance to come to the table and brainstorm with us.
Our job is to make sure the community’s voice is heard loud and clear.”
In addition, the City is required by law to pay, in penalty fees, the total sum of $28,991,686 into interest-bearing escrow accounts, to be administered by the New York State Environmental Facility Corporation, within 60 days of the effective date of the Third Consent Judgment. The City entitled to recover the money if it complies with these corresponding milestones.
Though the specific timeline of these projects cannot be determined at this juncture, once the MOU is issued and signed, the City will have approximately 60 days to dole out the funds, and the groups can begin the EBP process.