Framework

Capturing the world through photography, video and multimedia

The Gowanus Canal was designated a Superfund site in March 2010 and will take years to clean. However, some have been using the polluted canal, such as members of the Gowanus Dredgers, who volunteer their time to take students (like this group of summer camp students from Battery Park City in Manhattan). The Gowanus Dredgers want people to have an appreciation for the canal and to use this unique waterway in an environmentally friendly way.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

Jerry Heinzen of Brooklyn and his daughter Eva Heinzen take their first canoe trip along Gowanus Canal. The Gowanus Dredgers organization offers free kayak use two times a week for people to enjoy the waterway.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

Despite the fact that the Gowanus Canal has been declared a Superfund site, a few birds still use the area, along with small crabs and fish.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

Owen Foote paddles beneath one of the old moving bridges that span the canal, this one built in the late 1880s. Foote is one of the founding members of the Gowanus Dredgers, whose mission is to enjoy the waterway and teach others to have an appreciation for the unique canal.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

At the Gowanus Dredgers' launch site, summer camp students from Battery Park City in Manhattan learn how to paddle before going canoeing along the canal.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

Summer camp students from Battery Park City in Manhattan canoe along the canal.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Carolyn Cole

The Gowanus holds a place in the folk history of the city that both repels and attracts the locals. Named by the Dutch for Gouwanue, a Canarse Indian chief who fished the waters here, the 100-foot wide canal was carved out of a swamp off New York Harbor in the late 1860s and comes to a dead end 1.8 miles away from shore.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

An old boat that was recovered recently from the bottom of the Gowanus Canal is now a marker for the Gowanus Dredgers canoe club.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

The Gowanus was used by ships coming down from the Erie Canal and soon became one the busiest waterways in the country with factories, foundries, warehouses, tanneries, paint, ink and coal burning plants. By the 1960s its commercial purpose had faded from history and the Gowanus became little more than a dumping ground — sometimes for dead bodies.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

At the Gowanus Grove, a Sunday afternoon crowd gathers to listen to techno music and dance. Paul Sliker and Marine Tanguy, left front, relax on a platform as they enjoy the music. "I don't think there is anything like this in the city," says Paul, who lives in Manhattan.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

People line up to use the facilities at the Gowanus Grove, a gathering place for techno music lovers right on the canal.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

Despite the fact that the canal has been declared a Superfund site, a few birds still use the area. Runoff and contaminants are still dumped into the canal through pipes.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

The Environmental Protection Agency doesn’t expect to complete a cleanup for up to 15 years, and even then the water probably won’t be clean enough to swim in. In the meantime the canal is safe for canoeing, says the EPA’s Walter Mugdan, adding, “Just don’t tip.”

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

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Never mind that the federal government designated the Gowanus Canal a Superfund site last year and “one of the most contaminated bodies of water in the nation.”  The Brooklyn waterway is the latest, hottest, coolest spot in a city that won’t sleep until it’s completely gentrified. The sediment, once described as looking like black mayonnaise, is thick with metals, coal tar and PCBs, and there’s the 300-million gallons of storm water tainted with sewage that flows into the canal every year, changing the water color from gray to greenish from the algae feeding on human waste.

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1 Comment

  1. August 1, 2011, 10:57 pm

    All pics r so nice and gracefull.

    By: Naresh Shrivastava

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