If you think NYC is all sparkling high Skyscrapers, Central Park and Times Square then feast your eyes on this video. In the middle of booming, hipster infested Brooklyn, is one of the worst and most polluted bodies of water in the nation. And it was made even worse by Hurricane Sandy, during the aftermath of which this video was shot.
Consider the neighborhoods it goes through: Red Hook, Carroll Gardens, Gowanus, Park Slope, Boerum Hill, Cobble Hill and Sunset Park, each and every one of them part of the huge Brooklyn boom that has seen house prices shoot up so high you can’t even think about buying in without having the odd $1-2+m to spend. And in the midst of all this new affluence is Gowanus Canal, super stinky and with such toxic sludge that artists photograph it to capture the surreal patterns of color in the thick multi-colored gunk floating in the water.
When the Canal was designed it was built without the locks that would have allowed the waterway to be regularly flushed out. As a result industrial and sewerage waste has flowed into it and then just settled. Today bubbles constantly rise to the surface from decomposing sewerage on the bottom, giant white clumps of bacteria float near the surface and the water contains arsenic at 60 times the healthy exposure levels.
Locals know it is far too toxic to put a finger into it safely, let aloe go for a swim. And of course there is the constant awful smell from the decomposing matter in the water. The Environmental Authority has had plans in place for years for a good cleanup, but year by year
goes by and strangely nothing happens. But the Brooklyn boom looks set to change all that, after all the land along the Canal is now worth a fortune and think how much higher the values would go if the canal was a safe, healthy, pleasant stretch of water.
A new multi-million dollar housing development includes plans to clean up a section of the Canal. And the growing abundance of trendy cafes, smart galleries and a raft of quirky shops of all kinds is resulting in a renewed push to make the Canal presentable at last. Everyone wants to turn it into a proper recreation space and get rid of the ratty collection of old warehouse that are slowing rusting away along its length.
Rather than the Brooklyn boom being amplified by what should by sweet and pleasant waterway, the pressure of pulling the Canal up to the standards being demanded by the new affluence in Brooklyn seems set to save the Canal from itself.