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Gowanus Canal declared Superfund site to City Hall's disappointment

Brownstone Brooklyn, meet Superfund Brooklyn.

In slapping the toxic label on the Gowanus Canal Tuesday, the EPA confirmed what everybody knows about the 1.8-mile waterway: It’s a toxic mess. But the Bloomberg administration fought to avoid the designation and its stigma.

The EPA will direct the cleanup of the canal that runs through an old manufacturing corridor of Brooklyn surrounded by brownstone neighborhoods.

“It’s disappointing. We had an innovative and comprehensive approach that was a faster route to a Superfund-level cleanup and would have avoided the issues associated with a Superfund listing,” said a spokesman for the mayor.

The ruling prompted Toll Brothers, the luxury builders, to drop a bid to redevelop part of the site.

The EPA was concerned about the city’s plan, including its reliance on congressional earmarks to help pay for a cleanup.

“As a matter of principle the polluter should pay, and we did not think shifting the burden to taxpayers was a good idea,” said Walter Mugdan, an EPA director.

The EPA has identified potentially responsible parties, including the gas company National Grid. The cleanup could last 12 years and cost up to $500 million.

For the neighborhood, the ruling provides new certainty.

“Now that we know what direction things are heading in, we can all roll up our sleeves and get to work,” said Craig R. Hammerman, district manager of Brooklyn’s Community Board 6.

He wasn’t overly concerned about any stigma.

“It’s never been a secret to anyone ... that the Gowanus is polluted,” he said.

Photo of sticker on Gowanus Canal: Rolando Pujol

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