Word on the street is that the Gowanus Canal is going to be designated a Superfund site. The canal is two blocks from the Brooklyn green show house so it is dear to our heart and very clearly part of our ecosystem.
The Gowanus is definitely a good candidate for a superfund designation. It is a common belief among the locals that those living near the canal, between Bond and Hoyt, get cancer more often than other areas in Carroll Gardens.
There have not been any studies that I know of but that is what the Italian old timers say. And for them to say the canal is toxic really means it is toxic. These are lifelong Carroll Gardens residents who grew up when it was fine to start smoking at twelve.
So what does a superfund designation mean? For one it means that the government will finally formally recognize what any moron can see: that the canal is toxic and needs some serious clean up measures. It also means there are different rules for construction and use of the site until it is cleaned up.
This effects me because it might mean that we can’t have the Gowanus Dredgers Canoe Club use the canal, which is also just down the street from the green show house. You can’t have people paddling around in a toxic superfund site.
We have spent many an hour gliding along the canal, basking in the sun and watching the city from the very interesting perspective of the canal. It is a beautiful place. The water winds around old relics of industrial industry. There are hidden inlets and unseen tunnels.
You are six feet below the city in your own forgotten world. You can imagine that the city has been abandoned and you are a future explorer discovering a lost civilization. It is a very calming experience to paddle the canal.
During the summer when it has gone a couple days without raining and the water has had a chance to run out to sea a few times the canal is very pleasant. It doesn’t smell and almost looks clean. You see the mussels planted by local ecology groups to help filter the water. The occasional minnow furtively kisses your canoe.
Of course if you take a ride in the canal after a heavy rain the place smells like crap and you have all sorts of disgusting bathroom refuse like floating tampons and condoms. This is because the sewer system overflows into the canal when it gets overloaded, for example during rainstorms.
This is why we are going to such care to decrease the rain water runoff and general water use at the green show house up the street: gray water system, rainwater capture, low flow fixtures, efficinet washing machine, green roof and the myriad of other intelligent water management practices a green contractor should consider in Brooklyn brownstones.
All of this lessens the impact on the sewers. We see the direct effect of bad water management in the canal and we want to reduce it. Most people flush their toilet and are done with it. A green builder understands that there is a connection to everything. In Brooklyn a green builder understands that we have an issue with overflowing sewer systems.
Hopefully the green show house will become a leading example for neighbours to follow and it will help in the cleaning process of the Gowanus canal. We’re not talking a lot of money to do these changes to a green brownstone. If anything you make the money back in time through lower water bills.
If the canal is designated a superfund site it will probably finally get funding. This will clean it up and make it a recreation resource for the community. Not just dire hard Gowanus Dredgers Canoe members will be able to enjoy it.
This will better the community and the houses around it.
The irony is that the largest critic of the superfund site is a builder. The anithesies of green builders, Toll Brothers, is vehemently opposing the superfund designation. They have bought large tracts along the Gowanus canal and want to build shitty “luxury condos” which they’ll probably claim has “water views”.
They couldn’t care less about the toxicity of the canal. Let it rot for all they care. It does not effect their short term gains. In fact it effects their short term gains negatively. If the Gowanus is a superfund site then it has to go through all sorts of testing and clean up.
This could seriously hinder Toll Brothers’ plans to build. And they might even have to aknowledge that they plan on covering up toxic land and building over it. They might even be held responsible for cleaning up the land they bought.
The superfund designation means the Toll Brothers can’t sweep the dirt under the rug and build like normal. They want to build fast and cheap, sell high and get the hell out of there. Making a commitment to clean up the community and plan long term for its health is not part of their business model.
Toll Brothers are the Walmart of the building industry. Brooklyn Green Builders and Contractors are the mom and pop stores. The good news is that Walmart isn’t welcomed by Brooklyn residents and mom and pop stores are doing just fine here.
Green contractors and builders have a welcome community in Brooklyn and that is only going to increase.