Posts tagged with "Gowanus Canal":

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New draft plan for Gowanus rezoning emphasizes resiliency, housing, and waterfront access

Gowanus, the Brooklyn neighborhood known for its namesake toxic canal (which is prone to flooding), will be joining Manhattan’s Garment District as the next neighborhood to be rezoned. Following over 100 hours of community outreach after the release of the original Gowanus PLACES Study in 2016, the Department of City Planning (DCP) has unveiled the Draft Framework for a Sustainable, Inclusive, Mixed-use Neighborhood. The 188-page draft breaks down suggestions from the city and community on how to boost the neighborhood’s resiliency, replace some of the manufacturing areas with residential, and build up flood-resistant infrastructure. New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) tenants were also consulted on how to improve the area’s public housing stock moving forward. Surprising no one, a great deal of attention was paid towards the future of the Gowanus Canal proper. Plans for dredging and remediating the industrial waterway (despite the preservation concerns), preventing runoff from reaching the canal, and incentivizing private residences to remediate their contaminated sites were given top billing. Despite the fetid waters, Gowanus has seen an upsurge in luxury development in recent years (including Brooklyn’s first Whole Foods, on 3rd Avenue). The city worked with community groups such as Bridging Gowanus to develop guides for building affordably in the neighborhood. Some of those proposals include rezoning the majority industrial and commercial neighborhood to allow for mid-rise residential developments with a sizeable affordable housing component. While nods were given to reigning in development along mid-block properties, the city has proposed allowing higher-density developments along certain stretches, such as near Thomas Greene Playground and on 3rd Avenue. Some of the beefier urbanist proposals in the draft framework include bridging non-contiguous plots into walkable “superblocks,” and the creation of a unified waterfront esplanade around the canal under a Waterfront Access Plan (WAP). The WAP would also create uniformly-spaced canal crossings, new flood resistance requirements, ground-floor retail requirements along the waterfront, and lowered street wall heights on the coast. The full draft framework plan can be found here. The framework’s release will be followed by the Draft Neighborhood Plan and Zoning Proposal this winter, and then the rezoning proposal will move to the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) for public comment. Interested community members can attend an open house at P.S. 32 at 317 Hoyt Street on June 27 from 5 to 8:30 P.M. to share their feedback.
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Gowanus Canal superfund cleanup might derail historic district designation

As New York City’s federally mandated cleanup of the toxic Gowanus Canal continues to ramp up, efforts to install sewage tanks at the head of the canal could end up destroying several buildings that would help the neighborhood qualify for a national historic district designation. The decision to buy out three private parcels along the canal comes after local community pushback canceled the Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) initial plans to install the 8-million-gallon detention tank under the nearby Double D Pool and Thomas Greene Park. Instead, the DEP will now buy out the three parcels for a cost of up to $70 million. If the owners refuse to sell their land, the city will begin a lengthy eminent domain process to seize them. Apart from the monetary costs, leveling the existing buildings at 234 Butler Street, 242 Nevins Street and 270 Nevins St. for use as a staging area during the construction could damage the neighborhood’s standing in the eyes of the National Register of Historic Places. If local officials were to submit Gowanus’s low-lying, historically industrial waterfront for preservation, it’s likely that the construction of the tank would affect the area’s eligibility. The 100-year-old 234 Butler St. in particular stands out for its terra cotta and brick façade, with the Gowanus name emblazoned in brick on the building’s cornice. Residents of the Brooklyn neighborhood rallied to protect the former Gowanus Station upon learning that the EPA and DEP would be tearing it down. In a press release to the borough president, Linda Mariano of Friends and Residents of Greater Gowanus, said, "Its design and sculptural elements tie directly into the history of the Gowanus neighborhood's relationship with water. It can and should be saved." In a letter to the EPA, Olivia Brazee, Historic Site Restoration Coordinator with State Historic Preservation Office, wrote that “Its demolition would adversely affect both the building and the National Register eligible Gowanus Canal Historic District.” While an attempt was made to have the neighborhood officially realized as a state and national historic place in 2014, community intervention ultimately led to the plan being shelved. The DEP and EPA will need to come to an agreement on the location of the detention tank before the canal’s dredging finishes in 2027, but if installed, would reduce wastewater runoff into the canal by up to 91 percent.
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The Gowanus Canal is being cleaned up for the first time in its long, polluted life

What's more Brooklyn than several thousand tons of toxic sludge channeled down a concrete chute being portrayed as a developer's Riviera? If you're confused which horribly polluted body of water in Brooklyn we're referring to, we'll save you some time: it's the Gowanus Canal. You know, the same canal nicknamed "Lavender Lake" in the early 20th century due to the pastel hue it turned while absorbing immense amounts of slaughterhouse slurry, coal tar, and a cocktail of human and chemical waste. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) more straightforwardly called it "one of the nation's most seriously contaminated bodies of water.” The Gowanus Canal is long overdue for a makeover. The first week of October, preliminary dredging began on a large-scale environmental renewal of the site, which will cost around $500 million in total. Since early 2010, the body of water has been a federally-designated Superfund site, meaning it has been identified a significant hazard to people, animals, plants, and everything alive – in short, an environmental and public health disaster just a rainy day away from cross-contamination. This will be the first time the city has ever endeavored to clean the canal since its channelization in the mid-1800's (though humans have technically cohabited with the canal since it was a creek in the early 17th century). The surrounding neighborhood has been experiencing paradigm shifts of its own. Residential development has been far from deterred by the site's chemical underpinnings. The neighborhood's first luxury high-rise opened in the summer of 2016 at 365 Bond Street. Shortly after, the Department of City Planning initiated Plan Gowanus, a direct community engagement platform to look at rezoning the neighborhood in light of increased interest in waterfront development. The city expects this engagement process to continue for at least another two years. How and whether Gowanus' rezoning will align with the cleanup process is not entirely clear yet. According to the EPA's progress page for the Gowanus Canal, the site has not even received a preliminary assessment or site investigation, despite the fact that dredging has begun. A developer at Property Markets Portfolio (an owner of many waterfront properties along the canal) estimates that the process will wrap up in roughly five years. What remains to be seen is whether more attention will be paid to the health risks involved in developing a Superfund site at the canal's scale. At present, 26 million gallons of raw sewage flood into the canal per year, which the advent of new underground sewage tanks is expected to reduce to 11 million gallons per year. Flooding is still a common occurrence for nearby residents–in fact, there are a series of informal underground waterways winding through the basements of locals, spreading out as far as Prospect Park. Eymund Diegel, an urban planner fascinated with the history of the canal, mapped them out in a recent New Yorker piece. Landscape architects have imagined the remediation of the canal from slightly more utopian angles, from DLANDstudio's Gowanus Canal Sponge Park, a more traditional waterfront park that would simultaneously help clean the canal, to SCAPE's Gowanus Lowlands, an adaptive design allowing direct interaction with the waterfront.
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Group unveils plans by SCAPE for verdant Gowanus Canal

First came the factories. Then, decay and abandonment followed by an alphabet soup of toxic waste and three-eyed fish (maybe). Now, one nonprofit has plans to transform the Gowanus Canal, one of the country's sickliest waterways, into a park and ecological corridor for western Brooklyn. Last night the Gowanus Canal Conservancy unveiled its verdant vision for Gowanus Canal–adjacent areas of Brooklyn. In collaboration with New York's SCAPE Landscape Architecture, the group's Gowanus Lowlands: A Blueprint for NYC’s Next Great Park outlines possible plans for a park along the waterway in anticipation of a master plan that will be developed over the next six to nine months. For those who don't know, the entire 1.8-mile Gowanus Canal is a Superfund site, a heavily polluted channel that cuts through the tony neighborhoods of Park Slope, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, as well as Red Hook and Gowanus. In lieu of the raw sewage and malodorous trash that currently dot the waterway, Lowlands imagines boaters and picnics, performance venues and cafes, and other amusements set between attractive walking paths and arrays of native flora that will knit neighborhoods together. Grassy hills and meadows will line the edge of the canal, while mitigation basins, bioswales, and sponge gardens will filter runoff and provide habitat for local wildlife. The plan was developed with neighbors' input over the past two years, and this year the Conservancy hired SCAPE to develop the Lowlands idea. The plan dialogues with the Canal's Superfund cleanup, local and state environmental remediation efforts, as well as a potential city rezoning that could encourage more development.
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Herzog & de Meuron will transform Brooklyn’s “Batcave” into an art powerhouse

Swiss firm Herzog & de Meuron are a dab hand when it comes to converting power stations, especially the brick kind. Slathered in graffiti, the "Batcave" in Brooklyn began life as a rapid transit power plant in 1904. Come the 1950s however, the Thomas E. Murray–designed station had been decommissioned and in the decades that followed morphed into a punk squat and venue for New York's edgiest parties. Now the 113-year-old building will be reincarnated once again, this time as a manufacturing center for the arts, courtesy of Herzog & de Meuron. The "Batcave" will be a place for metal, wood, ceramic, textile and print production. Emulating their hugely successful approach to the former Bankside Power Station in London (now the Tate Modern), the focal point of Herzog & de Meuron's renovation revolves around the existing Turbine Hall. Here, space will be configured to create workshops. In addition to this, the Boiler House which was once demolished will be rebuilt. "By preserving, restoring and reconstructing essential elements of the original Power Station—some still intact and some long-ago demolished—this design strengthens its relationship to the immediate urban context,” said Ascan Mergenthaler, senior partner at Herzog & de Meuron in a press release. “The aim is to demonstrate sensitivity to the program by integrating existing layers seamlessly into a functional, modern manufacturing facility.” Residing on the banks of the Gowanus Canal, the "Batcave" got its name at the turn of the century when it became a hotspot for young urban explorers and artists who enamored its walls. Graffiti expert Henry Chalfant was invited to the Batcave to see if there was any wall art of historical significance. "If this place is renovated, it would be great if these interior walls were kept as they were and not made pristine again," he told the New York Times. Construction is due to begin this year and be completed by 2020. The facility will be run by the Powerhouse Environmental Arts Foundation. The foundation picked up the site in 2012 for $7 million and began environmental remediation under the New York State Brownfield Cleanup Program.
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A team of landscape architects, geneticists, and bioinformaticians are trawling the Gowanus Canal for science

Thinking of a quick dip in the Gowanus? Perhaps not. After 150 years of industrial pollution, combined with sewage overflows and stormwater run-off, the canal is generally seen to be an undesirable place. However, one team comprising of three New York practices—Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects, community bio-laboratory GenSpace, and the Gowanus Canal Conservancy—views it in a different light.

Earlier this year, urban design advocacy group Gowanus by Design launched the competition, “Axis Civitas,” which asked participants to map conditions relevant to the Gowanus area and use that as a basis to design a publicly accessible Urban Field Station.

The BK BioReactor—a collaboration including core team members Ellen Jorgensen of GenSpace and Ian Quate of Nelson Byrd Woltz, as well as Dr. Elizabeth Hénaff of Weill Cornell Medical College and Matthew Seibert of Landscape Metrics—claimed first prize. Since then, the team has been getting to work and can be found kayaking along the canal’s surface and even wading through its filth, cataloging and mapping the Gowanus’s microbial communities. An interactive microbiological map has been produced (available online), locating all the different microorganisms; the vast majority of which are bacteria. “Many of the species identified in preliminary samplings are also found in the human gut (a result of raw sewage), while other species reveal influence of the canal’s proximity to the ocean,” the group states on its website.

Executive director of Gowanus by Design David Briggs stressed they had no time to lose. Now designated as a Superfund by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the canal will be dredged and then have its waterways sub-aquatically capped over the course of the next decade. This process will involve isolating the canal’s waste by coating it with a layer of soil or similar substance to prevent further contamination of the canal.

Briggs, an architect himself, spoke of the “dearth of community resources” in the Gowanus neighborhood. “If we could help with that and also work with the EPA, then we would really achieve something,” he said. Such a proposal isn’t out of the question either.

Hénaff spoke highly of the study so far: “There are only positives to conclude,” she said. “Nature does fix itself, despite what we inflict on it, and our job now is to see how we can coax this currently optimal bioremediation solution to perform faster.” She outlined two directions that could be taken: Tweaking the bacteria themselves and accelerating the rate of metabolism or “modifying the built environment through choices in materials and structures to provide an environment with which to select for the bioremediating functions in the extant microbiome.”

Turning up the heat on the microbial melting pot that is the Gowanus is no easy task. As a landscape architect, Seibert believes that through “a data-driven understanding of place (via DNA sequencing of sediment samples and responsive environmental sensor installation), community engagement, and bioreactor cultivation prototyping,” the team can begin to “offer site-specific proposals” for how this could be done.

Seibert explained how this would help traditional landscape architects “design and specify an optimized environment for a preferred planting palette (i.e. soil structure, amendments, irrigation, etc.).” Meanwhile a “microbiologically-leaning landscape architect might do the same for a microbiome privileging the populations of bioremediating microbes.”

“I think the canal is a landscape rich in lessons in how we conceive of landscape, particularly landscape within an urban context,” Seibert continued. “For one, it speaks to the dangers of divorcing the built and natural environments. In fact, I think there is sort of a novel bioethic that emerges from this that can encourage a new kind of stewardship. As toxic and ugly and ultimately embarrassing as the Gowanus Canal is to its community, it also provides this layered landscape to catalyze us into re-conceiving nature and our role intimately within and of it.”

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Explore this interactive map of the Gowanus Canal’s slightly scary microbiology

The Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn is notorious for its filth. Normally a sure fire way to contract dysentery, cancer and arsenic poisoning, the canal is now the subject of study from a diverse collaborative effort: Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects, biotech nonprofit GenSpace, the Gowanus Canal Conservancy, and data visualizers Landscape Metrics. Called the BK BioReactor, the undertaking employs a small autonomous watercraft that samples waters throughout the infamous canal (an U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Superfund site). The researchers set out to catalog its microbial communities before the canal undergoes dredging and sub-aquatically capping as part of the Superfund cleanup later this year. https://vimeo.com/156573571 Why the Gowanus? The team aims to discover new microorganisms "unique to the urban realm." With many urban areas facing similar pollution challenges, there may be important lessons to be learned. "The Gowanus Canal is an incubator for the evolution of such bioremediating functions, attesting to its industrial past and its capacity for self-renewal," they stated. To carry out the task, the group are using the BK BioReactor: a mobile watercraft that takes samples and stops at 14 "Smart Docks" throughout the canal. The craft measures "water temperature, pH, salinity, and dissolved oxygen; and most importantly grant researchers and citizen scientists access to the microbiome below the cleanup cap. Subsequently, an interactive microbiological map has been produced, locating all the different microorganisms, the vast majority of which are bacteria. However, in some parts of the canal, large quantities of the siphoviridae virus family can be found. For those wondering, this is not linked to syphilis (which the canal has been associated with). That's not to say the findings were in any way healthy however. "Many of the species identified in preliminary samplings are also found in the human gut (a result of raw sewage) while other species reveal influence of the canal’s proximity to the ocean," the group said. "Regardless of their source, the microbial melting pot of the canal has fine-tuned its metabolism, swapping genes with neighboring communities and evolving novel functions to develop real-time strategies for the unique state of the canal." https://vimeo.com/156590188 Other substances discovered included:
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Along the Gowanus Canal, dlandstudio’s Sponge Park will soon be ready to soak up polluted water

You won't be able to drink from it anytime soon, but the fetid, toxic shores of the Gowanus Canal will soon be graced with a new park that filters stormwater as it enters the canal. Designed by Brooklyn's dlandstudio in partnership with the Gowanus Canal Conservancy, the Gowanus Canal Sponge Park will be an 18,000 square foot public space on city-owned land, where Second Street meets the canal. Due to the canal's Superfund status, multiple federal, state, and city agencies are involved in environmental remediation, on and offshore (see diagram below). The $1.5 million project is publicly and privately funded: New York-based Lightstone Group will bankroll a boat launch for the Gowanus Dredgers Canoe Club. The developers are planning a 700 unit residential high rise adjacent to the park. Initiated in 2008, the project stalled for seven years as funding was secured. dlandstudio chose plants for their ability to filter out biological toxins from sewage, heavy metals, and other pollutants that overwhelm the canal, especially when it rains. Floating wetlands adjacent to shore will filter runoff further. Due to the canal's Superfund status, multiple federal, state, and city agencies are involved in environmental remediation, on and offshore (see diagram above). The first phase of the park is expected to open early 2016. State and local officials plan for the Sponge Park to be part of a network of green space that will mitigate flood risk while cleaning incoming stormwater.
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Diana Balmori launches a vegetated island floating along Brooklyn’s toxic Gowanus Canal

Landscape architect Diana Balmori has been planting floating gardens and launching them into the middle of Brooklyn's Gowanus Canal only to have the plant life killed off by the Superfund site's toxic waters. "We've been working on this a year," she told AN today along the canal's edge looking at GrowOnUs, her latest floating landscape. "We did three test plantings, but they all died in the canal." The collection of tubes strung together around a pontoon-like structure of 55-gallon plastic drums and hundreds of recycled plastic bottles is an experiment to test the feasibility of growing plants—and eventually food—on larger synthetic islands to help provide local provisions for city dwellers. "Eventually, we would like to create a productive island to grow food and herbs and fruits for city residents," Balmori said. Her team will also monitor the site for its applicability in protecting shorelines, creating natural habitat and biodiversity, generating energy, and providing public space. Balmori, head of Balmori Associates, worked with Riverkeepers to pick hardier plants that could withstand the Gowanus' murky waters. "We used their research to choose plants that could take the pollution," Balmori said. The nonprofit group monitors what pollutants and chemicals are in the canal's waters and advocates for its cleanup. Balmori also looked to plants naturally lining the canal's banks for the island's plant life. "You can see Sumac there and there," Balmori said, pointing to patches of green. "Sumac can take quite a lot." Other plant life on the GrowOnUs island was chosen for its industrial use dying cloth. Balmori said this is a nod to the local industry in the Gowanus neighborhood. Plants on the island include Fringed Sedge, Seaside Goldenrod, and Smooth Cordgrass—selected for their water-cleansing properties—and Black-Eyed Susan, Wild Indigo, and Smooth Sumac—chosen for their production qualities. The plants interact with the canal in a variety of ways. Some of the hardier plants draw their water directly from the waterway, with roots growing down through a structure of mesh and plastic bottles. Other plants use collected rainwater and some use water distilled with solar-powered equipment housed beneath small plastic domes within the island. At night, lights beneath colored filters will glow softly, announcing its presence on the canal. Several birdhouses have also been included—the island is also meant to create habitat for birds and insects. GrowOnUs was unveiled today along a promenade by the greenhouse-topped Gowanus Whole Foods, but will move to its final location this evening at the Seventh Street Basin of the canal.
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New York City to install 90 curbside bioswales to help clean Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal

As new apartment buildings continue to rise in Gowanus, Brooklyn, New York City's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has announced plans to install 90 bioswales nearby in hopes of cleaning the neighborhood's eponymous—and oh-so-polluted—canal. DNAinfo reported that starting this summer, the DEP will plan the so-called "curbside gardens" in hopes of soaking up about 8 million gallons of stormwater runoff, ultimately helping the overall ecological well-being of the Gowanus Canal. "Investing in green infrastructure is a cost-effective way to improve the health of the Gowanus Canal, green neighborhood streets and clean the air we all breathe," said DEP Commissioner Emily Lloyd in a statement to DNAinfo. This bioswale program is part of New York City's larger, multi-billion dollar effort to use green infrastructure to capture stormwater and beautify streets. As AN reported last fall: "Thanks to a landmark 2012 settlement with state environmental officials, New York City finally is taking major steps to manage stormwater near contaminated waterways that don’t comply with the Clean Water Act, such as the Gowanus Canal and Newtown Creek. The initiative includes an ambitious plan to spend $2.4 billion on green infrastructure, which can include streetscapes designed with materials such as structural soil and permeable pavers."
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Gowanus developers shoot down ziggurat-themed proposal from ODA

Last week, ODA: Architecture unveiled a dramatic rendering of a megaproject for Gowanus, Brooklyn, featuring a cluster of semi-transparent stepped pyramids. But almost as soon as the design was released, the site's owners stepped in as buzzkills, disavowing any connection with the ODA proposal. After the sleuths at 6sqft identified the future home of the ziggurats as 175–225 Third Street—thanks to a bit of graffiti pictured in the renderings—the owners, Kushner Companies and LIVWRK, released a statement indicating that they had already passed on ODA's pitch. "The developers are not working with ODA on this project and these designs do not represent our vision for this site or the Gowanus," they said. "We are committed to putting forth an outstanding plan that respects the context of the neighborhood and responds to the voices of local stakeholders." While we now know that ODA, which is currently working on other New York City projects including 10 Montieth Street in Bushwick, will not be bringing their pinwheel of Mesopotamian-inspired structures to the canal front, much about the future of the site remains uncertain. Last June, The Real Deal reported that the parcel could be rezoned to allow a mixed-use development of over one million square feet, to include 150,000 square feet of retail. The immediate area is ripe for commercial growth, with a Whole Foods located across the street and other large residential complexes going up nearby.
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Dlandstudio’s Gowanus Canal Sponge Park to be Constucted in Next Year

It has been several years in the making, but now the industrial strip along Brooklyn's polluted Gowanus Canal will finally be transformed into a lush and porous green space aptly named The Gowanus Canal Sponge Park that will soak up and filter rainwater to help improve the overall water quality along the waterway. This $1.5 million project, a collaboration between the Gowanus Canal Conservancy and landscape architecture firm dlandstudio, will finally get off the ground with the help of city, state, and federal funding. While a full esplanade was initially planned for the 1.8-mile stretch along the EPA Superfund site, Bloomberg recently announced that the city's first step will be a scaled-down park right where the canal intersects with Second Street. The park takes its name from its "working landscape." Dlandstudio plans on using plants and soils to soak up toxins and heavy metals from the water. The firm will also employ strategies to reroute storm water run-off to keep the sewer system from overflowing and spilling back into the mucky canal. Floating wetlands will also be implemented to absorb contaminants and toxins from sewage. The Daily News reported that the city plans on breaking ground on the park by 2014, and hopes to open it to the public by summer of 2015.