(Note: Please welcome gbNYC super-intern and default Gowanus Bureau Chief Christine D. Mule to the website. Today, she reports on the green goings on in Brooklyn’s most fluorescently toxic ‘hoodlet, and the most promising Superfund site in the five boroughs)
The potential for a little community to develop along the Gowanus Canal exists, but it will take years before cleaned up properly. This body of — should I even call it water? — liquid with its very own distinct smell would take a superhero and his band of brothers to clean up; for the moment, and likely for the next ten years or so, we’ll have the EPA on the job instead. But while we wait for Clark Kent to rip off that button-down shirt, put on some contacts, and get on speed dial, it’s worth remembering that life has continued in the Gowanus.
Back in March, David reported that the Environmental Protection Agency added the Gowanus Canal to its National Priorities Superfund List as one of the most polluted areas in the nation. As the New York Times announced, this push to clean up the muck of Brooklyn ran into some serious, human-sized obstacles: namely, Mayor Bloomberg and some big-wig real estate developers who had designs on opening up the Gowanus as a venue for luxury rentals and condos. Their hope was to avoid Superfund designation and handle the cleanup themselves with assistance from city tax dollars and “voluntary” aid from such polluters as Con Edison. It didn’t work, and the Environmental Protection Agency’s website now lists the Gowanus Canal as final as of March 4th, a good step forward considering de-polluting the Gowanus will take over 10 years to complete. Maybe one day, because of the Superfund, living along the Gowanus will actually seem more enjoyable and less like a punchline, and we will not need to hold our noses as we walk by the canal. We shall keep our fingers crossed.
Bloomberg and the developers argued that Superfund seems to go hand-in-hand with halting development in neighborhoods where the Environmental Protection Agency sets up camp, but let’s face it: the Gowanus Canal itself poses somewhat of a deal-breaker when it comes to new developments in the area, anyway. And so it’s probably not surprising that the biggest residential deal in the Gowanus just recently got broken. The ides of July took down their first big real estate development project near the Gowanus, the Toll Brothers’ planned 500-unit housing development (and not-at-all comical waterfront esplanade! — ed), earlier this month. Back when the Superfund emerged, Toll Brothers said that they felt that their project would not make sense if the government pursued their Superfund plans. They stuck to their word, deciding it was unworthy of their time and money to wait 15 or 20 years before they can actually develop their project.
On the other hand, there is some good news on one impressively green residential building in the area. Third and Bond, a LEED Gold condominium building at, yes, Third Street and Bond that was developed by Hudson Companies and designed by Rodgers Marvel Architects, is officially open for business just blocks from the canal. If this mid-rise residential building indicates any of the potential of the neighborhood, then I cannot wait to see what the area surrounding the Gowanus Canal could look like 10 or 15 years from now, when this clean-up project comes to an end. As the building’s website states, Third and Bond is “the first mid-rise luxury residential building in Brooklyn to reach…commitment to [an] environmentally sustainable design,” with LEED-GOLD and Energy Star designations. The developers of this project were very honest about their development experience; they created a weekly blog on Brownstoner.com in which they exposed the ups and downs of their development project to readers. After 138 weeks of blogging, Third and Bond is selling homes and boasts an impressive green resume. Among other things, their Energy Star homes save up to 30% more energy than a regular home.
With Third and Bond completed and apartments for sale, the area near the Gowanus Canal has received a very tiny face-lift — or at least some minor Botox treatment. The good comes with the bad, though and the fact of the matter remains that the state of the Gowanus Canal is not the best. That has been true for roughly a century, though, and with the Superfund plans underway, hopefully we will see some slow improvement over the next few years. Superman and his friends seem too busy saving the human race, but it would be nice to get some help on hand for the EPA in their attempts at de-gunkifying the Gowanus Canal. Life goes on in the Gowanus, and the arrival of Third and Bond is reason for hope, but on a job this big, we can use all the help we can get.