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March 4, 2010 11:29 AM   Subscribe

Brooklyn's Gowanus Canal, long nicknamed the "Lavender Lake" for its copious oil slicks, has gained a new title : Superfund Site. New Yorkers respond with really cool photography. While some developers bow out in light of the recent news, other area developers, hoping for a speedy cleanup of the industrial waste and, uh ... other things ... vow to continue their plans to revitalize the formerly-industrial corridor.
posted by Afroblanco (25 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Okay, I only clicked on the "other things" link -- ostensibly it's about a particular bacterium that causes a disease.

However, the article mentioned in passing that there was a "possible colonizing life form" at the bottom -- and I'm absolutely terrified to think what it means that they are being so vague about what that could mean. (Why just "life form"? Does modern science not know what that shit is?)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:40 AM on March 4, 2010

I lived in Park Slope back in the early nineties, when it was still remotely affordable, and although I was out of smelling range of the canal on most days, I'm still not really surprised that it has the clap.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:42 AM on March 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

The Gowanus, the only body of water that's 80% guns.
posted by Divine_Wino at 11:43 AM on March 4, 2010 [8 favorites]

Does modern science not know what that shit is?

To be fair, shit probably is a big part of it. But, in general, no. Specific microbes, sure, but speciation of the whole collective? Not a chance. There are thousands of oleovores, oil-eating beasties, at least. The most common varieties have been identified, but no ones knows in detail what all the micro-organisms are.
posted by bonehead at 11:48 AM on March 4, 2010

I am desperate for any information about the Gowanus superfund site and possible tungsten alloy contamination.
posted by bunnycup at 11:49 AM on March 4, 2010

Okay, gotcha, bonehead sounds more like "it's a whole lot of things and we don't have time for a total census". I was envisioning they meant something like, "...well, it's waving at us, so we know it's alive, but we've never seen this genome pattern so we don't know what the fuck this is".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:51 AM on March 4, 2010

Having never lived near a superfund site, I always liked to think of them as superfun sites. And it does look like some super fun. Look! Ducks! They're not on fire or screaming in pain! (And a two story house-of-a-boat.) And a minke whale! Fun!

Apparently, I'm not the only one who thinks of Superfund Super Fun. Cephalopodian minds think alike.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:54 AM on March 4, 2010

They just don't want to panic people by letting out that it is the fluke man from X Files.
posted by Babblesort at 12:08 PM on March 4, 2010

And a minke whale! Fun!


"but it died after a few days there."

posted by dirtdirt at 12:17 PM on March 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

I laughed out loud at the thought of a speedy cleanup of a Superfund site.

I grew up a third of a mile from a Superfund site. Blocks away. It was adjacent to a park. They still haven't finished cleaning it up; apparently soil and groundwater "remedial actions" are still underway. Whatever the hell that means. They've been cleaning it up since 1986. (Actually, I think they started removing contaminated soil even before it was designated a Superfund site. More than 30 years they've been cleaning it up.)
posted by uncleozzy at 12:19 PM on March 4, 2010

The minke whale that died was called Sludgie, which I learned at Pub Quiz last Saturday at Pacific Standard (a bar somewhat near the Gowanus). We guessed Mucky, having no idea how close we were to the true answer. The grossest thing is that I have seen people fishing in the Gowanus from the bridge on Union.
posted by Falconetti at 12:30 PM on March 4, 2010 [3 favorites]

And a minke whale! Fun!


"but it died after a few days there."


Damned not reading far enough.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:30 PM on March 4, 2010

But does it have a colony of these?
posted by not_on_display at 12:52 PM on March 4, 2010

Despite my fondness for Dystopia Tours, Gowanus freaks me out. I just imagine anything hitting it melting like toons touching The Dip.
posted by The Whelk at 1:01 PM on March 4, 2010 [3 favorites]

The economic impacts of this ought to be interesting. I lived four blocks from the Gowanus in Carroll Gardens and pro- and anti-Superfund signs lined the windows of every shop up and down Smith and Court. Single data point: the old Italian stores were largely anti-Superfund, and the boutiques, restaurant row, etc., were highly pro. With some notable exceptions, like Giardini's Pizza, oldest of the old neighborhood joints and with the giant "Super Fund Me" whale poster out front.

Interesting to see the economic impacts for the neighborhood at large. With development stalled so badly on Public Place (and the Whole Foods site east of the canal), I suspect it won't be huge.
posted by zvs at 1:12 PM on March 4, 2010

"possible colonizing life form"

I saw this movie and it doesn't end out well for James Dean.
posted by The Whelk at 1:35 PM on March 4, 2010

The Gowanus, the only body of water that's 80% guns.

They haven't even started and it's 10% cleaner already?
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse at 1:38 PM on March 4, 2010 [3 favorites]

Please, wont anyone save the Coney Island Whitefish population?
posted by scruss at 2:14 PM on March 4, 2010 [2 favorites]

Two friends of mine got drunk and went swimming in the Gowanus and a few days later they both got Whooping Cough. Seriously.
I think they expected sympathy. They did not get any.

I didn't even know you could GET Whooping Cough anywhere outside of Little House on the Prairie. Also, diseases shouldn't be that much fun to say. Whooping! Whooping!
posted by Dormant Gorilla at 2:58 PM on March 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

I saw this movie and it doesn't end out well for James Dean.

I think you mean Steve McQueen.

Anyway, the Gowanus is also the inspiration for some of the worst music of all time
posted by lumpenprole at 4:20 PM on March 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

My work studio is a block from the Gowanus. About once a year, usually in August, a large fast moving thunder storm will cause flooding in the area. Water races down the Slope, draining into the canal. If there is too much water, the manhole covers just north of the canal start spouting "water" - just like the "bubbling crude" scene in the Beverly Hillbillies. RUN.

Solving the canal area design problems is a really big job.
posted by R. Mutt at 5:00 PM on March 4, 2010

I miss the Gowanus. We bought a house about three blocks away in 2000 when prices were just crazy and not out-of-your-mind lunatic madness insane. Down at the end of the street was an old postal sorting station that had previously been a gasification plant. Lowes bought the property, and there was a community controversy about having a big box store there drawing traffic. I felt cautiously optimistic, because at least someone would be cleaning it up. It seemed like a pipe dream that anyone would be willing to build housing down there, anyway, and it would put building supplies in a convenient place. It turned out well, bringing no more perceptible traffic. I dragged all kinds of lumber, wallboard, soil, and stuff up the street on makeshift carts to renovate the house (no car, to say nothing of truck/van).

After my son got big enough to care about big machines, we would often walk down to the Gowanus and watch the oil barge refill the big tanks. We'd get to see the drawbridges and the elevator bridge, the cement trucks and the scrap yard. No end of fun for a three-to-five year old. There were some cool things going on in nooks and crannies around the Gowanus. Right around the corner, a musical-robot factory started up.

I love where I live now, but part of my heart will remain on the stinky banks of the Gowanus. Oh, and Giardini's? Best slice on Earth, bar none.
posted by rikschell at 6:05 PM on March 4, 2010

They need to clean it out. There's hardly any room left for the dumping of bodies.
posted by deliquescent at 6:41 PM on March 4, 2010

I went to a meeting about getting Superfund status for Gowanus. Apparently the alternative route to Superfunding would have involved housing developers getting the money or something. I don't entirely remember, but it sounded like ultimately it was a matter of getting Superfund status and bringing the Army Corp of Engineers in to dredge the joint, or let housing developers just clean up the canal as convenience warranted.

And apparently the canal will someday be a park, with grassy banks and gondolas! Like I said, I don't entirely remember.
posted by odasaku at 6:43 PM on March 4, 2010

One developer, Toll Brothers, said it would scrap its plan for a $250 million project with about 450 housing units and retailing space on three acres by the canal.

I really couldn’t give a rat’s ass if Toll Brothers doesn’t want to crap out another one of their cookie-cutter developments of million-dollar condos. Good riddance.

I read all the articles and wasn’t sure whose side I was on. Then I thought about it and realized that I’m appalled that NYC was even thinking about letting people build there before a thorough cleanup of the entire area.
posted by spitefulcrow at 9:20 PM on March 4, 2010

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