Covid-19 unleashed a dystopian opportunity for developers to change the landscape in the Gowanus neighborhood at a frightening pace. Many unique buildings and urban artscapes vanished in the silence of the pandemic.
I gained a fascination with this putrid, stinking body of water that cuts through my neighborhood in Brooklyn. Sort of hidden from the beauty of Brownstone Brooklyn, the canal was surrounded by industrial buildings nestled in the lowlands between the gentrified neighborhoods of Boerum Hill, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens and Park Slope. It was a nowhere land with a toxic history. Today, it is a Superfund site.
We are hoping for a Brooklyn Utopia along the Gowanus Canal but the current plans put forth in the time of Zoom meetings seem to lack any forethought of using the waterway as a waterway. The water will be cut off from the public by monstrous residential units with no water access.
The reflection of the flowering mural inspired by Mexico City's floating gardens belies the Superfund status of the Gowanus Canal. As the canal goes from industrial based to gentrified, one of the last remaining businesses, Dykes Lumber, has been a fixture on the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn, NY, since 1986. As awareness rises about the state of the canal, the company allowed the “Gowanus: Industry & Ecology,” mural, by artists Julia Whitney Barnes and Ruth Hofheimer, to be painted on the side of the building at Sixth Street and the Fourth Street basin.
There are very few times where the water is calm enough and the light hits just right to create a frenzy of color on the surface of the Gowanus Canal, reminiscent of the earlier oil slicks of color. Just as beautiful.
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