Recap | Fall 2022

The Future of Flooding in Gowanus

Back in October 2021, some of us at Amp Club tuned in for the  "NYC Water Futures: From Conservation to Regeneration," an online panel hosted by the Brooklyn Public Library. That conversation fueled our interests in the water systems and water conservation as it relates to NYC, and with the polluted Gowanus Canal being right in the neighborhood, we decided to reach out to the Gowanus Dredgers to enlighten us.

Steven Koller, our tour guide, is a PhD student studying floods at the University of Miami who volunteers with the Gowanus Dredgers. He shared some knowledge with us. Here are a few interesting facts:

  • There are living organisms in the canal...we couldn’t believe it either!
  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) pledged $100 million with National Grid for the cleanup of the Gowanus Canal Superfund site. The cleanup began in 2020 and is predicted to be finished in 2030.
  • There’s contamination buried beneath Thomas Greene Park, located at Nevins and Degraw. There’s a plan to clean that up as well.
  • The community routinely shows up to monthly meetings and discussions relating to the neighborhoods’ water systems.
Steve talking about the Gowanus Canal Superfund Site, one of only three federal superfund site on the EPA’s funding plans to remediate target contaminated areas in NYC, May 20, 2022.

Midway through our walk, it started to rain…heavily. Ironically, the rain amplified—with some elements of drama—what Steve was telling us about the aftermaths of catastrophic storms like Sandy and Ida, and the effects of climate change, to the area.

A dredging machine resting in the polluted waters of the canal.

Despite the heavy rain, we continued until it seemed like the heavens were opening up their flood gates. We hurried back to the studio where the conversation continued. Some drinks were poured and hot tea was made, to warm up.

“The tour gave me the space to learn and reflect on a matter I wouldn't typically delve into on my own time.”

Although the walk was cut short due to the storm, it was an engaging discussion about the hydrological history of Gowanus, the Superfund, rezoning, and the current efforts to revitalize the canal.

Amp Club members take shelter from the rain.

Reflections from Amp Club members

“Learning about the history surrounding the Gowanus Canal made me think about the surrounding neighborhood in a new way, and I felt encouraged by the consistent support and work that people put in to make the canal a clean and usable space for everyone. The tour made evident how Gowanus Canal is a piece of history that still affects us today. Overall, I enjoyed the tour and how responsive Steve was to our questions.”
— Connie C.

“Didn't realize that there were living organisms in the canal... wild. Loved the story about community members digging up treasures in the canal.”"
— Christina N.

“Walking around, I wouldn't deem Gowanus to be neighborhood known for its ecosphere. Talking about new growth of wildlife and a certain lack of attention paid by property developers, new property owners was insightful. It would be cool if NYC could one day use its bodies of waters as a main form of city life, but the walk definitely highlighted how hard it would be to get there. ”
— Katie S.

We’d like to give a special thanks to Steve, Owen, and the Gowanus Dredgers for curating this informative tour. Thank you for the work you all are doing for the remediation of the Gowanus Canal.