Toxi City: Exploring Brooklyn's Industrial Legacy

May 20th-Gowanus

Posted in Brownfield,Gowanus Canal,recycling by Robin on June 11, 2009
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On this beautiful evening, I walked around the Gowanus area. First, down 6th street where they were still working at the scrap metal yard on 6th Street.

Then I went to the Gowanus Canal landing off the end of 2nd Street. I wanted to take the same photo I had taken in the winter of looking through the razor wire on this side of the canal to the old Nassau Railroad Powerhouse on the other side. Now the view is filled with trees. It is more bucolic and the building behind is just a patch of red. There was an older man sitting on the dock smoking there when I shot this. We chatted. He was knowledgeable about the surrounding brownfields. He recounted falling into the canal once.

As I was leaving 2nd Street, the light as it hit this tree and fence was lovely.

View from the 3rd Street Bridge.

I was standing out side of the hole in the whole foods site fence trying to take some kind of a photo. I had seen someone go in earlier and I was nervous about being alone on the site with an unknown man. A young kid maybe 20 or so came by on his bike and said, “Why don’t you go in?” And leaving his bike outside, he went through the fence. I followed him. His interest was all the graffiti. The best light was leaving but I felt liberated and wondered what had made me so nervous.


April 17th-Gowanus

I went to my favorite spot on the Gowanus behind the Lowe’s parking lot, looking out at Benson Scrap Metal. In the shallow inlet there, an egret was fishing. According to the New York Sate Department of Environmental Conservation Remediation Database,this spot is right next to where the Metropolitan Gas works operated from the late 1800s until the 1930s. While NYSDEC also claims that no tar is escaping from this site into the canal, I felt very queasy watching this bird feed. Yet maybe it is a good sign that some fish must be able to live in the water.

The Callery Pear trees were in bloom. Originally from China, these trees were bred to be planted in cities. I assume that these were planted by Lowe’s. Behind them work went on at Benson Scrap Metal as it does 7 days a week.

As I was leaving,the Hamilton Avenue Bridge was raised for an incoming boat.It was the first time I had seen any of the drawbridges on the Gowanus in operation.

Coney Island Foray

Posted in Brownfield,Coney Island,recycling by Robin on February 2, 2009

The weather was warm for February 1 and we drove out to Coney Island to explore the area around Coney Island’s two brownfields, both the legacy of manufactured gas plants. One site is now covered with a shopping center.The other is bounded by Coney Island Creek on the south and a highway on the north. The address given is 873 Neptune Avenue. The plant itself was actually across the creek.


Driving around, looking for access to the creek, we found Cropsey Scrap Iron and Metal Corp. Recycling and brownfields are always near each other.


We also discovered what must be an abandoned coal bin, very similar to the one near the Gowanus, off of 6th Street.


It is right next to what must be a cement factory.


Benson Scrap Metal

Posted in recycling by Robin on January 31, 2009

Walking along Smith Street, in the late afternoon, I noticed the shadow of the machine that moves the metal and its operator on the oil storage tank. The intensity of the color was very striking. I took 5 or 6 quick shots getting this before someone came over to me and asked me not to take any more pictures. Funny how they really really don’t like photography there but at the recycling site on 6th street, they really don’t care how long I stand there or how many photos I take.


September 19th-The Newtown Creek

Posted in Newtown Creek,recycling by Robin on October 3, 2008

City Tech’s Water and Work group went on a watertaxi tour of the Newtown Creek. The car shredder was the peak of an amazing tour.