Sunday, October 15, 2017

Can Brooklyn's Gowanus Canal Survive Its Renaissance?

Brooklyn’s famously filthy canal is getting cleaned up. A building boom is coming. And not everyone is happy.

Andy Newman reports in The New York Times:

“Welcome to Venice Jerko.” The greeting is painted in three-foot-high letters on a brick wall along Brooklyn’s legendarily polluted Gowanus Canal, right across from the canal’s first luxury high-rise and its new waterfront promenade.

One recent sunny Sunday, a party of German seminary students and a pair of hotel publicists gathered for a canoe tour. The seminarians had read about the canal in a German travel guide that promised “a romantic sunset on the water.” The publicists were scouting to see if the boutique hotel, opening a few blocks away, might want to include guided canoe trips.

“It could make for a great guest experience,” one of the publicists said. The voyagers carried their canoes past the cafe tables on the promenade, put in below the new boat ramp and paddled off.

The future is flowing in fast on the sleepy little canal, where the wilderness of urban decay that sprouted artists and then artisanal ice cream shops is being tidied and tamed. Stroller traffic on the bridge to Whole Foods grows thick, and the sliding crunch of the concrete factory conveyor belt is falling silent.

But as much as the canal zone has been remade already, the next few years promise, or threaten, a different magnitude of change altogether.

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