On a daily basis you’ll find one of the residents from Gowanus’s telling tales of the neighborhoods interesting history. Even if they’ve told you these stories a thousand times, the way they tell them makes them more fascinating each time you hear it. The residents are not found anywhere else in New York and represent a very unique community within South Brooklyn. CamLin Productions takes a moment to capture a few of the characters of the Gowanus neighborhood in this fun short simply titled: Video About the Gowanus.
Every time someone brings up the Gowanus Canal, you always hear that it’s been polluted for a long time. But, really? How long has it been polluted? Five; Ten; Twenty years. . . try Over One Hundred Years!
Recently, the GYFO team has found a periodical from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Contributions from the Sanitary Research Laboratory and Sewage Experiment Station Vol 3-4 : Technology Quarterly, featuring an article dating from 1908 titled: Investigation of Sanitary Conditions of the Gowanus Canal. The information in for the piece contains research from the author Charles F. Breizke and an abstract from research done by N. P. Gerhard. Both of these men in the late 1800s analysed the Canal to evaluated sanitary issues and sewage problems. Their findings were then, and are now, both shocking and in a way unimaginable. It is very sad to think that people new about the dangers of the Canal long ago and that only now, because of a push by a Federal ‘Superfunding’, will their findings and the tragedy of this human disaster be addressed.
In this new ongoing series we will delve into the work of Charles F. Breizke and Norman P. Gerhard in the hope that their research can be added to the history of the Canal and it’s eventual revitalization. Their work should ultimately act as a warning to those who dismiss or willfully ignore the destruction of natural resources.
To start let’s briefly look at what Charles F. Breizke says about the sewage flow to see whether or not sewage is flowing correctly into the Canal during the late 19th Century.
. . .1888 the sewers became too small, and the legislature of that year passed an act permitting the discharge of storm water sewers into the Gowanus Canal. In 1892 a 15-foot main relief sewer, which intercepts all the storm water in the mains draining that portions of Brooklyn lying south of Greene Avenue, was brought down to the head of Gowanus Canal, at Butler Street…, and completed. Nothing but storm water was intended to enter this relief sewer, but, whether by accident or design, it is now flowing during dry weather and is discharging sewage into the Canal. [p250]
The surface of the canal is covered with scum. In the upper portion this characteristic of domestic sewage, such as grease and slime, partially disintegrated human faeces [feces], and other organic matter. The lower portion of the canal from the Bond Street sewer outlet sewer outlet to Gowanus Bay is covered with unsightly patches of floating rubbish which have been accumulated by the action of the tugboats, wind, and tide. These patches consist largely of brown and yellow oily substances, which spread out in thick layers on the water surface and seem to gather up all the other floating debris, such as waste paper, fecal matter, melon rinds, banana skins, kitchen refuse, tin cans, broken boxes, coal dust, and other matter. [p254]
Seems that the waters of the Canal were probably experiencing the same disgusting problems that are shown in this video from 2010. If you head to the Canal on any given day you will find waste paper, fecal matter, melon rinds, and banana skins still floating on the Canal. Of course these can’t be the exact same items. The items listed are most likely a part of the muck along the bottom of the Canal. Later after many more description of the sewage problems Mr. Breizke will explore solutions, which we will ultimately also review.
In an upcoming postings we will look into the various business along the Canal listed in this article, the pollutions they are said to have caused, and if they remain in operation along the Canal. We will go over the height variations of the Canal researched; as well as the Chemical analysis listed in the article, which will try our best (us not being scientist) to compair it what the EPA has found in it’s recently review.
*The Investigation of Sanitary Conditions of the Gowanus Canal is available for Free through Google Book here.
If you have additional data or wish to contribute to this series, please send an email to [email protected]
This series is meant to educate people on the historical scientific analysis done on the Gowanus Canal.
Gowanus Canal Community Development Corporation is putting on Gala to honor their favorite heroes.
When: May 5th, 2011 6:30 – 9:30 pm
Location: The Invisible Dog Art Center, 51 Bergen Street Brooklyn NY 11231
Caswell Holloway III
Thread Collective; and
Hometown heroine Jean Austin for her years of dedicated service
*keep in mind it’s $100 a ticket.
As researchers and historians speculate what kind of vessels are in the sonar image noted by BrooklynPaper.com (today and this past February), we’d like to direct everyone to an image that the Brooklyn Historical Society has of vessels submerged in the Gowanus Canal. According to their records this image was taken in 1960 from 3rd Street.
Please click on the link to see more detail. Brooklyn Historical Society
*it also should be noted that in 1954 there was a large fire near the Canal, during which buildings and boats were damaged. It is possible that the ship featuring in the sonar image is from this fire. See Brooklyn Public Library archives (image from Brooklyn Eagle paper 1954)
Brooklyn is about to lose a great painter to South Carolina, but before he goes, Francis Sills has provided new works featuring the Gowanus area. Recently, on his blog, he posted canvas pieces depicting the Gowanus Canal. These pieces match the traditional style he presented at Positively 9th Street earlier this year. What really makes these pieces interesting is how Mr. Sills shows an industrial area and manages to creates a motion with the limited natural elements. In these works the water and sky almost match in their color and fluid motion. Although, the natural elements are just part of the composition they seem to dance against the colorful angles of the industrial buildings illustrated. We hope that his paintings are shown in South Brooklyn sometime before his departure or that he comes back in the near future to capture the changing neighborhood.
Please take a moment to check out his blog here
and his website: www.FrancisSills.com