Coming Home

By Rob Goulding

A few months ago I emerged from the Holland Tunnel on a still cold spring day prepared for my initial drive into Brooklyn as a lease holding resident. While I grew up in the center of the greater NYC metropolitan area in a small city called West New York, NJ, I’ve been nothing more than an occasional tourist since 2004.  Since then, the changes in the area and our Agency’s role in shaping a sustainable region serve as remarkable testaments to the intersection of environmental protection, community involvement and redevelopment.

I’ve had the good fortune over the last six years to bounce from Trenton to Washington, DC to San Francisco and observe, as a citizen and government employee, the ongoing work of civic engagement and redevelopment. NYC may be the city that never sleeps, but I’ve learned that no city stays dormant for long.

I am excited to come back home and help work on issues that will change this area for the better. I see this region as both the boy who grew up here, when things always seemed dormant, and as someone who’s now able to see the cornerstones and the construction zones as the fluid building blocks of a changing urban landscape. .

The drive I reference above took me from my hometown, where residents have reclaimed access to the Hudson River, to Jersey City, emerging from its industrial past into a vertical mega-NJ city specializing in financial services, but still struggling with embedded chromium and other toxics. Through the tunnel, I become keenly aware that I’m now surrounded by the Hudson River. Growing up, I knew better than to drink, fish or swim in that river even as my house sat just two blocks west of it. While I’ll still heed some of those guidelines, as our Agency’s superfund work upriver continues, I’ve since felt comfortable enough for both a Hudson swim and kayaking trip.

Finally, I work my way to my new neighborhood, only 10 miles from the house I grew up in, where the NPL-listed Gowanus Canal also sits two blocks away. I’ve recently been invited on a canoe trip on the canal, but also warned by other neighbors about the toxic soup lurking beneath. I think I’ve heard this story before and now it’s time for work.

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