Gowanus Canal Pollution

Monday, October 22, 2007

from a report ny NY1.com, July 09, 2004
The Gowanus Canal is known to its neighbors in Brooklyn as the "Lavender Lake," after years of pollution made it into a smelly, ugly mess. But there is a movement to clean-up the waterway and make it more accessible to residents. NY1's Roger Clark has the story.

The Gowanus Canal's reputation can maybe best be described similar to the Grinch who stole Christmas - stink, stank, stonk.

“Five years ago it stunk to high heaven,” says Kevin Breslin of the Gowanus Dredgers Canoe Club. “Touching the water itself was toxic.”

So why would anyone in their right mind want to navigate these infamous waters by canoe? Just ask the members of the canoe club.

“We're trying to show people that it's doable, it's enjoyable and it's pleasurable,” says club member Paul Bader. “We also want to draw attention to the fact of what needs to be done to make it even more attractive by cleaning it up, getting some type of development here and expanding the public access.”

Club members, which number around 50, get their access at Second Street in Carroll Gardens for a journey through the two-mile long waterway, built in the late 1860's and named for the chief of the Canarsees tribe of Native Americans.

Paddling towards New York Harbor, there are the canal’s many bridges, its mysterious dark tunnels, and a unique view of this neglected piece of the Big Apple.

“It's a different perspective of New York,” says club member Ellie Hanlon. “It's a really nice way to see the city.”

“I've grown up near the water, and I love having access to it by foot, without having to get in the car to get in the water,” says fellow canoe lover Bill Duke.

When New Yorkers hear the word Gowanus, first they think of the canal, and of course, the expressway. Well let me tell you, the traffic is a whole lot better in the canal than it is on the expressway.

But the Gowanus is by no means paradise. A flushing tunnel brings fresh oxygenated water in, yet there are still signs of its polluted past.

In other words, don't drink the water.

“But if you were to splash a little on your hand, it's not as though you'll disintegrate, aside from the legend and lore,” says canoe club member Owen Foote. “You basically wash with a little soap and water, and you can go have a bagel.”

And if it's up to the dredgers, you might be able to someday have that bagel at a waterfront park overlooking the Gowanus Canal.