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Gowanus Your Face Off
Gowanus, Brooklyn
The crack between two hipster neighborhoods, home to the now superfunded Canal, the flash point for the new 'Buy Local' and textile revolutions, & filled with brilliant bohemians. . . this is Gowanus & it’ll awesome your face off.

Gowanus Canal Flushing Tunnel ‘Celebration’


At 6pm on a warm summer solstice a crowd gathered on Butler St. between Bond St. & Nevin St. to celebrate the 100th year of the Gowanus Canal’s Flushing Tunnel. The event was smaller than the Tunnel’s opening in 1911, when the Mayor, the Borough President, and a Congressman attended. This time around, it was just a handful of locals some of whom were decked out in paper celebration hats. Linda Mariano of FROGG represented ‘Miss Gowanus’ along with several little girls who were all close to the age of 9, the same age as the 1911 Miss Gowanus. The event was promoted as a celebratory parade, but listening to residents you’d think it was more of a protest. Many people spoke openly about the health concerns they had for their families living near the Canal. “My granddaughter might have Cancer”, one resident said; “What’s really in that water”, said another; “Why has it not been cleaned?”, someone else grumbled.

After a brief speech from organizer Angela Kramer Murphy of Proteus Gowanus the parade got underway and snaked down Bond Street. When the crowd finally got to the Canal on the Union Street Bridge everyone seemed to get quieter; As the group looked down at the waterway their faces, from either the smell or from the very fact that the Canal remains so polluted, showed sadness and disgust. Those dressed as Miss Gowanus were suppose to throw lilies into the Canal, as the 1911 Miss Gowanus had done to show signs of rejuvenation, but as the flowers hit the murky waters it seemed more like a funeral than a celebration.

The Flushing Tunnel maybe 100 years-old, but it has not done a good job of ‘flushing’ the Gowanus Canal. It isn’t just that the flushing system was broken for almost 30 years (from the 60s to the 90s) that keeps it from fulfilling it’s purpose,  it’s that the Canal is not designed for the amount of waste that floods into it. It seems this problem might get even worse with the controversial stadium at the old Atlantic Yards intending to ‘flush’ its waste into the Canal. What this ‘celebration’ represented was a cry for help from humanity. The people here represent all of us; they have screamed and yelled for 100 years about the damage being done to their community and repeatedly asked about the health risk to politicians, city planners, and even the federal government, but no real solutions or answers have come. The event concluded with a reception at Proteus Gowanus where a toxic piece of the Canal’s sediment lives encased in two glass jars.

 

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