By: Victoria Vele, Social Media & Water Intern
Our first day working together is spent getting to know one another and making our office a home away from home where we feel a sense of ownership, similar to what we are aiming to accomplish in terms of giving back a neighborhood to a community. It’s about teaching, interacting, and learning from one another. When setting up the office conference table and bookshelves this becomes very apparent as we create a small reading nook with references on a plethora of topics – ranging from urban ecology to energy, water and waste resources to transportation to professional development and artistic design.
Our initial Gowanus focus includes 3rd Street from Smith Street over the Gowanus Canal as well as a radius of six city blocks on Court Street – including our office at 509 Court St. We went on a walking tour to meet the neighbors and see the neighborhood that contains Living City Brooklyn Gowanus. It’s going to be a great summer working here!
By: Vanessa Meer, Manager of Water, Energy and Environmental Services and David Krieger, Community Director
What is Living City Block doing in Gowanus? Where is Gowanus anyway?
The Gowanus region of Brooklyn is one of New York’s oldest settlements, originally built around the pristine Gowanus Bay and Creek watershed, and once one of New York’s great wetland oases. With the industrialization of the Brooklyn waterfront in the 1800’s the Gowanus Creek became the Gowanus Canal and one of New York’s most severely polluted waterways. As early as the mid 1800’s there were calls to remediate the canal and deal with the environmental blight affecting the surrounding communities. Unfortunately, today the neighborhood contains several hundred acres of brownfield land and an intensely polluted waterway – a testament to the difficulties inherent in large-scale environmental remediation in urban context. The physical landscape also bears the scars of the industrial past with many vacant buildings, underutilized sites and the decrepit banks of the canal itself all kept in stasis by antiquated zoning and the pressing need for remediation without a cohesive plan for restoration.
In March 2010, the federal government, realizing the seriousness of the neighborhood’s environmental condition, designated the Gowanus Canal a Superfund site. This designation brings unique opportunities and challenges to the Gowanus community that Living City Block hopes to help address. Living City Brooklyn Gowanus hopes to find new ways to make the Gowanus Canal, streets, and community more livable, sustainable and vibrant. Living City Brooklyn Gowanus will introduce a framework that organizes building and business owners, and residents of defined urban neighborhoods into consortiums to take advantage of opportunities of scale otherwise not available to them as we seek to address issues of economic prosperity, energy and national security, climate stabilization community-defined neighborhood visions.
Tuesday, May 31, 2011 marks the formal start date of the Gowanus summer internship program – designed to learn more about the Gowanus community and build connections in the neighborhood. The tree-lined streets and Gowanus Canal are the physical space in which our journey to create a more sustainable and livable environment begins. Sister-city to Living City Block projects in Denver and Washington D.C., New York City is joining the team in full force. This blog will be a way to share in our journey, learn as we learn, and understand the formation and workings of a Living City Block.