Toxi City: Exploring Brooklyn's Industrial Legacy

Low Tide in the Gowanus

Posted in Brooklyn,Gowanus Canal by Robin on December 4, 2010

On Sunday, November 21, the tide was fairly low and revealed a few things I had never seen before. The old coffee barge is always visible to some degree but I had never before seen this old boat in the extension of the Gowanus that runs between 4th and 5th streets.

I was surprised to hear and then see activity at 6th Street Scrap Metal as this facility while very busy 6 days a week is usually shut up tight on Sundays.

Down by Lowe’s, the low tide allowed for visibility to the bottom of the inlet. Of course, it is not the visible garbage that is dangerous here but rather the leftover coal Tar from the Metropolitan Works manufactured gas plant.

While the Lowe’s portion of the site was remediated, no work has been done on the Pathmark portion of the site. The gas plant was located right about where the supermarket itself stands. From the Hamilton Avenue Bridge at low tide, you can see how here is not even a retaining wall here but the soil, very likely to be toxic, is exposed to the water. Also, notice the bricks sticking out. If anyone knows what structure this was, please let me know.

The Ninth Street Bridge was beautiful in the evening light.

A small boat went through the canal. On the side was printed “Tender to the Lettie G. Howard.” This later ship is a schooner that is now a museum ship based at the South Street Seaport. Behind them was the barge that services Benson Scrap Metal.

This is Benson Scrap Metal from the Gowanus side.

And from Smith Street. It too was open on Sunday. The volume of material on site both here and at 6th Street has really grown over the last two years. I assume business has been slow and there has been less of a market for scrap metal. Noting that both places were open on Sunday, I did start to speculate that maybe things are picking up.

Under the Gowanus Expressway, around 2nd Avenue and 16th Street, there seemed to be a huge number of small birds. I found this quite surprising. Given the volume of traffic on the Expressway, it doesn’t seem like a hospitable spot for any life.

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