View Full Version : The Gowanus Canal

May 19th, 2003, 04:51 PM
May 19, 2003

What Rots Beneath


Ah, the Gowanus, that fetid Brooklyn canal synonymous with contamination and death. Sewage, industrial waste — perhaps even human remains — still molder at its murky bottom. On occasion, its famously noxious, sulfurous aroma wafts over its banks. But now, as if to collect that batty neighbor living in a clutter of cats and old string, the men (and one woman) in white suits have finally arrived.

For the past few weeks, a team of scientists and technicians from the Army Corps of Engineers has been putting on protective coveralls and setting out along the waterway that snakes from Butler Street out to Gowanus Bay. Equipped with sample jars, hollow-stem augurs and drills, they have been delving far into the repellent depths to catalog, in minute detail, just what is festering in all that muck. It is not pretty work, but it is far from thankless.

"You can't begin to come up with any kind of engineering plan until you understand the situation that you have," said Col. John B. O'Dowd, a brawny, affable man who is the New York District commander of the Army Corps of Engineers. "Once you can sit back and look at the picture of what you have, then you can begin to look at what you can do to improve it."

To help draw that picture, the corps and the City Department of Environmental Protection are splitting the $5 million cost of the Gowanus Canal and Bay Ecosystem Restoration study. The project, whose final report should be available by January 2005, is intended to offer potential solutions to the environmental problems and to determine what future activities the canal and its surrounding area could sustain.

So the corps team, which includes a biologist and a geologist, has been out there, working to test the water quality, identify plant and animal life, and collect samples of what lies beneath. Their work should be completed soon, but the results are months away. Still, some hopeful signs have surfaced in the polluted canal. On a recent morning, for example, the team came across several snails, glass eels and some juvenile shrimp. "That's important for us because it lets us know that all the different life cycles are represented," said Pamela Lynch, the biologist.

People have been working for years to bring the noxious waterway back from the brink. Built in the late 19th century as a commercial thruway, the canal was soon fouled by sewage. In 1911, the city opened a flushing tunnel that moved in cleaner water from the Buttermilk Channel, but the tunnel broke down in the 1960's and was left unrepaired for more than three decades. That, combined with industrial waste from nearby plants, turned the canal into a stagnant, putrid nose-sore.

But largely through the work of local environmental and development groups, the Gowanus, long a reputed dumping ground for corpses, has been coming back. The flushing tunnel was reactivated in 1999. Oysters — bivalves that can filter tremendous amounts of water each day — have been introduced into the canal and are surviving. Jellyfish, bluefish, cormorants, ducks and egrets have appeared in and around the yellow-green waters. Harbor seals have even been sighted. The many different notions of what the canal should become — a little Venice, a recreation area, a peaceful wetland habitat — no longer seem firmly rooted in fantasy.

The Gowanus is now so vibrant that it can even support its own avant garde art project. Red Dive, a group of artists who create multimedia performance installations, is planning a performance tour called Peripheral City: Rediscovering the Gowanus Canal. In the show, which is to run over two weekends beginning Saturday, the audience will walk through a tunnel and then board a boat to ride along the canal. At various points, there will be a soundtrack of voices, culled from recordings of residents talking about the canal. Those will be interspersed with performances along the banks.

"I saw the canal as this container for so many forces and needs and drives," said Maureen Brennan, artistic director of Red Dive. "Here's this place that embodies a history of fear and all the bad things about human waste and pollution and decay, and now it's this container for hope and renewal and reclaiming."

Still, the Gowanus is far from ready for toe-dipping. "You fall in that water," Colonel O'Dowd joked with Webster Shipley, a project geologist, one afternoon, "the least of your worries is drowning."

The canal still receives loads of sewage when heavy rains overwhelm the sewer system, as well as runoff from its industrial neighbors like an oil depot and a gravel yard. Indeed, what has ended up in the sediment will also help determine its final resting place. Depending on the contaminants present, said Thomas J. Shea, the project manager for the corps, any sediment dredged out of the canal could potentially be mixed with neutralizing agents and then used to top off a landfill or make building materials.

So the work of collecting and classifying the feculence continues. With a rig set up on a barge, the team drives a contraption called a split-spoon into the canal bottom, which sucks up the muck into a hollow metal tube that can be split open once it is back on board. The scientists use a meter to detect any volatile gases that might be in the sample. Sometimes, depending on the consistency of the sediment, the core samples are difficult to obtain.

"Upstream we had been hitting an oozy black mud, so we had some problems taking a sample," Mr. Shipley said just before the driller, Albert McNamara, and his assistant, John Letke, began digging the team's ninth hole of the day.

Mr. Shipley, who has been filling his van with jars of muck from various spots in the canal, said that he already had some idea of what is lurking in the water, including creosote, a wood preservative probably used on retaining walls that line the canal, and viruses from all the sewage. The other day, the team pulled up small piles of gravel, black mud and several round disks they had drilled from a stack of three-quarter-inch plywood.

There is nasty stuff at the bottom of the canal, they say. "Man's been playing around with the Gowanus Canal for 100-something years," Colonel O'Dowd said. "So who knows what you're going to find?"

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

May 19th, 2003, 05:28 PM
They should start with not building suburban style Lowe's and Home Depots next to it.

TLOZ Link5
May 19th, 2003, 08:44 PM
Quote: from Gulcrapek on 5:28 pm on May 19, 2003
They should start with not building suburban style Lowe's and Home Depots next to it.

Dear God, NO! *Say it isn't so and that the Americanization will eventually stop!!!!!!!

May 20th, 2003, 10:02 AM


May 21st, 2003, 07:54 AM
When I was a kid in Carroll Gardens, a standard admonition from mom was, "And you boys stay away from that canal." Of course we always went there, hopefully to spot the mythical water rat, purported to be as big as a dog.

Carroll St Bridge *http://www.forgotten-ny.com/STREET%20SCENES/Carroll%20St%20Bridge/carroll.html

Part of the Battle of Long Island was fought here. 256 Maryland malitia men were buried near 3rd Ave and 8th St. A plaque to mark the spot was destroyed about 100 years ago when 3rd Ave was widened.

May 25th, 2003, 11:05 PM
The view of the Gowanus Canal and Hamilton Avenue Bridge (http://wirednewyork.com/bridges/hamilton_avenue_bridge/) from the Ninth Street Bridge.


The view of the Gowanus Canal and Ninth Street Bridge from the Hamilton Avenue Bridge (http://wirednewyork.com/bridges/hamilton_avenue_bridge/).


Gowanus Canal above Ninth Street Bridge and Williamsburgh Savings Bank.


Gowanus Canal above Third Street Bridge.


The view of the Gowanus Canal from the Gowanus Bay.


May 27th, 2003, 09:33 PM
How close are residences and businesses to the canal?

May 27th, 2003, 10:24 PM
It depends where along the canal. The aforementioned Home Depot and Lowe's are almost on the water. Most of the rest of the immediate shoreline is industrial.

May 27th, 2003, 10:52 PM
http://imgs.maps.yahoo.com/mapimage?MAPData=V.Xx_fhyzy3Y9JQOsd.BHyL.UFjnGnJJK GrBhxOlxD4v8Oqn2ZW6Kg5lJqK9Tl60sf9zKc7hHjKLo0ZZ6Na Eih.Q81PI_D7y7gDE0_06EQ84SMmlhUbgRzAKXjF9CpDFcvgjH cKs

Southern part is mostly industrial or abandoned, except on the Red Hook side. There's a Home Depot and other big box at the I278 sign.

Northern section. Bond St and Nevins along canal are mostly small industrial, as are side streets toward canal. Side streets running outward are all residential, brownstone and brick row houses. Smith St and Court St are retail.

The church steeple in the photo is St Agnes, on Sackett St, between Hoyt and Bond.

City Housing on Baltic St, northwest of canal (large blocks)

May 28th, 2003, 08:15 AM
Thanks a lot.

June 14th, 2003, 11:39 PM
Taking a canoe tour of the Gowanus Canal.


June 15th, 2003, 08:33 AM
Slightly incongruous, but probably foretelling things to come.

June 16th, 2003, 10:15 AM
This could be NY's venice - esplanade, shops, apartments, etc. *It would be great. *I'm not saying trash businesses, but if it's mostly derelict, it should be done. *Also, there should be a design comp to design the entire area - using only modern, glass-based architecture. *Make it a symbol of redevelopment, of taking back our waterways, and of cutting edge architecture and design. *

They have been talking about fixing it up like this, any news?

June 16th, 2003, 04:22 PM
The first thing that has to happen is the canal cleanup.
A friend of mine (I call him Steve the Tick Man) works for the Army Corp of Engineers. The Gowanus Bay up to about the Hamilton Ave bridge is a federally regulated waterway. The Corp and NY DEP started an ecological restoration feasibility study last year, due to be completed in 2005. In addition to how to remove contaminated material, most of the bulkheads need to be repaired.

It will take a while.

June 16th, 2003, 08:30 PM
Zippy the Chimp, Steve the Tick Man... What else?

June 16th, 2003, 10:53 PM
I married a crab. Does that count?

June 16th, 2003, 10:58 PM
Gowanus Canal??
nasty, nasty, ewww!

June 16th, 2003, 11:34 PM
Steve was doing field work early one morning at Coney Island
Creek. Before returning to his office at 26 Fed Plaza, he stopped at a downtown bar. We noticed a few little friends had become attached to him, and the name, well, stuck. He is a good source of ecological info about NY Bay - once he's deloused.

The canal improved considerably once the pumping station was
repaired. Hard to believe someone dropped a wrench into the machinery, and they waited 30 years to fix it. Life has returned - I think even crabs (anyone you know Ronald?)

June 17th, 2003, 07:45 AM
"Life has returned - I think even crabs (anyone you know Ronald?)"

Maybe my wife's relatives! Anyway, I have been fortunate to go on two Gowanus Canal cruises. One was on a 65-foot boat and we were told it was one of the largest boats to go all the way down the canal in years. The other cruise was aboard the Chelsea Screamer speedboat. Everyone aboard both tours was prepared for foul odors but there weren't any. Naturally the highlight of any Gowanus cruise is watching the various bridges open. We applauded the bridge guys at each one. Our opinion of the canal is that it has unlimited potential for development, once the shoreline is cleaned up.

Jack Ryan
June 21st, 2003, 07:54 PM
I once chucked a brick in there and it floated. Back when Jimmy Carter said "Lets give the canal back to Panama!" I was hoping he meant the Gowanus.

June 22nd, 2003, 12:12 AM
I couldn't help but throw another map in. The blocks directly surrounding the Gowanus from both sides are largely industrial. Let's hope we hear new industrial and commercial activity along the canal front in the years to come.



(Edited by Agglomeration at 12:12 am on June 22, 2003)

(Edited by Agglomeration at 12:14 am on June 22, 2003)

June 22nd, 2003, 10:26 AM
Good map.

There seem to be plenty of vacant lots, parking lots, and "all others/no data" lots along the canal.

July 2nd, 2003, 09:16 AM
July 2, 2003

A Brooklyn Seal's Trick: Surviving the Gowanus


Gowanda, or Henry? Naming a seal that was found in Brooklyn is the question. It is being nursed back to health by the Riverhead Foundation.

Pretty soon, a 1-year-old harp seal that became the talk of Red Hook is expected to paddle onto Long Island Sound, leaving behind its celebrity in Brooklyn for a life of anonymity in open waters.

For years, runners and fishermen have reported glimpsing just such a seal sliding through the Gowanus Canal and its nearby bay. Many scoffed at the sightings, saying the water was too polluted to support anything but sea gulls and a few hardy fish, but the sightings and stories persisted.

One woman even offered a cash reward for proof — $100 for the first photograph of the seal.

That proof came on April 8, when. John Quadrozzi Jr., president of Gowanus Industrial Park, walked in the shadows of a defunct grain terminal that looms beside the Henry Street Basin in Brooklyn. Mr. Quadrozzi and a contractor were examining recent renovations to the pier when they noticed a bruise on the calm water.

They paid the ripples little heed until a whiskered head emerged. It paddled through the water as Mr. Quadrozzi and his companion stared into the bay, amazed.

"It's surprising enough to find fish here," Mr. Quadrozzi said. "The last thing you'd expect to see is a seal."

Word spread quickly.

David Sharps, president of the Waterfront Museum in Red Hook, said he had only seen herons, ducks and other bird species on the canal. So when he heard the seal had been found, he called his two daughters and brought them to see.

"They didn't believe me at first," Mr. Sharps said. "They said: `What? You're kidding!' We were certainly intrigued, you know, just in its unusualness."

In fact, harp seals have become a more common sight on Long Island during the past decade, said Rob DiGiovanni, senior biologist of the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research, where the seal was taken. It is being treated for dehydration and a nasty case of worms.

Such seals are natives of the North Atlantic and Arctic, but scientists believe a growing population — and shifts in climate and food sources — have pushed populations farther south.

Of the 57 stranded animals that were reported to the Riverhead Foundation this year, 26 have been harp seals. But the 80 percent of those are found on the eastern portion of the island, away from New York City, Mr. DiGiovanni said.

"They have a reputation for popping up in all sorts of strange places," said Greg Early, a marine biologist who has worked extensively with seal populations in the Northeast.

Few places seem less accommodating to a seal than the Gowanus Canal, one of the last vestiges of New York's industrial waterfront. The Gowanus waterway is lined with a cement terminal, oil storage tanks and construction barges. Yesterday afternoon, algae clouded the water, whiffs of garbage floated on the breeze, and backhoes dipped their necks into the bay, like herons looking for dinner.

"It's pretty disgusting," Mr. Quadrozzi said.

Biologists said they would probably never know whether conditions in the Gowanus contributed to the seal's malnutrition, dehydration and parasites.

Shortly after it surfaced, the seal clambered out of the water and made its way over broken asphalt and glass. Mr. Quadrozzi said he could tell the seal was hurt. Blood was smeared across the seal's muzzle, and it lay on its side in the snow, with steam streaming off its skin. It munched a little snow and languidly waved a flipper that was tattooed with lesions.

But after more than two months recuperating at the Riverhead Foundation, the seal has gained weight and swims around its tank with renewed energy. It will be released in the next two weeks, Mr. DiGiovanni said.

The community has grown attached. Before the seal is turned loose, the Gowanus Canal Community Development Corporation will adopt it and name it Gowanda, despite the objections of Mr. Quadrozzi, who said Gowanda is a ludicrous name for a seal. He prefers Henry.

Theo Christodoulides, who operates the nearby Court Cafe, wants to post a picture of the seal on his restaurant's walls, and he is planning a seafood special featuring "whatever the seal would eat" named after the seal.

There have even been stories of a second seal swimming around the canal, but Mr. Christodoulides is skeptical.

"Maybe it's a fisherman's story," he said.


Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

July 2nd, 2003, 11:08 AM
Quote: from ZippyTheChimp on 7:54 am on May 21, 2003
...Of course we always went there, hopefully to spot the mythical water rat, purported to be as big as a dog.Maybe the mythical water rat was a harp seal!

Its so darn cute, I wish we had more playing around the Hudson piers. Keep it in one of the fountains perhaps?

July 2nd, 2003, 01:56 PM
Maybe after the Canal is cleaned up. *That would be a sight. *Maybe it'll be like the Wharf in SF!

July 2nd, 2003, 02:28 PM
Hmmmm - it could have been a seal.
Another childhood myth shattered.

July 20th, 2003, 01:43 PM
Dredging the Gowanus Canal

It is imperative that the Corps of Engineers, in cooperation with the city, dredge the Gowanus Canal above the I-278/Hamilton Avenue bridges to the head of the canal. The Gowanus should be classified as a Federally maintained waterway from the I-278/Hamilton Avenue bridge to the end of the Canal at the pumping station. The dredging would be beneficial in the following ways:

1) To clean out the debris and the polluted sludge that is lurking in the bottom of the Gowanus Canal.

2) To make commercial navigation easier on the barge and tugboat pilots. Believe it or not, there are four commercial barge terminals north beyond the Hamilton Avenue/ I-278 bridges. The Gowanus Canal actually handled 362,000 tons of materials in 2001, according to the USACE publication Waterborne Commerce of the USA.

3) Co-existing with the existing and hopefully expanded industries are recreational facilities, such as parks, a water taxi/ferry service (if the market demands it), and a public marina and/or boat tie up area.

July 25th, 2003, 07:31 PM
A friend sent me the link to this forum, and I happily read of your postings. Personally, I belive that the canal has unlimited opportunities, but it relies on government/community support for the massive changes to actually occur. On that note, I hope that everyone who has posted an interest in the canal will be participating in the summer's activities. For example, there will be paddling opportunities tomorrow, July 26, 2003. *


If you come at high tide, there is generally less odor. Most importantly, the canal is teeming with wildlife including crabs.

July 25th, 2003, 07:51 PM
I'm glad for the efforts to repair 100 years of abuse.
I was looking for The Tick Man to inquire about dredging, but he is out in the field. As I understand it, the USACE and DEP study is for environmental restoration. Any dredging would be done to remove contaminants, not deepen the channel.
The preferred method would be to leave the material in place
and use other means. If sediment removal is necessary, the bulkheads would need to be repaired.

August 21st, 2003, 04:34 PM
In order to truly harness the potential of the Gowanus Canal, deepening the channel and disposing or recycling the silt is the most practical solution. It would make commercial navigation of the Gowanus easier for the tugs and barges that still navigate the canal to the existing industries. Deepening the channel would also attract new waterborne industries to the canal, such as water taxis, ferries, and other maritime uses. New York City could use more maritime jobs-or for that matter-just jobs!!

1) The three companies that have facilities on the Canal should pressure the city and the USACE for dredging to the end at the pumping station.

2) Concurrently, the EDC should take the lead in soliciting interest industries that could relocate their operations to the canal. This would allow companies that rely on trucks to switch at least some of their modes of transporting/receiving goods from land to water. Types of industries include water taxis/ferries, scrap, concrete, and other bulk cargoes.

3) The city should provide a variety of incentives, including tax breaks, to companies relocating to the Gowanus Canal area.

4) I do not see cafes, eateries, shops, and other purely service sector industries as productively harnessing the canal itself. How many shops and eateries does NYC need? A sane and rational economy should be based on the productive assets of the city (and for that matter the nation), with the service/tourist industry as complimentary to the finance and industrial sectors that should be in the lead.

August 21st, 2003, 07:07 PM
Sorry, I lost track of this thread, but I did speak to the USACE field engineer about 10 days ago, and he verified what I posted *above. If contaminated material is dredged, it must be properly disposed of. Dredging will only be done as a last resort.

August 21st, 2003, 08:06 PM
As I had stated previously, dredging should be performed as primary option for solving the pollution and navigation problems of the Gowanus Canal. Naturally environmentally safe disposal of the silt would have to be looked into.

By the way, which individual at the USACE did you contact about this issue? I'd be curious to speak or call him/her.

Thanks! :)

August 21st, 2003, 09:59 PM
I haven't contacted anyone at USACE. A friend of mine, Steve that I've mentioned in this thread, works for them. *He is not on the Gowanus project, but I've asked him for info on various projects. *He had no access to data on Gowanus, but he said the general direction of a study of this type is to find the least disruptive method of cleanup.

So hope for the worst. :)

If you want to contact someone officially, the project manager is:

Thomas Shea
26 Federal Plaza
email: thomas.shea@usace.army.mil

August 22nd, 2003, 09:44 PM
Thanks!! :)

July 17th, 2006, 02:54 PM
From the New York Post (http://www.nypost.com/news/regionalnews/saving_the_gowanus_regionalnews_rich_calder.htm)



July 17, 2006 -- One smells like fresh-cut grass and the other like an open sewer, but now Central Park, that breathtaking urban oasis, and the long-polluted Gowanus Canal have something in common - their own conservancies.

Activists in southwest Brooklyn recently announced the creation of the Gowanus Canal Conservancy in hopes of ensuring a brighter future for an industrial waterway once dubbed Lavender Lake - for its chemically altered hue.

"Everybody agrees the canal has to be cleaned," said Thomas Chardavoyne, head of the nonprofit Gowanus Canal Community Development Corp., which formed the conservancy. The group will raise money and seek volunteers to convert the canal - which opened in 1866 and was once hailed as one of the world's most important waterways - for dual recreational and industrial use.

Copyright 2006 NYP Holdings, Inc.

April 8th, 2007, 12:18 AM
Fume-Free (for Now) and Looking to the Future

Published: April 8, 2007

TEN years ago, the idea of worrying about the future of the land around the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn would have seemed a little strange, especially in hot weather. An underground tunnel designed to circulate the canal’s water had been out of service for decades, and as a result, sewage from nearby houses and storm drains overflowed regularly into the canal, emitting a formidable stench.

“There are so many possibilities,” a community leader says of
the Gowanus Canal area.

The sewage overflows continue, but with the tunnel reopened since 1999, the water circulates better — at least for the moment. The gradual return of fish and birds to the canal has enticed widely known developers like Shaya Boymelgreen and the Pennsylvania-based Toll Brothers, drawn to the neighborhood’s proximity to Park Slope and Carroll Gardens. These developers have proposed projects that could involve rezoning parts of Gowanus and adding hundreds if not thousands of residents to the area.

In response, staff members of the Department of City Planning are meeting this month and next with the local community board to evaluate the neighborhood’s needs and chart its future. Their goal is a framework for land use decisions that could allow manufacturing and residential development to coexist and maybe even open up some recreational space.

“There are so many possibilities that people have let their imaginations run wild, and that’s a good thing,” said Craig Hammerman, district manager of the local Community Board 6. “We just have to make sure that we can tether the possibilities to probabilities that are out there.”

Marlene Donnelly, a member of Friends and Residents of Greater Gowanus, a neighborhood group, says her organization’s priority is addressing the persistent drainage problems.

“At the end of our block, we had one of the sewer caps geyser about 10 feet up in the air during one rainstorm,” Ms. Donnelly said the other day. “People have permanently installed pipes to pump the combined sewer flow out of their houses.”

New construction can aggravate the situation, she says, especially when it involves new paving, which creates more runoff.

The area faces other challenges, Mr. Hammerman says: Because of its 200-year history as an industrial zone, no one fully understands how many contaminated lots there are in the area, although they definitely include the 11-acre property west of the canal known as the Public Place. Both Mr. Boymelgreen and the Toll Brothers applied to have their projects made part of the state’s brownfield cleanup program; the Toll brothers withdrew their application this year.

In addition, sometime in the next few months, the city plans to shut the flushing tunnel for 18 months of repairs, and that could bring back the smell of the bad old days.

Members of the Southwest Brooklyn Industrial Development Corporation, a business advocacy group, are taking part in the meetings with city planners, lobbying for the area to remain one of the city’s last industrial zones. Phaedra Thomas, the group’s executive director, says, however, that she is open to a mix of light industry and residential use in some areas where residential construction is inevitable.

Still, Rachael Dubin, the group’s policy and planning manager, worries that even discussing land use can fuel speculation. “As soon as you start talking about Gowanus as that neighborhood sandwiched between the brownstone communities, as soon as you put it in the framework, it really becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy,” she said.

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

April 8th, 2007, 08:06 AM
Rachael Dubin, the group’s policy and planning manager, worries that even discussing land use can fuel speculation. “As soon as you start talking about Gowanus as that neighborhood sandwiched between the brownstone communities, as soon as you put it in the framework, it really becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy,” she said.
So ... go with the flow.

July 18th, 2007, 09:59 PM
This could be NY's venice - esplanade, shops, apartments, etc. *It would be great. *I'm not saying trash businesses, but if it's mostly derelict, it should be done. *Also, there should be a design comp to design the entire area - using only modern, glass-based architecture. *Make it a symbol of redevelopment, of taking back our waterways, and of cutting edge architecture and design. *

They have been talking about fixing it up like this, any news?

You know what I'm wondering... Brooklyn is a place for the strong and it should belong to people who love it...period... If you're the kind of person who has to change it and make it like some other bourgoise American city, in which there are endless amounts of, move out or better yet... don't come here at all and expect to alter it to suit your tastes! Real Brooklynites don't even notice what everyone from out of town is complaining about, I know because I grew up here and frankly... vacant lots...empty buildings... and stinky canals are just something we're used to! Personally, I'll take the colorful palette complete with one of a kind people as opposed to the pre fab ultra mod society intended only for the weakest of people who can't handle a little bit of real life and must block it entirely from their psyche. Not only that, when the waterways DID belong to someone, it was the industries that our very communities were built on that were sold out to other nations for cheeper labor so you tell me what those derelict empty factories mean! Without those, a good portion of the city would have NEVER come into existence and when they went that's when most of the people went. Talk about being chewed up, spit out, and then laughed at! Dumped and then pushed out like garbage. Before the industries, I don't think the waterways were exactly glistening streams for fairy boat rides off into the sunshine sipping pino grigio, if anything they were a way of life, I'm sure also the main exit for raw sewage and source of dinner. Stick together people! Keep Brooklyn clean and beautiful, keep Manhattan out and most of all... keep it real and tell it like is. Lachayin!

July 22nd, 2007, 03:24 PM
As romantic as your argument may be, ladybean, empty lots and vacant buildings don't pay for schools, sewers, and subways.

The factories weren't kicked out in the old days so much as driven overseas by the insane demands of the corrupt unions. Believe me, I grew up in a former mill town, and we would've given an arm and a leg to keep the factories, but they left anyways, so you can't really blame city policy.
New York is better for it anyway...there's less pollution and newer, cleaner, high-tech businesses have taken over.

The industrial pollution isn't just a problem of looks, either--leukemia and asthma don't afflict only the "weak" while leaving the "strong" intact.

July 22nd, 2007, 04:47 PM
I say they turn the Gowanus into a luxury gated community with private access to the ocean and walled off compounds.

Just to piss off LadyBean :P

July 22nd, 2007, 09:50 PM
... factories weren't kicked out in the old days so much as driven overseas by the insane demands of the corrupt unions ...

Uh oh...

Another "Unions Killed America" theorist ...

Sure some individual union leaders were corrupt and caused damage. But so were some bosses, and some politicians and police chiefs and on and on. As if it were the unions who caused the polluting of the Gowanus and Greenpoint and the Hudson River ...

In th ebigger picture business leaders (on both sides) played hardball and made decisions which in the long run were not good for the country and are coming back to haunt us now.

But unions also gave protections to their workers.

A prime example; Health Insurance. Without my union I would never be given health insurance by ANY provider. Ever hearrad of "denied due to pre-existing condition"? Well the insurance companies are broadening that term by the day. God forbid they should have to use some of the maoney that I, you, we pay them to actually provide medical coverage.

But because my union has a group plan I have health insurance (and it still ain't cheap).

Give me a country / state which allows workers the right to organize any day. When only the bosses make decisions the majority who work end up getting screwed.

July 22nd, 2007, 10:39 PM
^ So you're a union man, huh, lofter? Used to be a Teamster myself.

July 22nd, 2007, 11:36 PM
In fact I'm a Multi-Union Man (which is in many ways ridiculous -- but not much I can I do about that).

July 23rd, 2007, 12:11 AM
Shop steward.

July 26th, 2007, 07:51 PM
As romantic as your argument may be, ladybean, empty lots and vacant buildings don't pay for schools, sewers, and subways.

The factories weren't kicked out in the old days so much as driven overseas by the insane demands of the corrupt unions. Believe me, I grew up in a former mill town, and we would've given an arm and a leg to keep the factories, but they left anyways, so you can't really blame city policy.
New York is better for it anyway...there's less pollution and newer, cleaner, high-tech businesses have taken over.

The industrial pollution isn't just a problem of looks, either--leukemia and asthma don't afflict only the "weak" while leaving the "strong" intact.

I am not talking about pollution, I am talking about the lame efforts to revive a community that everyone turned a blind eye toward 20 years ago when there was no glimmer of hope. "Ford to City: Drop Dead" Remember those days? Where were all the urban renewalists and upper middle class do gooders then? Thriving in the sprawling suburbs with their tailored shopping centers that had once been farms. My point, is that nothing being done to revitalize the hardest hit areas of the city actually benefit the true residents. Ask any burger flipper or midnight office maid how easy it is to get a job in a large glass office building where everyone who works there has a college degree and a long list of credentials. Ask them how great luxury living is when they can no longer afford to live there because of the rent increases and are forced to move to places like Pennsylvania, I am sure they aren't thrilled about their improved neighborhoods that include everyone but them; as poor uneducated ghetto dwellers. It's not as simple as the idealists from communities with a head start think it may be to just get up and start over in a society that locks them out with so many complicated rules and minimums. And by the way... how do art galleries, overpriced kitschy Euro style cafes, and more absurdely overpriced luxury high rise apartments pay for the schools and sewers? They don't, they go into the fat deep pockets of the property owners and the usual will be returned to the city through taxes, taxes that skyrocketed so high that the people who once needed the improvements no longer need since they are gone. And anyway, where does someone who grew up in a small mill town get off having such political opinions about communities they know nothing of? There is another point made that you apparently did not want to see.

July 26th, 2007, 07:58 PM
I am not talking about pollution, I am talking about the lame efforts to revive a community that everyone turned a blind eye toward 20 years ago when there was no glimmer of hope..What do you propose be done with the canal?

July 26th, 2007, 08:17 PM
Shop steward.
Here... or in the union? ;)

July 26th, 2007, 08:42 PM
What do you propose be done with the canal?
Why is it so impossible to just clean it up? Healthier doesn't HAVE to mean restructuring the surrounding areas. Remove the trash and such... low crime shouldn't have to mean high rent either. There are options out there to make a median of the situation rather than jumping from one extreme to another. Clean isn't necessarily bad but when it means uprooting people to create some picturesque recreation place for other people... it makes you wonder if this is even about the environment or creating an oasis to get rich off of in a place where it's cheap to build it.

July 26th, 2007, 08:55 PM
creating an oasis to get rich off of in a place where it's cheap to build it.That's not true.

Building here will be expensive. Environmental remediation of the surrounding land will cost hundreds of millions.

July 26th, 2007, 09:35 PM
That's not true.

Building here will be expensive. Environmental remediation of the surrounding land will cost hundreds of millions.

I guess that is all the more proof of why the bankers expect to make a buck off the resulting project. Chances are they only want to spend that much to make it back, no one puts out that much effort in America, NY especially, unless they intend to get something in return.

July 26th, 2007, 09:53 PM
Sort of like how the canal was built. Sort of like how the neighborhood was built. Sort of like how NY was built.

Your posts are rambling and unfocused. What EXACTLY do you want to be done?

Just clean the canal? How does that get paid for?

Leave the surrounding land unused? That's a waste.

Park? Low income housing? Mixed use? What?

November 18th, 2007, 03:46 AM
Gowanus Canal

The Cleanup After the Cleanup

http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2007/11/18/nyregion/clea600.jpg Andrea Mohin/The New York Times
The famous smell still lingers, but plans are afoot to make it fainter.

Published: November 18, 2007

THE year 1999 seemed to mark the end of an era for the Gowanus Canal, and a smelly era it was. In summers past, said Craig Hammerman, the district manager of Community Board 6 in Brooklyn, “the odor would curl your toes.”
All that changed when the city replaced a long-broken propeller, flushing the canal with clean harbor water through an underwater tunnel. Within months, blue crabs and jellyfish arrived, the smell abated, and developers like Shaya Boymelgreen and the Pennsylvania-based Toll Brothers acquired land near the banks.

But the canal has since undergone bout after bout of bad publicity. Neighbors have complained of geysers of water — the back flow when the canal floods — capable of lifting manhole covers on nearby streets. A group of biology students at the New York City College of Technology found gonorrhea in a water sample. And the canal’s smell, while weaker, is far from gone.

A new $125 million project, announced piecemeal over the last few months by the city’s Department of Environmental Protection, is designed to address these problems. Starting in July, the city will widen the tunnel that brings harbor water into the canal, and install three pumps to replace the propeller, which turned out to be inefficient and prone to corrosion.

The city will also redirect to a treatment plant about 120 million of the roughly 370 million gallons of sewer overflow dumped in the canal every year. Ten to 20 percent of that mixture is untreated sewage.

Some parts of the project, such as the tunnel widening and pump installation, will be completed by 2012; for other parts, no date has been set. But when the project is finished, nearly all the canal water should contain enough dissolved oxygen to allow fish to breed, which is a key measure of cleanliness.

“Our intention in 1999 was just to reduce that smell,” said Kevin Clarke, an official of the environmental agency. “By that measure, we’ve been successful. But now we’re giving it a tweak.”

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company.

November 18th, 2007, 03:57 AM
“Our intention in 1999 was just to reduce that smell,” said Kevin Clarke, an official of the environmental agency. “By that measure, we’ve been successful. But now we’re giving it a tweak.”

The city will also redirect to a treatment plant about 120 million of the roughly 370 million gallons of sewer overflow dumped in the canal every year. Ten to 20 percent of that mixture is untreated sewage.

What an improvement.

1999 to 2012. Thirteen years, and the flow of s**t into the canal is reduced to only 250 million gallons a year.

Some improvement.

Why is this thread in "New York City Guide for Visitors"?

I would think this is the last thing visitors would like to read about.

March 1st, 2008, 07:09 AM
February 29, 2008

Gowanus as a National Historic Landmark? (http://www.brownstoner.com/brownstoner/archives/2008/02/gowanus_as_a_na.php)


Grand Central Terminal (http://tps.cr.nps.gov/nhl/detail2.cfm?ResourceId=1549&Date=&Ownership=Private&priorityname=&ResourceType=Building). The Brooklyn Bridge (http://tps.cr.nps.gov/nhl/detail2.cfm?ResourceId=376&Date=&Ownership=PublicLocal&priorityname=&ResourceType=Structure). The Woolworth Building (http://tps.cr.nps.gov/nhl/detail2.cfm?ResourceId=398&Date=&Ownership=Private&priorityname=&ResourceType=Building). The Gowanus Canal. Which of these does not belong? Yep, that's right, it's the Brooklyn Bridge. No, just kidding, it's actually the Gowanus Canal, the only one that hasn't been named a National Historic Landmark (http://www.nps.gov/nr/)...yet. The Gowanus

Canal Conservancy is currently spearheading a drive to get the canal named a national historic landmark district, a designation that could be a "useful tool" in terms of getting funding for the canal's cleanup, according to Bob Zuckerman, the GCC's executive director. "Right smack in the middle of brownstone Brooklyn, the canal has a history all its own," says Zuckerman, noting that the transformation of the Gowanus from a series of creeks to its role in aiding industry make the waterway historically significant. Zuckerman says there's precedent for a canal being designated a national historic landmark district: The Erie and Ohio Canal (http://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/ohioeriecanal/introduction.htm) is one, for example. The proposed district will include the canal, the Gowanus pumping station and flushing tunnel, the Carroll Street Bridge (which is already a city landmark (http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=950DE6D6173CF932A15756C0A96F9482 60)), as well as five buildings along the Gowanus. A Pratt student and former GCC intern is now preparing a report about the hoped-for landmark status, and Zuckerman says the conservancy will begin making moves to get the district recognized in the coming months.

Posted by Gabby (http://www.brownstoner.com/profile/Gabby) at 9:30 AM (http://www.brownstoner.com/brownstoner/archives/2008/02/gowanus_as_a_na.php) | Comments (23) (http://www.brownstoner.com/brownstoner/archives/2008/02/gowanus_as_a_na.php?comments=10#comments)
Categories: Gowanus (http://www.brownstoner.com/brownstoner/archives/gowanus/), Historic District (http://www.brownstoner.com/brownstoner/archives/historic_district/)

Copyright 2008 The New York Observer.

March 5th, 2008, 06:12 AM
Not In Our Back Canal!
Residents Hear Out Toll Brothers on Gowanus Project

byLysandra Ohrstrom (http://www.observer.com/2007/author/lysandra-ohrstrom)
March 4, 2008

The vice president of Toll Brothers David Von Spreckelsen and another company representative (http://www.brownstoner.com/brownstoner/archives/2008/03/meeting_on_toll.php#comments) unexpectedly appeared at a neighborhood meeting in Gowanus, Brooklyn, last night to defend the 575-unit residential project the builders plan to develop along the polluted canal.

Friends of Bond Street organized the meeting to rally public opposition to Toll Brothers' planned development before the public scope hearing takes place next week.

At last night’s meeting, Toll Brothers revealed that it would not close on the two plots it intended to build on until its application for residential land use is approved ahead of the wider rezoning planned for the entire Gowanus Canal area.

Brooklyn Planning Director Purnima Kapurtold the Gowanus Lounge blog (http://gowanuslounge.blogspot.com/2008/03/gowanus-rezoning-proposal-by-late.html#links) that a rezoning draft plan for the entire area should be ready by late spring or early summer.

Carrol Gardens residents are concerned about the impact both the Toll Brothers' project and the residential rezoning will have on the already overcrowded subway system, local retail, and the overtaxed sewage system.

Toll Brothers did allay concerns about cleaning up the oil spill, Brownstoner reported. "We would not be able to sell one condo at this site unless we properly remediated it," Mr. Von Spreckelsen told the meeting.

Queens Councilman Tony Avella, who heads the Zoning and Franchises Committee, also showed up last night and told The Observer this afternoon that he expects City Council to approve Toll Brothers' land use request.

“Unfortunately the Council has been very friendly to developers,” Mr. Avella said. “The real estate community controls what’s going on in the city and what’s on the Council’s agenda. I believe that the people should have a greater say in what happens with their community... The present system works from the top down.”

Copyright 2008 The New York Observer.

March 30th, 2008, 05:13 AM
March 28, 2008

Click link for renderings.

Reps From Toll Brothers Detail Big Gowanus Development (http://www.brownstoner.com/brownstoner/archives/2008/03/reps_from_toll.php)

Last night representatives from the Toll Brothers made a presentation to Community Board 6 about the company’s proposal to build a large development (http://www.brownstoner.com/brownstoner/archives/2008/02/toll_brothers_g.php) next to the Gowanus Canal. About 45 people showed up to the meeting, and there was a notable lack of vitriol towards a project that’s stirred quite a bit of controversy (http://www.brownstoner.com/brownstoner/archives/2008/03/meeting_on_toll.php) at other meetings. As one would expect—or at least hope—from a powerful national real estate firm, Toll’s presentation was polished and addressed many facets of the company’s plans, including the overall scope of the project and how the company intends to deal with environmental issues at the site. Some highlights:

Housing/Built Component: The multi-building, GreenbergFarrow-designed project between the canal, Bond Street, and Carroll and 2nd Street (http://www.brownstoner.com/brownstoner/archives/2008/02/a_look_at_what.php) will have 450 units, 30 percent of which Toll wants to set aside as affordable for residents earning only up to 60 percent of the area median income. The affordable component will be rental and L&M Equity (http://www.lmequity.com/) will oversee its development, not Toll. The remaining units will be condo, and at bare minimum will attain LEED certification. The affordable rentals will be clustered on the Bond Street side of the development. In terms of density, the project's buildings will get taller as they get closer to the canal, going from six stories near Bond to 12 stories near the canal. There will 268 parking spaces.

Environmental Concerns: An environmental consultant for Toll said the company’s done one Phase 1 environmental assessment and three separate Phase 2 assessments that included collecting 59 soil and groundwater samples. They found petroleum-related compounds and compounds typically associated with urban infill materials, but no evidence of a large plume of oil. The remediation of the property will involve soil removal and capping. Toll VP David Von Spreckelsen noted that bringing residents to the edge of the canal would also likely have a positive effect on cleanup of the waterway.

Park Area: In addition to building two residential courtyards and planting trees around the entire development, landscape architect Lee Weintraub has designed a public park space next to the canal. It is unclear whether Toll or the Parks Dept. will be in charge of maintaining the space. Weintraub said the park will “be more than just an esplanade.”

Rezoning: Toll’s development, which conforms to the specs City Planning has generated in its preliminary framework for rezoning the Gowanus corridor, needs to go through ULURP since it leapfrogs the wider rezoning. “We don’t know what the timeframe is on the rezoning,” said Von Spreckelsen. “We’re concerned that an area-wide rezoning might not happen in this administration and that with a new administration there might not be as much impetus to rezone.”

Reactions: Although commentary from those in attendance last night was largely civil, there were a lot of questions and concerns raised about exactly how the site’s remediation will occur and how the development will affect infrastructure, such as the sewer system. Meanwhile, Councilmember Bill de Blasio said “we have to think” about whether allowing the project to jump ahead of the larger rezoning “is the right thing to do.”

Copyright 2008 Brownstoner.

March 30th, 2008, 05:20 AM

Do you think this thread should be moved to the Brooklyn section?

It's not really for visitors.

April 22nd, 2008, 05:47 AM
Monday, April 21, 2008

Gowanus Rising: New Development, Rezoning & Other Issues

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3230/2430421592_04285e697f_o.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/38117599@N00/2430421592/)

It's been an eventful, if not tumultuous month or two, for the Gowanus Canal and Gowanus. Last week, the Hudson Companies was picked to develop (http://gowanuslounge.blogspot.com/2008/04/breaking-hudson-companies-to-develop.html) the polluted Public Place site. Earlier, Toll Brothers unveiled their plan (http://gowanuslounge.blogspot.com/2008/03/toll-brothers-gowanus-project-fully.html) for a big Gowanus development and their intention to leapfrog the city planning process. A new gallery (http://gowanuslounge.blogspot.com/2008/03/gowanus-gallery-opens-with-coney-show.html) opened on Bond Street a couple of weeks ago and the Brooklyn Center for the Urban Environment unveiled its new headquarters (http://gowanuslounge.blogspot.com/2008/04/pm-update-bcues-cool-new-green-gowanus.html) on Seventh Street on Friday. Then, there is the Gowanus Hotel District, fully chronicled and mapped out (http://www.brownstoner.com/brownstoner/archives/2008/03/another_gowanus_1.php) by Brownstoner. And, there is more in the pipeline, with major properties on the market for tens of millions of dollars.

When we spoke with him last week, Council Member Bill de Blasio said he was confident that some of the big developments on the drawing board--like the Toll Brothers and Gowanus Green projects--could go forward. "The odds are still good for them," he said. "This particular area is so appealing on so many levels." He said that Public Place enjoys the "advantage of publicly-owned land" and that it would spark a "cleanup waiting for decades to happen." As for the Toll Brothers, who seek to circumvent the ongoing zoning process, he said, "the jury is still out on whether they should be able to move forward" ahead of the overall zoning. He said the project had "some good elements" including the level of affordable housing and public space that it offers.

On the topic of the polluted canal itself, which will be the subject of a cleanup effort over the next decade, Mr. de Blasio said he believes "the best way to get the canal clean is to create a residential area around it" and, therefore, a constituency for faster action on a cleanup. Mr. de Blasio, whose support would be crucial for the success of the city's Gowanus rezoning, said that he is "comfortable with the framework as a starting point for discussion." The framework calls for buildings up to 10-14 stories tall on the canal as well as for affordable housing and public space requirements. He has called for the upzoning to be linked to a downzoning of Carroll Gardens. The city has refused to commit to a timetable for the latter. "The burden is on City Planning to make them correlate," he said. "I would be shocked if the whole upzoning would fail because they won't move a downzoning." Mr. de Blasio added that "I can't support a rezoning unless that downzoning is garuanteed." He did say, however, that the two wouldn't necessarily have to happen at the same time.

http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2231/2429609807_913dd49653_o.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/38117599@N00/2429609807/)

http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2202/2430421904_123273ef6f_o.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/38117599@N00/2430421904/)

http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2272/2429609763_f14ea5e594_o.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/38117599@N00/2429609763/)

posted by rsguskind at 9:00 AM (http://gowanuslounge.blogspot.com/2008/04/gowanus-rising-new-development-rezoning.html)

Copyright 2008 The Gowanus Lounge.

April 9th, 2009, 06:08 PM


Last updated: 2:45 am
April 9, 2009
Posted: 2:38 am
April 9, 2009

The feds say Brooklyn's Gowanus Canal is so contaminated they plan to declare it a Superfund site -- a move that some critics said would only delay plans to build luxury housing along the toxic canal's banks.

The Environmental Protection Agency (http://www.nypost.com/topics/topic.php?t=Environmental_Protection Agency) confirmed yesterday that it wants to add the 1.8-mile canal -- once dubbed "Lavender Lake" for its purplish chemical hue -- to the Superfund's National Priorities List, so it could begin investigating the cause of the contamination and determine how best to deal with it.

"The sooner we get the listing under way, the sooner EPA can begin its work, so that one day the Gowanus Canal can be used again to benefit the people of Brooklyn," said the agency's acting regional administrator, George Pavlou.

But Carroll Gardens activist Buddy Scotto, leader of an at-times successful effort to clean up the canal for decades, said the EPA's decision stinks.

He said all the designation "would do is tie up development projects off the shore," such as a luxury condo and townhouse project planned by the Toll Brothers developers.

"There's no question the canal is clean enough now to support development," Scotto said.

"This is all political because someone has decided they don't want to see development near the canal, but it doesn't make sense. How can anyone try to kill these projects during such a poor economic climate?"

The project by Toll Brothers calls for 130 of the 577 units to be marketed to low- to middle-income households near Bond, Carroll and Second streets, and the rest would go for market rate.

Other developments planned for the area around the canal include a 68,000-square-foot Whole Foods superstore on Third Street.

Normally, polluters are required to pay for cleanups after completion of an EPA Superfund review, but in the case of the canal, much of the contamination occurred well over a century ago. In these situations, federal dollars are used to pay for a cleanup.

rich.calder@nypost.com (rich.calder@nypost.com)


Copyright 2009 NYP Holdings, Inc.

April 24th, 2009, 02:38 PM
On the Gowanus Canal, Fear of Superfund Stigma

April 23, 2009

Andrea Mohin/The New York Times
Pollutants in the Gowanus Canal include pesticides, heavy metals and carcinogens like PCBs.

By MIREYA NAVARRO (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/n/mireya_navarro/index.html?inline=nyt-per)

The New York Times
Two housing developments are planned along the canal.

On a warm Saturday morning, Jose Ilarraza stood by the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn watching two yellow cranes on the other side digging into mountains of scrap metal and dumping it onto a barge.

While Mr. Ilarraza, a 40-year-old school custodian, said he likes to spend time by the canal, fishing for striped bass near its mouth in Gowanus Bay and enjoying “the nice breeze,” he never eats his catch.

“There’s a lot of garbage,” said Mr. Ilarraza, a longtime Brooklyn resident.“You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to know that.” The “garbage” in and along the mile-and-a-half-long canal includes pesticides, heavy metals and carcinogens like PCBs from more than a century’s worth of industrial activity. This month, the Environmental Protection Agency said that the contamination posed a public health hazard and proposed to add the Gowanus to the National Priorities List of its Superfund program, an effort to investigate and clean up the country’s most hazardous waste sites.

Yet the proposal for a comprehensive cleanup, on which the agency is seeking public comment until June 6, is pitting federal and state officials against the Bloomberg administration and neighbor against neighbor.

City officials and many residents fear that the Superfund label, reserved for the worst contamination in the country and evoking health emergencies like the Love Canal debacle of the 1970s, could deter new development in Gowanus, Carroll Gardens and Red Hook.

City officials said that the listing could jeopardize more than $500 million committed to the waterfront for two private projects involving more than 1,200 housing units.

Experts on contaminated sites said that a Superfund listing typically stirs contradictory emotions. On one hand, some people who live nearby may feel demoralized or frightened by the finding of serious contamination and worry about its impact on real estate values; on the other, some are often relieved to get a firm commitment to clean up the toxic substances in their midst.

“It’s very common to have the division between those who see it as terrible and those who see it as an opportunity,” said Kris Wernstedt, an associate professor of urban affairs and planning at Virginia Tech’s Alexandria campus who specializes in Superfund and brownfield issues.

Studies have shown that property values decline after a Superfund listing but rebound after the cleanup, sometimes to far higher levels, he said.
The proposed designation has put Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who has championed a greener New York, in the odd position of opposing the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, which requested the Superfund listing for the canal.

City environmental officials say they would welcome a cleanup, but not the stigma of a Superfund designation, which authorizes federal officials to pursue parties responsible for the pollution, and have them pay for the removal of hazards. They object to that process because it can extend the cleanup period into decades.

They also argued that the Superfund designation would give the Environmental Protection Agency veto power over the city’s own Gowanus plans, including rezoning 25 blocks of industrial land to allow for residential and commercial development and spending $175 million to diminish odors and prevent sewage discharges that have contributed to the canal’s pollution.

“Everything would have to be looked at fresh,” Daniel Walsh, director of the mayor’s Office of Environmental Remediation, said of a Superfund designation. “There’s no way to predict what would happen.”

The mayor has linked economic development and environmentalism in his vision for the city, as he did with his plan to clean up moderately contaminated parcels known as brownfields. (The City Council voted on Wednesday to authorize the brownfields program, which is not linked to the Gowanus dispute.)

But some officials and neighbors who favor the Superfund designation accused Mr. Bloomberg of putting development ahead of the environment in a mayoral election year.

“It’d be nice to point at the housing units the developers would build” in a mayoral campaign, said Representative Nydia M. Velázquez, a Democrat whose district includes the area and who held a meeting about the Superfund program for local residents last week. “But with the type of contamination that exists and the offer from the federal government, to say they oppose it and to go with a piecemeal approach is beyond me.”

The city countered that it was seeking faster solutions from the Environmental Protection Agency than the Superfund would provide, like voluntary cleanups by polluters.

“We don’t think about development in any capacity without thinking about environmental impact,” Robert C. Lieber, the deputy mayor for economic development, said in a statement. “Our chief concern with a Superfund designation is that it would delay a comprehensive cleanup.”

But Environmental Protection Agency officials said that a voluntary approach could allow polluters to evade their obligations. Walter Mugdan, director of the Superfund Division for the New York region, also said that while it was too early to say how long the federal cleanup would take or how much it would cost, he did not expect it to interfere with the city’s current plans.

Pete Grannis, the commissioner of the State Department of Environmental Conservation, said his agency had asked for the Superfund listing because the state lacked the resources to clean up the canal.

“Everybody agrees on the need for this cleanup, and the stars are aligned with the E.P.A.’s interest in getting involved,” he said. “The faster this is cleaned up, the better it is for any development plans.”

But at least one housing developer, Toll Brothers, has threatened to scrap its building plans if the Superfund designation goes through. Like other real estate companies, it already faces the challenge of a depressed housing market. Ethan Geto, a Toll Brothers spokesman, said a Superfund listing could torpedo its plan for a complex of 460 housing units on three acres by the canal.

“To market residential units at a Superfund site is virtually impossible,” he said.

The mixed emotions about the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal were evident at the meeting organized by Ms. Velázquez last week. Many residents sided with the city and expressed concern about a drop in property values and the loss of jobs if the planned projects were scuttled.

The main concern for many other residents who were at the hearing, though, is getting rid of the contamination, not what the cleanup is called or the development it could delay.

“If there’s any kind of flooding, these contaminants will be in people’s backyards and homes,” said Steven Miller, 47, a filmmaker who lives about 100 yards from the canal, in Carroll Gardens.

“Simply saying there’s millions of dollars of private money really is a separate issue than any cleanup of the canal. I’d love to see low-income housing and expensive housing for rich people, but I don’t see how that works without a thorough cleanup.”

Copyright 2009 (http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/copyright.html) The New York Times Company (http://www.nytco.com/)


April 25th, 2009, 11:14 AM
The statement made by Toll is one of the most exemplary of how ethicless and money-hungry biased NYC developers are. One thing is to brush aestehics aside from buildings and made them visually prosaic and for the most part funnel out architectural character of the city since the 50's --which has been NYC-developers favorite way to make the world a less pleasant place for New Yorkers and its visitors as a whole. Its hard to argue that position sometimes because it is not like they are killing anybody...

But it is a complete other thing to disregard health issues associated with a site that is completely polluted and resist corrective actions for the sake of your bottomline (you know that Toll is getting involved with someone to dissuade them making this a superfund site). They are willing to build housing in the midst of a toxic sludge and risk never getting the area properly cleaned up for the sake of "marketing residentials". What an irresponsible position to take.

I understand that, unfortunately, you have to get the "stakeholders" (developers and homeowners alike) involved in these types of things, but $$$ can be a potent hallucogenic for those who are suceptible. And under the prospect of several million dollars in profits doses the most logical and obvious decision will not get the adequate cognitive effort; and it will be OK to build residental housing near a toxic waste site and risk chronic long term exposure of God knows what.

Considering all that we know today about eviromental pollutants their toxicology profiles it really makes the people who are against this is position really appaling. And in this case they are risking killing someone.

April 25th, 2009, 01:48 PM
i really dont understand Toll Brother's logic... are they saying its hard to market because there is a negative stigma associated with a "superfund" site? as opposed to being on the banks of nyc's most polluted water way? :confused:

April 25th, 2009, 02:56 PM
Maybe Toll Brothers was thinking of this:

They also argued that the Superfund designation would give the Environmental Protection Agency veto power over the city’s own Gowanus plans, including rezoning 25 blocks of industrial land to allow for residential and commercial development and spending $175 million to diminish odors and prevent sewage discharges that have contributed to the canal’s pollution.The relatively easy part is cleaning the canal so the area looks better and doesn't stink. You pronounce the site environmentally remediated, and start building. Most people won't know.

Designate it a Superfund site, and it has to be really cleaned.


Do you think this thread should be moved to the Brooklyn section?

It's not really for visitors.Next time you get a good idea and we ignore it, send us a PM. It's like a rubber mallet - doesn't hurt but gets our attention.

I think it belongs in the "Guide for New Yorkers" though, since it's infrastructure.

October 2nd, 2009, 09:55 PM
Feds want to turn Newton Creek into Superfund site

BY Erin Durkin

October 2nd 2009

Unlike the Gowanus, there aren't any housing developers wanting to build
around Newtown Creek who might get scared away by a Superfund designation.

Newton Creek flows westward into the East River.

The federal government wants to make the polluted Newtown Creek a Superfund site - and it could have smoother sailing than a controversial plan to add the Gowanus Canal to the list of tainted locations.

Mayor Bloomberg has made it a top priority to scuttle Superfund designation for the Gowanus. In an unusual move, the mayor personally called EPA administrator Lisa Jackson last week to lobby against the Gowanus designation.

A Superfund listing "would be a nightmare," said Bloomberg, who is pushing a city plan to clean up the grimy canal.

"Better we can find developers that can put the money in and pay for the cleanup right now because they will get a benefit of being able to develop the land around there," the mayor added.

Superfund booster Marlene Donnelly of the group Friends and Residents of Greater Gowanus shot back that "the mayor shouldn't be sticking his nose into that agency."

"It's not a political decision, it's a scientific decision," she said. "Now the mayor is turning around and insisting it become a political decision. That's not right."

But Superfund director Walter Mugdan said the city hasn't asked federal officials to scrap listing Newtown Creek as a Superfund site.

"There certainly hasn't been any [opposition] as yet from the City of New York," he said. "At the moment, it appears to generate a little less concern than the Gowanus Canal proposed listing did."

Bloomberg spokesman Mark LaVorgna would only say that the federal proposal was being reviewed by city officials.

Unlike the Gowanus, there aren't any housing developers wanting to build around Newtown Creek who might get scared away by a Superfund designation.

"There's [only] zoned commercial area surrounding the creek, which is much less valuable than the residential property around Gowanus," said Newtown Creek Alliance board member Evan Thies.

Local elected officials - including Reps. Nydia Velazquez (D-Brooklyn), Anthony Weiner (D-Brooklyn,Queens), and Councilman Eric Gioia (D-Sunnyside) - have long pushed the feds to do a Superfund cleanup at the creek.

EPA investigators found high levels of PCBs and toxic metals in the creek, which is also the site of a massive Exxon oil spill.

"Newtown Creek is one of the most grossly contaminated waterways in the country," said acting EPA Regional Administrator George Pavlou.

http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/brooklyn/2009/10/02/2009-10-02_feds_want_to_turn_newton_creek_into_superfund_s ite_but_mayor_bloomberg_wants_cit.html

October 22nd, 2009, 07:23 AM
On the Waterfront


An evening view from the Union Street Bridge.


1. Gowanus Canal condo or rental building (360 proposed units).
2. Satori condos (34 existing units).
3. Toll Brothers condos and town houses (450 proposed units).
4. Gowanus Green mixed-use complex (770 proposed units).
5. Whole Foods store (proposed).

THE GOWANUS CANAL runs one and a half miles through brownstone Brooklyn, cutting a disreputable gash between two of the most desirable residential neighborhoods in New York City. Sunken below street level, no more than 100 feet across at most points, the canal does not really flow — it skulks. On sunny days, its waters take a greenish hue and are clear enough to afford glimpses of rotting bulkhead timbers, mud-caked tires and other submerged detritus. When it’s overcast, the water turns an inert gray. In the lawless old days, industries along the canal’s banks fouled it with all kinds of pollution. Today, the canal is mostly disused, a corridor of warehouses and razor wire, and the most enduring reminders of its colorful past emanate from several underground deposits of coal tar, which belch up oily bubbles. The residue forms a prismatic sheen on the canal’s surface, reflecting shimmering visions of the landscape.

Created in the mid-19th century out of a tidal creek named for an Indian headman, the Gowanus long resisted attempts at reformation, in sluggish defiance of generations of city planners, civic do-gooders, editorialists and speculators. But over the past decade, the government has cleaned up the water a bit, allowing the canal to be recolonized by some hardier forms of natural life — shore crabs and cormorants, silvery bait fish — along with enterprising humans. First came the artists for the cheap studio space, then the hipsters for the decayed authenticity, and finally, in the inevitable progression, residential developers arrived.

The Bloomberg administration, sensing a chance for revitalization, rushed to rezone 25 blocks of the Gowanus area for nonindustrial uses, identifying more than 60 development sites with a potential to generate at least $500 million in tax revenue. It didn’t appear to be a deterrent that the canal was, quite literally, still something of a cesspool. New York is, after all, a city where people have proved themselves willing to live almost anywhere, where no location, be it smelly or notorious (think the meatpacking district or Hell’s Kitchen or Brooklyn’s Myrtle Avenue, formerly known as Murder Avenue), seems to be beyond the reach of gentrification. But the case of the Gowanus Canal has put that assumption to an extreme test. The redevelopment process was creeping forward when, in April, the federal Environmental Protection Agency announced that it was considering adding the Gowanus Canal to its Superfund cleanup program, which is reserved for the nation’s worst hazardous-waste sites. The move surprised and enraged city officials, who warn that the “stigma” of being included in the program could halt economic improvement indefinitely.

“What some people say is, ‘Well, everybody knows the Gowanus Canal is polluted,’ ” says Cas Holloway, a mayoral adviser. “That is true, but the Superfund designation, in itself, is an important signifier in the marketplace.”

As the environmental debate rages on, the Gowanus Canal has been left to wait on the verge of metamorphosis, no longer one thing but not yet another. “It’s this area of transition,” a real estate broker named William Duke told me recently. It was a warm weekday evening in September, and we were standing at the trash-strewn terminus of a street that dead-ends into the waterway. “Between the old and the new, the natural world and the man-made world,” Duke went on. “It’s poetic.”

Duke is a canal enthusiast, a member of the small and quirky community that congregates around it, like so much flotsam, and a member of the Gowanus Dredgers Canoe Club. Once or twice a week, club members lend canoes to anyone willing to sign a liability waiver. Duke handed me and my sister, my canoeing companion, life jackets and paddles and helped us put into the water for an exploratory trip. High above us loomed a long-abandoned powerhouse for the old streetcar lines, now tagged with anticorporate slogans. A couple of years ago, it was taken over by squatting punks, who were rousted by foreign investors, including a diamond magnate close to Vladimir Putin. They announced plans to knock down the structure and replace it with Gowanus Village, a set of Brutalist-looking apartment buildings designed by a renowned architectural firm.

It was the same story everywhere along the canal: developers had come bearing watercolor renderings of an idealized blue waterway, flanked by condo buildings and walkways full of joggers and strollers. At Carroll Street, next to a landmarked retractile bridge, we saw a grove of poplars and an informal outdoor performance space that was slated to make way for a 450-unit complex of condominiums and town houses developed by Toll Brothers, the national luxury homebuilder. Farther along, past a string of moored boats of uncertain seaworthiness, there was another proposed residential development site. Doubling back to the canal’s south end, where there was a strong smell of petroleum, we paddled by a six-acre lot, owned by the city, that was intended for a 770-unit, mixed-income apartment complex, with an adjoining park, boathouse and waterside cafe. Then, near the Seussian pile of a scrap-metal yard, there was the coup de grâce of impending yuppification: a construction site that was supposed to become a Whole Foods.

All of these projects were proposed at the height of New York’s real estate boom, and nowadays, regardless of the outcome of the Superfund controversy, some of them look very much like the products of mania. But whether they actually come to fruition, the plans have already altered the canal’s identity, after decades of neglect, by making it into something valuable enough to fight over. Since the arrival of the developers, numerous competing interests have stepped forward to stake their own claims to what Bill Appel, the head of the Gowanus Canal Community Development Corporation, calls “a vast wasteland.” The urban homesteaders who have moved there want it to remain an eccentric hideaway; artists want to preserve its postapocalyptic look; a civic group, the Gowanus Canal Conservancy, proposes to create a public park atop an innovative filtration system that acts like an artificial wetland.

“A few years ago, if you said ‘Gowanus’ to people, it had a connotation of rundown, derelict, even toxic, space,” says Sharon Zukin, a sociology professor at Brooklyn College and author of the forthcoming book “Naked City: The Death and Life of Authentic Urban Places.” But in a city where industry is increasingly invisible, it’s perhaps only natural that the canal would come to be prized, precisely because it retains some qualities of a vanishing, unsterilized version of the city. “It goes back to an earlier period when Brooklyn was new,” Zukin said, “and it offers a path back to a time that we don’t know.”

IT WAS THE day before the September Democratic primary election in New York City, and Salvatore Scotto — known as Buddy to friends and foes alike — was in his natural element. Sitting in a small coffee shop on Court Street in Brooklyn, he greeted gray-haired men in Italian, reminding them to vote for his favorite City Council candidate and jovially pressing them to buy tickets to a community group’s fund-raiser. “The mayor is going to be there,” Scotto promised. “He’s going to tell us something about the Gowanus Canal.”

One of the city’s senior Gowanus enthusiasts, Scotto is a funeral-home proprietor and neighborhood politico, a cheerfully anachronistic clubhouse character. Scotto, who is 81, likes to call himself the mayor of the Gowanus Canal and takes credit — much of it deserved — for seeing the waterway’s potential when others simply held their noses. In an era before modern sanitation, the canal was designed to serve not only as a commercial port but also as a discharge point for the city’s sewer system. By the time Buddy Scotto’s grandfather arrived in Brooklyn in 1898, a public campaign against the canal’s revolting smell was already afoot, with some calling for the corridor to be closed down and filled in. Instead, the city built a tunnel that circulated water from New York Harbor through the canal. But that solution never completely worked, and when the tunnel broke down in the 1960s, no one bothered to fix it. “The stench was clear up to Court Street in the summertime,” Scotto recalled. How the canal started to get clean, as he tells it, is an ornate tale of vintage municipal intrigue: he got a new sewage treatment plant built through horse-trading with Nelson Rockefeller and extracted a promise of financing to restore the flushing tunnel from a congressman weakened by a sex scandal. Bureaucratic delays kept the tunnel work from being completed for years, but finally in 1999 it began pumping in hundreds of millions of gallons of harbor water.

By this time most waterfront industries had deserted the canal. Scotto had a model for its revival: the picturesque river that runs through San Antonio, which is lined by restaurants and hotels. And sure enough, once the flushing system began to dissipate the infamous odor, life began to stir. High-priced development was marching toward the canal in a pincer movement, from Carroll Gardens on one side and Park Slope on the other.

The 2006 announcement that Toll Brothers planned to build a $250 million residential complex on the canal marked a watershed moment. The publicly traded company was the quintessential suburban luxury brand, best known for its lavish estate homes. The idea that it would consider the Gowanus Canal a comfortable place to settle made Scotto feel vindicated. “I want that development badly,” he said. “I mean, getting Toll Brothers to prove that you can have people living on that canal!”

Other builders rushed to follow Toll Brothers’ slipstream. But local opposition materialized just as quickly. The divide was clannish: fixtures of the old Italian neighborhood were increasingly outnumbered by the artsy types who had gained a foothold along the canal and the professionals who had paid millions for town houses on the tree-lined (and now stink-free) streets nearby. Some critics objected to the scale of the project, others accused it of corporate blandness, but the chief rallying cry was environmental.

In March 2009, the City Council voted to let Toll Brothers proceed with its project, but within weeks the E.P.A. threw up a new obstacle: the proposed Superfund listing. Toll Brothers and the other developers recoiled in horror. “You can’t sell a condominium on a Superfund site,” says Robert Pascucci, whose construction company has tentative plans to build a 360-unit residential complex along the canal. To Scotto, it seemed that the E.P.A. was carelessly throwing a lifetime’s worth of work into doubt.

SINCE THE E.P.A.’S announcement, all the other issues surrounding the canal, including the city’s rezoning initiative, have been superseded by an argument over federal intervention. Superfund supporters say that the E.P.A.’s move confirmed what they always suspected: that the canal is too dangerous to develop. “It’s a swamp,” says Marlene Donnelly, an architectural designer and a leader of group called Friends and Residents of Greater Gowanus, or Frogg, which meets in the back of a wine store on fashionable Smith Street. “It’s not the place for this kind of development.”

There are multiple dimensions to the canal’s pollution problems. First there is the ongoing problem of the water. The city’s ancient sewer system runs both stormwater and household waste through the same overloaded pipes, and when it rains, some of the overflow is redirected into the canal; an estimated 300 million gallons of dirty water, including untreated sewage, flood into the Gowanus each year. Riverkeeper, the environmental advocacy group, has detected unsafe levels of pathogens in regular tests of the water. “There are extremely high concentrations of a lot of really, really nasty things,” says Joshua Verleun, a Riverkeeper staff lawyer.

That’s obviously not a selling point for real estate, and as part of its redevelopment efforts the city had already announced a $175 million plan to limit the sewer overflow. But that would do little to address an even nastier problem: the bottom of the canal, which hasn’t been extensively dredged since 1975 because of the complexity and expense involved in dumping the sediment. Core samples contain a horde of chemicals, some of them now banned, and heavy metals like lead, mercury and arsenic. Probably the most vexing contaminant is coal tar, a byproduct of a 19th-century process for manufacturing gas for lighting. There were once three gas plants along the Gowanus, and they left behind spreading subterranean lakes of ooze that have since seeped into the canal’s bed.

Walter Mugdan, the E.P.A. official who coordinates the Superfund program in New York, says that bringing the canal into the program is the best way to assure that it gets completely remediated. (When I asked him about the wisdom of canoeing the canal, he replied, “Try not to tip.”) The Bloomberg administration has vehemently opposed the proposal on grounds that the Superfund process is litigious and glacially slow, and it has proposed its own alternative plan that is tied to multiple, but uncertain, financing sources, including Congressional earmarks.

Toll Brothers has made it clear that if the designation is made, it will almost certainly walk away from the Gowanus Canal. “We’re talking decades” for a Superfund cleanup to be completed, says David Von Spreckelsen, the Toll Brothers executive leading the project. He says that existing city and state programs have already made great progress without hindering investment. “For a really valuable area in the heart of New York City, the heart of Brooklyn, is Superfund really the way we want to go?” Von Spreckelsen asks. “Because we’re writing it off for a really, really long time.”

Of course, there are plenty of other forces conspiring against development at the present moment. Like most homebuilders, Toll Brothers has been hit hard by the nationwide real estate collapse — it has reported $644 million in net losses so far this year — and some local observers wonder whether the economic impetus that drove the wave of investment in the Gowanus may have ebbed. For instance, despite price cuts, Satori, a high-profile 34-unit condominium development across the street from the canal, has recorded only 12 sales since it hit the market in the late summer of 2008, according to streeteasy.com. The developers who proposed Gowanus Village have already given up and put their land back on the market. As the final decision on Superfund listing sits with E.P.A. authorities in Washington, it looks increasingly likely that, for the immediate future, the canal will continue to belong to those who are already there — the pioneers.

“I think the economy has saved the artists,” says Joshua Marks, a sculptor who is a coordinator of a Gowanus studio tour, held every October, called Agast. The bohemians have been drawn to the canal by many of the very qualities that its self-appointed saviors hope to eliminate. They have shown an arch appreciation for its toxic reputation, making the Gowanus landscape into a subject of their work and finding inventive ways to reuse its rundown structures. A few years ago, a group of artists took over a decrepit World War II-era Navy rescue boat and turned it into a floating gallery space.

This summer, a company called Macro Sea set up some trash container bins on a parking lot, lined them with plastic, filled them with water and started a postindustrial pool club. One of the canal’s most distinctive sights is a pair of silo-shaped structures, former storage tanks that have been retrofitted as artist studios by a local investor and impresario named David Lefkowitz.

The past two years, Lefkowitz has teamed with a party promoter to put on summertime musical events next to the silos and the dock where he parks his motorboat.

If the canal’s recent history is a conflict between what is and what could be, Lefkowitz has a foot on each side of the transition. Practically, he’s a speculator, but temperamentally he’s an enthusiast. A ruddy man of diverse pursuits, he bought his land a decade ago, and he speaks about the waterway in almost mystical terms. “Even if the water was dirty, you could feel that magic,” he told me one recent afternoon, as he piloted his motorboat toward the Ninth Street Bridge. We passed a metal yard, where a massive crane was loading salvaged scraps onto a barge — a fine metaphor, Lefkowitz suggested. “It’s a miracle of rebecoming,” he told me. “What’s exciting to people is that they can stand there and fantasize about what it could become.”

The narrow corridor opened up into Gowanus Bay and then the bobbing expanse of New York Harbor. Lefkowitz explained why, after many years of trying out various enterprises, he finally agreed to sell his property to Toll Brothers, at a considerable price. “There is no other dream that makes sense,” he said. “The usage that’s coming is the usage of its time.”

As we headed back up the canal, we passed a group of teenagers hanging out at the end of a dead-end road, smoking something. “Where does this lead to?” one of them yelled across the dark green water.
Lefkowitz shouted back, “Heaven!”


November 10th, 2009, 05:21 AM
Twice as Smelly

Mayor wants to scrub Gowanus, avoiding Superfund listing

On October 9, from the banks of the Gowanus Canal, Mayor Michael Bloomberg unveiled a new, $150 million investment (http://archpaper.com/e-board_rev.asp?News_ID=3914) in the waterway's infrastructure. Except that it was not exactly new. Seven years prior, the mayor, then at the beginning of his first term, made a similar visit and a similar announcement. Only that investment never happened.

The 2002 cleanup was to bring the city in compliance with the Clean Water Act, which was being violated because during heavy rains, the sewer system would discharge raw sewage into the canal. By 2005, when the improvements still had not been made, the state filed a consent order compelling the city to come into compliance. But it was only this October that the mayor finally returned to the canal, though now for an entirely different reason, and one the new infrastructure would have little impact on: a proposal announced in April by the EPA to make the canal—one of the most polluted waterways in the city—into a Superfund site, a fate Bloomberg, with real estate interests in mind, greatly feared.

"This is the beginning of a comprehensive cleanup that will be done much faster than the years of fighting through the Superfund process," he declared.

That said, the promised improvements to sewage overflow have nothing to do with the toxic sediments in the canal that have caused the community so much concern, and which finally forced the EPA to take action.

Furthermore the city's own proposal to clean up those sediments, which was also unveiled last month, has been questioned by environmentalists, scientists, and even the Army Corps of Engineers, the city's partner in the program.

Joshua Verleun, a staff attorney for the environmental group Riverkeeper, noted that major wastewater treatment projects are always good news, "but to lump it in with Superfund is misleading—they're two different things," he said. "Both from a legal perspective and an advocacy perspective, Superfund really is the best way to clean up the canal and it's what the people in the community want and deserve."

The mayor was steadfast in maintaining that his plan had more money and would be more efficient. "There is no Superfund, it's a misnomer," he said.

But according to the EPA, its Superfund remediation budget is in excess of $1 billion every year. Region 2, which covers New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, receives between $80-$100 million per year, and was closer to $250 million this year thanks to stimulus funding.

By comparison, the city's plan counts on the Army Corps of Engineers to tap the Water Resource Development Act for funds to clean the canal, of which there is only $50 million available each year for the entire country. The cleanup of the canal is expected to cost between $250 million and $400 million, making the mayor's nine- to ten-year estimate seem exceedingly optimistic.

Another potential problem is how the city's plan seeks to bring local stakeholders to the table to pay for their portion of the cleanup. Unlike Superfund, which uses detailed investigations to identify responsible parties and compels them to pay for cleanup through legal means, the city's program would be voluntary. The city is hoping those local businesses and developers would help pay for the cleanup to avoid the supposed stigma of Superfund listing. Many of the canal's neighbors believe it is too late for that. "That's just bunk," said Craig Hammerman, district manager of local Community Board 6. "How can you stigmatize a stigmatized area? The cleanup will destigmatize it, though, and that's what we're after."

The mayor has claimed that the city process also has the advantage of being faster than Superfund because it avoids litigation. But Walter Mugdan, director of Superfund Programs for EPA Region 2, counters that of the more than 1,000 Superfund sites to date, no more than one or two have involved lengthy litigation. And when litigation is called for, it takes place after the cleanup is already underway, thereby creating no delays to the process.

Meanwhile, involving the Army Corps, as the city plans, could actually slow down the process by one or two years because the Corps would have to acquire permits for work that the EPA can do as of right. "I think the thing that's important with the EPA is the legal power, the legal authority, which the Corps doesn't have," said Mark Lulka, the Army Corps' project manager on Gowanus restoration.

Another issue that could slow the cleanup—and add to its complexity—is that it would be a multiagency operation, between the city, state, EPA, and Army Corps. "Superfund is a known quantity," Lulka said. "Do I think we can do the work? Yes. But it's never been done before."

David Von Spreckelsen, senior vice president at Toll Brothers City Living, has joined the mayor in opposition to Superfund listing. As head of the Clean Gowanus Now! Coalition, Von Spreckelsen argues it threatens millions of dollars of development, including his own 460-unit residential complex on the canal's shores, for little gain. "At the end of the day, what we'll have is a waterway where, instead of eating one fish a month, you can safely eat a couple," he said. "In a perfect world, it's a good thing, but for people on the canal, it won't make that much of a difference."

But when presented with the potentially higher costs and timeline of a city-run cleanup, Von Spreckelsen began to concede that it might not be the best option. "If that were the case, of course we'd say that's fantastic," he said. "Nobody has a bigger interest in seeing this cleaned up than us because we have our rezoning and we're ready to build." Von Spreckelsen did reiterate that his attorneys had told him the Superfund process would be intractable, and he remained skeptical that banks would be willing to lend in a Superfund area.

It may come down to that, though, as the Bloomberg team was dealt a blow on October 16, when Nydia Velázquez, the area's congresswoman and a tireless supporter of the canal, sided with Superfund. "With nearly three decades of experience, the EPA has the expertise and resources to carry out a comprehensive remediation of these sites, creating a safe place for New Yorkers to live and work," Velázquez said in a statement.

With the city and the EPA's plans now both official, all that remains is for the EPA to announce its position on Superfund listing—whether it will take over the canal or bow to the city. That announcement was expected this fall, and while it still could possibly be announced, the EPA typically makes such announcements only twice a year, in March and September. On September 29, Newtown Creek was announced as another site in the city under consideration for the Superfund list, but there was no word on the Gowanus.

Whether that means it will wait until March remains to be seen, though, as Mugdan and others suggested there was nothing stopping the EPA from announcing it sooner. The mayor has made at least one official call to discuss the issue personally with Lisa Jackson, the EPA administrator who used to run New Jersey's Department of Environmental Protection.

Marc LaVorgna, a mayoral spokesperson, insisted the city would prevail because its approach is superior. "They're confident they have the better plan, and we're not," he said of the EPA. "It's a difference of opinion."

For Richard Plunz, director of the Urban Design Lab at Columbia's Earth Institute, where he has done work on the Gowanus, the mayor's reasoning is clear. "I am not so familiar with the details of the NYC alternative plan," Plunz wrote in an email. "But of course I understand that the city doesn't want to hinder real estate investment in the short term with a more cumbersome (but effective) Superfund cleanup. This game is obvious to all."

Matt Chaban


November 10th, 2009, 11:41 AM
the EPA to make the canal—one of the most polluted waterways in the city—into a Superfund site, a fate Bloomberg, with real estate interests in mind, greatly feared.

This goes right to the heart of why I despise Bloomberg: he cares about nothing but real estate "interests". Screw what regular people actually need and want. SOB. This is despicable, even for him.

February 9th, 2010, 07:15 AM
The Jane Jacobs of Gowanus

By Joseph Alexiou

On a recent sunny Saturday morning, a group of 30- to 40-something Carroll Gardens locals stood outside Carroll Park at a table manned by local community activists, their discussion rife with words like "developers" and "preservation." Upset that the nearby Hannah Senesh Community Day School was seeking a variance that would allow it to acquire public land, the activists were hard at work soliciting signatures for their petition against the change. Once I heard one of the concerned citizens utter the words "Superfund," and "Gowanus Canal," I had to ask, "Do any of you know Linda Mariano?"

One activist named Maryann piped up: "Everyone knows Linda," she told me, declining to give a last name but introducing her attentive mutt, Ringo.

"She's one of the most amazing women in this neighborhood!" yelled Jacqueline Raque, a Carroll Gardens resident originally from California. "In an area full of amazing women, she is a shining star," she said.

Linda Mariano is somewhat of a local hero in Carroll Gardens to bloggers, business owners, and especially those residents who feel strongly about preserving the neighborhood's character. It is, in part, because of her efforts that the EPA has nominated the Gowanus Canal—a stinky, garbage-filled body of industrial refuse—as a potential federal Superfund site. If passed, the large-scale cleaning project would include dredging the man-made passage for all of the dangerous metals and toxins buried deep beneath its oily, lavender surface over a century of industrial use.

An October article of The New York Times Magazine about the EPA nomination cites FROGG (Friends and Residents of Greater Gowanus), a group that Ms. Mariano co-founded, as a mouthpiece for community members who supported the nomination and were adamant against the premature development of housing along what many consider to be a toxic site. Among her efforts, Ms. Mariano distributed fliers and pins with a logo depicting a whale that read "Gowanus Canal: Superfund Me!" Some of the posters can still be seen in the windows of houses in Carroll Gardens.

"We seek to improve the environment because of the level of toxins and contamination in the land," Ms. Mariano says. "The Gowanus is what we would call an aquatic brownfield. We've responded to every developer who has put in applications for variance and rezoning, and not just with memos. We've gone to hearings and meetings and sent in written materials to various representatives—our gift from the gods is the Superfund nomination, I have to say."

An EPA spokesperson later told Ms. Mariano that, normally, the nomination of a new Superfund site generates about 10 or 15 written responses. In the case of the Gowanus Canal, the EPA received more than 800.

The Gowanus Canal Community Development Corporation (GCCDC) is a community group, with offices located on Court Street in Carroll Gardens. According to executive director Bill Appel, they are opposed to the Superfund nomination because it is akin to "putting a smallpox stamp onto someone's home."

Mr. Appel says that the FHA, for instance, has stated that they will not grant any mortgages within 3,000 feet of any Superfund site, which would include almost all of Carroll Gardens east of Court Street if the proposal goes through. He is also certain the Superfund process will take over 20 years to complete, never allowing the "barren wasteland" of undeveloped land around the canal to serve a purpose. While he recognizes the environmental concerns surrounding the Gowanus, he is more optimistic about the health of the waterway than Ms. Mariano and her fellow FROGGs.

"We're here for economic development," Mr. Appel said. "We're in the business of bringing in taxpayers and viable jobs to the area. There's no medical evidence that the canal causes long-term diseases here, and you're not going to swim in the water or drink it." Mr. Appel, a fifth-generation resident of the area, said he was no less concerned with preserving residents health than any other group in the area.

Ms. Mariano refused to comment extensively about Mr. Appel or the GCCDC (whom she and her fellow FROGGS refer to as "Guccis" after the Italian haute couture house), although she finds his attitude toward the environmental concerns foolish. ("This is the 21st century!" she says, incredulous. "We should clean things!") Ms. Mariano, who is admittedly a staunch idealist, is certain that the GCCDC's intentions are not sincere in regards to the community's best interests. She also suggested that their relationship with developers like Toll Brothers, which has bid to build a large condo community on the Gowanus (with the strong support of Mayor Bloomberg), hurts their credibility and makes their intentions questionable.

With her husband, Joseph, Ms. Mariano has for 36 years been living in a brownstone on President Street, between Bond and Hoyt, an area she considers to be in Gowanus, the nascent neighborhood between Carroll Gardens and Park Slope. Both artists and retired teachers, the couple moved to the area from the West Village in 1974, well before this part of Brooklyn was hip (or particularly safe). Over the years they have built up their formerly dilapidated building into a do-it-yourself artists' dream home.

Upstairs rooms are jam-packed with paint, canvases and quilting materials, while the lower area, centered around a cozy kitchen, is a utilitarian gallery of colorful recycled materials and found objects, from doors to floor tiles.

Ms. Mariano has a special passion for industrial architecture and historic buildings—after three decades in the neighborhood, she senses the character and appeal that the warehouses bring and the creative, artistic types that such spaces attract—a recipe for the conditions that eventually lead to New York's ubiquitous neighborhood gentrification. The unique character of a neighborhood like Gowanus has a particularly Jane Jacobs–y appeal: one where residential, light industrial and commercial spaces all interact to create a varied and diverse population (although now it's admittedly gentrified, not unlike Jacobs' own Greenwich Village).

"I'm a preservation person at heart," Ms. Mariano said, "and I believe in this phrase people are starting to use, 'adaptive re-use,' and this is about just that." She pauses reflectively, fingering the beads on one of the colorful Bakelite necklaces she often sports along with her handmade knitwear.

"These buildings can be used rather than torn down. "

A perky and slight 66-year-old, Ms. Mariano spends her weekends working in a kitschy store on Court Street, where she can often be found mid-conversation, sporting a toothy grin, skinny arms waving emphatically as she describes her most recent exploits involving the local history or current developments of her beloved quarter of Brooklyn. With the timing of a seasoned comedian, Ms. Mariano's storytelling is enough to make you pull up a chair and get comfortable: "Aha!" she loves to exclaim, "now if you think that's interesting, well wait till you hear this!"

She cares so deeply about the involvement of the city and of developers in the area that her twinkly-eyed irony sometimes code switches to flat-out rage: Her long graying hair, usually pulled up into a partial bun, shakes with anger as she literally turns red at the mention of big-named architects and developers who have offended her ideals in some way. At times, this range of emotions she lets out seems a bit hyperbolic, but it is this boundless energy that has her forever hitting the pavement and perusing the area streets, keeping up with the most recent changes and conditions, even in the most inclement weather.

Ms. Mariano's passion transformed her from a concerned resident into neighborhood historian and preservation activist. Community groups and journalists tap her for information, especially when it's about the environmental conditions surrounding the Gownaus Canal or local development.

MS. MARIANO'S CAREER as an activist began in 2002, when condo developers applied for a variance that would have led to the demolition of a hangar-shaped warehouse at 450 Union Street (also known as 450 Union or, simply, the Green Building) on a corner of Bond Street, right near her home. She and several concerned neighbors united to fight against its destruction.

"I saved that building!" she shouts about the lime green structure, now currently home to an event space and art gallery. "It's an old industrial space that belongs way more than some chichi condos for rich people! For two years we went to meetings at the Board of Standards and Appeals to defend our position. At first, I was so nervous to speak in front of the board, my knees knocked together and my glasses fell off my head—it's like they're judging whether you live or die!"

But after two years of hearings, Ms. Mariano recalls, the board voted against the variance and her efforts won. "The last time I spoke in front of the board," she says with a glowing grin, "audience members were stopping me and asking me if I could speak on behalf of their group!"

Ms. Mariano co-founded FROGG in 2004, soon after the 450 Union Street victory, along with her husband and longtime community members Margaret Maugenest and architect Marlene Donnelly, among others. Its inception can also be traced to the Gowanus Stakeholders' meetings, a series of information sessions sponsored by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the Army Corps of Engineers (the latter organization had nominated numerous sites along the Gowanus for placement in the National Register of Historic Places). Ms. Mariano and her cohorts used to attend bi-monthly talks from 2004 through 2006, although meetings themselves were mostly a "waste of time," she says, since the government officials lacked much needed data. At one point they asked, for example, if the Atlantic Yards site was on the same water table as the Gowanus. According to Ms. Mariano, it is.

However, it brought together a group of concerned locals who were interested in learning more about the environmental conditions surrounding the canal. Soon they began meeting regularly through FROGG, acting as watchdogs for all of the actions of local developers and researching as much as possible about the environmental conditions surrounding the Gowanus.

FROGG co-founder Margaret Maugenest is an artist who has lived for 26 years in a Nevins Street loft ("at the heart of Gowanus"), and worked with Ms. Mariano ever since their efforts to save 460 Union.

"We wouldn't be where we are now without Linda," she said in a phone interview. "She gathers all of the information from every newspaper and printed source—she has boxes and boxes of files and clippings and printouts, from the EPA and the Army Corps, Columbia University studies, a vast library."

According to Ms. Maugenest, Ms. Mariano is a "neighborhood scholar" who relies on cold facts to submit formal inquiries and responses to every brownfield applicant and developer proposal to use Gowanus land for development. She cites Ms. Mariano's skill at calling agencies, putting in freedom of information requests and similar procedural motions. Without facts to back up their claims, FROGG wouldn't be able to have the effects it has, she says.

"[Linda] is always very diligent in watching local papers for announcements of brownfield applications and being on top of new applications going in," Ms. Maugenest said. "Developers are required to notify the community [and they do so] in the tiny print, tiny local paper. Unless someone were actively reading those on a weekly basis, you would never know and so Linda always keeps us informed."

Katia Kelly writes the Carroll Gardens blog Pardon Me For Asking and also works with FROGG. "Linda's one of the pioneers of Gowanus. She loves it for its rawness and that it's just not Manhattan," Ms. Kelly said. The 25-year Carroll Gardens resident and blogger finds that Mariano's earnestness explains her passion for the saving the neighborhood.

"She has this spirit of calm, this belief that truth will prevail. Even with the mighty Toll Brothers, she just said 'it's not going to happen, right will prevail.' She never gives up hope," Ms. Kelly sighed melancholically, wishing she had the same level of optimism as Ms. Mariano.

NOWADAYS, WALKING DOWN Smith Street with Ms. Mariano is a slow process. Not because she moves slowly, nothing could be further from the truth, but because at least once every block someone stops her to say hello and catch up on neighborhood news. But despite her cheerful demeanor and buoyant declarations of love for her neighborhood ("I like the open sky and feel very comfy the way I live, and want to keep it that way,") she sees herself forever fighting a community battle, even if it's just over a piece of wall.

Most recently, she tipped off local bloggers about the possible destruction of a ConEd-owned Third Avenue wall said to be part of the original Dodgers stadium, known as Washington Park. After the story gained some attention, the [I]Daily News and Brooklyn Courier picked it up—although the response from the preservation groups was as emotional as Ms. Mariano's, with some stating that the wall was not part of the stadium. Armed with articles and clippings about the wall, Ms. Mariano thinks differently.

"Kathy Howe from New York State Parks and Preservation called me in the first week of January," she said, "and she said to me, 'That wall is just a remnant!'"

"And I said, 'Excuse me!'" she said emphatically. "Remnants? I like remnants! They're all we have and they're part of our history."


February 27th, 2010, 02:20 AM
Group Unleashes Red Cloud of Mortgage Death on Brooklyn

February 26, 2010, by Joey

The nasty battle (http://curbed.com/tags/superfund) over the potential Superfund designation of the Gowanus Canal—which would trigger an EPA-led cleanup of the fetid Brooklyn waterway, against the wishes of Mayor Bloomberg (who has a shorter-term plan) and the real estate developers looking to turn the canal into a new Gold Coast—just added a new chapter! Yesterday an anti-Supefund group calling itself Clean Gowanus Now! issued a press release touting some survey results that claim homeowners living near the canal will have serious problems if the Superfund designation happens:
The survey of major lending institutions—including Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Citibank and HSBC—reveals that individuals or families applying for mortgages to purchase, refinance or renovate homes in much of Gowanus, Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn Heights, Boerum Hill and Park Slope will find it nearly impossible to obtain approval on FHA-insured loans if the Gowanus is designated a Superfund site. This is a direct result of a new federal rule adopted by the FHA in June 2009 that sets forth a requirement that could preclude the FHA from insuring any mortgages on residential units within 3,000 feet of a Superfund site.As Carroll Gardens Diary (http://www.carrollgardensdiary.com/2010/02/clean-gowanus-now-oxymoron.html) notes, Clean Gowanus Now! is supported by developers like Toll Brothers and Africa-Israel. So while the group might not be impartial, we have to admit that its scare tactics are pretty sweet. Check out the map the group sent out to illustrate the potentially affected areas. Look out, Prospect Park!


Clean Gowanus Now! (http://www.cleangowanusnow.org/) [cleangowanusnow.org]
"Clean Gowanus Now": An Oxymoron (http://www.carrollgardensdiary.com/2010/02/clean-gowanus-now-oxymoron.html) [Carroll Gardens Diary]

http://curbed.com/archives/2010/02/26/group_unleashes_red_cloud_of_mortgage_death_on_bro oklyn.php#more

March 2nd, 2010, 06:30 AM
Gowanus Canal faces crucial cleanup decision

Feds expected to designate the Brooklyn area a Superfund cleanup site in move that could push back hopes of development in the area by a decade or more.

By Amanda Fung

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is expected to decide this month whether to take over the cleanup of the polluted Brooklyn's Gowanus Canal and designate it as a Superfund site.

In December of 2008, the state Department of Environmental Conservation requested that the EPA consider putting the canal on its Superfund priorities list, despite the city's own efforts to clean up and develop the area. After initial testing, the EPA decided last April that the city's plan was inadequate and said it would continue to consider the Gowanus Canal a Superfund site. Since then, a business group called Clean Gowanus Now Coalition, which opposes the Superfund designation, has been lobbying the governor's office to reverse its position and withdraw its request to the EPA. The group supports the city's plan to clean up and develop the site.

A spokeswoman for the EPA confirmed that a public information meeting is scheduled for Thursday, “to let the community know what has been going on with the remedial investigation of the contamination and what we plan on doing.” But she declined to specify when a final decision will be made on the designation.

Some followers thought a decision to designate the canal a Superfund site was going to be made last November, but sources said Clean Gowanus Now's lobbying efforts had convinced the governor's office to ask the EPA to slow down its evaluation and consider the city's proposal. The governor's office could not be reached immediately for comment.

Insiders said it's likely that the EPA will go ahead and put the site on the Superfund list despite the lobbying efforts because the state has not rescinded its initial request. Such a designation will stymie any hope for development in the area in the near- and even medium-term. Developer Toll Brothers, which was supposed to purchase three parcels from three different owners on the canal to build mixed-income residential towers, has already said it would abandon its plans if the canal is a Superfund. Toll Brothers is a member of Clean Gowanus Now.

“Given the way Superfund sites work, it could be a decade or more from now before clean up starts,” said David Von Spreckelsen, vice president at Toll Brothers. “We just don't have that time horizon. We will most likely walk away from the properties.”

Since 2002, the Bloomberg's administration has been trying to rezone the area around the canal from industrial to mixed-use commercial and residential and received support from developers like Toll Brothers, which agreed to build their own sewage systems. The city has also set aside money to begin a broader remediation of the canal and even reached a deal with one major polluter of the area, National Grid—the successor company to the old Brooklyn Union Gas—to contribute to the cleanup. The city planned on generating hundreds of millions of dollars from the private sector for the cleanup.

Supporters of the Superfund status argue that the city's plan doesn't achieve the same level of cleanup that the EPA would and puts the public at risk to toxins and pesticides that could be left in the canal.

“Today our coalition members are exceedingly concerned,” said a Clean Gowanus Now spokesman. “We feel that we made the case to the state as to why the city administration's plan would clean up the canal faster and cheaper.”

Late last week, the coalition released the results of a survey that indicates that if the Gowanus is designated a Superfund site, lending to homeowners within 3,000 feet of the canal will be impossible due to new federal regulations put into place last year.


March 2nd, 2010, 01:44 PM
March 2, 2010

Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn Is Given Superfund Status

By MIREYA NAVARRO (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/n/mireya_navarro/index.html?inline=nyt-per)

The federal Environmental Protection Agency (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/e/environmental_protection_agency/index.html?inline=nyt-org) announced Tuesday that it was designating the Gowanus Canal (http://www.epa.gov/region02/superfund/npl/gowanus/) in Brooklyn a contaminated Superfund (http://www.epa.gov/superfund/) site, opening the way for a cleanup of the long-polluted waterway.
The decision comes as a blow to the Bloomberg administration, which had proposed a cleanup that would avoid such a designation. The city argued that the designation could set off legal battles with polluters, defer completion of a cleanup and torpedo construction by developers deterred by the stigma of a Superfund (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/subjects/s/superfund/index.html?inline=nyt-classifier) label.
The E.P.A. estimated that the federal cleanup would last 10 to 12 years and cost $300 million to $500 million.
The agency, which first proposed that the canal be designated a Superfund site last April at the urging of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (http://www.dec.ny.gov/), made its decision after reviewing comments from the public, city officials and others.
“After conducting our own evaluations and consulting extensively with the many people who have expressed interest in the future of the Gowanus Canal and the surrounding area, we have determined that a Superfund designation is the best path to a cleanup of this heavily contaminated and long-neglected urban waterway,” Judith Enck, the agency’s regional administrator, said in a statement (http://yosemite.epa.gov/opa/admpress.nsf/0/2C7EF12AD44DA9C4852576DA00536F0F).
In a preliminary assessment, the agency found contamination along the entire length of the 1.8-mile canal from the Gowanus Bay to New York harbor, including pollutants like pesticides, metals and the cancer-causing chemicals known as PCBs.
A spokesman for Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/b/michael_r_bloomberg/index.html?inline=nyt-per) lamented the federal agency’s decision but said the city would cooperate closely with the agency in the months and years ahead.
“It’s disappointing,” said the spokesman, Marc LaVorgna. “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.”
“The project will now move on a Superfund time line, but we are going to work closely with the E.P.A. because we share the same goal — a clean canal,” he said.
Mr. LaVorgna said the mayor hoped that the E.P.A. would work with the city to address the concerns of residents and businesses that have raised concerns about the impact of a Superfund designation.Completed in the 1860s, the Gowanus evolved into a busy waterway for oil refineries, chemical plants, tanneries, manufactured gas plants and other heavy industry operating along its banks. Industrial waste, raw sewage and other runoff gushed into the canal for over a century as it served as a shipping hub.
Most of that flow has been halted, and the 100-foot-wide canal is now used for both commercial and recreational purposes by the neighborhoods bordering it, including Park Slope, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens and Red Hook.
The city envisioned new residential and commercial uses along the canal and had already committed funds to upgrades of its sewage system to prevent further contamination. It proposed an alternative cleanup approach that the E.P.A. has sometimes used that would allow the responsible parties to voluntarily pay for the cleanup.
To reduce the price tag for the polluters, the city’s plan called for incorporating an environmental restoration project along the canal by the Army Corps of Engineers (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/a/army_corps_of_engineers/index.html?inline=nyt-org), which has begun a feasibility study for such a project. That effort would be eligible for separate federal financing.
But Ms. Enck said last week that her concern with the city’s plan was that it partly relied on federal allocations that required congressional approval and might not be forthcoming. Agency officials were also worried about adding to an already complicated process by having both the Corps of Engineers and the E.P.A. tackle parts of the cleanup.
Now that the Gowanus Canal has been added to the federal Superfund National Priorities List, reserved for the most contaminated in the nation, the government will mandate that the parties responsible for the pollution there pay for the removal of hazards.
The E.P.A. has already identified the city, the United States Navy (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/n/us_navy/index.html?inline=nyt-org) and a long list of companies as potentially responsible for the sewer outflows and industrial discharges that have made the canal one of the most contaminated waterways in the country.
In advocating a Superfund listing in recent months, Ms. Enck rejected arguments that the designation would keep investors and lenders away.
“Banks look at the environmental conditions of the properties,” she said last week. “It is not a secret in Brooklyn that the Gowanus is contaminated. The notion that Superfund is going to create a stigma just doesn’t hold up.”
The E.P.A. said it would discuss its next steps regarding the canal at a public meeting with neighborhood residents and other stakeholders on Thursday night at Public School 58 on Smith Street in Brooklyn.


http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/misc/nytlogo153x23.gif (http://www.nytimes.com/)


March 3rd, 2010, 04:49 AM
There are some disturbing views of the state of things in the slide show (http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2010/03/03/nyregion/20100303GOWANUS_index.html) accompanying the NYT ^ article.

This is especially sad:

A minke whale in the Gowanus Bay near the canal in April 2007. Police boats tried to encourage it
to move out to sea, but it died after a few days there.

March 3rd, 2010, 11:00 AM
New York's Canale Grande, or Delft: a real estate goldmine. Where are the miners --and does the zoning permit profitable small footprints? Or does it unintentionally mandate blockbusters and landscrapers?

March 4th, 2010, 05:22 AM
New York's Canale Grande, or Delft: a real estate goldmine. Where are the miners --and does the zoning permit profitable small footprints? Or does it unintentionally mandate blockbusters and landscrapers?

That's a very attractive view (quite European?) and obviously could be even better, but would be totally spoilt with high-rises and/or over-development IMO.

March 4th, 2010, 05:23 AM
Not Every Developer Giving Up on Gowanus Canal

March 3, 2010, by Joey


Toll Brothers has confirmed that in the wake of the EPA slapping the Gowanus Canal with a Superfund designation, setting the wheels in motion on a fed-led cleanup process that will take 10-12 years, the developer will abandon its plans for a 450-unit housing development along the polluted waterway. But the stigma of the Superfund branding has not scared off the Hudson Companies and other developers involved in the group selected to develop Gowanus Green (above), the $300 million mixed-use project that includes 774 mixed-income units in nine buildings on the Carroll Gardens side of the canal. That ambitious project, designed by Rogers Marvel Architects and landscape designers West 8 and Starr Whitehouse, is still a go—eventually!

The Gowanus Green Partners issued a press release yesterday announcing that it's not giving up on the project, even though the Superfund situation "presents new challenges for financing and construction." The EPA has said that property values do mighty fine on contaminated sites once the Superfund process is over, and the decade-long wait doesn't seem to be an issue: The Gowanus Green site is currently in the state's Brownfield Cleanup Program. Here's what Gowanus Green is supposed to one day look like. As for financing the canal's cleanup, the Times reports that the EPA has already identified some polluters it will hit up for cash, including Con Ed, National Grid, the Navy and New York City itself. At least 20 other companies will also be getting phone calls. They should probably think about investing in caller ID. For the rundown on who's happy and who's sad about the Gowanus Superfund, check out McBrooklyn's handy summary.

Gowanus Canal Gets Superfund Status (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/03/nyregion/03gowanus.html?ref=nyregion) [NYT]
Gowanus Canal coverage (http://www.curbed.com/tags/gowanus-canal) [Curbed]


March 4th, 2010, 05:33 AM
It’s Polluted, but the Canal Is Home, and Inspiration


The rain had stopped; the streets were empty. A block from the Gowanus Canal, a woman called Terri squinted into the headlights of passing cars, searched for clients and found none.

Her head was wrapped in a powder-blue scarf. The white towers of the Wyckoff Houses rose behind her. She had worked these streets in Brooklyn for years, as the neighborhood turned from a rusty industrial hub into a budding art colony, and lately, a draw for developers dreaming of condominiums.

For Terri, little good had come of all that change. “The people moving in here don’t patronize us,” she said, and got back to work, a half hour before midnight.

On Tuesday, the Environmental Protection Agency designated the canal a Superfund site, a weighty tag with unknown consequences for the artists and sex workers, auto mechanics and homeowners who live and trade along the border zone called Gowanus.

The decision to label the canal one of the nation’s most complex polluted sites came after years of bruising arguments about the future of the neighborhood. Now, assertions have been replaced with uncertainty: The designation might halt development, but it might not. The federal government said the canal would be clean in about a decade, but perhaps that meant two.

The news did not interrupt the unhurried rhythms of life along the shadowy canal, the toxic dividing line between two fancy neighborhoods carved into wetlands more than 150 years ago.

On the water where the E.P.A found pesticides and the cancer-causing chemicals known as PCBs bobbed the boat where John Ziegler and a friend have stayed on and off for five months, aiming to “get off the grid.”
They collect sunlight in solar panels for electricity and burn wood for heat.

Mr. Ziegler, a writer and an amateur ornithologist, has seen a family of mallards, and hawks. The walls of the canal mute the city noise. The full moons, he said, are “gorgeous.”

But after a big rain, slicks of various colors and toxicities drift by the barge, so Mr. Ziegler said he was pleased that the E.P.A. had stepped in to clean up. “It’ll take a lot longer,” he said, “but it will actually work.”

Upstream from his boat and down, fuel tanks were cleaned, trucks were parked, scrap metal was collected and cars were serviced. Gene Wayda, 68, has watched it all since 1970, when he opened his machine shop on Butler Street at the canal’s northern tip.

Then, Irish schoolteachers lived next door. A Dun & Bradstreet printing plant was on the corner. Mr. Wayda played his own role in the neighborhood’s remarkable commercial diversity, constructing those hand-powered unicycles called distance measuring wheels. His patch of Gowanus had deteriorated and then stabilized. The dirty canal was a piece of unfinished business.

“I would like, in my life, to see something happen,” he said.

Over the years, producers of art joined these producers of machines, and the canal became an occasional muse.

Last summer, a coalition of artists called the Madagascar Institute zip-lined a 350-pound jazz singer belting out the national anthem across the waterway. One of the organizers, Christopher Hackett, said he thought the Superfund designation might reserve a space for that creativity, and a “timeout” from development. “I don’t think it should just be an artist’s creative wonderland,” he said, saying that small businesses, like the people who repair garbage trucks down the street, would also benefit. “It’s a pause that the neighborhood could use,” he added. “That a lot of New York could use.”

A few blocks away, down an alleyway off Nevins Street, a gallery called Proteus Gowanus displays artifacts, art and books associated with the canal, which was dredged by Irish laborers in 1853. A display, “Flora of the Gowanus,” includes Queen Anne’s lace collected from an abandoned factory and white clover found in a vacant lot.

The gallery, in a building used by artists since the 1970s, is a reminder that painters, sculptors and others have been drawn to the area for a long time.

“The Gowanus has the same light it had in the 19th century, the same views,” said the founder, Sasha Chavchavadze. “A lot of the artists are inspired by the detritus. All the development involved cleaning it up.”

But the canal remains largely inaccessible, save for a view of it from bridges. Cul-de-sacs, like the one on Douglass Street, serve as observation posts. At one, Alberto Lasso keeps his collection of empty bottles, gathered from the surrounding streets in carts he built with help from a local welder.

Mr. Lasso comes to the same spot every night, sorting bottles of imported beer into cardboard boxes to return for their 5-cent deposits.

Once, he saw a car plow through the metal barrier at the end of the street and land in the canal. But otherwise, it’s quiet. “That’s why I’m here,” Mr. Lasso said.


March 12th, 2010, 05:46 AM
Answers About the Gowanus Canal


Following is the first set of responses from Jack S. Nyman, the director of the Steven L. Newman Real Estate Institute at Baruch College, City University of New York.

The Gowanus Canal seems to be left over from Brooklyn’s industrial past. So, why spend billions trying to clean it up and restore it to a usable waterway? Why not drain it, cover it, and move on? Wouldn’t that be far cheaper?
— Posted by peters
Even if it were advisable from an environmental or engineering standpoint to contain hazardous releases at a water-based site by this method, such an approach ignores both the canal’s prominent history and its new role as a catalyst for redevelopment. Its restoration is central to the neighborhood’s economic health and further revitalization. Indeed, it is Gowanus’s defining feature, and this sense of place must not be lost. The community is clamoring for its remediation.
On a more fundamental level, the canal is a focal point for referencing and valuing the relationship of land to water, as well as city dwellers’ connections to water and their historical ties to this once renowned waterway. A well-conceived urban design, with ecologically sound landscaping that includes open spaces, parks and pathways, would create a significant new link to the revitalized neighborhood and to the city as a whole. It is also important to remember that the canal, which began life as a creek before it was enlarged in the 19th century to accommodate shipping, is part of the New York-New Jersey Harbor Estuary and supports wildlife. We should support its further restoration, not pave it over.
Why is this project going to take so long to complete I would think they could block/dam the canal, drain it and dredge it easily.
— Posted by Craig Raphael
Thorough and lasting environmental remediation is based on careful analysis, planning and execution. Sites such as the Gowanus Canal, polluted by a complex array of toxic chemicals deposited over many decades, require the very closest scrutiny. As the Environmental Protection Agency (http://www.epa.gov/region02/superfund/npl/gowanus/) embarks on a more comprehensive investigation of the site following its initial assessment of risk, the agency may uncover as yet unidentified, perhaps even present-day, sources of pollution, which the cleanup plan would address. As the canal cuts through a densely settled community, its remediation must be conducted in the safest, least intrusive manner possible. This, too, takes thoughtful planning. Lastly, the Superfund program was created not only to safeguard public health and the environment, but to protect taxpayers. Where possible, the federal government identifies businesses and other entities responsible for the pollution and orders them to help pay for the cleanup.
The Gowanus Canal is left over. Because of that, it is nicely situated within a bunch of resurgent neighborhoods. To the north is New York bay; to the south is Prospect Park. The boundaries between the neighborhoods, once distinct, and harsh, have blurred. Fourth Avenue is no longer the great divide. Then again, neither is Third Avenue. Gentrification wafts over the old boundaries. The canal could, if cleaned and given the time to redevelop, add to the intrinsic quality of life in this part of Brooklyn. My questions:

Is San Antonio’s River Walk still a viable comparison?
Wouldn’t cleanup and redevelopment — as oppposed to fill-in — provide a greater return on investment (cleanup) over the long run in terms of real estate taxes, jobs, misc. economic activity?

— Posted by Ron
The city of San Antonio and the neighborhood of Gowanus could not be more different in terms of geography, climate, scale, project economics, marine ecology or economic activity. However, both communities have been shaped by waterways, which remain potent sources of identification in each of them and integral to redevelopment. Just as San Antonio’s bustling River Walk (http://www.thesanantonioriverwalk.com/), with its hotels, restaurants and shops, is a powerful draw, so a restored and sustainably redeveloped canal in Gowanus would create a distinctive destination for people throughout the larger metropolitan area.
Preserving and enhancing this vital feature of the neighborhood, with its rich history and promising future, is critical to the neighborhood’s economic viability going forward. Redevelopment of the Gowanus should be appropriate to its scale, however, and would probably include public parks and pathways, recreational activities and new housing along its banks.
What are the boundaries of the new Superfund site? Has it been determined what properties will be included?
— Posted by Greg Smithsimon
As initially defined by the Environmental Protection Agency following preliminary environmental sampling, the site includes the canal, which extends about 1.8 miles from Butler Street to Gowanus Bay (http://www.epa.gov/region02/superfund/npl/gowanus/Gowanus_Canal_with_Streets.pdf) (pdf). However, the dimensions of the cleanup area may change as the agency comprehensively explores both sources of pollution and the extent of the contamination. In a recent filing accompanying the canal’s Superfund designation, agency officials said, for example, that later investigations may determine that releases extend to “upland areas” surrounding the canal.
Why are the environmental benefits of industrial retention so seldom considered in discussions of “transforming” Gowanus? The canal is a fabulous location for niche and specialty manufacturers. The fact that diverse manufacturing activity has returned to the Gowanus Canal despite price pressures and speculation caused by the super-gentrification of neighborhoods to the east and west should influence future land use decisions, no? Is there ever a limit to “highest and best use” development? The affordable housing crisis has nothing to do with the inaccessibility of neighborhoods like Gowanus to residential real estate developers.
— Posted by John Buckholz
The Gowanus Canal was for decades one of the city’s busiest industrial arteries, and while the waterway no longer plays that role, the surrounding neighborhood retains a solid manufacturing base. Food processing and specialty manufacturing firms are some of the dynamic new clean industries locating in the neighborhood. Indeed, old and new businesses constitute one of several important constituencies with a stake in the area’s future, and both groups are key to the community’s economic base and its distinctive identity. Any thoughtful and sustainable redevelopment plan should most certainly protect existing industrial areas and create new zones that welcome light manufacturing.


March 12th, 2010, 05:47 AM
Answers About the Gowanus Canal, Part 2


Following is the second set of responses from Jack S. Nyman, the director of the Steven L. Newman Real Estate Institute at Baruch College, City University of New York.

Does Maspeth Creek have similar issues? Is it in similar condition? What are plans for it?
— Posted by Vinchi

The Maspeth Creek’s issues are similar in terms of the remediation process yet dissimilar in terms of magnitude and timing. Maspeth Creek is a tributary of Newtown Creek.

It flows from 49th Street in Queens into Newtown. Newtown flows between Queens and Brooklyn and empties into the East River. The Maspeth Creek is believed by local sources to be significantly more polluted than the Gowanus Canal, as it contains years of heavy oil contamination courtesy of major oil companies that will require extensive cleanup and environmental dredging. However, plans for its remediation at this time are still unclear. It is estimated that at approximately 17 million gallons of oil contamination, the Maspeth Creek contamination is at least six million gallons larger than the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska. If the magnitude of the Newtown Creek’s and its associated waterway’s pollution is accurate, its remediation will have a much longer time frame than that of the canal.

The Gowanus Canal has in fact had the slight advantage of dredging that began in 1975 on the justification of navigation safety, but that was the last time that it was dredged as shipping fell off considerably after that period. Its sewage remediation commenced in part with the construction of the Red Hook Sewage Treatment Plant and the Gowanus Canal Flushing Tunnel improvements in the early 1980s. These improvements have in fact curtailed much of the effluent that previously had flowed directly into the canal, but they are preliminary measures only and more cleanup will be required. Modernization of the sewers is still needed such as an upgrade to the Bond-Lorraine branch sewer.
I’ll ask the obvious question. Could you briefly describe what you think the general impact will be on residential property values (condos and co-ops) as a function of time and distance from the site? For example in lower Park Slope area, say around 5th Avenue after five years, vs. after 10 years from now? I’ve looked at prior academic studies of the effect of Superfund sites and they seem to be very site-specific. I realize you can only speak in generalities, but applying what you have learned to this particular site would be very useful to a lot of concerned residents.
— Posted by Peter Farnum
So many variables are at play in determining future property values that it is difficult to single out the effects of a Superfund designation. In Gowanus, relevant factors include the health of the city’s economy, the speed and scope of the remediation, city support for rezoning measures that would permit more housing to be built in the neighborhood, the availability and cost of credit, and housing demand. The impact of a designation depends in part on whether it is perceived as a taint or an investment that adds value to the neighborhood.

Property values in the vicinity of some Superfund sites have fallen in the short term, but then risen following remediation.

In 2008, the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development selected a consortium, the Gowanus Green Partnership, to develop Public Place, a mixed-use project on city-owned land between Smith Street and the Gowanus Canal that will include 774 units, including a substantial fraction set aside for low- and moderate-income households. After the Superfund designation, the consortium announced its intention to proceed with the development. As with the Public Place project, city initiatives to spur private sector development in the neighborhood should ultimately prove to be positive for property values over the long term.
New York has a combined sewer system. If after a rain, sewage from waste-water treatment plants overflow into the canal, will the canal ever really be clean?
— Posted by Henry living near the canal
One of the primary concerns expressed early on by opponents of the canal’s Superfund designation was that the Bloomberg administration’s plans to upgrade sewer systems in the Gowanus region could potentially be set aside or put on hold. In a recent filing accompanying the designation (http://www.regulations.gov/search/Regs/home.html#documentDetail?R=0900006480ab0c11), the E.P.A. addresses the issue in commenting that hazardous substances discharged by C.S.O.’s (combined sewer overflows) are regulated under the Superfund program. The agency says further that at a later stage of the process “E.P.A. can consider under what authorities the C.S.O.’s should be addressed.”
Are there any industrial uses at all left along the canal that depend on or routinely use actual canal access to function?
— Posted by Jeff Graf
The Gowanus area has a functional industrial component dominated by relatively small companies with fewer than 50 employees each. It is believed that the only business currently dependent upon access to the canal waterfront is an established scrap metal yard south of Hamilton Avenue that uses the waterway for barge transportation.
The record of actual cleanup of Superfund sites is rather dismal. And NYS commitments are laughable – witness the never-ending battle to clean up PCBs from the upper Hudson River at Ft. Edward.
Other than the symbolism, what does the community stand to gain with this designation? Superfund designation seems to simply add new layers of red tape to thwart any actual cleanup. A cleanup that might otherwise have been financed by developers eager to build at the location.
— Posted by George
Although federal oversight under a Superfund designation can appear heavy handed and bureaucratic, it has proven to be more effective than state and private sector cleanups in complex situations where there is no identifiable or solvent responsible party or where the area of contamination is very large and/or owned by different entities.

Superfund designation does add layers of red tape, and it can slow a cleanup that might otherwise be performed by developers — that’s the big downside of this designation. However, the countervailing argument is that it also has many advantages.

Federal oversight under the Superfund program provides a comprehensive package of committed funding, expertise and management, and this approach, while potentially slower, gives more certainty to cleanup over the long term. It was the deep pockets of the Superfund, and its long-term commitment, for example, that excavated radioactive soil in one densely populated community in the metropolitan region where blocks of houses had to be lifted off the ground and their inhabitants temporarily relocated. The end result was proper remediation.

While the Superfund program got off to a creaky start in the 1980s, the pace of cleanups has accelerated since then. Sites that require the most sophisticated engineering, such as areas with polluted groundwater, typically take the longest to remediate. Cleanups in densely settled areas are some of the most expensive and tricky to plan.

The residents, community activists and environmental groups that favored the Gowanus Canal’s Superfund designation cited the complexity of the neighborhood’s pollution and their belief in the program’s staying power, accountability and legal enforcement authority as reasons for doing so.


March 12th, 2010, 07:06 PM
Answers About the Gowanus Canal, Part 3


Following is the third and final set of responses from Jack S. Nyman (http://www.baruch.cuny.edu/realestate/about/jack-s-nyman.html), the director of the Steven L. Newman Real Estate Institute at Baruch College (http://www.baruch.cuny.edu/realestate/), City University of New York.

Can the cleanup proceed before SuperFund has recouped expenses from the “polluters.” Is there any reasonable timeline on this cleanup project? 10 years? 25 years?

There has been much speculation on the impact of lending in the 3,000′ radius around the new SuperFund site, which includes nearly all of Boerum Hill and much of Carroll Gardens (among other neighborhoods). What is the history of lenders’ comfort with lending for two- to four-family structures near a SuperFund site? NYC is an unusual market, so not all lenders will be able to understand it. In your opinion, will the SuperFund designation hamper real estate transactions in the areas around the canal?

As for comparisons to San Antonio Riverwalk, it should be noted that the founding corporation that did the initial critical work there went bankrupt years ago. It was a VERY expensive project. Also, the Gowanus Canal is a tidal creek. Part of its stench is the normal sulfury smell of any tidal basin. Unless you line it with cement (like the San Antonio River), it’s gonna smell.
— Posted by CK Johnson

Because of the complexity of the contamination and the unpredictability of environmental cleanups due to hydrogeological and technological factors, among others, it is impossible to give a reasonable timeline for the cleanup project until the Remedial Investigation and Feasibility Study are concluded.

The EPA estimates that it will have the RI and the FS concluded and a Remedial Plan selected by mid-2012.

It is unlikely that the Superfund designation will have much affect on mortgage lending or real estate transactions near the canal, especially for residential and multifamily real estate. Unless there is a potential for an owner to be a potentially responsible party (PRP) from whom the EPA will seek to recover costs (which is only an issue for industrial sites) or for the contamination to migrate from the canal at high risk levels, most lenders should not be deterred from financing residential real estate transactions in the area. Although it depends on an individual lender’s level of comfort, most lenders are willing to finance real estate transactions near a Superfund site (barring the potential PRP or migration issues previously mentioned) because EPA oversight gives lenders assurance that there is funding available for the cleanup, the responsible parties have already been identified, and the cleanup will be done in accordance with regulatory standards.

Although the Superfund designation may create a stigma in the view of some potential buyers, the rising popularity of the adjacent neighborhoods coupled with their many amenities and proximity to Manhattan and Prospect Park should support a strong real estate market notwithstanding the Superfund designation.
I recently was considering buying a condo on Hunters Point in LIC near the Newtown Creek (separating Queens from Brooklyn). I decided not to because of the heavy industrial use of that whole area, and with fear that bringing up a family so close to the toxic hot mess would be a bad idea, or at least not the best choice if there were other condos available in less toxic areas. My question is this: Do condo developments do any kind of research into toxics they are building near, and do they have any kind of responsibility to potential buyers? For instance, I called them and asked if they had any water or filtration system in place, but they did not return my call.
— Posted by AW
The answer to this question is complicated as it depends on the developer, the developer’s consultants and the experience they have had in this arena.

There are no legal or statutory requirements to investigate adjacent properties for contamination or toxicity. However, most reputable developers, acting on common-sense principles, will avoid potential liability by conducting environmental studies of possible contamination in the area if they sense any risk of its migrating onto their property. For their own protection as well, they will typically do this in the development’s preliminary stages, before they have made significant investments in the project.

Although some environmental laws make property owners liable for remedial costs and damages related to environmental conditions, they do not require disclosure of environmental status to a potential purchaser before a sale.
#26–AW brings up a key problem with redevelopment in places like the Gowanus. Prior to the EPA Superfund listing, the city of NY granted a rezoning to the Toll Brothers to build 470 condo units at the edge of the canal. The city also started a general rezoning that would allow residential development throughout this old manufacturing zone. City Planning said that the environmental issues of a site would be addressed through an “E” designation noted on the department of buildings application. What that “E” designation actually means in terms of making a healthy environmental for residential uses is totally unclear. There is no imposition of state brownfield cleanup standards through this process unless the builder volunteers to enter the state BCP. Toll on the Gowanus was not part of that program, so what would they have done to clean their site if they had gone forward with their development and EPA hadn’t stepped in? Would there have been any verification of any claims to site cleanup? And might a company feeling financial strain in a down economy cut corners where there was no outside oversight? Wasn’t the mayor’s plan to rely on the good will of these developers to cleanup their sites as they saw fit?
— Posted by Gowanus Local
The “E” designation is a city-run program (http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcp/html/env_review/e_designation_faqs.shtml) that gives the city some control over sites with environmental contamination, including ultimate signoff authority as to whether a development may proceed. The Department of Environmental Protection can, as part of the process, order the developer to assess and remediate a site if it is deemed necessary. City regulators also have the authority to withhold building permits and certificates of occupancy if they are not satisfied that all environmental standards have been met. The “E” designation process not only deals with major contamination issues, but with a range of situations, from noise abatement to air quality issues.
The Brownfield Cleanup Program (http://www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/8450.html) (BCP) is a state-run program. Its goal is to accelerate cleanups of polluted properties known as brownfields by private-sector developers and, as a consequence, to reduce development pressure on more pristine “greenfields.” Developers can’t cut corners, because of the regulatory oversight provided by both the “E” designation and the Brownfields Cleanup Program. The worst-case scenario would be that a development would not be completed because the developer would not or was unable to clean up a site.

The mayor’s plan is to provide oversight and funding to developers to help them clean their sites according to regulatory standards. To that end, the mayor created the Mayor’s Office of Environmental Remediation (http://www.nyc.gov/html/oer/html/home/home.shtml) (OER) to provide incentives and guidance to developers of sites with light to moderate levels of contamination that would not qualify for admission into the state’s Brownfield Cleanup Program.
I was glad to see the federal government step in and order the cleaning of the canal before Michael Bloomberg’s friends planted down 490 housing units. Now that they did that good deed they should take a good look at the way waterfront development has gotten out of hand by the Bloomberg administration. In Coney Island, Sheepshead Bay, Rockaway Beach, to name a few locations I know about, housing developers are breaking city, state and federal laws by blocking existing public access and visual corridors to the water. Will the same happen with the housing development around the canal?
— Posted by John Baxter
There is widespread support within the Gowanus community for sustainable redevelopment of the neighborhood’s underutilized, and, in some cases, polluted properties. The restoration of the canal is the very centerpiece of this vision, which calls for walking paths along the banks and waterfront parks.

City planners support this approach as well. Their proposals for rezoning sections of the neighborhood recommend limits on building heights and setbacks along the canal, while also reserving its banks for a public walkway.

Indeed, there is already tangible progress toward these goals. A locally initiated remediation project, the Gowanus Canal Sponge Park, calls for engineered waterfront spaces that are designed to both slow and filter the contaminated stormwater runoff that drains into the canal, while also adding green park land to the waterway’s banks. Sponsored by the Gowanus Canal Conservancy (http://www.gowanuscanalconservancy.org/ee/) the park has received $300,000 in congressional funding toward construction.

Well-planned public access along the waterways incorporated into an urban sustainability model is essential to the regeneration of the Gowanus. The Baruch College Newman Institute’s forthcoming report, Reconsidering Gowanus: Opportunities for the Sustainable Transformation of An Industrial Neighborhood, calls for pathways, public parks and recreational activities along the waterfront. It supports the idea of recognizing the unique urban ecology of this area and calls for sensitivity in creating an appropriate urban design model of land/water user-interface that will benefit all Gowanus residents and that will be a welcoming model of waterfront enjoyment drawing New Yorkers from other parts of our great city.


March 12th, 2010, 07:53 PM
This guy wants to build a cistern chapel

By Mike Weiss

This is the story of a man and a pipe, and its consequences could solve a water pollution problem that has plagued this city for more than 100 years.
The man is Bart Chezar, Park Slope resident and environmental engineer, and the pipe is “OH-007,” a sewer discharge that empties into the Gowanus Canal.

Thanks to an innovative plan devised by Chezar, OH-007 could become a model of how to reduce sewer overflow and improve water quality in canals, rivers and the harbor itself.

The problem, of course, is the city’s 130-year-old sewer system, which mixes water from toilets and water from storm drains into the same pipes that go to sewage treatment plants.

During heavy rainfall, that combined system gets so overburdened that feces-filled water gets diverted from overwhelmed sewage plants into nearby waterways. In the Gowanus, the result is 377 million gallons of disgusting water ending up in the sluice every year.

For a long time, the city has said it has a large-scale plan to reduce that horrifying figure, but it won’t entirely eliminate the problem. That’s where Chezar’s “Smart Combined Sewer Overflow Discharge Control Technologies” comes in.

Chezar wants to install radio transmitters on float valves inside the combined sewer pipes, where the decision gets made to send sewage to a treatment facility or directly into a river. In Chezar’s plan, during a heavy rain or snow, the valves would sense that an overflow event is about to happen and transmit signals to receivers in neighborhood buildings. There, large tanks would receive the signals and close their own valves, thereby storing water from those buildings and preventing it from entering, and further overwhelming, the system.

When the wet weather is over, these tanks — also known as cisterns — would open and release their water into the now-unburdened sewer system.

“It’s a feedback system,” Chezar said. “This is used in industry all the time. All I’m doing is connecting that approach to the sewer system, which hasn’t happened in the past.”

Chezar is well-acquainted with such systems, having worked as a research and design engineer for more than 30 years with the New York Power Authority. He’s been trying for years to interest the city in at least testing his cistern chapel, but was told that he would first have to demonstrate that worked before the bureaucrats would allocate any real money.

Then, last December, the city unveiled a new grant program that was charged with funding innovative plans to reduce the combined sewer overflow problem — and, of course, Chezar applied. He won’t know until June whether his sponsoring organization, the NY/NJ Baykeeper, will get the $450,000 grant.

But in the meantime, he’s demonstrating how such a system could work, moving ahead with a plan to install devices that will change colors to indicate when a combined sewer overflow is imminent. Armed with this information, homeowners could temporarily reduce their water use by turning off their washing machines, dishwashers, or by postponing a shower until the storm has passed.

He is also developing an iPhone app that will have a similar set of color-coded alerts.

Chezar realizes that people could simply ignore the alerts, but he thinks that locals would be more than willing to do their part for a cleaner Gowanus Canal.

“We all want to do good stuff, but this would actually be good stuff in the neighborhood,” Chezar said. “If you give people feedback and show them they can achieve something, they’ll be motivated to do more.”

http://www.brooklynpaper.com/stories/33/12/33_12_mw_cistern_guy.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+TheBrooklynPaper-FullArticles+%28The+Brooklyn+Paper%3A+Full+article s%29

March 13th, 2010, 08:55 PM
This past week two dolphins were spotted in the canal. I'm trying to find the article. It was in the print version of The Brooklyn Paper for Park Slope.

March 13th, 2010, 09:12 PM
It wasn't this (http://wirednewyork.com/forum/showpost.php?p=318201&postcount=62) story, was it BR, regarding Newtown Creek?

Also at Gothamist (http://gothamist.com/2010/03/04/dolphins_spotted_near_the_brooklyn.php) and Brooklyn Paper (http://www.brooklynpaper.com/stories/33/11/33_11_ac_dolphins.html).

June 4th, 2010, 06:54 AM
Celebration at the Edge of Decay


slide show (http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2010/05/02/nyregion/02STOP-SS.html?ref=fashion)
slide show (http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2010/03/03/nyregion/20100303GOWANUS_index.html?ref=fashion)

IN the claustrophobic confines of New York City, nothing marks the beginning of summer like an open-air dance party. And in South Brooklyn on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, summer commenced at an event space known as the Bklyn Yard.

In a grove of leafy trees, hundreds of women (exposed shoulders, gladiator sandals) and men (straw hats, crisp shorts, multicolored Nikes) swayed to the effervescent beats of Michael Mayer, a techno D.J. from Cologne, Germany. Local children turned the Yard’s boccie courts into sandboxes, while their parents picked at freshly made brick-oven pizzas. The line for drinks (sangria, Sixpoint Craft Ales) stretched nearly as long as the line for the portable toilets. Shortly after 8 o’clock, the sun began to set, turning the sky a vibrant pink that was reflected in the placid waters running alongside the Yard: the notoriously polluted Gowanus Canal.

“There’s no place in Brooklyn, or in New York City, that feels kind of more pleasant than being right here, which is odd given that that is a toxic waterway,” said Jennifer Prediger, a producer of environmental videos who lives in nearby Carroll Gardens. “But it’s actually quite lovely. It’s the loveliest toxic waterway I’ve ever spent time on.”

In the course of its roughly 150-year history, the Gowanus Canal has been called many things, but it’s fair to say “lovely” is probably not one of them. Now, however, the Gowanus micro-neighborhood — bounded by the gentrifying brownstone districts of Carroll Gardens, Boerum Hill and Park Slope — is enjoying its moment in the summer sun, drawing the city’s hipsters to its art galleries and rock-climbing gyms, its nightclubs and rooftop film series. The half-empty warehouses and semi-derelict factories — for so long seen as post-industrial blight — now give Gowanus a special cultural edge, like a miniature Baltimore or Detroit (with terrifying pollution substituting for terrifying crime).

“It’s the last chance for there to be a place for some creative stuff to happen,” said David Belt, a local architect responsible for some of the neighborhood’s most creative stuff. Last year, he converted Dumpsters into swimming pools and installed them in a Gowanus lot. This year, he designed “Glassphemy!”, a recycling-themed installation that lets people throw bottles at one another. “There’s industrial buildings, there’s open space, there’s blurry beauty everywhere,” he said. “There’s kind of the feeling that you can still discover something special, that you’re using your own aesthetic to interpret. Everything isn’t, you know, a condo with a silly name.”

And it won’t be for a little while longer, thanks to the Environmental Protection Agency, which in March designated the canal and its immediate surroundings a Superfund site, ordering a cleanup it says will take 10 to 12 years and cost $300 million to $500 million. The move was opposed by the city, which wanted to avoid the Superfund stigma and manage the cleanup itself, and real estate developers like Toll Brothers, which wanted to break ground as soon as possible on a 480-unit canal-side apartment complex. Now development plans are on hold.

“We had a big party — with Champagne,” said Marlene Donnelly, a member of Friends and Residents of Greater Gowanus, an activist group that fought for the Superfund designation. She was sitting in a lounge chair in the well-tended backyard of her Gowanus home with her husband, Benjamin R. M. Ellis, an architect.

“There was hope in the world that the mayor and his cronies and rapacious developers lost,” said Mr. Ellis. “It was clearly a victory.”

That victory, as they see it, is still only partial. The E.P.A. cleanup covers only the canal and the polluted soil, but does not address the fact that whenever it rains, sewage from the surrounding neighborhoods runs directly into the canal. Responsibility for fixing that problem lies with the city, whose current plans would alleviate “approximately 34 percent” of the runoff. Ms. Donnelly and Mr. Ellis say it’s more like 10 percent, and until the sewage system is improved, residential development should be delayed in the area, for which Mr. Ellis had a variety of descriptions, ranging from “filthy industrial wasteland” to “toilet bowl.”

“I mean, come on! Hello! It’s just not good planning,” Mr. Ellis said, his eyes wide behind his glasses and his steely hair suddenly leonine. “That’s it. And that’s what we’ve been saying all along: Let’s clean it up, and then let’s talk.”

What they (and many other locals) want to see is developments like the Old American Can Factory, a complex of Civil War-era brick buildings whose owner, Nathan F. Elbogen, has turned them into affordable offices, studios and workshops for creative businesses like the fashion label Vena Cava and the art space Issue Project Room (which moved to Gowanus after being priced out of the East Village). The Jewish Press building, an enormous, disused, nearly windowless structure, could become a theater, Ms. Donnelly said.

The idea is to preserve what attracts people to the Gowanus in the first place. People like Turner Cody, a tall, bearded folk and blues musician who recently shot a music video there and described the view as “a nice bit of urban decay.” And people like James Stillwaggon, a 34-year-old Brooklynite in amber sunglasses and half-buttoned shirt, who on a recent Wednesday evening took his 12-year-old nephew to explore the water with the Gowanus Dredgers Canoe Club, which has provided free canoes to thousands of canal visitors since 1999.

“We saw some oil slicks, we saw some beer bottles floating, we saw some tugboats or some barges,” said Mr. Stillwaggon, whose ancestors were tugboat captains. “We saw a wineglass floating, which was pretty fantastic. Somebody had a great time! But we also saw an egret, we saw a cat, we saw a lot of birds flying overhead. You know, it’s amazing how the industrial space becomes grown over with all this green that refuses to be held back.”

Was he worried about being on a waterway so polluted, it was once received a diagnosis of gonorrhea?

“No,” he said. “I mean, if you grew up on Long Island in the ’80s, there were always days when there was sewage in the water, there were needles in the water — all sorts of horrible stuff. So I don’t think it’s anything to be afraid of.”

But even those who thrill to this “blurry beauty” (to use David Belt’s term) understand that the Gowanus must change, and that a dozen years from now, when it’s all (or partly, depending on your point of view) cleaned up, the big developers may very well step in, eventually pricing out the artists and other creative types who have made the neighborhood what it is today.

This sense of the neighborhood’s ephemeral nature infused the Bklyn Yard, which happens to be adjacent to the Toll Brothers site and might not survive development.

“This year we wanted to do a lot of structural changes and, like, build a bigger bar and things like that,” said Katie Longmyer, an owner of MeanRed Productions, the company that is organizing weekend parties at the Yard through the summer. “But because we didn’t know the longevity of the space, that kind of affected it. So we got more tents instead of building things out of wood. That’s how we gauge it. If you were like, ’Is the Yard going to come back next year?,’ I couldn’t even tell you.”

One of the partygoers, Erin Gillis, a blond, blue-eyed 29-year-old from Detroit, indulged in a bit of pre-emptive nostalgia for the Yard of years past, when she once spotted a “fat, middle-aged couple, drinking cans of beer, completely nude,” floating by in a little boat. “What makes the Yard special is that it’s untouched, it’s not manicured,” she said. “It’s not a state park.”

AS the E.P.A.’s work begins — and therefore as the neighborhood’s potential expiration date draws ever nearer — the Gowanus community might want to adopt the attitude taken by José Portes, 36, an owner of Homage Brooklyn, a popular skateboard shop on Smith Street.

For years, he and his partner, Michelle Sauer, have been trying to get a skate park incorporated into a public park in Gowanus — with, at last, a bit of success. Where the surface of Thomas Greene Park was once cracked and pitted with grass, now it’s smooth, with a small complex of wooden banks and ledges for local kids (and, once in a while, a writer for The New York Times) to do tricks on.

“It’s good that we are creative and adaptive — highly adaptive,” Mr. Portes said. “That’s kind of what we do in skateboarding, right? You don’t see the obstacle as a thing that’s in your way. You see it as something in the way that you’re going to bonk off or you’re going to grind.”

And while he isn’t exactly looking forward to a neighborhood full of luxury apartments, he does see an upside. “There’s new developments coming up,” he said, “and right with them some new ledges, some new banks, and hopefully they won’t skate-proof them!”


June 7th, 2010, 01:16 AM
Oh yeah, a week after it opened for the season the BKLYN Yard got shut down. Their landlord killed their lease. Ridiculous.

July 9th, 2010, 01:39 AM
Toll Brothers is officially stigmatized by the Superfund

By Gary Buiso

Toll Brothers has officially bailed on building this mixed-use project along the Gowanus Canal, citing the federal government's Superfund declaration.

The “Superfund stigma” has claimed its first victim, as a development company that once envisioned a 500-unit complex along the banks of the fetid Gowanus Canal has officially bailed on its five-year pursuit of the project saying that it can’t wait for the federal government to complete its proposed 10-plus year clean-up.

Toll Brothers walked away from a $5.75-million down payment it had made on canal-front land just south of the Carroll Street bridge, making good on a promise to abandon its plan if the federal government designated the waterway a Superfund site, as it did in March.

“It just didn’t financially make sense to close on the properties and then have to wait 15 to 20 years until we could develop them,” said David Von Spreckelsen, senior vice president for the mostly suburban development company. “Fifteen years of having our money out the door and not having a return didn’t make financial sense.”

Toll had entered a contract to purchase the property from Joseph Phillips and Citibank in 2004, and made its down payment on the eventual purchase price of $20.6 million, according to court papers filed last year.

“They are keeping the property and we made non-refundable deposits,” Von Spreckelsen said, referring to a settlement of the case that was quietly made last month.

Had the project advanced, Toll would have purchased a total of three parcels on two adjoining blocks to build a mixed-income project with 477 apartments in a complex of townhouses and buildings scaling as high as 12 stories.

That vision had already worked its way through the city’s land-use review process. As a result, Toll was one of many developers and property owners who blasted the Environmental Protection Agency for naming the canal a Superfund site, arguing that the stigma of the designation would forestall development for years.

“These were never just idle threats,” Von Spreckelsen said. “I spent five years of my life working on getting this done, and I don’t think anything is going to happen there for a very long time.”
The city opposed the designation and predicted it would jeopardize more than $400 million of private investment, including the Toll Brothers complex.

The EPA was mum about Toll’s departure, putting out a statement that the agency “continues to focus on the extensive investigation into the contamination of the canal [to] ensure the health and safety of the surrounding community through an effective cleanup,” which is expected to cost $500 million.

Superfund supporters said good riddance to Toll — which last week was ranked first among home building companies in Fortune Magazine’s “World’s Most Admired Companies.”

“This is the right thing for the Gowanus corridor,” said area resident Linda Mariano. “The land might sit there for now, but we still have a future. We want healthy water and healthy land and open space. It shouldn’t just be for people who live in condos and co-ops.”


Gowanus Village (http://wirednewyork.com/forum/showthread.php?t=5416&highlight=gowanus) WNY thread

February 2nd, 2011, 07:52 PM
Gowanus Canal Inquiry Underlines Severity of Pollution

By MIREYA NAVARRO (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/n/mireya_navarro/index.html?inline=nyt-per)

Published: February 2, 2011

A yearlong investigation of the Gowanus Canal in preparation for its cleanup under the federal Superfund (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/subjects/s/superfund/index.html?inline=nyt-classifier) program has confirmed the severe extent of its contamination and the threat it poses to public health, particularly for people who eat fish from the canal or have repeated contact with its water or sediment.

Officials with the federal Environmental Protection Agency (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/e/environmental_protection_agency/index.html?inline=nyt-org) on Wednesday released the results of a study (http://yosemite.epa.gov/opa/admpress.nsf/0/e99317da92c631ce8525782b0057e138?OpenDocument) it conducted of the Brooklyn waterway, which was named a Superfund site last March (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/03/nyregion/03gowanus.html) over the objections of the Bloomberg administration. The cleanup, which E.P.A. officials said would surely involve major dredging, is expected to start by 2015 and last 10 to 11 years at an estimated cost of $300 million to $500 million to be paid for by polluters.

Tests of water, sediment and tissue from fish like striped bass and white perch showed heavy contamination from a combination of industrial and sewage discharges, some of which continue, federal officials said. The canal is polluted with more than a dozen contaminants, including suspected carcinogens like polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs; metals like mercury, lead and copper; and debris including sunken vessels.

For more than a century after it was carved out of tidal wetlands and streams in the 1860s, the Gowanus served as a teeming route for oil refineries, chemical plants, tanneries, manufactured gas plants and other heavy industry along its banks. Most of the industrial traffic has faded since the 1960s, although waste still flows into the canal and it is used by some businesses and recreational boaters from neighborhoods bordering it, including Park Slope, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens and Red Hook.

The most prevalent pollutant in the canal, officials said Wednesday, is a group of chemicals known as P.A.H.’s, for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, another suspected carcinogen. Formed during the incomplete burning of coal, oil, gas, wood, garbage or other organic substances, the chemicals were found mostly near former manufactured gas plants along the canal.

In a telephone conference call with reporters Wednesday, the E.P.A. regional administrator in New York, Judith A. Enck (http://www.epa.gov/aboutepa/region2ra.html), reiterated warnings that people should not swim in the canal or eat its fish. While boating should not be restricted, Ms. Enck said, recreational users should avoid coming in contact with the water.

“What we found is no surprise,” she said. “The report paints a pretty serious picture of the level of contamination.”

Ms. Enck said the contamination was so severe that she was not ready to say whether the Gowanus would ever be “swimmable and fishable.” On a positive note, she said that air samples from around the canal did not reveal contamination above “acceptable”
safety standards.

In opposing the designation of the Gowanus as a Superfund site, the Bloomberg administration argued that the label could set off legal battles with polluters, prolong the dredging operation and scare off developers, and proposed its own cleanup plan instead.

But city officials are now working with the E.P.A., and the city’s environmental protection commissioner, Caswell F. Holloway IV (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/01/nyregion/01appoint.html), said the report reflected efforts already undertaken locally to reduce the flow of contaminants into the canal.

“The report rightly acknowledges the $140 million of investments the city is already making to improve water quality in the canal,” Mr. Holloway said in a statement. “Once complete in 2013, upgrades to the canal’s flushing tunnel and pumping station will cut combined sewer overflows by 34 percent.”

Ms. Enck of the E.P.A. called the new data, collected from January to November of last year, “a critical milestone” in the process of mending the 1.8-mile canal, which runs to New York Harbor from Gowanus Bay.

The next step is a feasibility study by the agency to review the technologies available for a full-scale cleanup and to come up with a recommended method by the beginning of next year. The recommendation will be subject to public comment, and once approved, would require two years of design work before the cleanup could begin.

The E.P.A. has scheduled a public meeting to discuss the findings on Feb. 23 from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at Public School 32 in Brooklyn. A draft report of the results of the investigation is available online at epa.gov/region02 (http://www.epa.gov/region02/superfund/npl/gowanus).


February 2nd, 2011, 07:59 PM
The next step is a feasibility study by the agency to review the technologies available for a full-scale cleanup and to come up with a recommended method by the beginning of next year. The recommendation will be subject to public comment, and once approved, would require two years of design work before the cleanup could begin.

At this rate they could spend the $140m on Enquiries and Feasibility Studies, before they even start do anything with the pollution.

February 3rd, 2011, 12:12 PM
I'm going to make a stupid proposal here. It starts with a question. Exactly how much of a working waterway is this any more? Maybe it would be better to seal up both ends, drain it, clean it out dry, and just fill the damn thing in and make it go away. They could then sell of the new land.

It's a canal, so it's artificial to begin with. Do we really need it any more?

February 3rd, 2011, 12:49 PM
No more artificial than any other number of waterways as they now exist around NYC, which have been recut and restructured to fit the urban purpose. As it exists the GC is unique, and an artifact of the industrial age of the City. Re-purposing it could very well lead to a much better investment than demolishing it and covering it over (as the High Line has generated far more development $$ in that area than would have the alternative of tearing it down and letting "normal" development take its course in MePa / West Chelsea).

The Gowanus Canal was originally the Gowanus Creek, as seen on the MAP From 1848 (http://digitalgallery.nypl.org/nypldigital/dgkeysearchdetail.cfm?trg=1&strucID=252821&imageID=433968&total=1&e=w)

Another plan for draining Gowanus Creek and Gowanus Meadows, a MAP From 1847 (http://digitalgallery.nypl.org/nypldigital/dgkeysearchdetail.cfm?trg=1&strucID=252837&imageID=433984&total=125&num=20&word=gowanus&s=1&notword=&d=&c=&f=&k=0&lWord=&lField=&sScope=&sLevel=&sLabel=&imgs=20&pos=28&e=w#_seemore).

A more bucolic time: Gowanus Creek circa 1776 (http://digitalgallery.nypl.org/nypldigital/dgkeysearchdetail.cfm?trg=1&strucID=169024&imageID=423823&total=125&num=80&word=gowanus&s=1&notword=&d=&c=&f=&k=0&lWord=&lField=&sScope=&sLevel=&sLabel=&imgs=20&pos=90&e=w#_seemore)

2004 Report from the Army Corp of Engineers (http://issuu.com/proteusgowanus/docs/2004-gowanus_usace_historic_resources_report), including history of the Gowanus Creek & Meadows.




February 3rd, 2011, 01:02 PM
Maybe it would be better to seal up both ends, drain it, clean it out dry, and just fill the damn thing in and make it go away. They could then sell of the new land.It would still have to be cleaned. It might even cost much more. Filling it in doesn't make the problem go away.


February 3rd, 2011, 01:04 PM
I think Bloomie's major concern is deadlocks, but most of the politicians see $300M thatw ill be coming into the state via the superfund that will, at least in the short term, help things (even if the mis-management of it will cause a cost over-run that will be either settled in court for MORE money, or shoveled back onto the taxpayer.)

I don't know if his idea would be any better, but the important thing is the cleaning of the canal.

BBMW's idea might work if there was a way to divert the natural flow away long enough to keep the canal sufficiently dry to simply excavate rather than dredge the polluted soil. This would also help prevent migration of the settlement downstream.

As for filling it back in? That would not necessarily be the best or cheapest solution, as the soil would be crappy there and discourage developers from building anything there anyway. Add that to no "waterside apartments" and you will lose property value.

The key here is a clean, non smelly waterway. Once that happens, people are more likely to want to build there.

February 3rd, 2011, 08:50 PM
I did say clean it out. I'd just look at doing it dry. That may be easier and more thorough. Nowadays they could probably process and reuse the fill.

In the end, the new land that would be made may be more valuable that having it as a waterway.

It would still have to be cleaned. It might even cost much more. Filling it in doesn't make the problem go away.


February 3rd, 2011, 08:53 PM
I don't think there's too much natural flow going on here, to the point were they build a supply tunnel, complete with a ship propeller for a pump, to push the stagnant water out of the canal. I have a feeling you could cap that, cap the end were it flows out into the East River, pump it out, and only get local rain runoff coming back in.

I could be wrong, but I think it would be worth investigating.

BBMW's idea might work if there was a way to divert the natural flow away long enough to keep the canal sufficiently dry to simply excavate rather than dredge the polluted soil. This would also help prevent migration of the settlement downstream.

February 3rd, 2011, 10:06 PM
I did say clean it out.I read what you wrote.

You would have to cofferdam the canal. The banks would have to be stabilized before the water is removed to avoid collapse. Would pumping it out untreated be allowed? Probably not. The highest concentration of suspended material is near the bottom and doesn't move around much, so the water may have to be treated before released.

Process the fill? They've been trying for decades to figure out a way to do that with the upper Hudson River soil contaminated by GE, and that's just one chemical.

They basically did this on a small scale when they excavated the 100 11th Ave site for the Nouvel building. Took 2 years.

Unlike the WTC excavated material going next door to BPC, fill would have to be transported in. The canal isn't big, but it is 2 miles long. That's a lot of truckloads.

February 4th, 2011, 11:22 AM
I read what you wrote.

You would have to cofferdam the canal.

True, but really only one end.

The banks would have to be stabilized before the water is removed to avoid collapse.


Would pumping it out untreated be allowed? Probably not. The highest concentration of suspended material is near the bottom and doesn't move around much, so the water may have to be treated before released.

I don't know about this. The canal is open to the East River, and they actively pump water through it. If this was a problem, they'd have to be dealing with it already.

Process the fill? They've been trying for decades to figure out a way to do that with the upper Hudson River soil contaminated by GE, and that's just one chemical.

Either way (dredged wet, or dug out empty) there going to have to deal with this.

They basically did this on a small scale when they excavated the 100 11th Ave site for the Nouvel building. Took 2 years.

Unlike the WTC excavated material going next door to BPC, fill would have to be transported in. The canal isn't big, but it is 2 miles long. That's a lot of truckloads.

Truck it to the riverback and dump it in barges. They're going to have to barge out the dredge spoil.

Hey, this might be a stupid idea. I started this subthread by saying that. But it also might be worth running the numbers. A big part of that would be the value of a cleaned canal vs the value of the new land created. A lot of that would depend on the amount of commerce driven by the canal. However, if there was a lot of that, they wouldn't be talking about doing residential development along the canal.

February 4th, 2011, 12:35 PM
BB, what zip is saying is not that it can't be done, but there is a LOT of it to be done and that would probably not be feasable.

We are talking about initial overhead before anything can be made of it. A very expensive proposition at any time, nevermind a recession.

What I was suggesting was a way to reduce cost of removal, not in making it permanent....

The only other thing to keep in mind BB is that many things that are current problems are let be if nobody does anything with, near or around them. As soon as you touch them, then you have to follow the rules, even if not doing anything is bad. The main reason for this woud be as Zip suggested, higher concentrations that have been essentially immobile. As soon as you start stirring things up, you run a high risk of a concentrated short-term discharge that would immediately effect the surrounding ecosystem.

IOW, even though 1μg/L/day may be worse than 100μg/L over a month, the rate of discharge, exposure, and ingestion might be too much for the local flora and fauna....

Or it just might smell too much, who knows.

Thing is, things like this have happened before with bad results, so now there are laws to prevent a recurrance.....

February 4th, 2011, 12:46 PM
I don't know about this. The canal is open to the East River, and they actively pump water through it. If this was a problem, they'd have to be dealing with it already.Water movement is done to reduce the odor that's caused by stagnant standing water. It's mainly a surface problem and is not the real issue with the canal that made it a superfund site. Pollutants settle toward the bottom.

Either way (dredged wet, or dug out empty) there going to have to deal with this.When I said "process the fill," it was in answer to your idea to return it to the site, not just "deal with it."

Of course you left out where all this fill was going to come from, and the cost of getting it to the site.

I think what it all depends on is $.

If the point is to create new real estate, you could do it much cheaper by a landfill project in the East River. If the point is to clean it up, you could do it much cheaper by not filling it in.

You said it twice - "a stupid idea."

If it seems like I know a lot about this, forum veterans may remember a friend of mine from the Corp of Engineers, the Tick Man. Several years ago, he spent considerable time at the canal and other sites in a full environmental suit. During that time, we never invited him to dinner.

February 4th, 2011, 03:38 PM
If it seems like I know a lot about this, forum veterans may remember a friend of mine from the Corp of Engineers, the Tick Man. Several years ago, he spent considerable time at the canal and other sites in a full environmental suit. During that time, we never invited him to dinner.

What a stinker.

February 15th, 2011, 05:04 AM
The Superfund Discount

The Gowanus Canal: Toxic wasteland or real-estate hot spot?

By S.Jhoanna Robledo

(Photo: Frances Roberts/Alamy)

Two weeks ago, the Environmental Protection Agency made it official: The Gowanus Canal is very, very foul. In its new study of the 1.8-mile Brooklyn waterway, declared a Superfund site last year, the Feds called it “one of the most contaminated water bodies in the nation,” laced with carcinogens, runoff, and sewage. Infrastructure work has made it less stinky than it was, but a Maui beachfront it is not.

Which means the $3 million sale of a new house on Bond Street, one block from the canal, is big news. The price is a neighborhood record, by far, and the buyer, Dr. Idan Sharon, is confident that he’s made a good call: “People said, ‘Are you crazy?’ And I said, ‘Listen, go see the place.’ ” The house itself is definitely one-of-a-kind: 25 feet wide, sustainably built, with five stories (including a rental unit), a three-car garage, and a heated pool. “If this was in Manhattan, it’d be three times, four times the price,” Sharon says. Peggy Aguayo, whose firm handled the sale, admits that “I had my doubts. The only houses being sold at that price were in prime locations.” They had a contract within two months.

Yes, there’s a little Gowanus boom going on, driven by the usual proximity and culture.

Artists have been settling here for some years, just as they did in the boho days of Tribeca and Williamsburg, and now they’re being followed by investors and a notable number of doctors. (Useful neighbors to have, if you make contact with the canal water.)

Concert venues, galleries, and bars earned the neighborhood a nod last year in The Wall Street Journal as “the city’s unlikeliest cultural hot spot.” The area is cradled at the nexus of Park Slope, Boerum Hill, and Carroll Gardens, at a far more accessible price.

Michel Cohen, a pediatrician, bought and renovated a house on Carroll Street about two years ago, intending to rent it out, but decided to move in instead. It reminds him, he says, of the Tribeca he knew twenty years ago—“like a little village,” says Cohen.

Some settlers are also oddly fond of the canal itself. “As contaminated as it is, [it] represents nature,” says architect David Briggs, co-founder of the community group Gowanus by Design. “You can see the sky, you can see across neighborhoods, there’s wildlife.” Then there’s the real estate: architecturally heterogeneous and sometimes nonconformist, and definitely cheaper than nearby housing. The median price for a house in Gowanus is $535,000, per Trulia.com; Park Slope’s median is $997,000. (Corcoran’s Robert Herskovitz, who’s marketing a Carroll Street property, says traffic to his open houses has been brisk.)

Local opinion holds that after the cleanup, which starts in 2015 and should take about a decade, prices will probably head upward. “In a way, I think [Superfund designation] is a good thing,” says Cohen. Fear of EPA findings, then the recession, kept away big construction projects for years. Instead, smaller, more mindful change is beginning, successfully. As one poster on the online forum YouBeMom.com put it, “My neighbor’s house just sold for $1.6 million, so yeah … I’m good with that.” And then: “It’s being cleaned up and developed, finally. Why is that so bad?”


February 23rd, 2011, 12:35 PM
February 23, 2011, 7:00 am

Under the Gowanus Canal, Flushing Out the Stench

By J. DAVID GOODMAN (http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/author/j-david-goodman/)

During renovations, a temporary system adds oxygen to the canal SLIDE SHOW (http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/02/23/under-the-gowanus-canal-flushing-out-the-stench/?partner=rss&emc=rss)

Water flecked with Brooklyn dirt trickled down on Tom O’Brien’s hard hat from the arching ceiling of the Gowanus Canal flushing tunnel.

Fifty-five feet underground, it made for a funny kind of rain. Each drop began as snow on Degraw Street in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, seeping slowly through sand and earth before wending its way through the tunnel’s seven tightly fitted layers of aging brick and finally falling into its empty cavern.

“The mussels, syringes, crabs, condoms — this is dirty,” Mr. O’Brien said, standing in stagnant black groundwater up to his thighs and pointing around at the bits of city trash, small mollusks and dead crustaceans stuck to the brown and white clumps of algae on the walls. A humid fog hung in the nearly 60-degree air.

Above ground, it was well below freezing.

Mr. O’Brien, a sandhog from Tappan, N.Y., and a small crew of city contractors were among the first people in decades to walk around inside the tunnel, which was recently drained so a major repair job could begin.

Nearly 100 years after fetid water from the Gowanus Canal first flowed under Brooklyn, the city has embarked on an extensive four-year, $140 million renovation of the Gowanus flushing tunnel, a landmark-worthy bit of infrastructure that flushes out the canal by pulling in fresh water from Buttermilk Channel. The goal, now as then, is simple: to get rid of that canal stink.

Making that happen, of course, has proved to be more difficult.


As early as the 1880s – only two decades after first constructing the canal – the city began drawing up plans to address stench. Before settling on a flushing tunnel, the Gowanus was cleansed only by the tides.

South Brooklyn celebrated the official opening of the flushing tunnel – June 21, 1911 – as if it were a holiday. Streets and local businesses were festooned with flags and bunting, and decorated yachts and barges sat in the canal.

“You have now the waters of the Gowanus purified,” Mayor William Jay Gaynor declared as he threw the switch bringing the electric motor and its 9-foot propeller to life. Canal water rushed into the 12-foot diameter tunnel as if from a giant industrial latrine.

But that dead-cat-on-a-wet-doormat odor soon came back, if it ever went away at all.

The history of the flushing tunnel also provides a window into the kind of long-term vision and bungled short-term expedience that alternately benefit and plague efforts to maintain the city’s aging infrastructure.

Take, for instance, the large black sewer pipe currently lying just submerged underwater in the center of the tunnel. Installed clumsily in 1988, the pipe plays no part in cleaning the Gowanus; the city simply borrowed the old tunnel to use as a conduit to a larger sewer instead of digging a new path.

Moreover, the sewer pipe failed “almost immediately,” said Kevin Clarke, an environmental engineer at the city’s Department of Environmental Protection, during a recent tour of the flushing tunnel.

After the unsuccessful construction project, the city left the broken sewer pipe and its massive concrete anchors lying uselessly along the aging tunnel floor. The city never cleaned it up — though it did try to get it running in 1998, before it failed again — because the flushing mechanism itself had been broken for decades.

That mechanism – a custom motor and bronzed propeller like that on a large ship – broke down irreparably in the late 1960s. The motor sat dormant until 1999, when the city refurbished it and switched it back on. But the motor remained problematic because of its aging design and custom parts.

Even so, much of the tunnel’s original construction was sturdy, even masterful, and the city plans to make few changes to its structure, which is still sound. “There are no missing bricks,” said Mr. Clarke, who is overseeing the renovation. Only a few areas needed to be patched where large leaks had sprung between the bricks.

The repairs are relatively straightforward: reconstruct the motor pit and replace the propeller with three modern vertical turbines; clean, patch and smooth the interior of the tunnel; replace the broken sewer pipe and encase it in concrete, to improve water flow; and reduce the amount of sewer overflow into the canal by increasing capacity at a nearby pumping plant.

Most of this will be accomplished invisibly underground, but the effect of the change – the city hopes – will be readily detectable in surrounding neighborhoods as the smell improves with the water quality. The renovation work is being done in concert with the federal Superfund cleanup, but is independent of it.

Where the original design of the tunnel pulled water from the canal and deposited it into Buttermilk Channel, the water flow has been reversed since 1999, pumping fresh water in.

The switch was made because the primary culprit behind the smells and failure to support life is the canal’s often low oxygen content. The city aims to boost the flow of water through the tunnel by 40 percent after the renovation, keeping the amount of dissolved oxygen at a stable and high level. Bringing in fresh water – with high oxygen content – achieves that goal more effectively, so the flow will now be permanently reversed.

To ensure the oxygen level stays relatively high while the tunnel is switched off for repairs, the city’s Department of Environmental Protection installed an oxygen system over the summer at Douglas Street. The system includes a 2,500-foot-long system of pipes that snakes through the canal just below the water surface at high tide and bubbles out supersaturated oxygen like the filter on a fish tank.

Even with the temporary bubbler installed, the city admits that the dissolved oxygen level will be lower during the renovation. “We’ve been able to mitigate the smell,” Mr. Clarke said. However, on a recent afternoon, the stench at low tide was noxious to all but the ducks who roamed the soft, contaminated mud at the canal’s head, sinking a little with every step.

But far underground, the tunnel itself exuded only a faint cavelike mustiness. Its lack of foul odor seemed something like a foretaste of an improved, future Gowanus Canal, one that doesn’t send newspaper reporters running to the thesaurus for synonyms for “fetid” or searching for the freshest way to describe the stench of rotting eggs.

Still, Mr. O’Brien insisted that this job was one of the dirtiest he had encountered in his time as a sandhog, or tunnel worker. As he trudged through the accumulated ground water, mussel shells crunched underfoot.

That level of dirty is only temporary, he said. Soon most of the water would be gone and the defunct black pipe replaced by temporary tracks for a small flatbed train with a bench for shuttling supplies and workers up and down the tunnel. “It beats walking,” Mr. O’Brien said. Then the work would really start.

“We’re not in full swing right now,” he said, “but once we are, it’ll be busy.” At least ten more sand hogs will likely be underground, he said.

And by 2013, the flora, fauna and people of the Gowanus area will be able to pass judgment on the quality of their invisible work far beneath the street just by sniffing the air.



February 23rd, 2011, 01:04 PM
Interesting, but I wonder if it was cheaper for a bubbler, or if they could have just used an agitator (deliberately cause a mini-waterfall at one end).

That would, however, require flow for proper distribution....

Maybe that is what the two chamber turbine design will try to accomplish, better aeration of the water flow....

November 1st, 2011, 06:10 AM
Looking for the Beauty Along Brooklyn's Toxic Canal

by Sara Polsky

http://ny.curbed.com/gowanuskensinger_10_11-thumb.jpg (http://ny.curbed.com/gowanuskensinger_10_11.jpg)
[Photos by Nathan Kensinger (http://kensinger.blogspot.com/2011/10/gowanus-canal-toxic-playground.html). Click to expand]

The Gowanus Canal is enough of a wasteland that there are whole competitions (http://ny.curbed.com/archives/2011/07/28/bright_ideas.php) devoted to its restoration. Still, there's a kind of beauty in the canal as it is, and photographer Nathan Kensinger (http://kensinger.blogspot.com/2011/10/gowanus-canal-toxic-playground.html) went looking for it. Above, a few of his photos from the canal; click through (http://kensinger.blogspot.com/2011/10/gowanus-canal-toxic-playground.html) for more and larger images.

Gowanus Canal: Toxic Playground (http://kensinger.blogspot.com/2011/10/gowanus-canal-toxic-playground.html) [Nathan Kensinger]

http://ny.curbed.com/archives/2011/10/31/looking_for_the_beauty_along_brooklyns_toxic_canal .php

November 1st, 2011, 08:37 AM
I would certainly consider it interesting, exploring the almost apocalyptic wasteland... But calling it "beautiful"........

Nah. Sorry. Ain't buying it.

January 4th, 2012, 07:58 AM
It's unfortunate that the owner may have lost his business and people have lost their jobs, but YUCK! I guess it's a messy business but surely it doesn't need to be that disgusting?

A Collapse at a Poultry Shop Exposes a Rift Among Neighbors




Some of the neighbors had been heard to express the wish over the years that a divine hand would smite Yeung Sun Live Poultry.

Clucking chickens went into its storefront. Dead ones came out, bound for Chinatown restaurants. So did blood, and entrails, and putrid odors that wafted past the fancy lofts and dark-wood bars of an up-and-coming neighborhood near the Brooklyn waterfront, a place that prefers its industrial grit to look a bit more picturesque and smell a tad less gritty.

So it was with a mix of schadenfreude and guilt that locals greeted the news that the poultry shop had been felled by a freak accident late last week, as city workers dug a tunnel to remedy an even more celebrated stench — that of the Gowanus Canal.

“Thank God,” was the reaction of Mary Gaglio, a real estate agent, upon hearing that one of the abbatoir’s walls had collapsed and that it had been forced, for now, to close. (No one was hurt.) “Get rid of the old and bad,” Ms. Gaglio said, “and build the new.”

Yet the still-uncertain fate of the poultry shop seems to havetouched every nerve in the neighborhood — especially the love-hate tension between the area’s utilitarian past and its gentrified future.

Ms. Gaglio, 61, has spent decades promoting the area, sometimes called the Columbia Street Waterfront District: a tiny enclave between shipping docks and the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway that abuts Red Hook, Carroll Gardens and Cobble Hill but is not quite claimed by any of them. Apartments she said she remembered pricing at $175,000 now sell for more than $1 million.

But some residents — even some newer ones — said they were irritated by neighbors who seemed to view themselves as too posh for poultry.

“My opinion is, don’t buy an apartment overlooking a chicken coop if you don’t like the smell of it,” said Florry Shadletsky, who moved in about 12 years ago, before a recent building boom brought a new crop of residents. “It’s an entitled view to try to relocate a business that has been there 50 years.”

(Incorporation records suggested it had been more like 20 years. Still, the shop predated many nearby businesses and residences.)

“There are all these new people who want it to be new and different; I don’t like that,” said Corey Patrick, 34, who was walking his dog past the site and said he had moved to the neighborhood about four years earlier.

“I’ve lived in a lot of places in New York,” he said. “I know what I’m getting into.”

He said that the blood and feathers sometimes spooked his dog, but that workers usually washed them away quickly.“You don’t really hear any death,” he added.

The Columbia Street chicken kerfuffle started decades ago, long before markets that sell and slaughter live animals began their spread across the city, driven by immigrant demand; their number has doubled to 90 over the past 15 years (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/25/nyregion/25slaughter.html). But the backlash against that growth could now spell doom for Yeung Sun: a 2008 state law bans new slaughterhouses within 1,500 feet of a residence — making it near-impossible for the business to relocate anywhere in the city.

The fight has festered in a neighborhood that is protective of its character, even if it cannot completely agree on what that is.

West of the B.Q.E., Cobble Hill’s Brooklyn-Heights-South ambience fades to something scruffier. A dozen blocks of brownstones, brick houses and garden gnomes slope down to shipping yards overlooked by giant cranes. Storefronts of a recent, artsy vintage — a lingerie boutique, a coffee bar screening Japanese movies — stand alongside bodegas.

Craig Hammerman, the district manager for Brooklyn Community Board 6, said he recalled being flooded with complaints 20 years ago, before gentrification took off, about what were then three slaughterhouses that were grandfathered in as the district became more residential.

The complaints peaked about 10 years ago, he said. Someone brought him a peanut butter jar filled with “ooze and goo that was ponding on the street” near the market, he said, with feathers and entrails floating in it.

He tried to relocate the businesses with city help, but found no sites close enough to their Chinatown wholesale customers.

The conflict ebbed, perhaps because the businesses cleaned up — or perhaps because a shop on Union Street, considered the worst offender, met with misfortune. It burned down and did not reopen.

Lately, it was Yeung Sun that traumatized the sensitive. One family saw a man chase down a fleeing duck, grab it by the neck and drag it to its fate. Victoria Hagman, a real estate agent who moved into the neighborhood nine years ago, said she hated seeing rabbits dash from the shop only to cower in traffic; she raised bunnies as a girl.

More important, she said, she lost buyers to chicken stink, particularly in a lavishly renovated building with an enormous circular window looking down on the sometimes-bloody sidewalk.

Then, on Dec. 23, workers began digging a new sewer under Degraw Street, near Columbia Street. They were working to improve the Gowanus flushing tunnel, a century-old, mile-long and seldom effective (http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/02/23/under-the-gowanus-canal-flushing-out-the-stench/?scp=1&sq=goodman gowanus&st=cse) waterway designed to sluice fresher harbor water into the stagnant, sewage-tinged Gowanus.

Something went wrong.

According to the city’s Department of Environmental Protection, as machinery broke through underground rock, water seeped in, eroding land beneath 183 Columbia Street, a one-story building that held the poultry shop’s walk-in freezer and other equipment. A wall buckled and collapsed. City agencies ordered the building demolished, and closed the building next door, 185 Columbia Street, to assess its stability. Yeung Sen, which occupied both storefronts, had to close.

Last week, as wind whipped between harborside warehouses across the street, the steel claw of a backhoe ripped through the tar paper and timbers of 183 Columbia, exposing scores of plucked chickens still stacked like firewood in their plastic bags.

Tony Ni, who owns the business, stood forlornly outside the fence, filming the scene.

“I lose my business,” Mr. Ni said. His five employees were out of work. He was not sure how much the catastrophe would cost him, whether he would receive compensation or if he would be able to reopen.

According to the city planning department, if the Buildings Department determines that 50 percent or more of the site has been destroyed, he will lose his grandfathered right to run a slaughterhouse there.

Asked about neighborly relations, Mr. Ni laughed bitterly. “The neighborhood don’t like me,” he said.

Many neighborhood businesspeople — even chicken-shop haters — said they had found themselves newly empathetic.

“He didn’t have a lot of friends in the neighborhood,” said Margaret Palca, wearing an apron smudged with pink icing at Margaret Palca Bakes, a few doors down. “A lot of us are into neighborhood beautification and not ugly chicken places.”

But, she said, “He didn’t deserve this.”

Besides, the poultry workers bought coffee from her, she said.

The last slaughterhouse standing, on Sackett Street, kept a low profile last week, its corrugated shutters pulled down tight.

A knock at the steel door brought Jenny Li, in a white apron. She said her uncle founded the business decades ago. “They complain, but we were here before them,” she said. “There was nothing here.”


January 4th, 2012, 02:54 PM
People want the look of an old movie without the reality.

All these places forcing out the "original" sounds OK, until you realize that it does not work on such a large scale. Unless you find some means for transport, you are simply corporatizing every little facet of life in the city as the smaller businesses simply cannot afford to be that far away from their base.

January 4th, 2012, 03:57 PM
The look is prettier than the reality.

August 25th, 2012, 04:07 AM
Lightstone Reveals Plans for 700-Unit Colossus on the Canal

by Dave Hogarty

http://cdn.cstatic.net/images/gridfs/503706cf85216d2058002e10/IMG_3459-2.jpg (http://cdn.cstatic.net/images/gridfs/503706cf85216d2058002e13/IMG_3459-2.jpg)

http://cdn.cstatic.net/images/gridfs/503706d185216d2058002e20/IMG_3462-5.jpg (http://cdn.cstatic.net/images/gridfs/503706d185216d2058002e1d/IMG_3462-5.jpg) http://cdn.cstatic.net/images/gridfs/503706d385216d2058002e2a/IMG_3461-4.jpg (http://cdn.cstatic.net/images/gridfs/503706d285216d2058002e27/IMG_3461-4.jpg) http://cdn.cstatic.net/images/gridfs/503706d585216d2058002e34/IMG_3460-3.jpg (http://cdn.cstatic.net/images/gridfs/503706d485216d2058002e31/IMG_3460-3.jpg) http://cdn.cstatic.net/images/gridfs/503706d685216d2058002e3e/IMG_3450-1.jpg (http://cdn.cstatic.net/images/gridfs/503706d685216d2058002e3b/IMG_3450-1.jpg) http://cdn.cstatic.net/images/gridfs/503706ce85216d2058002e0c/IMG_3464-6.jpg (http://cdn.cstatic.net/images/gridfs/503706ce85216d2058002e09/IMG_3464-6.jpg)

A team of execs and development professionals appeared before members of Brooklyn's Community Board 6 and the public yesterday to present plans for the former Tolls Bros. site between Bond Street and the canal at 1st Street. The project is now going to be rentals, with 700 units instead of the 447 condo units Toll Bros. had planned for the site. Despite the sharp increase in the number of apartments, Lightstone says it won't be going through another ULURP for the site because there are only minor modifications (http://ny.curbed.com/archives/2012/08/01/update_lightstone_groups_gowanus_site.php) to the planned building's size, with no increase to the building's height, which will top out at 12 stories in some sections along the canal.

The Toll Bros. plan to build 447 market rate condos was seemingly scotched by the designation of the Gowanus canal as a Superfund site. Lightstone's plan calls for a building virtually the same size, but with 560 market rate apartments and 140 affordable housing apartments. There will be retail space along the Bond Street side of the development and community spaces on the canal and 1st Streets. And instead of turning its back on the canal, the Lightstone plan is treating the infamous waterway as a major amenity and includes a waterfront promenade.

Most of the questions from the community board and locals involved the impact of the project on storm drain and sewer systems, which the company replied to with assurances that the plan was drawn up to be a net benefit to the neighborhood's infrastructure.

One local was concerned about the stress that the large development would put on the neighborhood's already-troubled sewage system, and described how he recently had five feet of raw sewage flood his home's basement. At one point he invited a Lightstone exec over to his home the next time it rains heavily in order to experience firsthand the thrill of an in-home sewage pool. "I'll make coffee," he added in an attempt to sweeten the offer.

http://ny.curbed.com/archives/2012/08/24/lightstone_reveals_plans_for_700unit_colossus_on_t he_canal.php#more

August 25th, 2012, 11:12 AM
It is still a superfund site: why is that an insurmountable obstacle to the former developer , but not to the latter. Something tells me some of those aforementioned 'executives' are Bloomberg cronies. HeHe

August 25th, 2012, 03:49 PM
^Rentals are an easier sell (to potential residents) than condos. People will rent much more easily, since they have no long term investment in the place.

If this is as of right, why do they need to go before the community board? Or are the just trying to be diplomatic.

August 25th, 2012, 04:44 PM
I was just pondering as to why Toll Bros can not make a go of the project as a rental development: but, this 'unknown' developer can obviously make it a profitable venture. The toll bros has many residential developments - here is one http://www.tollbrothers.com/NJ/The_Mews_at_Princeton_Junction

And, yes my guess is that going to the community board for their 'advisory' approval is a politically savvy approach to expediting the project.

September 28th, 2012, 11:06 PM
Community Board Six Votes Against Rental Building on Gowanus Canal

By Heather Holland

Community Board Six’s Land Use committee voted against the Lightstone Group's proposal to build a 700-unit rental building on the Gowanus Canal.

At least 100 members of the community attended an Assembly meeting held by the community board’s Land Use committee on Thursday night, where the developer made a presentation of its proposal to build a rental building, similar to the original Toll Brothers proposal, at 363-365 Bond St.

“We will not only be cleaning the land and the contaminants that maybe there, but we are also doing major things, costing millions of dollars,” said Ethan Geto, a spokeman for the Lightstone Group.

“Including the placement of a new bulkhead at the barrier of the canal, which is currently highly deteriorated.”

Lightstone Group assured community members that the new building would be capped at 12 stories, include 20 percent affordable housing, specifically 140 units, and include an esplanade that would be open to the public.

The developer also claimed that the development would have a neutral impact on the environment, that they would be purchasing new storm sewers, a bulkhead, and green roofs to ensure that the Canal isn’t contaminated any further.

Members of the committee, however, weren’t convinced and asked that the developer obtain a new Environmental Impact Statement. The committee also asked that the building be capped at eight stories instead of 12, before giving the developer a red light.

The developer claimed that while the new proposal would include about 150 more units than the original Toll Brother Proposal, which proposed 447, there would only be a 20 percent increase in population.

This might mean hundreds more students flooding into the areas zoned schools like P.S. 32 and The New Horizon School middle school.

“Obviously, a large increase in school-age children zoned for P.S. 32, in an area of Brooklyn with already over-crowded schools, would have an impact upon us and others in District 15,” said Larissa Bailiff, PTA president of P.S. 32.

One resident praised the proposal for bringing more affordable housing.

“It is important to take it one step at a time,” said Bill Duke, another resident. “In my experience, there is a big shortage of affordable housing in this neighborhood.”

Despite the committee’s disapproval, the proposal can still be approved by the city's Department of Planning.


Critics: Gowanus Canal Development Would Be Too Populous (http://www.brooklynpaper.com/stories/35/39/dtg_lightstonegowanus_2012_10_05_bk.html)

September 29th, 2012, 03:40 PM
“We will not only be cleaning the land and the contaminants that maybe there, but we are also doing major things, costing millions of dollars,” said Ethan Geto, a spokeman for the Lightstone Group. Cleaning the land and contaminants is the most major thing, since nothing can go ahead until the land is clean.

Saw a news segment a couple of months ago on how the canal itself will be cleaned (not including removing toxic waste) by opening it up all the way from the East River through to NY Bay, flushing everything out. Can't find it now. If I do I'll post it. Wasn't it originally open from water to water anyway?

September 29th, 2012, 10:36 PM
Bunch of idiots. These community boards have way too much power. If there's too many students it's time to build a new school, not stop development of new construction

September 30th, 2012, 12:48 PM
If I remember correctly, it was a brick-lined tunnel leading from the East River to the head of the canal, and had propellers to move things along. But over time the propellers failed because of all the crap bashing up against it and they weren't equipped to handle it. The new plan mentioned something about a propulsion system, or words to that effect, but I don't know how that will affect the bricks over time. Damn I wish I could find that story. Maybe it was Secrets of New York. I'll find it eventually.

September 30th, 2012, 03:10 PM
The brick tunnel was built in 1947. Runs from the canal at Butler St, mostly under Degraw St, to Buttermilk Channel. There's a pumping station at 201 Douglass St. The city never maintained the system. The pumping station broke down in the 1960s, and wasn't repaired until the 1990s. But the problems within the tunnel weren't addressed. That's being done now.

The tunnel won't fix the canal pollution; it's for the pew-factor.

Gowanus Canal pumphouse site at Butler St. (https://maps.google.com/maps?q=201+douglass+st,brooklyn,ny&ll=40.681858,-73.984176&spn=0.004117,0.010332&hnear=201+Douglass+St,+Brooklyn,+Kings,+New+York+1 1217&t=h&z=17&layer=c&cbll=40.681902,-73.98634&panoid=t0reDjSwi2CXDVbZzB-Wpw&cbp=12,311.99,,0,-1.2)

The red brick building on the right is the old ASPCA Rogers Memorial. The stone box at the curb next to the middle (white) car is a horse trough.

Near the end of the tunnel at DeGraw and Columbia Sts (https://maps.google.com/maps?q=columbia+degraw+sts,brooklyn,ny&hl=en&ll=40.685812,-74.002318&spn=0.008233,0.020664&sll=40.68578,-74.002539&sspn=0.004149,0.010332&t=h&hnear=Columbia+St+%26+Degraw+St,+Brooklyn,+Kings,+ New+York+11231&z=16&layer=c&cbll=40.68578,-74.002539&panoid=3gxZhjo8SD2k-9_Suem-dw&cbp=12,120.27,,0,5.76)

EPA superfund page for the Gowanus Canal (http://www.epa.gov/region02/superfund/npl/gowanus/)

Mariab, I think this is what you were looking for:http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/02/23/under-the-gowanus-canal-flushing-out-the-stench/

September 30th, 2012, 09:47 PM
Nice building. What are they going to do with the horse trough? I'm glad the EPA has it listed, but this
On March 2, 2010, EPA added the Gowanus Canal to the Agency’s Superfund National Priorities List (NPL). Placing the Gownaus Canal on the list allows the Agency to further investigate contamination at the site and develop an approach to address the contamination. doesn't seem like they have it at the top of their list. It may take more than a few years just to get an assessment. Hope not.

That last link was the crux of the story I saw. It won't get rid of the toxic waste but at least it will get things moving in there. The stagnation alone looks like it's crippled the place. Thanks for the links.

October 5th, 2012, 01:36 AM
I'm curious how many times a week do the Gowanus Canal Bridges open?

October 5th, 2012, 10:10 AM
Does the canal server much of a commercial purpose anymore?

October 5th, 2012, 01:37 PM
I know that Newton Creek does get boat traffic every once in a while, and the draw bridges take forever to get raised and be re-opened for car & pedestrian traffic. I'm curious if there's a toll for travel or if any boat can just freely make traffic stop like that. There's not even a permanent operator in the control towers, they have to drive in on demand and hop the barrier to get the process going

December 28th, 2012, 08:45 PM
A Price Tag for the Gowanus Cleanup


Environmental Protection Agency

The Superfund cleanup of the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn is expected to cost $467 million to $504 million and will require dredging the 1.8-mile waterway to remove contaminated sediment, the federal Environmental Protection Agency said on Thursday (http://www.epa.gov/region02/superfund/npl/gowanus/pdf/gowanus_prap.pdf).

The agency, releasing an updated plan (http://www.epa.gov/region02/superfund/npl/gowanus/pdf/gowanus_prap.pdf) for public comment, is also proposing controls to prevent raw sewage discharges by the city, which have been an ongoing source of contamination.

The worst contamination of the Gowanus however, comes from its past as a major industrial transportation route for paper mills, tanneries, chemical plants and other businesses that operated alongside it. The waterway is polluted with more than a dozen contaminants, including PCBs and heavy metals like mercury, lead and copper.

Despite the heavy contamination and government advisories against fishing, officials say that some residents continue to eat fish from the canal.

“The proposed cleanup plan for the Gowanus Canal will make essential progress in removing toxic contaminants from this heavily polluted and battered waterway,” Judith A. Enck, the E.P.A.’s regional administrator in New York, said in a statement. “Our overall goal is to reduce pollution and protect the health of people who live and work in this community.”

In a phone interview, Ms. Enck said she expected the plan to be finalized by the end of next year. The design phase will then take about two years, and the cleanup itself will take until 2020, agency officials said.

“This is an area where millions of people live, and we’re going to work with the community so this is the least disruptive as possible, especially to local businesses,” Ms. Enck said.

Among the parties helping to pay for the cleanup are the city and other entities associated with the pollution of its waters, including National Grid, formerly the Brooklyn Union Gas company.

The Gowanus was added to the federal Superfund list in 2010 over the objections of the Bloomberg administration, which feared that the designation would deter development and had proposed a streamlined cleanup that it would help oversee. City officials have also clashed with the EPA over how to address the sewage overflow issue, given the costs the city would incur in seeking to address it.

But on Thursday, the city’s Department of Environmental Protection, which handles sewage treatment, said in a statement: “We look forward to carefully reviewing the details of E.P.A.’s proposal and working with our state and federal partners to improve water quality and support the cleanup of the canal.”

The E.P.A.’s plan involves dividing the canal into three segments. For the first two, more heavily contaminated segments, the agency plans to dredge or “stabilize” the sediment in some areas by mixing it with concrete or a similar material and then capping it with layers of clay, sand and gravel.

The third segment would be dredged and capped with sand, the agency said.

To prevent recontamination after the cleanup is completed, federal officials are also proposing installing controls at two major city outfall sites that discharge sewer overflows into the canal. The controls — basically, holding tanks that would retain excess sewage and stormwater until the city’s treatment plants can handle it — could reduce discharges of raw sewage by
58 percent to 74 percent, the agency said.

Two public meetings (http://www.epa.gov/region02/superfund/npl/gowanus/) on the cleanup plan are scheduled, on Jan. 23 and 24, and the E.P.A. is accepting public comments (http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/12/27/a-price-tag-for-the-gowanus-cleanup/GowanusCanalComments.Region2@epa.gov) until March 28. Written comments on the proposed plan should be addressed to:

Christos Tsiamis
Project Manager
Central New York Remediation Section
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
290 Broadway, 20th floor
New York, N.Y. 10007-1866


December 28th, 2012, 11:10 PM
Is it just me or does $500 million sound exceedingly cheap to fix a problem of this magnitude? How much is Newton Creek going to cost?

December 29th, 2012, 01:46 PM
I think Newtown creek is going to be more expensive because of the giant underground oil plume that need to be removed somehow.

August 3rd, 2013, 09:47 AM
Sponge Park Is Actually Coming To The Gowanus Canal

by Jessica Dailey

http://cdn.cstatic.net/images/gridfs/51fa61d2f92ea16e7c002d68/sponge1k-1-web.jpg (http://cdn.cstatic.net/images/gridfs/51fa61d2f92ea16e7c002d6b/sponge1k-1-web.jpg)

It's been more than five years since the Sponge Park first came onto the Gowanus Canal scene (http://ny.curbed.com/archives/2008/04/16/after_the_hudson_toll_brothers_gowanus_vision_spon ge_park.php), and now, finally, part of the park will actually be construction along the banks of the stinky waterway. The Daily News reports (http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/brooklyn/gowanus-canal-sponge-worthy-article-1.1414124?localLinksEnabled=false) that enough money has been raised from city, state, and federal grants to build a small portion of the park where Second Street ends at the canal. To build the pollution-preventing green space, which was created by the Gowanus Canal Conservancy (http://www.gowanuscanalconservancy.org/ee/) and dlandstudio (http://www.dlandstudio.com/projects_gowanus.html), soil-filled concrete cells will be installed under the street to catch and filter stormwater before it runs into the canal. The park will be covered with plants that naturally absorb or breakdown toxins, heavy metals, and contaminants from sewage overflow, along with plants that soak up excess water like a sponge (get it?).

http://cdn.cstatic.net/images/gridfs/51fa61d4f92ea16e7c002d72/Screen-Shot-2013-08-01-at-9.09.58-AM.jpg (http://cdn.cstatic.net/images/gridfs/51fa61d5f92ea16e7c002d75/Screen-Shot-2013-08-01-at-9.09.58-AM.jpg)

http://cdn.cstatic.net/images/gridfs/51fa61d6f92ea16e7c002d7c/gowanus_1.jpg (http://cdn.cstatic.net/images/gridfs/51fa61d7f92ea16e7c002d7f/gowanus_1.jpg)

http://cdn.cstatic.net/images/gridfs/51fa61daf92ea16e7c002d8d/Gowanus-Canal-Sponge-Park.jpg (http://cdn.cstatic.net/images/gridfs/51fa61daf92ea16e7c002d90/Gowanus-Canal-Sponge-Park.jpg)

http://cdn.cstatic.net/images/gridfs/51fa61dbf92ea16e7c002d97/Screen-Shot-2013-08-01-at-9.10.08-AM.jpg (http://cdn.cstatic.net/images/gridfs/51fa61dcf92ea16e7c002d9a/Screen-Shot-2013-08-01-at-9.10.08-AM.jpg)

http://cdn.cstatic.net/images/gridfs/51fa61ddf92ea16e7c002da1/Screen-Shot-2013-08-01-at-9.09.49-AM.jpg (http://cdn.cstatic.net/images/gridfs/51fa61def92ea16e7c002da4/Screen-Shot-2013-08-01-at-9.09.49-AM.jpg)

The park will cost $1.5 million, and construction will begin in 2014. If all goes as planned (which is unlikely with anything related to/near the Gowanus Canal), the park should open in summer 2015.

Gowanus Canal 'Sponge Park' moves ahead as Bloomberg administration allocates cash for Brooklyn greenspace (http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/brooklyn/gowanus-canal-sponge-worthy-article-1.1414124#ixzz2aj19w63i) [NYDN]

http://ny.curbed.com/archives/2013/08/01/sponge_park_is_actually_coming_to_the_gowanus_cana l.php

August 5th, 2013, 09:22 AM
OK, does anyone else get this particular abbreviation?


I am sorry, that is too punny.

August 5th, 2013, 01:36 PM
The go-on-us anal canal?

August 5th, 2013, 04:05 PM
That would be beautiful, and they've already started flushing out the canal, or at least constructing the system which will flush it out. Imagine in ten years, that being the hot new spot for developers?

September 27th, 2013, 03:39 AM
Industry Still Churns, Even as Cleanup Plan Proceeds for a Canal


Jabin Botsford/The New York Times
Even as the federal government prepares to clean the Gowanus Canal, working industries
continue to line the Brooklyn waterway.

A History of Pollution in the Gowanus Canal (http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2013/09/26/nyregion/gowanus-pollution-map.html?ref=nyregion)

The federal government is about to release its final, $500 million cleanup plan (http://www.epa.gov/region2/superfund/npl/gowanus/) for the Gowanus Canal, one of New York City’s two Superfund sites, a long-awaited moment in the effort to cleanse more than a century of environmental abuse.

But even on the eve of its purging, the Gowanus Canal remains very much a garbage dump for the city. Along the banks of the canal one recent morning, just a tin can’s toss from the oily green waters, a giant claw grabbed at a tower of scrap metal, like a crane in an arcade game. In the lot over, delivery trucks idled behind oil storage tanks. Near them, concrete mixers cranked, churned their ingredients and coughed up dust.

“Somebody needs to heat homes and recycle metal and clean out garbage,” said Mike Petrosino, co-owner of a fifth-generation, family-owned business that operates Benson Metal, one of two scrap-metal yards that abut the canal and use it for loading and unloading barges. “The canal acts as an infrastructure that supports the city.”

Loud, dirty industry has been entwined with the canal for generations, ever since barges delivered brownstone and coal to build Brooklyn’s row houses and light its parlor lamps.

The bulk of the pollution was caused by long-closed factories and by decades of untreated sewage carried into the canal by city drains. But businesses currently along the canal have been fingered by the state or environmentalists for sometimes treating the canal like a waste dump. The environmental group Riverkeeper, which monitors local waterways, has in recent months filed lawsuits against Benson Metal, Greco Brothers Concrete, and Sixth Street Iron and Metal, accusing them of violating the Federal Water Pollution Control Act by allowing dirty storm water to run off their sites and into the canal without permits or controls.

Joseph Greco Jr. of Greco Brothers Concrete declined to comment, and his lawyer did not return calls. Sixth Street Iron and Metal has since filed the necessary plans and permit requests, its vice president, Anthony De Conciliis, said.

“We want to be here a long time,” Mr. De Conciliis said. “And we believe it’s extremely important that we do things that are environmentally sound.

“In the ’50s, people would smoke in offices because they didn’t think secondhand smoke would harm anybody. We just got to adapt, adapt environmental conservancy into the business. We are a recycling facility at the end of the day.”

In a settlement with the state last year, Benson agreed to pay $85,000 (http://www.brooklynpaper.com/stories/35/50/dtg_gowanusscrapmetal_2012_12_14_bk.html) for more than 100 instances over 15 months of dropping metal into the water while loading barges. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation recently fined Petroleum Tank Cleaners on Butler Street, about a block from the canal, $32,500 for a spill and other violations, according to state records. The company did not respond to messages seeking comment.

A bus company and other businesses owned by Jacob Marmurstein have been fined more than $500,000 for spilling oil, dumping debris into the canal and other violations, state environmental officials said.

Just last month, the bulkhead at Benson collapsed, sending metal junk and concrete blocks into the water.

Riverkeeper, which was out on the canal the day after the collapse, notified the Environmental Conservation Department, which along with the federal Environmental Protection Agency is working with Benson to stabilize the bank and build a new bulkhead.

“It’s just another insult,” Phillip Musegaas, a program director at Riverkeeper, said of the collapse. “We’re talking about a company that is not managing its sites and is not concerned with preventing further environmental hazards.”

The issue is also a strain for Mr. Petrosino.

“A good portion of our day is not centered on dealing with the customer and building relationships, but talking about issues of compliance and regulations,” said Mr. Petrosino, 42, who began at the company when he was around age 8, riding in the truck next to his father. “It starts to distract you from your core business, which is handling materials.” Mr. Petrosino added, “It’s one of those obstacles that need to be addressed and handled, and we’re doing the best we can.”

Much of the environmental injury is a vestige of the past (http://www.baruch.cuny.edu/realestate//pdf/Reconsidering-Gowanus.pdf), principally from three old manufacturing plants that turned coal into gas. Over time, the gooey byproduct seeped into the ground and into the shallow water. A thick mud of coal tar now oozes from the bottom and wells to the top, the sediment resembling sheets of shiny metal floating on the water.

While the canal is no longer used as Brooklyn’s privy, during heavy rains discharges from the city’s antiquated sewer system still foul the water and give off a stench. There are also metals like mercury and lead, industrial chemicals and traces of pesticides. There are bikes and other sunken vessels. And there is dirty groundwater as well as storm water that picks up dirt and other pollutants from the remaining industries.

Almost everything around the canal has changed in the last 20 years. Grit-loving young residents embrace the idea of paying $600,000 for one-bedroom apartments and dining not far from where untreated sewage once streamed past. Restaurants serving duck pastrami, smoked jowl cabbage and molasses-brined pork chops have sprouted, along with art studios and new neighborhood acronyms. The communities around it, not to mention developers, have latched onto the canal as a tangible link to the borough’s industrial past, while also pushing for its cleanup.

In 2010, over the objections of city officials who proposed an alternative cleanup plan, fearing a federal label would scare away further development, the E.P.A. branded the canal a Superfund site (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/03/nyregion/03gowanus.html), meaning the government would oversee the cleanup, and pursue polluters to handle the effort and foot the bill. (The city’s other Superfund site is the similarly fouled Newtown Creek.)
The agency released its preliminary plan for the Gowanus Canal in 2012 and is expected to make it final by Monday. The estimated cost of half a billion dollars is to be spread among more than three dozen “potentially responsible parties.”

They are mostly companies and a few government entities like the City of New York and the United States Navy, for ship work that polluted the canal. Many of the original businesses that once operated side by side along the canal have since merged, changed names or moved away, including Brooklyn Union Gas, which eventually rolled into National Grid; Continental Oil; and Standard Oil. When companies have been sold or merged, the successor company as well as the current property owner assume the liability. Companies that produced or transported the hazardous substances are also considered responsible.

The cleanup, expected to begin in 2015, will focus on the toxic muck at the bottom, dredging the 10 feet of mud, mixing some of the remaining sediment with cement to prevent it from rising to the top, then capping it with materials like clay, gravel and sand to prevent erosion. The E.P.A. will also aim to reduce the sewer overflow from the city drains. After that, the view can turn to issues like the continuing dirty storm water runoff from existing businesses.

“The mud dwarfs it all,” said Walter Mugdan, the regional Superfund director for the agency. “But once we clean the mud up, the remaining pollution becomes even a greater concern, because that’s what’s left.”

The cleanup is expected to take 8 to 10 years. Maintenance will go on indefinitely. Still, the canal will never really be without taint, Mr. Mugdan said. The contamination in some places goes 100 feet deep. The waters will most likely never be apt for swimming, and who knows how long before the fish are good to eat.

“But we can make a huge improvement over where it is now,” Mr. Mugdan said. Eventually, the water will clear, the ecosystem will revive and, he added, “the area will not stink to high heaven as it does now.”

On a recent mild morning, the stench of garbage wafted over the canal. Trucks rumbled off the Gowanus Expressway, down the industrial business zone of Smith Street. Some with painted-on names like “The Monster” and “Mr. Rubbish” idled at the curb, while the giant crane moved metal scrap from one looming pile to another.


February 26th, 2014, 12:15 AM
Imagining A Cleaner Future For The Icky Gowanus Canal

by Zoe Rosenberg

http://ny.curbed.com/uploads/atema1-thumb.jpg (http://ny.curbed.com/uploads/atema1.jpg)
Rendering of Atema's proposed Street Creeks via Atema Architecture (http://www.atemanyc.com/projectDetail.cfm?id=2&pID=95)

Gowanus is drawing a lot of attention these days, for its current residential boom (http://ny.curbed.com/archives/2014/02/06/774unit_gowanus_green_development_is_still_happeni ng.php)... as well as its $38 salted caramel pie and the newly opened shuffleboard bar (http://ny.curbed.com/tags/royal-palms-shuffleboard-court). Of particular interest to Curbed, though, are the fanciful visions various architects and community members are putting forth regarding the the long, expensive cleanup (http://ny.curbed.com/archives/2013/09/30/gowanus_canal_cleanup_will_cost_506_million_take_1 0_years.php) of the totally polluted Gowanus Canal. According to the Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/23/nyregion/the-once-and-future-gowanus.html?partner=rss&emc=rss), the neighborhood hopes to remain "the kind of place where things sold on [craft and vintage retail website] Etsy are made," in opposition to a completely gentrified neighborhood like Dumbo (where, it so happens, Etsy maintains its corporate headquarters (http://ny.curbed.com/tags/etsy)).

http://ny.curbed.com/uploads/sponge%20park-thumb.jpg (http://ny.curbed.com/uploads/sponge%20park.jpg)
Rendering of Sponge Park via dlandstudio (http://www.spongepark.org/)]

What sets Gowanus apart, columnist Ginia Bellafante emphasizes, is not only its residential and industrial presence but also locals' inherent interest in the surrounding somewhat-natural landscape. Last month, in light of the Superfund site remediation (http://ny.curbed.com/archives/2013/09/30/gowanus_canal_cleanup_will_cost_506_million_take_1 0_years.php), the neighborhood played host to a TEDx conference (http://ny.curbed.com/tags/tedx) during which architect Ate Atema (http://www.atemanyc.com/) and landscape architect Susannah Drake of dlandstudio (http://www.dlandstudio.com/) presented conceptual designs for enhancing the functionality of the canal in handling its water and sewage overflow.

http://ny.curbed.com/uploads/atema2-thumb.jpg (http://ny.curbed.com/uploads/atema2.jpg)
Rendering of Atema's proposed Street Creeks via Atema Architecture (http://www.atemanyc.com/projectDetail.cfm?id=2&pID=95)

Atema's plan, Street Creeks (http://www.atemanyc.com/projectDetail.cfm?id=2&pID=95), proposes an intricate and expansive network of curbside channels, cisterns, and vegetation (http://www.atemanyc.com/projectDetail.cfm?id=2&pID=95) that would help filter and divert water before it runs off into the canal. Not dissimilarly, Drake's Sponge Park (http://ny.curbed.com/tags/sponge-park) consists of soil-filled concrete cells (http://ny.curbed.com/archives/2013/08/01/sponge_park_is_actually_coming_to_the_gowanus_cana l.php), which would be installed under the street to catch and filter stormwater before it, too, pours into the beleaguered canal.

http://ny.curbed.com/uploads/atema3-thumb.jpg (http://ny.curbed.com/uploads/atema3.jpg)
[A look at the curbside channels of Street Creeks via Atema Architecture (http://www.atemanyc.com/projectDetail.cfm?id=2&pID=95)

http://ny.curbed.com/uploads/atema5-thumb.jpg (http://ny.curbed.com/uploads/atema5.jpg)
A rendering of the intricacies of Street Creeks and how it works to filter runoff. Via Atema Architecture (http://www.atemanyc.com/projectDetail.cfm?id=2&pID=95)

http://ny.curbed.com/uploads/atema4-thumb.jpg (http://ny.curbed.com/uploads/atema4.jpg)
An aerial look at the proposed Street Creeks project via Atema Architecture (http://www.atemanyc.com/projectDetail.cfm?id=2&pID=95)

Both plans emphasize the neighborhood's ecological development and not just its building boom, highlighted most strongly when gentrification beacon Whole Foods planted its roots (http://ny.curbed.com/tags/gowanus-whole-foods) at Third Street and Third Avenue late last year. "People are coming in and paying a million dollars for a house between two factories and complaining," a neighborhood business owner tells the Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/23/nyregion/the-once-and-future-gowanus.html?partner=rss&emc=rss).

The same neighbor remarked on the difference between the neighborhood's older industrial roots and new homeowners or tenants: "We need the city to send the message that if you're living next to a factory, you have to deal with it. We're not the factories of yesteryear who polluted the canal." Here's hoping Atema or Drake will be able to make the canal a more palatable place.

The Once and Future Gowanus (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/23/nyregion/the-once-and-future-gowanus.html?partner=rss&emc=rss) [NYT]
Street Creeks (http://www.atemanyc.com/projectDetail.cfm?id=2&pID=95) [official]

http://ny.curbed.com/archives/2014/02/24/imagining_a_cleaner_future_for_the_icky_gowanus_ca nal.php

April 18th, 2014, 02:56 AM
Visiting the Gowanus Canal's Under-Transformation 'Wild West'

by Nathan Kensinger

[The polluted banks of the Gowanus Canal are now being transformed by demolition and construction, despite the canal's Superfund designation. All photos by Nathan Kensinger (http://kensinger.blogspot.com/).]

Spring is returning to New York City, and with it comes the renewed sound of jackhammers and backhoes as construction sites return to life. Along the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn, warmer weather has brought a rapid wave of demolition, which is transforming the landscape. Warehouses are quickly being torn down, while neighborhood landmarks are being destroyed or renovated. The Coignet Stone Building is swathed in scaffolding, the Batcave is being cleaned out, and the silos next to the Carroll Street Bridge were completely demolished this week to make way for a 700-unit residential tower. "It's the wild west. It's really unbelievable," said Katia Kelly, who has lived in the area for 29 years. "It's a neighborhood under assault."

Many of the old warehouses, silos and factories in this low-rise area were included in a proposed historic district (http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/brooklyn/gowanus-fetid-canal-historic-district-designation-state-article-1.1720991) that was up for a vote on March 13th. But after a 60-day delay, developers have been able to move forward with plans for a dense new residential community along the banks of the canal. "Gowanus was one of the last industrial neighborhoods that was still untouched, at least until the last five years," said Katia Kelly, who has documented the changing neighborhood on her blog Pardon Me For Asking (http://pardonmeforasking.blogspot.com/). "The beauty of the Gowanus is that you have these older buildings."
http://ny.curbed.com/uploads/02_kensinger_gowanus_canal_DSC_3046-thumb.jpg (http://ny.curbed.com/uploads/02_kensinger_gowanus_canal_DSC_3046.jpg)

The first new residential tower on the canal will be built by the Lightstone Group, which began tearing down a second block of warehouses last week to make way for a 12-story project. Included in the demolition site were a pair of silos that had become a neighborhood fixture. Once home to the Issue Project Room (http://issueprojectroom.org/), the BKLYN Yard (http://www.yelp.com/biz/bklyn-yard-brooklyn), and Gowanus Grove (http://www.yelp.com/biz/gowanus-grove-brooklyn), "the silo buildings were one of the iconic industrial ruins around Gowanus Canal, ranking up there with the Batcave and the Kentile sign," said Ariana Souzis, who was married at the silo site (http://carrollgardens.patch.com/groups/around-town/p/the-gowanus-a-true-love-canal) in 2011. "I will always remember the hushed quiet of the room and the curved walls as I fiddled with my pearls and hair." By Wednesday of this week, the silos had been turned into a pile of rubble.

Unlike the Lightstone Group, the developers of the Batcave have committed to keeping their unique building intact. Also known as the BRT Powerhouse, the Batcave (http://kensinger.blogspot.com/2010/02/batcave-revisited.html) is currently being transformed into the Powerhouse Workshop (http://www.powerhouseworkshop.org/) by its owner, Joshua Rechnitz, with "an extensive program to clean-up the site and restore the structural integrity of the building," according to Maureen Connelly, the project's spokesperson. Tons of debris have been removed and a Brownfield remediation program will soon begin, in anticipation of the building's rebirth as an arts center.

"For the sake of the structure I'm glad that someone's saving the building, instead of demolishing it like they're doing over at Domino Sugar," said Hannah Frishberg, an author working on a book about the Batcave. "There aren't very many spots like that left in New York. I really hope Rechnitz can turn it into something which actually benefits the community."

As the pace of change on the Gowanus quickens, however, some locals have begun to question the wisdom of creating population density on the banks of a federal Superfund site plagued by sewage overflows, especially after Hurricane Sandy flooded the area (http://ny.curbed.com/archives/2012/10/30/surveying_sandys_damage_in_red_hook_dumbo_and_gowa nus.php) in 2012. "We know what is going to happen in the next 20 years, 30 years. We should be pulling back from the water," said Katia Kelly. "The fact that it's a Superfund, the fact that it's in a flood zone—you have to look past the developers' wet dreams and ask: is this a good idea?"

http://ny.curbed.com/uploads/03_kensinger_gowanus_canal_DSC_3092-thumb.jpg (http://ny.curbed.com/uploads/03_kensinger_gowanus_canal_DSC_3092.jpg)
These low-rise warehouses at the end of First Street are currently being demolished to make way for a 12-story residential tower built by the Lightstone Group.

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One entire block of warehouses has already been torn down, to make way for 700 units of new housing at the water's edge. "These people are going to be in condos with raw sewage floating by," said Katia Kelly. "I think if you ask people, nobody thinks this is a good idea."

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Asbestos remediation is underway in the remaining warehouses, which were in Zone A during Hurricane Sandy. Neighbors are concerned that the new development, which will be raised 10 feet, may channel flood waters into their homes.

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Demolition of the old silos near Carroll Street began one week ago. "The fact that the Gowanus will be cleaner in my lifetime gives me some little amount of pride," Kelly said, looking out on the silos. "What isn't going to make me proud will be to walk by here in 20 years."

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Demolition crews stripped the building's balconies and interior apartments and studios. "I just tear them down," said one worker. "But what an amazing place to live. I would have lived there."

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By Tuesday, little remained of the iconic silos. By Wednesday, they had been completely leveled, erasing one of the Gowanus Canal's most iconic structures. "It makes me sick to my stomach when I walk by," said one neighbor. "Building on the banks of this—it's absurd."

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The Batcave, another iconic Gowanus structure, is currently being cleaned up by its owner. "The building has been swept clean," said Maureen Connelly, and "loose bricks and unstable roof elements have been removed."

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Workers are now busy repairing the roof. When the site is transformed into the Powerhouse Workshop, it "will include a waterfront esplanade along the Gowanus Canal that will be open to the public," according to Connelly.

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"Gowanus is changing," said Hannah Frishberg, "but I think it's buildings like the Batcave and Coignet Stone which will be the few that truly benefit, because these are structures that would just have reached an Admirals' Row level of ruin in a few years anyway."

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Across the street, the landscape has already been radically changed by Whole Foods, which replaced an industrial site with a long history (http://kensinger.blogspot.com/2010/02/whole-foods-lot.html).

http://ny.curbed.com/uploads/13_kensinger_gowanus_canal_DSC_3233-thumb.jpg (http://ny.curbed.com/uploads/13_kensinger_gowanus_canal_DSC_3233.jpg)
Whole Foods' new waterfront esplanade looks out over a sunken boat, a scrapyard, and another neighborhood landmark—the silos on 6th Street.

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Across from the esplanade, a rare view of one the last boats on the Gowanus has been opened up by the demolition of a bus depot.

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A new office building is being built next to the silos, to replace the bus depot. The construction site was left open to visitors. "Things are happening left and right that the city doesn't seem to be too concerned about," said Katia Kelly.

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In a matter of days, the wide open construction site was walled off by hastily laid cinderblocks. The construction site was partially flooded with Gowanus water.

http://ny.curbed.com/uploads/17_kensinger_gowanus_canal_DSC_3337-thumb.jpg (http://ny.curbed.com/uploads/17_kensinger_gowanus_canal_DSC_3337.jpg)
Nearby, the Public Place site is currently awaiting a cleanup plan in preparation for another huge development project. "If the EPA hadn't come along, you would have had 700 units of housing there now," said Kelly. "Remediation still has to happen here."

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The entire skyline of the Gowanus area, including Public Place, may be transformed in the next few years, as towers replace warehouses and Brownfields. "What is feasible in the Gowanus area, with flooding, rising sea levels?" asks Katia Kelly. "Someone has to go ahead and say it just doesn't make sense. It just doesn't make sense."

Nathan Kensinger (http://kensinger.blogspot.com/) [Official]

http://ny.curbed.com/archives/2014/04/17/visiting_the_gowanus_canals_undertransformation_wi ld_west.php

June 1st, 2014, 06:00 AM
Gowanus Canal flushing tunnel is fully online after four-year rehab

The $177 million renovation of the 1.2-mile-long tunnel allows it to push 252 million gallons — or about 30% more fresh water than it could before the upgrade — from Buttermilk Channel to the head of the highly toxic waterway each day, officials said. The tunnel was partially re-activated in December, but prior to that had been completely shut down for repairs since 2010.

BY Natalie Musumeci

DelMundo, Anthony freelance NYDN/Anthony DelMundo
Officials say the reactivation of the Gowanus Canal flushing tunnel will improve the water quality of the highly toxic canal.

Call it a royal flush.

The city has fully re-activated the Gowanus Canal’s on-again, off-again flushing tunnel after a four-year, $177 million rehabilitation, officials announced Thursday.

The renovation of the 1.2-mile-long tunnel allows it to push 252 million gallons — or about 30% more fresh water than it could before the upgrade — from Buttermilk Channel to the head of the highly toxic waterway each day, officials said.

The tunnel, equipped with three turbine pumps, works to flush polluted water out of the stagnant canal, into the tidal currents of the New York Harbor, and oxygenate the waterway with cleaner water.

It was partially re-activated in December, but prior to that had been completely shut down for repairs since 2010.

“The $177 million upgrade of the flushing tunnel is a significant milestone in the city’s efforts to improve the health and cleanliness of the Gowanus Canal,” said Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Emily Lloyd.

Built in 1911, the tunnel was designed to pump polluted water from the head of the canal into Buttermilk Channel, but since the late 1990s it has sent water in the opposite direction.

The city will also reactivate a pumping station in June to improve water quality.


October 4th, 2014, 02:26 AM
Gowanus Is Counting on a Cleanup



Slide Show (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/05/realestate/gowanus-is-counting-on-a-cleanup.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&_r=1#slideshow/100000003147906/100000003147923)

For decades, Gowanus was written off as a no man’s land between two darlings of brownstone Brooklyn (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/classifieds/realestate/locations/newyork/newyorkcity/brooklyn/?inline=nyt-geo) — Carroll Gardens and Park Slope. Now the gritty industrial neighborhood is emerging from the shadows cast by its neighbors.

Even as the area awaits a $500 million cleanup of its namesake, the Gowanus Canal, construction is underway for several residential developments, including a 700-unit project along the often-putrid waterway. Blocks that were once bleak now house shops for artisanal ice cream, sculptural hanging terrariums and specialty pickles, along with the macabre Morbid Anatomy Museum (http://morbidanatomymuseum.org/). The most potent symbol of transformation is a Whole Foods Market, which opened last year at Third Avenue and Third Street. Longtime residents and newcomers agree that this artists’ haven might soon mirror other industrial-turned-luxury enclaves like Williamsburg, Dumbo, TriBeCa and SoHo.

“People have been talking about Gowanus for years — saying Gowanus is going to be the next SoHo — and I would think they were out of their minds,” said Jay Molishever, a Citi Habitats broker. “But lately I’ve been starting to believe it.”

The neighborhood’s streets might seem desolate compared with bustling Smith Street in Carroll Gardens, but prices are up sharply. Data provided by the appraisal firm Miller Samuel show a rapidly evolving area. In the second quarter, the median sales price in Gowanus was $785,000, up 6.1 percent from the same period last year. The gains were more rapid than in Brooklyn over all, where median prices rose 4.5 percent to $575,000. The median rent in Gowanus in the second quarter was up 17.4 percent to $3,134 a month — more than double the rate of the borough, where the median rent rose 8.6 percent to $2,802.

Part of the neighborhood’s appeal lies in its stellar location. The area, between the Gowanus Expressway and Wyckoff Street and Fourth Avenue and Hoyt Street, is close to several subways, beloved residential neighborhoods, Prospect Park (http://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/prospect-park) and the Barclays Center. “It is in the heart of what is trending in Brooklyn,” said Jonathan J. Miller, the president of Miller Samuel. “It’s right in the thick of everything.”

But two unyielding realities have kept it off the map: The canal is among the most polluted in the country, and the area is zoned for manufacturing, limiting residential growth. Soon that could change. In 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency declared the canal a Superfund site (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/03/nyregion/03gowanus.html), opening the door for a massive cleanup. Brad Lander, the New York City Council member who represents Gowanus, is leading an effort to rezone the neighborhood for mixed-use development.

Constructed in the 19th century, the Gowanus Canal was a dumping ground for manufactured-gas plants, foundries and paint factories. Today toxic sludge measures 22 feet deep in places, according to the E.P.A. In another indignity, raw sewage continues to spill into the 1.8-mile-long channel during heavy rainfall, contributing to pollution and the wretched smell.

In 2017, the E.P.A. will begin dredging and capping the canal, which will take six years to complete. The city recently completed a $190 million upgrade of a wastewater pumping station and a flushing tunnel, substantially reducing sewage overflows and improving oxygen levels in the water. Local environmentalists have already noticed changes, including the arrival of blue crabs, cormorants and herons.

“We’ve even had diamondback terrapin,” said Eymund Diegel, an environmental planner and a board member of the Gowanus Dredgers Canoe Club (http://gowanuscanal.org/), which offers free rides down the canal.

Wildlife is not the only newcomer. Buyers and investors are reinventing vacant lots and humble rowhouses. Two new townhouses at 330 and 332 Bond Street are under contract for above their $2.89 million asking prices. A single-family conversion at 463 Carroll Street is in contract for $2.65 million. Sales also recently began at 465 Carroll Street, a four-unit condominium, with the penthouse listed for $1.59 million. And the owners of Hotel Le Bleu on Fourth Avenue are building a boutique hotel on Third Avenue, to open October 2015.

The rapid construction has rattled some residents, who also fear the loss of the neighborhood’s character. “So much of the neighborhood looks like rubble these days,” said Linda Mariano, a founder of Frogg (http://froggbrooklyn.org/), Friends and Residents of Greater Gowanus, a neighborhood coalition. “There seems to be a rush to choke, to strangle, to take over, to demolish.”

Two major projects could reshape the landscape. Gowanus Green (http://hudsoninc.com/gowanus-green/), a 774-unit affordable housing development with a two-acre park at Smith and Fifth Streets, could open in 2017. But the project, which needs city approval, is stalled until the site’s former owner, National Grid, completes a voluntary environmental cleanup.

On a two-block stretch of Bond Street between Carroll and Second Streets, work is underway on a 700-unit rental, 363-365 Bond Street, overlooking the canal. Scheduled to open in early 2016, the two buildings will rise as high as 12 stories in places, dwarfing low-rise residences nearby. A waterfront esplanade will be open to the public. Prices have not been set for the market-rate units, and 20 percent will be reserved for affordable housing.

The development has numerous critics who cite its potential burden on schools, infrastructure and the environment. “We’re going to be dredging this canal for the next decade, and we’re building housing right next door,” said David Briggs, an architect and a founder of Gowanus by Design, (http://www.gowanusbydesign.com/) a neighborhood group. “Is it safe to live next to a Superfund (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/subjects/s/superfund/index.html?inline=nyt-classifier) site?”

The Lightstone Group, the site’s developer, dismisses the criticism. “There’s a very vocal minority of people who live in the area that don’t want change,” said Mitchell C. Hochberg, Lightstone’s president. “It’s always the people that are against the project that speak the loudest.”

Last month, the E.P.A. reached a tentative $20 million settlement in which Lightstone would remove toxic soil on the site, construct a bulkhead in the canal and ensure the project will not be a source of contamination in the future. The agreement is open to public comments until Oct. 8.

Concerns about pollution and the neighborhood’s tendency to flood have not deterred residents. “I like to say we put the ‘super fun’ back into Superfund,” said Ursula F. Lawrence, 36, an organizer at the Writers Guild of America East, who lives in Gowanus with her husband, Jeffrey Pfeiffer, 35, a playwright and screenwriter. Last year, the couple moved to a $2,490-a-month one-bedroom in a new building on Third Avenue. “I liked the idea of living in new construction,” Ms. Lawrence said. “Nothing was going to break.”

But not everyone is rushing to embrace Gowanus, least of all developers who are building along its border with Carroll Gardens. The developers of 345 Carroll Street, a 32-unit condominium a block and a half from the canal, describe the neighborhood as Carroll Gardens. A four-bedroom penthouse duplex is listed at $2.95 million, according to the marketing website (http://345carroll.com/).

“These days the lines of a neighborhood are drawn by real estate agents,” said Sarah Zelermyer-Diaz, a broker at Douglas Elliman Real Estate who is marketing 335 Carroll Street, a 30-unit rental that is offering up to three months’ free rent to new tenants. Industrial-chic details like hanging Edison bulbs and exposed beams are a nod to the manufacturing roots of Gowanus, but the promotional materials rechristen it Carroll Gardens. Rents start at $3,350 for a one-bedroom, $4,500 for a two-bedroom and $6,700 for a three-bedroom.

On a recent Sunday, families lingered on the corner of Union and Nevins Streets, savoring ice cream from Ample Hills Creamery. The shop, with flavors like Ooey Gooey Butter Cake, opened this summer, next to the Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club. Although $18 lobster rolls can be had at Littleneck, an urban clam shack on Third Avenue, the area is not overrun with trendy eateries yet. Plans to move the Brooklyn parole office to Gowanus in January also have raised concerns in the community.

For some locals, the influx of shops (and shoppers) is a double-edged sword. “It’s wonderful to be able to walk down streets that you previously wouldn’t have,” said Aleksandra Scepanovic, the managing director of the Ideal Properties Group. “But there is also this fear: Oh no, what does that mean? Am I going to get priced out of my own neighborhood?”

http://ny.curbed.com/archives/2014/10/03/the_nyt_discovers_that_gowanus_is_a_hotbed_of_gent rification.php

February 14th, 2015, 03:23 AM
Green projects aim to prevent sewage overflows in Brooklyn

DEP announces grant winners, 3 in Brooklyn

By Mary Frost

A green roof project at 20 Lafayette St. in Fort Greene is one of six winners in the city’s Green
Infrastructure Grant program, which aims to soak up excess rain water and reduce sewer overflows.
Rendering courtesy of Two Trees Management

On Thursday, NYC Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Emily Lloyd announced that six stormwater management projects have been chosen to receive more than $3 million in funding through the Green Infrastructure Grant program (http://www.nyc.gov/html/dep/html/press_releases/15-008pr.shtml#.VN0Ndy4YMbM).

Three of the grant winners are located in Brooklyn neighborhoods that have experienced flooding from stormwater overflows -- Gowanus, Sunset Park and Fort Greene.

The grants are part of the city’s plan to soak up some of the rain (http://www.nyc.gov/html/dep/pdf/reports/state-of-the-sewers-2013.pdf) that overwhelms the sewer system during storms, sending gushes of unpleasantness into basements and yards -- and into bodies of water like the Gowanus Canal and the East River.

The overall strategy uses green approaches, like street trees and green roofs, to absorb excess rainwater. According to Riverkeeper.org, as little as one-twentieth of an inch of rain (http://www.riverkeeper.org/campaigns/stop-polluters/sewage-contamination/cso/) can overload the system.

The Gowanus Arts Rooftop Farm will install a native plant garden and a large green roof vegetable garden to be enjoyed by the building’s tenants, including Spoke the Hub, which has a children's nutrition and cooking program. The project will manage more than 9,300 gallons of stormwater during each storm.

The Salmar Building Roof Meadow in Sunset Park will contain plantings of native blue lupine, a perennial flower which flourishes in harsh climates with mediocre soils. (It also attracts the endangered Karner Blue Butterfly.) The project will manage 150,000 square feet, or almost 3.5 acres, of water-impervious area and 105,000 gallons of stormwater.

Two Trees Management's 20 Lafayette in Fort Greene / Downtown will incorporate a green roof on the third floor roof. The space is inaccessible, and the project will be cultivated for pollinators. The project will manage 15,500 square feet and manage over 9,500 gallons of stormwater.

The Gowanus Arts Rooftop Farm’s native plant garden. Rendering courtesy of DEP

Other winning projects include the Madani Halal Rooftop Farm in Ozone Park, Queens, the Montefiore Moses Campus green roof project in the Bronx, and the Paradise on Earth Community Garden in the Bronx.

Once completed, the six projects announced on Thursday will prevent more than 6 million gallons of stormwater from entering the combined sewer system each year, according to DEP.

“By soaking up rain water these projects will help to reduce pollution in our local waterways, including the East River, Gowanus Canal and Jamaica Bay,” Lloyd said in a statement.

"Implementing green roofs and blue roofs clean our air and waterways alike, utilizing the natural power of plant life,” Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said. “Residents in Fort Greene, Gowanus, Sunset Park and beyond will benefit from these forward-thinking projects.”

Absorbing water at its source

In combined sewer system areas, storm water and sanitary sewage from toilets enter the same pipes on the way to the city’s water treatment plants. After a storm, the extra volume of water backs up and overflows into basements, yards and bodies of water.

There are roughly 400 “outflows” in New York City, where rain and sewage wastes mix, a DEP spokesperson told the Brooklyn Eagle. This causes pollution in bodies of water that don’t readily flush out, such as Coney Island Creek and the Gowanus Canal.

The Salmar Building Roof Meadow in Sunset Park. Rendering courtesy of DEP

The New York City Green Infrastructure Plan aims to reduce the amount of rain that makes its way into the sewers, through the use of green materials that soak it up at the source.

One major project, the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway Stormwater Management Plan (http://www.brooklyneagle.com/articles/2015/1/14/brooklyn-stormwater-management-plan-could-reduce-combined-sewer-overflows), for example, would build water-absorbing infrastructure into the 14-mile Greenway path, soaking up half a billion gallons of rainwater during storms.

Last September, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced additional funding for DEP’s capital program, which calls for more than $2 billion for water main and sewer upgrades over the next four years. DEP plans to install hundreds of curbside gardens and high level storm sewers in neighborhoods surrounding frequently flooded areas like Gowanus.


March 24th, 2015, 10:09 PM
Carroll St Bridge


View north toward the Union St Bridge


South of Carroll St, phase one of Lightstone's 363 - 365 Bond St


...which is supposed to eventually look like this. (http://www.lightstonegroup.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/363-365.jpg)

March 27th, 2015, 03:18 PM

Another eye- and volume-popping mega-project (http://www.6sqft.com/odas-bushwick-brewery-project-looks-a-lot-like-bigs-8-tallet-in-copenhagen/) by ODA Architects (http://www.oda-architecture.com/) may be coming to Brooklyn, and this week’s chosen neighborhood is Gowanus (http://www.cityrealty.com/nyc/gowanus). A recently posted video by ODA (http://www.oda-architecture.com/news/the-space-between-things-an-interview-with-eran-chen/) delves into the thought-process of Eran Chen’s burgeoning firm and provides some shots of their recent work, including the provocative rendering shown here. We recognized the location only by the “Stop & Frisk Hands Off the Kids” text scrawled across the defunct Brooklyn Rapid Transit Powerhouse building (the “Bat Cave (http://narrative.ly/outsiders/vice-and-vagrants-old-school-gowanus/)“) and pinpointed the project for the full-block parcel at 175-225 Third Street (http://www.cityrealty.com/nyc/gowanus/225-third-street/63198?query=175-225+third+street) purchased by Kushner Companies (http://www.kushnercompanies.com/) and LIVWRK (http://livwrk.com/)last year.

To read more (http://www.6sqft.com/revealed-oda-architects-design-cantilevering-ziggurats-for-gowanus-site/)

March 27th, 2015, 03:31 PM
those are some long narrow unbraced stilts

March 28th, 2015, 09:24 AM
Ridiculous for the Gowanus Canal area, and thankfully not the vision of the developers:

Update via LIVWRK/Kushner’s reps: “The developers are not working with ODA on this project and these designs do not represent our vision for this site or the Gowanus. We are committed to putting forth an outstanding plan that respects the context of the neighborhood and responds to the voices of local stakeholders.” As it turns out, ODA is one of many firms that pitched, and the design was ultimately turned down because it was out of touch with the direction of the neighborhood. Though it won’t come to fruition, it does give some scale of what’s to come—which will indeed be transformative for the area.