Thursday, August 28, 2014

Even ART can not heal broken Gowanus

Even ART is powerless is the face of Gowanus Canal chemical contamination.


Last night, a group of unaffiliated and highly concerned Gowanus residents staged a silent, community art protest at the ArtBridge art opening held at the contentious Lightstone Development on 2nd and Bond Streets in Carroll Gardens/Gowanus Brookyn.

Residents, including families with young children, donned white masks, with the words "TOXIC PLAN" and "TOXIC LAND" and silently gave out flyers with a list of bullet points in a performance art community protest piece.  Their presence was so calm and seamless that many people attending the art opening mistakenly thought the protest was part of the main event.  The Brooklyn paper referred to it on Friday as a "bohemian face-off."

Many of the community protesters, artists and/or artisans themselves, explained they were not protesting the artists in the exhibition per se, but rather the PRETENSE for the exhibition.  Being creatives themselves, they understand very well that art can be a powerful vehicle to reveal the truth or to conceal it.  Moreover their target was certainly not their fellow artists. 

The Artbridge exhibition, mentioned recently at CURBED, garnered the comment,
“No matter how pretty the art is, nothing can mask what's been going on behind the fence.”  This comment was the general thinking behind last night's event. 

To the locals who live and often work in Gowanus, the Artbridge website words, "Art, we believe, is a powerful connective tissue that helps to reshape and inspire the physical and social character of neighborhoods in transition" ring hollow indeed in an area besieged by both the chemical contamination of the EPA Superfund Designated Gowanus Canal, and the recent Lightstone Development.  ART is not a miracle worker.  Just ask EPA Project Leader for the Gowanus Canal Clean-Up, Christos Tsiamis, a published and highly regarded poet as well as chemical engineer LINK

The Gowanus community has been suffering through a miserable spring and summer this year near the Lightstone Group's development site.  The ginormous Lightsone construction site has been creating untold noise, shaking, noxious odors, and other nuisances since its inception a few months ago, while the Gowanus Canal remediation is in its early stages   LINK.  Residents, community members, and even the EPA have been increasingly frustrated by the official and dismissive response by the city of New York.  The EPA has even written a public and unilateral order to the NYC DEP telling them the city must comply with the ROD. 

Community members note that any construction projects near the Gowanus Canal ahead of the EPA clean-up might stir up unknown contaminants in the brownfield soil that become airborne and could be harmful to human health. On July 21, 2014, the New York Post reported that on "stinky brown goo bubbling up from drains around the Gowanus Canal" LINK

The latest community outrage has been over the extreme smell of gas at the site.  Mounds of petroleum soaked soil are being stockpiled until it is removed, reeking of heavy gas odors that are causing great concern for residents, especially parents of young children as to the possible health hazards of these eye stinging odors.  

Gowanus locals have been reaching out constantly to Councilman Brad Lander's office and to several New York City agencies.  Recently the group: Gowanus Preservation Society aka Take Back Gowanus has been attracting many new members in the Gowanus community and challenging Councilman Lander's vision for the future development of Gowanus as the complex issues embedded in the Gowanus Canal clean-up become clearer and clearer, and clearer than any Gowanus Canal "Poo Poo Tsunami" can dish up.


For More Info See:

Gowanus Canal ROD/Record of Decision

Gowanus Canal Superfund Designation 

EPA Unilateral Order to NYC to perform Gowanus work

New York Post 
Stinky Brown Goo Bubblin Up from Drains Around the Gowanus CAnal

PMFA/Pardon Me for Asking
"A Whole Lot of Noise, Shaking, Toxic Smells, and Traffic Jams at Lightstone Group's Mega Construction Sight in Gowanus"

PMFA/Pardon Me for Asking
"EPA Issues Order to NYC to Perform Gowanus Work"

Brooklyn Paper
"Bohemian Face-Off as Activists Crash Gowanus Art Party"

"Public Art At Huge Gowanus Site"

Gowanus Your Face Off
"Fight for Gowanus"

Gowanus Preservation Society

EPA-DEC Enforcement Agreement 

"Video of Raw Sewage Spilling Into Canal"


With the "Protect Our Homes" petition, CORD was formed in May, 2007. This petition arose as an overwhelmingly negative response to the coming of the over-sized 360 Smith Street Development at the corner of Smith Street and Second Place (Aka Oliver House; aka 131 Second Place). This petition, which had well over three thousand signatures, led to a new zoning text amendment in summer of 2008.

To: Our Elected Officials, Community Leaders, The MTA:
(MAY, 2007)

We the undersigned Carroll Gardens homeowners and residents, are appalled by the "as of right" ruling which allows owners and developers to erect buildings in our neighborhood with no regard to the impact they will present to our quality of life and the value of our homes........