Sustainable urban area planned for Gowanus
by Cynthia Via
Jul 27, 2011 | 2777 views | 0 0 comments | 24 24 recommendations | email to a friend | print
For years, the Gowanus Canal has suffered from neglect, but now private organizations are taking the next step to clean the surrounding streets and sidewalks.

Members of Community Board 6’s Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Committee met last Wednesday, July 20, to hear presentations from dlandstudio and Gowanus Canal Conservancy regarding green improvements to the area.

Talk revolved most notably around Sponge Park, a 40-foot-wide pilot project that will be situated on 2nd Street in Carroll Gardens along both banks of the 1.8-mile-long Gowanus Canal.

The park will capture and clean surface-runoff water, while adding much needed recreational space.

Dlandstudio, a landscape architecture firm, has a sustainable mindset and was founded in 2005 by Susannah C. Drake, a landscape architect.

The firm set out to design Sponge Park after realizing there was no unified plan to turn the area around Gowanus canal into accessible public space.

The project received a grant from New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission (NEIWPCC), allowing dlandstudio a faster process. The success of the pilot will set forth the next phase, which will eventually complete the master plan that connects greenway passages from Douglass Street to 9th Street with paths that “weave back forth.”

“It would help make a broader Gowanus green area,” Drake said.

Issues facing the Gowanus Canal include lack of maintenance, limited land, and limited canal access for the public.

Many cities like New York have a combined storm and sanitary sewer system where storm water and sewage mix and pour directly into the coastal waterways. But the sewage system is often unable to handle heavy rain events. And with no help, water sits on street ends along with accumulating garbage.

The idea behind the park comes from wetlands that absorb rain water, hence the name Sponge Park. The water would be collected in landscaped retention basins and other areas on the sidewalks and street ends. The captured water would then be cleaned by soils and plants that naturally filter storm water.

This would allow cleaner waterways by slowing, retaining and filtering storm water, according to dlandstudio.

contaminated water and residue from getting into the canal.

In order to think about the long-term infrastructure the firm approached governmental entities like the New York City Department of Transportation, Department of Environmental Protection and Department of Parks and Recreation.

Drake called the project a “hands-on approach” and a “coordinated effort” towards a city property that needed “all the pieces of the puzzle to fit.”

Gowanus Canal Dredgers have seen the plan and are also on board along with the help of the Gowanus Canal Conservancy, a Brooklyn- based environmental organization formed in 2006 that advocates sustainable developments.

The canal conservancy has its own green projects on the way. It is creating interconnected rain gardens along 6th Street and 2nd Avenue in Park Slope. The rain gardens will capture storm water as well as provide green space.

It also started the Clean & Green Program for volunteers to meet Saturdays and Sundays from April to November to clean the banks of the Gowanus Canal.

“Its going to be an exciting time to watch the changes,” said Hans Hesselein, project director for the Gowanus Canal Conservancy. “It will provide great opportunity for the community to begin to care.”

Drake is hoping to start planting in Sponge Park during the fall, so that it will grow next spring, but plans are still underway.

Dlandstudio received several accolades for Sponge Park, one being the 2011 Regional and Urban Design award.
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