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More green for Sponge Pk

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Sponge Park continues to soak up the green.

City Councilmember David Yassky this week announced the allocation of $638,000 in capital funds toward construction of the park, where shrubs and assorted greenery are expected to act as natural filters, soaking up pollutants in and around the Gowanus Canal, a potential Superfund site and one of the most polluted waterways in the country.

The money, which will be administered by the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation, would go to one component of the park, located at Degraw Street between Nevins Street and the canal.

“Councilmem­ber Yassky feels the allocation of monies to this innovative way of addressing the sewer overflows in the Gowanus area and creating public recreation land is a beneficial way of addressing the problems that the area has experienced for years,” said Yassky chief of staff Tim Roberts.

The park is also expected to help absorb sewer overflows that contribute to the waterway’s fetid stink.

The not-for-profit Gowanus Canal Conservancy originated the massive project, would be 40 feet wide, along both banks of the 1.8 mile long canal.Lauren Elvers Collins, the conservancy’s acting executive director, said the goal is to continue to get funding for all points along the esplanade. She said the money allocated by Yassky will go construction costs, design fees, engineering and materials. The park is designed by Clinton Street-based dLandstudio.

One of the key features of the Sponge Park is its flexibility, according to the conservancy.“When we held our first public meeting in April 2008 to get the community’s feedback on our park design, no one was talking about Superfund,” said conservancy chairperson and Sponge Park Committee head Andrew Simons.“Now that we are possibly just weeks away from finding out whether the EPA or the city of New York will be spearheading substantial environmental clean up of the canal, we are ready to move ahead and can modify the park’s design as needed to coordinate with clean up measures,” he said in a statement.

A decision on whether the canal is designated a Superfund site could come as early as next week.

The design has the support of the EPA, United States Army Corps of Engineers, and the city’s Departments of Environmental Protection, Parks and Recreation, Design and Construction, and Transportation, according to the conservancy.

“This area has been neglected far too long — we hope this will be a step towards correcting this situation,” said Sue Wolfe, president of Friends of Douglass/Greene Park.

Earlier this summer, Rep. Nydia Velázquez moved a $300,000 appropriation through the Congressional Appropriations Committee and the House of Representatives for the conservancy to construct another Sponge Park.The funding must go to the Senate for approval before it is signed into law as part of the FY 2010 Interior and Environment Appropriations bill, according to the conservancy.

It could take over 10 years before the project is fully realized, Collins said, adding, “It’s a long project.”The cost of the entire project has yet to be determined.

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