Monday March 2 tour – Gowanus Canal Conservancy

For those who have signed up for the tour on Monday, March 2, we will be meeting at the site (see map below).

Please see below for directions from CityTech to the site. The tour begins at 12:00 and runs until 1:30. You will have plenty of time to return to campus in time for later classes.

We will meet at the Union St. bridge between Nevins and Bond St. The closest train stop is the R at Union St/4th Ave or the F/G at Carroll and Smith St, both marked on the map below.

1) Prepare a list of questions to ask to obtain more information about the site and the tour (for example; What is the history of the Gowanus Canal? How/why did it become polluted? What work is the Conservancy doing? How has the local community been impacted by the site over time? Think of questions that the tour raises for you.

2) Document your findings; take photographs; notes, etc. obtain quotes from tour leader.

3) Post photos; summary of key information on Open Lab.

Gowanus Canal Conservancy – map

Gowanus Canal Conservancy - map






14 thoughts on “Monday March 2 tour – Gowanus Canal Conservancy


    Monday’s Tour of the Gowanus Conservation Canal was extremely informative. Tonight I will post a PowerPoint with detailed information about what I learned and questions that arose from that trip.

  2. francisco

    Francisco Diaz
    Pro: Sean MacDonald
    Econ 2505
    The Gowanus canal conservancy
    After taking a field trip to the gowanus canal, I would say that I was impressed by its long history and its surrounding. The canal was constructed in the 1800; s. the very long canal is located around businesses, residential buildings, industries, and homes. I did not have any knowledge of the existence of the canal, but thanks to this tour I was able to learn about its history. The Gowanus canal has been polluted for decades; by businesses, factories, coal companies and run-off water. Uncontrolled dumping from humans; and these businesses led to the contamination of the canal. The dumping of all kinds of waste into the water, not only contaminated the water but also the land. The overflow of water also plays a big role in polluting the canal. Thanks to the technology, they are trying to come up with new tactics to improve the condition of the canal conservancy. In my opinion, I think that by improving the condition of the canal; not only will benefit the community but also the environment and ecosystem as well. They have implemented a few methods to try to maintain the canal cleaner. One of those methods is by placing a few bio-swales plants around the neighborhood. Another method is by going green, and maintaining a friendlier environment. The supermarket around the corner has implemented energy saving technology; such as wind farms and solar panels and a greenhouse atop the supermarket. I also overheard the tour guide, saying that there are certain rules for constructing around the canal. They have to move certain distance away from the canal when constructing new projects or residential buildings. Unlike decades ago; now businesses and factories are more aware of the danger of polluting the Canal. Contaminating the canal not only creates a threat to the canal; but also to the environment and the community as well. It can definitely bring health issues, to the people living nearby the canal. The main goal is to maintain the canal clean and free polluted. I have to say that I really enjoyed the trip there and the tour as well. I learned things that I did not know about the canal, and also about the neighborhood.

  3. Cristina

    The Gowanus Canal Conservancy
    Cristina Rivera

    On the visit to the Canal I was surprised to see so much pollution in such a small area. Although the area is small, the history behind it is very large. What really got to me was how they were building a public housing unit in an area that is so polluted. You would believe that no one would be able to build a housing unit in a highly polluted area, since that is not good for our health. I know that cleaning out the Canal is not going to be easy, and it will be expensive to do so, but I believe that it can be done.

  4. Yik

    The Gowanus Canal Conservancy
    ECON 2505

    After visiting the Gowanus Canal, I was stunned about the pollution in the canal. The causes of the pollution in the canal are from the dumped industrial waste, excess rainwater released in the canal, and the contaminants carried into the canal. I’m also surprised the fact that they constructing a public residential near the canal. In my opinion, I think it is not a great idea building a residential near an area that is already polluted. Not only it further pollutes the environment of the canal and affects people’s health who will live near the area. I didn’t have any understandings about the canal. After we tour the canal, I learn a lot about the history of the gowanus canal and appreciate what they are trying to rectify the environmental condition. They have come up with several solutions to prevent further pollution of the canal such as planted few bio-swales near the neighborhood to remove slit and pollution from surface runoff water. I was interested what the Whole Food Market implemented technologies to provide a better environment for the city. They implemented the wind turbines and solar panel outside the parking lot to conduct electric power for the building. Also they include greenhouse on top of the market. I would recommend more people visit the gawanus canal because this helps more people to aware of the environment issues around the city.

  5. nos84

    It was unfortunate I had missed the field trip of the Gowanus canal due to flu, but I learnt a lot from researching about the great history of this body of water. Originally made up of saltwater marsh lands of south Brooklyn that were tidal inlet of small creeks which drained into Upper New York Bay and Atlantic Ocean. It was named Gowanes creek by early settlers after Native American Canarsie’s chief Gowanes. In the 1600’s the area was Dutch settlers started tobacco plantations and oyster fishing to export back to Europe. The creek would see six foot tides that would force salt water from the Atlantic Ocean in ward allowing for mixing of both salt water and fresh water. This mix allowed for an abundant varied striving of wild life in the past. This wasn’t the stagnant body it is today. Over time the area was developed for more urban and industrial life. Industries such as manufacturing plants, coal, gas, steel, chemical, cement, sulfur plant, tannery and soap makers. Gowanus Canal construction was authorized and completed between 1849 and 1860’s by the New York Legislature. It stretched 1.8 miles long and became the still body of water we see today. This industrialization require sewer connected system, that along with other industrial pollutants, storm drain run off and discharging of raw sewage into the canal. During this time period the army engineer corps would dredge the canal repeatedly in-order to clean it of settled pollutants. In 1911 a pumping station and flushing tunnels was constructed to help to renew the stagnant water with fresh water. Overtime business slowed or closed, which resulted in a loss of interest and funding to keep dredging and maintaining the pumping station. There has since been a renewed push and funding to clean up and redeveloped the area, which would include the preservation of the water way. The pumping station is now fixed, and new environmental initiatives are on the way, but the canal hasn’t been dredge in over 30 years. Although raw/ untreated sewage isn’t supposed to be directly drained into the canal this still occurs at an alarming rate both purposely illegally and from storm water runoff. Community members need to be educated and more aware of dumping in this area.

    1. Cheng Chin

      I was also surprised at the pollution, especially considering I live in Brooklyn….
      Seeing the “most eco friendly” Whole Foods in New York State was a nice sight to read however.
      Also, the short talk about composting will be helpful for a Field Research Project when venturing to something like Brooklyn Botanic Gardens.

  6. mark2718

    Mondays trip to the Gowanus Canal was very informative and enlightening for me for the main fact that I have lived in many states and have never seen such pollution along a transport hub that has such great potential for business and attraction. It was also fascinating to see some of the huge items that were dumped there, proved how much disregard there was for pollution of the canal. It was quite ironic that the most econo friendly supermarket in New York State, Whole Foods Supermarket, resides along this canal. It was quite heart warming to hear from the tour guide the extensive work that is being done to restore the canal and how much systems they have in place to help maintain the canal when it is brought back to life such as the storm drains, the berms and all the other water works that are being put in place. I will definitely continue to keep up with the Gowanus Canal restoration after this trip as it has truly been an eye opener for me.

  7. Diallo

    Unfortunately I missed the group tour with the class, but visiting the Gowanus Canal on my owned give me better understanding not only the history of the canal and its neighborhood, but also the redevelopment program going on in the neighborhood :
    The Canal for years, it has captured raw sewage waste from adjacent residential neighborhoods, industrial waste products from the businesses located along its banks, and polluted surface run off.

    I find it very interesting the idea to of a Floating Gardens project which was experimented to explore methods of wildlife habitat rehabilitation in the Gowanus Canal.
    The project incorporates recyclable materials (such as tires and plastic water bottles) to create floating gardens as a habitat for marine as well as terrestrial life. the gardens may act as an approach to water remediation…
    Bringing it alive: Fostering ecological, business and cultural activity in the watershed

    The Floating Gardens project is a small scale experiment intended to explore methods of wildlife habitat rehabilitation in the Gowanus Canal. The project incorporates recyclable materials (such as tires and plastic water bottles) to create floating gardens as a habitat for marine as well as terrestrial life. In addition, the gardens may act as an approach to water remediation.y act as an approach to water remediation

    rehabilitation , clean up, recycle , and water treatment etc…

  8. jsuarez

    The gowanus canal is such a polluted waterway, its quite shocking when seeing it from a close distance. I think New York City has to do more about this problem. Seeing the Whole Foods Market using wind turbines and solar panels to save energy makes it known that the city can fix canal if they wanted to. I think if the city as a whole doesn’t have the resources to clean a pollution problem like this private businesses can take the initiative and help the environment.

  9. tashi paljor

    Until March 9, I never knew this canal ever existed. The tour was very informative and learned quite a lot about the history of this canal. The conditions of canal was dirty and was giving off wretched stench. The tour guide notified us that this waterway has been a prime dumping ground for industrial and dumping wastes. And especially during heavy flooding, sewage wastes are spilled into the canal. It is still visible that they are lot of scrap metal dumping sites and warehouses. The site was so filthy that in 2010 Environmental Protection Agency declared it Superfund cleanup site.
    But now, the state and local government and agencies are working collectively to clean up the area and have developed many initiatives.
    We witnessed that volunteers also come often together to clean up the neighborhood and they make their compost at site. They use them to grow more vegetation around the canal and the excess manure will sold to the local business. Overall, it was a very productive tour and glad to learn that many programs and initiatives are being implemented to revive the neighborhood.

  10. Lissette Collado

    Due to weather conditions the trip to Gowanus Canal was suspended for my class. However, there was a presentation which was very informative. Additional research helped in acquiring information about this important
    Site as well.

    The construction of the canal began in 1849, and it was fully constructed in 1869. When constructed, the purpose of the canal was to serve as a transportation system to help promote commerce and industry. However, the construction of the canal attracted many large industries such as foundries, shipyards, gas, paint, ink factories, etc. the canal pollution is a result of waste from these industries into the canal. Waste from these industries was discharged directly to the waterbodies resulting in the canal contamination.

    With the purpose of helping the canal to be free of contamination, National Grid is conducting cleanups of manufactured gas plants under the oversight of the New York State Department of Enviromental Conservation (DEC). To improve water quality in the canal, city engineers built a tunnel to flush the canal by drawing water from the head of the canal near Butter Street.

  11. 1

    The visit to the canal appears to be very informative & worthwhile. The impact made by the information provided during the visit and the actual first hand experience, per se, has obviously changed all the students that participated in the event. This was evident as the information absorbed by those on the tour was subsequently disseminated to those classmates unable to attend. Therewithal, I believe the ideal purpose of the tour and the information associated with the tour is to awaken and investigate our social responsibilities regarding the environment to those in attendance so they can disseminate that knowledge among their peers, ultimately evolving the environmental social conscious of us all.

  12. Francisco

    Francisco Contreras
    Sean MacDonald
    Econ 2505

    The trip to Gownus Canal was very interesting and great learning experience. My major is construction Management and I’m very excited and 100% on the environmental movement. I’m happy to see more government funding are going to sustainable projects and I hope my major takes me to projects that will help the environment. We in construction industry are coming up with more great design ideas like the Bioswles that captures storm water we saw on the field trip. Designs like these makes me happy to know our industry will grow more with a sustainable attitude.


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