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Locals Vow to Protect Neighborhood Pool Threatened by Gowanus Canal Cleanup

 Residents worry the Gowanus Canal cleanup will shut the public pool on Third Avenue and Degraw Street.
Locals Vow to Protect Neighborhood Pool Threatened by Gowanus Canal Cleanup
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GOWANUS — Supporters of a neighborhood pool are demanding that the city protect their swimming hole from a possible shutdown during the Gowanus Canal cleanup.

The so-called "Double D" pool on Third Avenue and Douglass Street could be closed if the city builds a sewage retention tank beneath the pool during the cleanup of the polluted canal, which will last eight to 10 years.

"It's a great community resource and we don't want to see the remediation of the canal take away our neighborhood pool," said City Councilman Stephen Levin at a Wednesday press event in support of the pool. "It's a worthy goal to clean the canal, but it has to be done with some sensitivity to the community."

The EPA suggested the pool as a potential location for a sewage retention tank in its final canal cleanup plan, which was released this week. The tank would help keep raw sewage — one of the canal's major sources of pollution — out of the stinky waterway.

The city's Department of Environmental Protection is responsible for building the tank, but the DEP has said publicly it doesn't want to build it, calling the tank "unnecessary." However, federal law allows EPA to force local agencies to comply with Superfund cleanups. The DEP could not be reached immediately for comment on Wednesday.

If the tank gets built, Levin and members of the nonprofit Friends of the Douglass Greene Park want officials to find a spot that won't affect the pool, which they say is a much-needed resource for local families, especially those who live in nearby public housing.

Levin and the pool advocates say an empty lot owned by Con Edison on Nevins and Butler streets would be an ideal spot for the sewage retention tank. They point out that Con Ed is on the EPA's list of "potentially responsible parties" — the private companies and entities who contributed to the canal's contamination and now must split the cost of the $506 million cleanup.

That idea doesn't sound likely — Con Ed's plans for the lot don't include building a sewage retention tank there, spokesman Allan Drury said. "We are holding the property for future utility use to serve our customers," Drury said.

Nonetheless, Levin noted that locals have a successful track record of rallying around the pool, so he's hopeful it will be saved again. The "Double D" pool — named after its cross streets Douglass and Degraw — was slated for closure in 2010, but residents convinced the city to keep it open. The pool's supporters launched an online petition this past spring, held a rally in June, and submitted several comments to EPA.

This weekend they're holding a fundraiser to raise money for more advocacy work and to fund events at Douglass Greene Park, which is next door to the pool.

Pool supporters are hoping their effort will get a boost if Bill de Blasio, a former Park Slope city councilman, is elected mayor. When on the City Council, de Blasio helped fund the renovation of the park next to the pool. If he becomes mayor, advocates said they're hoping he'll remember that the pool is an important resource for local families.