ISBRANDTSEN was the largest maritime shipping company from the United States to the Mediterranean from the 1950s to the 1970s. When the company filed for bankruptcy in the 1980s, they abandoned their main shipping pier in Gowanus Bay, Brooklyn, leaving it to collapse into the water.
I saw the collapsed pier on my first canoe trip into the bay with Owen Foote, who would go on to found the Gowanus Dredgers, an advocacy and paddling club devoted to the canal. By the time I took my next trip into the bay, it was gone.
From that day forward, I came to love canoeing on Brooklyn's own Superfund waterway. Now with the EPA cleanup underway, no watercraft are allowed in the work zone, cutting everyone off from the waterway. The cleanup plan for the 1.7 mile long canal is estimated to be over $1.5 billion, and the entire project won’t be completed until mid-2023. In the meantime, developers have descended on the banks like an army of termites, building high-rise monstrosities that will place living near the canal out of reach of most New Yorkers.
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