Making All the Difference to an Artist/Activist...
Part of my creative work involves community activism. As a Co-Founder of CG CORD/Carroll Gardens Gowanus Coalition for Respectful Development, I have directed some of my creativity and artistry to activist causes since 2007. For example, I created and co-write the CORD blog: LINK. I have a seat on the Gowanus Canal CAG/Community Advisory Group.
In the present moment I am most involved with others in getting a thorough and comprehensive clean-up of the Superfund-Designated Gowanus Canal in my neighborhood, one of the most contaminated waterways in the entire country.
Much of the work of an activist is unseen and thankless. I think every activist knows this. Even though we strive for the 'up' moments, the successes and joys, much of activism is quite plodding and even grim. The forces lined up on the other side are always ginormous and well-funded.
But once in a while a gem hits my mailbox. It warms my heart and keeps me going through all the darker times, which are many. Below is one such gem from a community member.
Words like this make all the difference to me. Triada
"A Moving Tribute and Letter from a Carroll Gardens/Gowanus Community Member to the EPA About Its Potential "Deal' with the City of New York"
May 31, 2016
Re: Gowanus Canal Administrative Settlement Agreement and Order for Remedial Design, Removal Action and Cost Recovery
Dear Director Walter Mugdan:
I appreciate your administrative team’s effort in trying to mediate the EPA’s Superfund position with the City of New York and coming out to Brooklyn to explain it. However, I still believe that Glenn Kelly was on target with his comment that the agreement between EPA and the City of New York may very well be “a problem to a solution rather than a solution to a problem.” I am writing to ask you to consider that possibility and either reject the agreement or amend it to prevent any delay and move the remediation forward as stated in the ROD. Please don’t allow the City to alter or change what has been thoroughly researched, written, approved and signed off in the ROD.
When I started my involvement in community activism, I was just an observer. As I sat and listened to the many different layers of viewpoints, I sensed that many community members all have experienced the City’s evasive tactics for many decades. This agreement reminded of the day that Cas Holloway from the City of New York presented the City’s grand Alternate clean-up plans to the community. They spent thousands of dollars to divert the nomination. It seems that we have circled back to their plan. If so, I plead with you not to let that happen or we will lose the timely momentum that have been achieved toward the clean-up already.
Around 2008, I joined a group of grassroots activists to preserve and protect our community. I had no financial or political aspiration to get involved, only a love for a neighborhood I called my “home”. During my involvement, I have been so honored to have met many genuinely kind, generous and selfless individuals. They have become my heroes and now my extended family (Pardon Me for Asking blogger, Katia Kelly and her husband Glenn Kelly; CORD founders, Rita Miller, Triada Samaras, Lucy deCarlos; FROGG founders, Linda Mariano, and Marlene Donnelly, and so many others) These people matched my beliefs in wanting to protect and preserve the historic beauty and open space we were so lucky to have and live in.
Around 2009 a new group of people were added to my list. It was You and the Region 2 staff (Christos Tsiamis, Natalie Loney, and Brian Carr). I hung on every word you said. You and your team were straightforward and sincere to our concerns. You and your team left us feeling safe. You were known among us as the “white knight on a white horse” here to finally stand for what you represented as a government agency to protect the environment and the health and safety of the people.
You promised transparency, you promised to work and listen to our community and you kept those promises. I created buttons to send out our message and to stand strong with those who were sent to protect our environment. I wore my buttons proudly and I meant every word that was written. With your support and guidance, we formed a CAG group and combined over 60 community organizations and at large members to report back to you of what we needed. You listened and understood our concerns and accommodated where you could. When the ROD was signed, sealed and delivered to us. We all believed this was the LAW, a powerful tool to move the cleanup forward. We believed the assurance that if a PRP doesn’t take action that the EPA Superfund takes over and does the work and afterward retrieves 3Xs times the cost back. The Region 2 team amazed us with their commitment and their determination we were finally seeing the light on the other side of the tunnel.
This agreement with the City of New York, however throws me off that path of hope for a clean canal. I fear that the extended time you allowed the City the further away our goal to a clean and healthy canal will be. You and your staff will retire and new members with little knowledge and commitment will let the time slip further. The agreement is too open for interpretation and I feel the City will find again another loophole.
I believe and stand by Katia Kelly, PardonMeforAsking blogger of her thorough analysis of this action you are about to embark into with the City. This is a land grab and the City is using your sense of fairness against you and us and it seems that the EPA Administrative team has given up and dismissed the plead of the whole community.
The amazing CORD ladies have captured and summed up in their public comment sent to you on May 24, 2016 which bears repeating* (see LINK) all my disappointment, as well as my confusion on the pending agreement between the EPA and the City of New York.
Yes,” it is all so terribly disheartening and sad.”
CORD founders (Rita Miller, Triada Samaras, Lucy DeCarlos), Katia Kelly, Marlene Donnelly, and Linda Mariano have always spoken “truth to power” and have always been dedicated to the purest form of community activism. They continuously fight to do the right thing voluntarily with no political or financial aspiration. Lately they have been villainized by nonprofit groups who receive funding from the City of New York and accused of environmental injustice in order to weaken their credability. If you know them as I do, all these false accusations are deterrents. In reality, they have inspired me to always do the right thing and never give up. They are the true meaning of Margaret Mead’s quote: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world, indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
If the agreement with EPA and the City is a done deal will you seriously consider CORD, FROGG and Katia Kelly’s concerns and amend the agreement accordingly. Will you do the right thing too and stand with us again to move the full cleanup of the Gowanus Canal forward without further delay?
Owner/Resident Carroll Gardens, and CORD Alternate, CAG