Please review these questions in advance of our visit to Interference Archive via video tomorrow:
Many teams’ research questions look at relationships between: Environment / Architecture & Development / Humans (health, jobs, culture, community). As you watch the exhibition video please consider the following for our post-viewing discussion:
How does the exhibit illustrate relationships between environment and other social justice causes (race, labor, capitalism, etc)?
Which of these intersections are also things you’ve observed and thought about in relation to the Gowanus?
Focus on (and write down) 1 or 2 organizations or events mentioned in the exhibition video. Have you encountered these organizations or their work in the course of your research? What do you think makes their work effective (or not)?
We are living in unusual times, and in my opinion, this is an opportunity for all of us to reflect on the environment we are living in. I am relating the articles and the research site with the time we are living in because in the first article “The Gowanus Canal Will Never Be Clean.” Joseph Alexiou is mentioned that runoff has been known to contain numerous pathogens, including e. Coli, gonococcus, typhoid, and cholera, all exposed to the open air. This should be our main concern related to Gowanus. On the other hand, the situation of the Canal has been the same for years, since the 19th century to the video that was attached to the first article (2010). In the video, we can see clearly how grand and disgusting the problem is.
It is sad that the landowning industrialists and developers see dollar signs and up-zoning laws when it comes to areas such as Gowanus, instead of human lives and the right to live in a clean and safe place. Clean and safe is definitely not constructed buildings in a flood zone that’s also the site of major toxic waste deposits. It is time we stop those 250-350 million gallons of untreated raw sewage that are poured annually and people who have a hand in the decision-making process.
Well after reading the three articles I have made my mind up that the Gowanus Canal will never be clean. The first article gives us some back ground on the Gowanus canal. They have been trying to clean the Gowanus canal for about 156 years. They come up with a plan to clean it see that its to expensive and change the plan to clean the canal for a cheaper one. As are trip to the canal we can tell its very polluted. It has a bad odor and personally I would not move near the canal. Well for me to say that the canal is clean I need to see clear water. They need to stop the sewer pipes from dumping waste in the canal. As New Yorkers we have every right to clean and protest to the government to clean the canal. We need to come together and show what a beautiful place the canal would be if it was clean. Also how healthy the environment would be, and the people living there.
Writer Alexious provided a well-needed description of the history for the Gowanus which included the exposing the push and pull between the community/ environmental concerns and the developers concerns and interest. While the developers were only looking for real estate to build and looking out for their wallet, the community was and still is begging for a clean environment. When asked how can New York do things differently, it’s my believe that getting on the same page seems crucial! In all decisions, compromises must be made, it is essential to create a plan even one to simply begin to tackle the pollution of the Gowanus canal as without it, we’ll never get anywhere. Alexious stated the city pollution adds to the problem of the Gowanus canal, especially the CSO. To me, this means its the city hurting it’s Brooklyn residents and simply leaving them to punish, While it’s agreed, living in New York is hard and finding somewhere to live extremely difficult that does not mean we should let New Yorkers suffer and risk their health in the very place they live. Simply because some people cannot afford to live in certain neighborhoods does not mean they should have to put up with a disgusting and unsafe environment. It’s my firm belief that just as we have a right to a safe workplace, it should be critical for the people of any city (not just Brooklyn) to have a safe living environment especially when it’s the city and government’s lack of action which made the environment and area hazardous! Clean should mean your health isn’t at risk from simply being outside or after a simple rain storm! When we visited the Gowanus canal in the winter the smell was horrid, I cannot imagine the condition of the community around the canal during the hot summers.
Alexiou offers an overview of the tensions between development and environment while expressing doubt that current practices will ever result in a cleaned-up, safe environment. The Gowanus Planning Study is an overview of a plan to rezone (or upzone) the neighborhood to allow denser residential development. How could New York do things differently, what does “clean” even mean in 2020, and what right do New Yorkers have to a clean and safe place to live? Your reflection could offer a critique of current NYC zoning practices, a critique of the Gowanus draft study, and/or a critique of the EPA cleanup efforts under the Superfund project.
New York could do things differently by putting more effort into projects for the canal before adding housing. It puts a lot of residents at health risk, but it seems that the focus is always on making money instead of making a cleaner, livable environment. If housing was put in a place that is hazardous for floods and the like, money could be made off of individuals paying for repairs or frequent health checkups. In “The Gowanus Canal will never be clean”, the city deliberately denies working on the canal, and I feel it is because it doesn’t seem that serious enough and it won’t provide any other substantial benefits. I feel like “clean” means decent enough in NYC. If it’s not killing anybody at a concerning rate, then it’s “nothing to worry about.” A majority of the five boroughs have been riddled with trash and the streets are only being cleaned for so long until things start getting noticeably uncanny. I feel that New Yorkers have every right to a clean a safe environment that they live in and pay taxes for. If somebody fell in and eventually came out undead – or something of that nature came out of it as a creation – NYC will be the cause of an apocalypse.
The 3 pieces of information I have read are extremely valuable for my teams outline and for source material. The opinion piece by Joseph Alexiou, author of Gowanus: Brooklyn’s Curious Canal is exactly what I would expect from someone who understands in depth the issues the neighborhood is facing. It’s unfortunate that the opinion piece believes that the canal will never be cleaned up. My team will attempt to address this matter and research ways that the canal has been improved even slightly. An interesting excerpt I found was “One answer is because people will live anywhere, they can in New York because the rent is so high. Another is that we really do need the housing — perhaps so much so that it’s worth putting some 800 people in harm’s way during a major weather event. What is certain is that the developers want it, and now, before any further cleanup issues arise.” I think Alexiou’s point is interesting and it’s a problem that isn’t exclusive to just Gowanus but rather the entire city. The booklet on the other hand, as someone who has a basic understanding of these topics, has given me an even more precise and exact explanation of zoning and rezoning. The Gowanus Planning Study addresses the reality that the neighborhood is being up zoned as we speak. Another excerpt from Alexiou’s opinion piece that is relevant to the study was “Not because the people involved are monsters who don’t like a clean environment, but because they fall prey to the same forces that have always called all the shots in this city: the civic power brokers and real estate developers.” My team coincidently addresses the issue of developers and how they have disproportionate power in the zoning, construction and even who gets affordable housing. Evidently the power is in the hands of the developers and powerful and it has been the case even in the canal’s inception. It was corruptly mishandled by public officials and left for the upcoming generation to handle rather than being accountable for the mismanagement. Even in current times, the canal is woefully disrespected and unfortunately we are prioritizing profit rather than progress.
This is a reupload of the post I originally posted on Team 4’s page.
To answer the question “How could NY do things differently” would to first understand what was in place originally. According to writer Joseph Alexiou, a combined Sewage overflow system is in place of the area but later alternatives such as the gallon retention tanks, sponge parks, and rerouted sewer systems. The writer mentions that the city spends a budget of a billion dollars just for the tank portion while the entire project of Mayor Bloomberg’s Department of Environmental protection plan was estimated 500 million. The question of how NY could do things differently would be dependent on the infrastructure of the canal’s pipeline. The Victorian era construction and water runoff from the rain running down the streets allow a situation of more polluted water to cause a standstill of trash and bacteria in the water. The situation of the black mayonnaise that is sitting in the bottom of the canal also relates to the lack of clean flowing water running continuously alongside the use of the flushing tunnels. An approach for the canal would be to drain the canal, purify the tainted water while isolating and removing the garbage and tar mess would have to be an expensive environmental project.
“Clean” in 2020 does not only mean the quality of the water, but “Clean” also is the state that the area has been reformed and changed while adapting the close proximity of the polluted area. “Clean” is a word to state that the abundance of coexisting areas will affect each correspondent positively or negatively.
The right that New Yorkers have to a clean and safe place to live depends on the area of zoning that the resident has been researching. The Gowanus canal, while in the state of commercial and residential renovation and gentrification has a long history of industrial context. The right that the New Yorkers have to live and a clean and safe place to live is standard to anybody who wishes to reside, the area of the gowns has an average lot size of 20×100 with downzoning in effect in certain parts of the area.
The sources mentioned have many more ideas about the Gowanus Canal. During our first research, we saw this article and when I read it I saw the problem with helping the Gowanus Canal. Many solutions have come up but there is no will to work and pay for the solutions. Many people have tried to look for cheaper solutions instead and its a cycle that never ends and no solution is found. The guide book provides information of what rezoning is and what it consists of. We have seen some of the rezonings around the Gowanus Canal, as the residential apartments. The last article also spoke about rezoning and the effects around the canal. The sources mention ways to clean the canal as we have discussed in class previously. The rezoning articles show the possible ways the canal can benefit. The articles helped in seeing the positive outcomes of the rezoning.
After reading the articles about the Gowanus Canal, I have been able to get a better understanding of how the canal has gotten into its present day situation from the first article from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. In the article it describes how each politician in office would come up with a solution realize it is to expensive, then move onto a cheaper fix that will not last a decade at most. I believe that the article is trying to get across to the reader is that if we keep following the trend of choosing the cheaper option to fix the canal it will never get clean in the end. The guide book provided was mainly talking about the zoning of areas in the city and rezoning of already zoned areas. While some parts of the canal have been put up for rezoning such as the residential apartments being built in the area, It remains to be seen if that will have a positive effect on the environment of the canal itself. The last article provided talks about the rezoning of the canal area and as I’ve stated I would hope that rezoning could have a positive effect on the environment around the canal but remains to be seen.
After watching the film my Brooklyn, it became more prevalent to me that the neighborhoods around the city have communities that are defined by the people who inhabit them. Every community in the city that has been successful has taken years to build along with dedicated people wanting to improve the environment around them. It became increasing clear that once a developer is given close to free reign over improving a neighborhood, it will destroy the sense of community that families have been building there for generations. The Citizen Jane movie showed me that it is not in the best interest of the community and the city for neighborhoods that have been defined and lived in to be torn down for public housing to be built in its place. The new housing not only looks more like a computer designed them but the housing style destroys any sense of community with no one wanting to get to know there neighbors, and people spending more time in there houses then on the street with there neighbors. The film Human scale was very interesting as it showed how when new Yorkers were given the space to actually sit and enjoy a meal or talk to strangers they actually used it. When parts of Broadway street were converted into areas for civilians to use instead of cars it really showed to me how appealing it is to actually have a place to sit in the city that wasn’t a park. I feel that public space in new york city is a must and should be utilized more as while this is a city of 8 million people, we rarely know the person standing next to us, maybe the public space will help with that or at the very least give us more space to hang out with the friends that you do know.