Gowanus by Design is a non-profit urban design advocacy. As a reaction to significant community concerns with the city planning process in the Brooklyn neighborhoods around the Gowanus Canal and the impending cleanup of the heavily contaminated EPA Superfund site, we organize design competitions and propose solutions as part of a grassroots initiative to support community-based urban planning. We are researching new urban strategies for the development of the Gowanus area, showcasing different options for the canal and including the many voices of canal stakeholders. Our projects speculate upon the potential for what the neighborhood can be and we track the coordination of the canal's clean-up and private development by the many city, state, and federal agencies whose decisions impact those who live and work near the canal. Our aspiration with GbD is to bring to bear the same analytical and research tools that we use for our professional clients, and to use them to the benefit of our community and our neighbors.
The idea for Gowanus by Design has its roots in the Van Alen Institute's 2001 exhibition, "Public by Design." Curator Raymond Gastil, then director of the Institute and author of "Beyond the Edge: New York's New Waterfront," saw the post-industrial waterfront not only as a transition from private to public ownership, but as one from the industries of shipping and manufacturing to those of recreation and tourism. In this regard Gastil saw the reclamation and remediation of waterfront space as a necessary partnership between government, private enterprise, and the adjacent communities.