On Urban Omnibus
Years of industrial dumping, contaminated run-off and sewer overflows have turned the Gowanus Canal and its surrounding neighborhood into one of New York’s most notorious toxic hotspots. The Canal’s designation as a Superfund site in 2010, a controversial decision that shifted clean-up responsibility to federal agencies rather than allowing the City to pursue its own remediation plan, brought national attention to this local problem. But the hostile waters and lands of the Gowanus still play host to diverse wildlife and thriving residential, commercial, industrial and recreational communities, and plans to develop the area have not been deterred by the contamination.
Frustrated by the lack of a cohesive vision for the neighborhood and concerned by a failure to connect development plans with broader issues of community services, infrastructure and sustainability, architects and Brooklyn residents David Briggs and Anthony Deen founded the advocacy group Gowanus by Design in 2009. Briggs and Deen wanted to encourage new clean-up and development strategies based on community input and the needs and opinions of those who work and live along the Gowanus. They soon realized that what they saw as the primary challenges for the site could be addressed through a series of design competitions, which would serve to provoke conversation, encourage community engagement and, hopefully, steer future development of the area. The first of these competitions, Gowanus Lowline: Connections, invited designers across disciplines to explore the potential for pedestrian-oriented development that engages with the canal and the surrounding watershed. Here, Briggs and Deen tell us more about the motivations behind and future plans for Gowanus by Design, and share the winning designs from Connections
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In the Brooklyn Paper
“The Gowanus Canal would morph from a poop river into the eco-friendly Amsterdam of Brooklyn under a series of prize-winning schemes put forward by a bunch of brilliant-but-far-fetched dreamers.
Three groups of architects have won thousands of dollars for merging city planning and wacky bio-remediation that could transform the fetid waterway with bridges, waterside bike lanes and even places to meet for coffee.
The contest — launched by Gowanus By Design, a Carroll Gardens-based non-profit that dished out $2,000 in prize money — is meant to jumpstart “outside-the-box conversation” and debate about the future of one of the nation’s most polluted waterways, a problem that won’t be solved for years.
“The designs are interesting blue-sky ideas,” said Andrew Simons of Gowanus Canal Conservancy, an environmental group.”
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In the New York TImes
“The Gowanus neighborhood finds itself at a crossroads, with an opportunity to think afresh about the best way to develop postindustrial land.
“Superfund provided a much-needed pause in the headlong rush to develop the area,” said David Briggs, an architect and a founder of Gowanus by Design, a group created, according to its mission statement, in “reaction to significant community concerns with the planning process in the Brooklyn neighborhoods around the Gowanus Canal.”
“There is a place here, a special place that died and was left a terrible mess,” Mr. Briggs said. “It is now going to go through a long-term rebirth. It needs to be developed as a divergent, rich, textured community”. ... Mr. Briggs and Anthony Deen, Gowanus by Design’s other founder, hope that the creative use of forlorn spaces will prevent the area from becoming what they describe as a lifeless enclave of million-dollar apartments.”
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