From the Jody Kriss Blog: 3 Cool Gowanus Canal Happenings

Although the Jody Kriss Blog tends to cover real estate news, things affecting housing market, and developments by Jody Kriss and East River Partners, from time to time it also covers news and info related to New York City. Right now there are some really exciting things happening with the Gowanus Canal, and they affect everyone in the surrounding areas.

Background on the Gowanus Canal

Most New Yorkers learn about the Gowanus Canal very quickly upon arrival to the city, but it is one of those things tourists don’t often get to see. Like the rest of New York City, Brooklyn was booming in the 1800s, and the area around Gowanus Creek was surrounded by farms and mills. To help further development in the area and make it easier for companies to transport goods, officials decided to widen the creek into a canal. There were a lot of different plans proposed to ensure that the nearly two-mile stretch of water would remain fresh and clean, but ultimately officials settled on the plan that would save the most money- simply hoping that the tides would keep the water fresh. Construction was completed in 1869 and the companies that congregated on the banks of the Gowanus Canal immediately started dumping waste into the water, including things like mercury, lead, and coal tar, and even raw sewage found its way in. Since then, many proposals have been made for cleanup efforts, but all have failed. The water remains one of the most polluted areas in the entire United States, filled with dangerous pathogens and so low in oxygen that it cannot sustain life or a healthy ecosystem.

1. The Floating Garden

Last fall, a “floating garden” of sorts was unleashed on the Gowanus. The garden is built from numerous materials, including bamboo and coconut matting, with various plants carefully potted inside wide metal pipes that are filled with plastic water bottles. Part of it is solar-powered, as it desalinates water from the canal and also collects rainwater. The designers hope it will help scrub the canal clean, but it’s still very much an experimental project.

2. The 2,000 Gallon Project

Rainwater is an ongoing issue, as it tends to push more sewage into the Gowanus. Although there is a sewage tank below the canal to collect rainwater, there are times it cannot handle the deluge and it overflows. In an effort to catch the water before it hits the tank, developers have started the 2,000 Gallon Project. The concept is very simple. They’re filling several dumpsters with soil and plants and placing them in areas around the Gowanus. Each one should be able to hold 2,000 gallons of water.

3. The First Street Basin Restoration

Between Carroll and Third Streets, and behind the abandoned Brooklyn Rapid Transit Powerhouse (aka the Batcave), is an area that was once a basin attached to the Gowanus. Although no one is quite sure when it fell into disuse and was filled in with dirt, experts believe it was around the 1950s.  As part of the overall cleanup plan for the Gowanus, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced that they plan to restore the basin. They expect to remove around 1,000 truckloads of contaminated dirt and will add 475 more feet of water onto the Gowanus. The catch is, nobody is quite sure what’s down there below the layers of dirt, and the EPA has archaeologists on staff to help them manage any interesting finds, including shipwrecks, according to DNA Info.

The Gowanus Canal cleanup projects are staggered out over a period of several years. Construction on the basin isn’t even slated to begin until 2018, and they plan to keep it blocked off from the main canal until cleanup is complete to avoid recontamination. In the meantime, keep checking back with the Jody Kriss Blog for future updates on the Gowanus project, real estate news, updates on Jody Kriss and East River partner projects, and more.