Gowanus Canal

Brooklyn Tech Triangle

Newtown Creek

The neighborhoods adjacent to the Gowanus Canal have been shaped by 150 years of industrialization, mainly the three main Manufacturing Gas Plants that have contributed to the most highly polluted sites. The 1.8 mile long Canal located in southwest Brooklyn, was once dubbed the most important body of water in the world however more recently the Gowanus is a symbol of the deteriorating industrial sector that once created the foundation for New York City’s prosperous economy. Currently the canal is known for the highly polluted brown-fields and watercourses that have kept the land idle for decades. Because there are only five remaining industrial businesses located on the waterfront of the canal north of the Gowanus Expressway and a decision by the EPA lead to the canal’s designation as a Superfund site in 2010, the canal may now be open to redevelopment and real estate speculation. The contaminated sites while hazardous to the public, were so off putting to developers that the community was given a chance to adapt to the unique landscape, creating a resource for local artists and emerging families call home. As green building practices becomes more trendy and federal, state and city based incentive programs make the land more attractive, brown-fields and toxic release points become a resource rather than a nuisance for hopeful developers.

Although it was once considered the oldest continually active industrial plant in New York State, in 1966 the Secretary of Defense made a decision to closes the Brooklyn Navy Yard along with many other military bases along the east coast. While the need for the Navy Yard was diminishing it still employed over 9,000 workers at the time of closing. Later the yard reopened as an industrial park managed by a nonprofit organization named Commerce Labor and Industry in the County of Kings that would guide the space in spite of declining industry. The State Department of Environmental Conservation added the Navy Yard to the state Superfund list of hazardous waste sites in 1995, sparking the highly debated revisioning of the site’s future. Because one former owner, the U.S. government previously owned the site, following the verification of contamination the whole site would require a degree of remediation. As it stands many maps of contamination only represent the properties that have been found to be contaminated however the nature of contamination and the flow of natural processes such as water drainage almost always spread pollutants beyond their sources. In the early 2000s the site had already begun transformation by many eager business hoping to cash in on the technological buzz that was marketing the site a bastion for new, hip and environmentally conscious corporations. Continuing on the marketing of a sustainable future the new developers of the Navy Yard hope to drawn many more inhabitants that view the polluted past as an opportunity for the future envisioning of industry.

Harboring oil refineries, chemical plants, fertilizer factories and other factories, the creek was once the busiest industrial port in the Northeast. Because of the many industries that have showed little regard for the environment over the years, Newtown Creek and its surrounding manufacturing zones are a landscape ripe with contamination. Although the State and the City of New York has addressed the contamination issue, the scope of pollution required the intervention of the Federal government through its induction into the EPA’s Superfund Law. Recently the spread of industrial pollution has slowed however the creek itself is continually polluted with millions of gallons of untreated sewage from combined sewer overflows that regularly reminds the community for the need of improved infrastructure. Only recently has there been any significant push to revitalize the area and as residents and designers are realizing that the scope of pollution often dictates the future possibilities for the site. Understanding the layers of contamination and the many varied methods to remediate the soil and make the land safe for the public may help guide the neighborhood in their attempts to assign a new use value for the once industrialized area.