Soon after the Gowanus Canal was constructed in 1848 to rid South Brooklyn of marshlands, the corridor surrounding the canal developed as a thriving manufacturing area primarily reliant on barge service. The canal effectively bisects the Community District, and has five east-west crossings at Union Street, Carroll Street, Third Street, 9 th Street and Hamilton Avenue. The Carroll Street Bridge (constructed in 1888 and reconstructed in the late 1980’s) is the oldest known retractile or horizontally sliding bridge in the nation and is an individually designated national and City landmark structure that is still in operation.  With the advent of increased reliance on trucking coupled with the construction of the Gowanus Expressway after World War II, the canal began a long and slow period of decline. The Gowanus Flushing Tunnel, constructed in 1947, was designed to impel and pump fresh water from the Buttermilk Channel into the head of the canal creating a southward flow to displace stagnant water out of the canal and into the Gowanus Bay.  Since the reactivation of the Gowanus Flushing Tunnel and Pump Station in 1999, new life has been literally breathed into the canal. Putrid odors that were once commonplace are virtually non-detectable; aquatic and avian life forms are springing up with each passing day. Increasing visits to the canal, by foot and water, are enhancing the area’s profile and potential.
Years of neglect and abandonment have taken their toll on the properties and streets abutting the canal. Many of the streets are in fair-to-poor condition, bulkheads at the canal are deteriorating or have failed, the area serves as a magnet for illegal dumping, and the remoteness of the dead end streets has been an invitation for unwelcome and illegal activities.  It is widely hoped that by attracting the community back to the canal, that the possibilities for compatible recreational uses will take a stronghold in recapturing this otherwise forlorn waterway.  Street end beautification projects begun by various community groups, and the launching of small hand-held watercraft such as kayaks and canoes, are becoming most popular among nearby residents.  While the water quality of the canal has measurably improved with the reactivation of the Pump Station and Flushing Tunnel, the bottom of the canal is still lined with decades worth of sediment containing heavy metals, PCB’s and other toxic elements.  The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in partnership with the City’s Department of Environmental Protection, is undertaking an Ecosystem Restoration Feasibility Study to investigate what additional remediation work would be required to further improve the ambient environmental quality of the canal and bay areas.
Despite competing visions for how the canal corridor should be redeveloped, one thing the communities around the canal are in universal agreement on is that dredging and bulkhead repair are critical next steps and will lay a foundation for additional redevelopment of the area. Additional environmental remediation work in the area is self-evident. There is a 6 acre City-owned brownfield site at the southeast corner of Smith and 5 th Streets, designated “Public Place” by the Board of Estimate in 1974, that previously hosted a coal gassification plant. The property was declared an Inactive Hazardous Waste Site by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) in 1990 due to the buried and partially buried presence of solvents, coal tar residues, and phthalate wastes left from former industrial tenants.  It was hoped that the Public Place site would be an appropriate candidate site for remediation through the DEC’s voluntary clean-up program so that the City and the community could pursue a beneficial reuse of the property. Additional public investment is needed to study the economic development potential of the Gowanus Canal corridor to pursue a regional strategy for revitalizing the industrial properties on the canal in a manner compatible with the existing businesses and surrounding residential communities. Under- and unutilized manufacturing-zoned properties, coupled with a great need for jobs by neighborhood residents, support the notion that the Gowanus Canal corridor is an area that could grow into a productive, jobs-generating light-to-medium industrial center of economic activity, preferably maritime-based industries. The designation of the southern area of the canal as one of the City's Industrial Business Zones gives hope to the indigenous business community, and signals strong support for business retention and growth in the area.
The majority of the neighborhood residents live in two public housing projects to the north of the canal, Gowanus and Wyckoff Gardens Houses.  The Gowanus corridor has the second highest unemployment rate in the district (at 12.5% per 1990 Census) , a low median household income, and a low average education achievement level (59.8% of the population graduated high school per 1990 Census) .  The southeastern portion of the Gowanus corridor supports an active and organized pocket of residents who live in this mixed-use area. On the westside of Second Avenue from 10 th to 12 th Streets, the site of an abandoned Federal U.S. Postal facility, a portion of the site was remediated prior to the construction of a major retail store. Since the property was under Federal control, and plans were negotiated directly with private developers, there were no corresponding public review requirements concurrent with this project; therefore, the local community did not have an opportunity to participate formally in the land use decision-making process.
District Needs
  Targeted Department of Sanitation enforcement presence and additional surveillance to enforce against illegal dumping in the area, especially at the dead end canal streets.
  Pursue the abatement, containment, safe removal and disposal of environmental contaminants at the “Public Place” site at the southeast corner of Smith and 5 th Streets to clear the way for beneficial reuse of the parcel.
  Conduct an economic development study of the Gowanus Canal corridor to create an inventory of existing properties by type and use and promote economic development strategies for encouraging the growth of light manufacturing businesses, preferably maritime-based, that would be compatible with the surrounding businesses.
  Identify potential resources for expanded youth programming needs, especially development of Jobs Creation, Jobs Readiness, Job Training and Mentoring programs for youth. Job development efforts must focus on promoting stronger local linkages between residents and businesses.
  Pursue the development of expansion plans for the Gowanus Community Center, including interior structural renovations, window replacements, new HVAC system, and additional recreation equipment.
  Perform a community-wide health assessment of the neighborhood, followed up with targeted health care services and programs.
  Relocate the Sanitation BK2 Garage facility out of the Community Board 6 district into the Community District 2 area.
Links of Interest
Map: Coastal Zone Boundary Section 16
Map: Waterfront Revitalization Program: Sunset Park SMIA
Boerum Park
Brooklyn Commons Project (Note: Project Never Constructed)
City Activates Gowanus Canal Flushing Tunnel
City Portraits: The Gowanus Dredgers Canoe Club, 10/2010
Coast Guard Drawbridge Operation Regulations: Gowanus Canal, New York
Firefighters Rescue a Man from the Gowanus Canal
Forgotten New York: A Major League Wall (Washington Park)
Forgotten New York: Carroll Street Bridge
Forgotten Signs
“Fran Brady Under-the-Tracks Park” Naming
Gowanus Canal Corridor Brownfield Opportunity Area initiative
Gowanus Canal Facilities Upgrade
Gowanus Canal Superfund, USEPA site
Gowanus Canal Watershed Initiative
Gowanus Canal Watershed/Waterbody Facility Plan
Gowanus Playground
Groundswell Community Mural Project wins 2005 Union Square Award
Groundswell's "Paradise Lost and Resurrected" Mural
Groundswell's "Scene Through a Fence" Mural
Health Advice on Eating Fish You Catch: New York City Area
Lavendar Lake: Brooklyn's Gowanus Canal
National Grid's Public Place website
New York State Department of Transportation's Gowanus Expressway Project
Red Hook and Gowanus Reborn - Center for an Urban Future report 8/5/2002
Registered Sex Offender (Beraducci, level 3): Gowanus
Registered Sex Offender (Long, level 2): Gowanus
Registered Sex Offender (Tayeh, level 3): Gowanus
Street Scenes: Lavender Lake, the Gowanus Canal
The Urban Divers Gowanus Canal Monitor Project
Thomas Greene Playground
Tide Table for Gowanus Bay
Under Construction: Replacement of Valves, Regulators and Distribution Water Main project BED-769, various locations
Underline: The Culver Viaduct
Washington Park (former stadium)
Winning mural for the new Gowanus Lowe's Store!
Wyckoff Gardens Houses Electrical Upgrades
Yemeni-American Association wins 2006 Union Square Award
The Columbia Gazetteer of North America: Gowanus
The Columbia Gazetteer of North America: Gowanus Canal
CB6 Resolution on Retention Tank Staging Area, 6/13/16
EPA Gowanus remedial investigation, environmental drilling, 4/6-4/24/15
DOCCS letter, 10/8/14
DOCCS EAS, 12/20/13
DOCCS facility at 15 2nd Avenue, 10/2/14
Whole Foods Greenhouse Announcement, 4/1/13
DCP Open Industrial Uses Study draft report, 5/14
Whole Foods update memo, 10/9/12
DEP Presentation on Gowanus Canal CSOs, 4/18/2012
NYRP's Carroll Street Community Garden, 1/17/2012
Whole Foods Testimony, 12/2012
Sponge Park presentation, 7/20/2011 (very large file)
Funding for 4th Ave Station Improvements, 2/17/2011
DEP Gowanus Facilities Upgrade Presentation, 10/25/2010
Gowanus CAG Formation Memo, 9/8/2010
DEP Gowanus Facilities Upgrade Update, 8/2010
Future of 4th Avenue Survey Data Summary, 3/2010
EPA Gowanus Superfund Listing, 3/2/2010
Gowanus Sponge Park Funding, 10/29/2009
EPA Presentation on the Gowanus Superfund, 4/14/2009
CB6 Comments on Scope of Work for Proposed DEIS for Gowanus Rezoning and Related Actions, 3/20/2009
CB6 Supplemental Position on Toll Brothers ULURP, 2/12/2009
HPD's Public Place Presentation, 10/30/2008
HPD Selects Public Place Developer, 4/16/2008
HPD's Public Place Presentation, 4/17/2007
DCP Gowanus Proposed Land Use Framework, 1/2007
DCP Gowanus Existing Zoning, 1/2007
DCP Gowanus Existing Land Use, 1/2007
Public Place Site at Smith/5th Streets - KeySpan Voluntary Clean-up Program Fact Sheet 2, 7/18/2005
Gowanus Canal sampling announcement 7/2005
Public Place Site at Smith/5th Streets - KeySpan Voluntary Clean-up Program Fact Sheet 1, 2/19/2003
Gowanus Industrial Urban Renewal Plan, ULURP #C 760160 HUK, 11/1/1976
NYSDEC Environmental Site Remediation - 430 Carroll Street and 153 2nd Street (C224099)
NYSDEC Environmental Site Remediation - 220 3rd Street and 360 3rd Avenue (C224100)
NYSDEC Environmental Site Remediation - 64-98 and 82-107 1st Street and 119-145 2nd Street (C224116)
NYSDEC Environmental Site Remediation - 420 Carroll Street (C224118)
NYSDEC Environmental Site Remediation - Smith and 5th Streets (V00360)
NYSDEC Environmental Site Remediation - 2nd Avenue and 12th Street (V00405)
Carroll Gardens
Cobble Hill
Columbia Waterfront
Park Slope
Red Hook