Images: Atema Architecture

With a recent report noting that stormwater runoff and combined sewer overflows (CSOs) continue to pose challenges to New York City’s efforts to clean its waterways, it was timely that architect Ate Atema presented one strategy – the creation of “Street Creeks” – that could help address these problems at last week’s “Cities for Tomorrow” conference hosted by the New York Times.


There’s so much more to the Gowanus Canal than the dirt and sludge. Join our walking tour of its secrets this Saturday with Joseph Alexiou, author of Gowanus: Broolyn’s Curious CanalHe’s a veritable Gowanus Canal enthusiast and he’ll show you the places you overlook, the hidden history of the area and the industrial landmarks. Learn how the Gilded Age barons, with grand homes in Manhattan and Brooklyn, transformed this area (for better and worse) and how this neighborhood is getting its rebirth today amidst the creative economy. From this tour, you’ll be able to envision the change in the Gowanus neighborhood from a land of barges to a land of small manufacturing and luxury condos, and all the secrets hidden in between. The weather is looking great on Saturday!

Here are more photographs of what you’ll see on this visit:


Gowanus Porte Road-American Revolution-Map-Atlas of NYC-Historic-Park SlopeLocation of former Gowanus Road from From the Atlas of NYC, 1880. Via NYPL.

In the Park Slope and Gowanus area, the history of the Revolutionary War is well-known – from the recreated Stone House where a decisive part of the Battle of Brooklyn/Long Island took place to the bravery of the Maryland 400, whose final burial grounds are still unconfirmed. In the August 1776 retreat from Brooklyn ,the American soldiers fled West from Prospect Park on the Porte Road downhill towards what was then the Gowanus swamp. Crossing the Gowanus Creek (now the Canal), more casualties were taken.

Today, a portion of these roads where the soldiers traversed is now visible, thanks to construction at 269-271 Fourth Avenue, last reported to be a 12-story condo as revealed by New York Yimby in early 2015. The lot is next to the ODA-designed building 251 1st Avenue that is currently under construction.


Baseball on Ice-Washington Park-Old Stone House-Gowanus Canal-Park Slope-NYC

We all know Brooklyn’s connection to baseball and the Dodgers. But did you know about the sport of ice baseball? Gowanus was the locale for both poularization of both baseball and its winter partner, ice baseball, that originated in Brooklyn. This fun find comes to us from the book Gowanus: Brooklyn’s Curious Canal by Joseph Alexiou.


Gowanus Canal-Secrets-History-Kayaing-Industrial-Superfund Site-NYC

The Gowanus Canal conjures up many aspects of New York City, from a celebrated Revolutionary War history to a less glorious industrial past that renders itself visible in the superfund site the canal is today. It’s also a site of rebirth, where the emergence of off-the-beaten path art galleries and small manufacturing shops have been followed by an influx of luxury condominiums. It also plays a forgotten but important role in the Prohibition era for bootleggers and was a convenient locale for the activities of the Brooklyn mafia. 

This Thursday at the Museum of the City of New York, writer Joseph Alexiou, author of Gowanus: Brooklyn’s Curious Canal will join Hannah Frishberg, reporter at Brownstoner, in a conversation about the changing landscape of the Gowanus Canal. Alexious sees the canal and its environs as a microcosm that tells the story of New York City, and explores in the book how the changing reception of the word Gowanus tells us a lot about the transformation that has taken place there since the earliest days of the colony and before. Our list of Gowanus Canal secrets below is derived predominantly from the very entertaining book by Alexiou.

Tickets for the event can be purchased for the talk ($16 for adults, $12 students/seniors) or for talk + book ($40).


Camera Obscura-Vanderbilt Republic-Gowanus Loft-George del Barrio-Brooklyn-NYCPhotos by the Vanderbilt Republic

Gowanus’ Vanderbilt Republic is always up to something new and large scale, like their 2015 lighting of the Smith-9th Street Bridge. Now, they’ve turned their cool loft space into a veritable camera obscura – a modern version of the ancient devices that brought forth the modern camera. This camera obscura turns the whole loft into a dark room, with a hole that allows the outside scene to project (upside down) onto the walls inside. The Smith-9th Street Bridge figures clearly as a recurrent muse for the Vanderbilt Republic, along with the skyline of Gowanus itself, forming incongruous visions atop the loft’s walls, kitchen spaces, doors and more.