LOST IN BROOKLYN: The red pier was located at the end of Hoyt Street in the Gowanus Canal. It had a stark beauty that came from the streaked red paint, filled with rust. To me, it was a graphic symbol of how the canal had been abandoned as a commercial waterway. No boats ever tied up at its sides, and the fact that it had no roof meant that nothing was stored inside. It was another structure that just vanished.
I had 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.
I have photographed the Gowanus Canal, located in one of the densest population centers in America, for over thirty years. In that time, I have seen the real estate around the polluted waterway soar in value. The 1.7 mile long canal is currently in an EPA Superfund cleanup plan that is estimated to be over $1.5 billion, and the entire project won’t be completed until mid-2023. Unfortunately, the developers now rule and high rises will cut off access to what could have been an amazing waterfront for the community.
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