It says a lot about gentrification in New York that an "emerging" neighborhood's fate hinges on its status as a Superfund site. But with the Gowanus Canal officially getting that toxic designation today, Brooklyn's kinda hungry artists, for once, have won. The Battle of Gowanus was an age-old New York story pitting modest-means locals and "pioneering" artists (who, though they're loath to admit it, are always the first gentrifiers) against aggressive luxury developers and a city government hellbent on scrubbing every last corner of the city clean.
As the Times put it last summer:
"It was the same story everywhere along the canal: developers had come bearing watercolor renderings of an idealized blue waterway, flanked by condo buildings and walkways full of joggers and strollers."
And, across the grimy ring:
"The urban homesteaders who have moved there want it to remain an eccentric hideaway; artists want to preserve its postapocalyptic look; a civic group, the Gowanus Canal Conservancy, proposes to create a public park atop an innovative filtration system that acts like an artificial wetland."
Forget that the goal of a Superfund designation is to emphasize and pour money into sanitizing the places that most desperately need it. It's still a black eye that should keep glass high-rises at bay for at least as long as the estimated 12-year, $500 million cleanup lasts. (Not that anyone would actually move into those apartments these days--witness the luxe Williamsburg waterfront ghost town.)
At least the local Sunday Best summer dance parties can breathe a sigh of relief as their home along the Canal remains unspoiled by anything other than mutant pesticides. And maybe the Superfund title will dissuade nearby hipster parents from bringing their break-dancing kids to the shindigs and turning Sunday Best into a nauseatingly hip bar mitzvah. Talk about gentrification.
(Photos Courtesy of NYT)