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For one day, we brought the Gowanus Canal to the middle of Park Slope.  On Saturday, May 21, GCC held the second annual EXPO Gowanus, a free, outdoor event where 350 community members learned in depth about problems facing the Gowanus Canal and how everyone can help to improve water quality and access to waterfront public space.


We were happy to see and talk to hundreds of Park Slope residents at EXPO Gowanus. The upland neighborhoods of Park Slope, Carroll Gardens and Prospect Heights all make up the Gowanus Watershed. Each year about 377 million gallons of polluted water end up in the Canal from street runoff and raw sewage from 120,000 Watershed residents when the combined sewer system overflows during rain storms. Pollutants from Combined Sewage Overflow (CSOs) hurt water quality and biodiversity and continue to be a nuisance to the neighborhood.


At EXPO Gowanus, visitors learned in depth about why CSOs are a problem and the many ways we can all help reduce the volume of polluted water that enters the Canal every year.

Visitors of all ages flowed through 20 interactive stations and activities exploring the Gowanus Canal, Edge and Watershed.  Each station highlighted exciting projects that are underway by volunteers, designers, schools, organizations and public agencies.


The newest generation of Gowanus student scientists reported on their investigations into Canal water and soil quality and proposed their ideas for a cleaner Canal and waterfront, which included impressive physical models of proposed green infrastructure and public space.


Our bioswale volunteers-in-training explained how public dollars are being invested in NYC Green Infrastructure, including thousands of bioswales across the city that will mitigate sewage overflow in the Gowanus Canal and other polluted waterbodies.


Visitors collaged waterfront designs for Gowanus Greenscape, an emerging master plan for parks and public spaces that will center on the Canal.


Additionally GCC led volunteers from National Grid and neighbors who deployed across the adjacent Washington Park and weeded, mulched and re-planted several areas in need of stewardship.

Don’t miss next year’s EXPO!

2016 Exhibitors: ArtBuilt; ArtLab Gowanus; Balmori Associates; Climate Urban Systems Partnership (CUSP); Decades Out; dlandstudio; Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group (CAG); Gowanus Creek Scene Investigation (CSI); GrowNYC; the Open Sewer Atlas; NYC Parks; NYC City Councilmember Brad Lander Participatory Budgeting Committee; NYC Department of Sanitation; Parsons Architecture Department; POOP Project; thread collective; and local schools: PS 32; MS 51; MS 88; MS 839 and Brooklyn Urban Garden School (BUGS);. See the full EXPO program here.

EXPO Gowanus 2016 was developed in partnership with Old Stone House and MS 51 and sponsored by AECOM, National Grid and Con Edison.

Screen Shot 2016-06-02 at 3.11.02 PM


Notice anything different on the Whole Foods esplanade lately? This past Saturday, volunteers constructed ArtLab Gowanus, to host monthly site-specific art workshops, taught by local artists, right along the banks of the Canal. The best part? All workshops are free and open to the public.

IMG_20160425_103741In 2015, we responded to a Call for Public Art “to showcase what makes Gowanus ‘Gowanus’: the history, the Canal, the culture of creativity and the diversity of the community.”  Our winning proposal reveals the creative process integral to Gowanus.  The Gowanus neighborhood is home to hundreds of artists, craftspeople, and fabricators “making” things behind walls. ArtLab Gowanus asserts that this “making” is critical to the character of the Gowanus, and needs to be integrated into public space on the evolving waterfront.

The structure was designed by a crack team of GCC Volunteer Coordinators – Wendy Andringa, Greta Ruedisueli, Joy Wang and Leah Wener. The designers developed the structure as a pentagon to best fit on the esplanade without impeding walkability. The “lab” is a steel-framed pop-up structure that provides flexible workspace for groups and individuals. There are built-in work surfaces, as well as storage for smaller drawing boards that participants can borrow for use in the nearby bench seating or around the neighborhood.  Sedums will inhabit a green roof, capturing and retaining rainwater before it makes its way into the canal; the floor will additionally feature a watershed mural.

Arts Lab_Pentagon_20160316The steel structure and floor were constructed offsite at a studio in Red Hook. GCC Volunteer Coordinators and Staff, led by Jason Mortara, worked with David Aronson, putting in many tireless hours and long nights to make sure the structure was completed for the install. Being a pentagon, the structure provided many unexpected challenges and left turns, but our crew was able to solve all issues and persevere through their weary eyes and hunger pains.

Lo and behold, come the morning of Saturday, April 23, the structure was complete and ready to be shipped out to the Whole Foods esplanade.  Volunteers reassembled the structure, and installed the floor.  We will be installing the green roof and painting a mural on the floor in the coming weeks.
GCC volunteer coordinator and local artist Jessica Dalrymple has curated a stellar season of workshops responding our unique site. Again, all are FREE and open to the public – see full list below. Please RSVP for workshops you would like to attend a few weeks before the event (unless otherwise noted).ArtLab Workshop Schedule_160426
None of this could have been made possible without our partnership with Arts Gowanus, the Old Stone House & Washington Park, and a generous grant by council member Brad Lander. And of course, all the hard work and dedication by our volunteers. We thank you!

We hope to see you at ArtLab soon. 🙂

Native and Not Panel pic

Left to right – Katerli Bounds, Uli Lorimer, Kristy King, Leila Mougoui Bakhtiari


On April 28 6:30-8PM, we had our third panel discussion on Native and Not: NYC’s Dynamic Flora as part of our spring theme Living Things in an Urban Environment, where panelists from NYC Parks and Brooklyn Botanic Garden discussed the state of native flora, invasive species management and what we as a community can do to increase floral biodiversity.

Uli Lorimer, Curator of Native Flora from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, brought us beautiful photos alongside sobering news about the declining trend of urban flora in our region.


Native Flora – Arethusa bulbosa


NY Metropolitan Flora Project Native Flora Survey Results


Kristy King, Director of Forest Restoration of NYC Parks, revealed the surprising number of urban forests, salt marshes and other natural landscapes in NYC while revealing NYC Parks goals for forest restoration.

NYC Parks Goals for Forest Restoration

NYC Parks Goals for Forest Restoration

NYC's Surprising Amount of  Natural Areas

NYC’s Surprising Amount of Natural Areas


And Katerli Bounds, Director of Stewardship of NYC Parks, presented us with fantastic ways the NYC community can get involved in stewardship activities through both NYC Parks and the Gowanus Canal Conservancy.  A great upcoming project being TreesCount! 2015 where NYC Parks enlists the help of the NYC community to map and catalogue every tree in NYC.


Trees Count! 2015


Stewardship Opportunities in Forestry, Salt Marshes, Fresh Water Wetland and Bioswales


Then Leila Mougoui Bakhtiari, our very own volunteer coordinator of the Gowanus Canal Conservancy’s Urban Forestry program moderated the discussion, bringing up fascinating questions such as:

At what point is a plant species considered to be invasive?

Can invasive species be used to our benefit?

And what are everyones thoughts on the controversial book Wild Urban Plants by Peter Del Tredici?

To listen to the entire panel discussion click here for our audio player.

The evening ended with the quote “if you build it, they will come”, a great segue into our next panel where we delve into urban pollinators. Join us on May 19 6:30-8PM at Threes Brewing for Beyond the Honeybee: Exploring Critical Pollinators where we expand our idea of pollinators, why they are particularly important in an urban setting and action steps the NYC community can take to support their survival.  We will be joined by Sam Droege, head of the bee inventory and monitoring program at the US Geological Survey (click here to see his beautiful bee species photographs), Howard Ginsberg, entomologist for USGS who studies the impact of invertebrates on natural systems and Tina Harrison, Ph.D. candidate for ecology at Rutgers University who is studying the impact on bee genetic diversity in disturbed sites compared to undisturbed sites. Click here to RSVP.

Follow us on Twitter at @GowanusGreen and on Instagram @gowanuscanalconservancy for GCC news, volunteer events and trivia.

On March 24 6:30PM we kicked off the second lecture of our 4-part Urban Ecology Lecture Series series where we continue to unpack the theme Living Things in an Urban Environment, with our first panel discussion, Oysters: Limits and Possibilities.

Our panelists included, Chester Zarnoch, Assistant Professor of Environmental Science at Baruch College presented his current research on the potential effects of oyster reef restoration on nitrogen cycling, an overabundant nutrient that impacts water quality, and its implications on our waterway systems.

Assistant Professor of Environmental Science at Baruch College, C.U.N.Y.

Assistant Professor of Environmental Science at Baruch College, C.U.N.Y.

Marit Larson, Director of Wetland and Riparian Restoration of NYC Parks, spoke on salt marsh and shoreline restoration projects where she highlighted, the Oyster Reef Restoration Program , a partnership with NY-NJ Baykeepers to install oyster reefs and stocks as an oyster larvae attachment source.

Director of Wetland and Riparian Restoration at NYC Parks

Director of Wetland and Riparian Restoration at NYC Parks

Pete Malinowski, Director of the Billion Oyster Project, presented the mission of Billion Oyster Project, their partnership with the New York Harbor School, and the impact made not only on water quality but on the hundreds of thousands of student volunteers who otherwise would not have been exposed to our waterways, potential career opportunities and most of all the ecology of New York Harbor.

Director of Billion Oyster Project

Director of Billion Oyster Project

The panel discussion, moderated by Gena Wirth, our very own GCC Volunteer Coordinator and landscape designer, urban planner and horticulturalist at SCAPE Landscape Architecture.

Landscape architect, horticulturist and volunteer coordinator of the Gowanus Canal Conservancy

Moderator for the Oyster: Limits and Possibilities panel discussion

By opening the discussion on how the history of oysters in NYC influenced the panelists, each touched on the pride of being a native or transplant New Yorker, the desire to reach its ecological potential and the need to create healthier spaces for our community, a theme carried throughout the entire evening. Click here to listen.

It was a dynamic, thought-provoking evening, beers and all and we could not have done it without our venue sponsor Threes Brewing who generously provides their event space for our lectures.

If you are now all fired up about all things ecology and want to put your passion into action, here is a list of resources to help you get started as a volunteer:

Continue the conversation and join us on:

April 28, 6:30-8PM for Native and Not: NYC’s Dynamic Flora, a conversation moderated by Leila Mougoui Bakhtiari of NYC Parks. We will unravel native and invasive urban plants, stewardship practices, and their ecological implications.

May 18, 6:30-8PM for Beyond the Honeybee: Exploring Critical Pollinators, a conversation moderated by Hans Hesselein of Apiary Studio.  We will discover the critical role insects play in urban ecology and the ways we can support their survival.

Follow us on Twitter at @GowanusGreen and on Instagram @gowanuscanalconservancy for GCC news, volunteer events and trivia.

At this July Clean & Green at the GCC 20 volunteers came out to Detective Mayrose Park to revitalize the park gardens. Among a variety of flowers donated by the conservancy, volunteers also brought GCC’s own stash of monthly compost to add a nutrient boost the soil to help native flowers to grow at the park.

Plans for the urban garden were drawn up by Leah Wener, a conservancy volunteer with an expertise in gardens and horticulture. One of GCC’s greatest strengths is the amount of volunteers with a variety of specialties that all serve the purpose of GCC to conserve the Gowanus Watershed area in creative ways.

During this Clean & Green, volunteers set out to perform different tasks to implement this new native plant garden at Detective Mayrose Park. From raking and turning soil to incorporate GCC’s nutritious compost, to cleaning up the park and installing plant plugs according to the garden map plans, Mayrose Park turned into a beautiful community green garden space alongside the Prospect Expressway.


Picking up winter mint flowers from the Salt Lot to bring over to Mayrose Park.


Mayrose installation plan.


Weeding out old plants and trash to turn compost and install native flowers.


Volunteers installing plugs.


Young volunteers helping with the garden project.

CitiBank’s #CitiVolunteers joined us on June 7, 2014 for some garden and tree stewarding! After Executive Director Hans Hesselein led the volunteers on a tour of the Canal from the Whole Foods Market, they arrived at the Salt Lot to be divided into groups by our awesome volunteer coordinators.

While a small group helped sift compost and propagate seeds at the Salt Lot, others headed out into the neighborhood to prune the street trees along Second Avenue. The rest of the volunteers cleaned up, weeded and mulched the garden by the Whole Foods Market on 3rd Street. Being on a main thoroughfare through the neighborhood, the garden picks up its fair share of trash, but the plants are blooming! Cleaning up the garden allowed for three new species to be planted and watered by the CitiBank volunteers.

The day concluded like most Clean & Green days — volunteers were treated to hot dogs, hamburgers, veggie burgers provided by Whole Foods Markets and shared a few drinks, especially some beers, courtesy of our sponsor, Brooklyn Brewery.

Thanks for your service, #CitiVolunteers! We hope you had a great time discovering the Gowanus neighborhood on that beautiful Saturday morning.

The day began with a tour of the Canal starting at the Whole Foods Market Promenade.

The day began with a tour of the Canal starting at the Whole Foods Market Promenade.

Propagating plants at the Salt Lot.

Propagating plants at the Salt Lot.


The trees along Second Avenue and its side-streets got a lot of love on this hot, sunny day!

The trees along Second Avenue and its side-streets got a lot of love on this hot, sunny day!

3rd Street Garden Crew!

Smile for the camera, 3rd Street Garden Crew!

The Conservancy’s Clean & Green Program is supported by the following sponsors:


May 17 marked the installation of our Wildflower Corridor on 9th Street! After a long, humid and wet week in Brooklyn, the sun came out on Saturday accompanied by a light breeze — perfect weather for a volunteer day. Not only were the 24 wildflower planters installed, but volunteers also participated in tree stewardship activities along 8th and 9th Street and Milo’s Garden in Carroll Park.

You can download a plant care guide with names and pictures of the wildflowers used in the corridor here. (PDF, 2.4 MB)

You can also download a map of the wildflower corridor here. (PDF, 241 KB)

Executive Director Hans Hesselein explains the work day to volunteers.

Executive Director Hans Hesselein explains the work day to volunteers.



American Legion Post 1636 graciously allowed us to set up our home base next to their building on 193 9th Street. The central location of the post also made for a great place to treat our volunteers to a grilling session after the work day.

Volunteers eat some burgers and hot dogs fresh off the grill after a long day of work.

Volunteers eat some burgers and hot dogs fresh off the grill after a long day of work.

Installed and watered!

Installed and watered!

Over a hundred volunteers and volunteer coordinators participated not only in the installation, but the design and fabrication of the Wildflower Corridor project since it was first proposed in February. We would like to thank everyone who participated in this project from its conception through its realization.

Special thanks to our organizers:
Andrea Parker, GCC Board
Sarah Snow, GCC Staff
Alexandria Donati, GCC Volunteer Coordinator
Zenobia Meckley, Future Green Studio
Cecil Howell, Future Green Studio
David Seiter, Future Green Studio
Marielle Anzelone, NYC Wildflower Week

We would also like to thank our sponsors for the support and materials they provided and donated:


It was an amazing night.

After two and a half months of intensive planning, collecting $30,000 in sponsorships, and selling out to a crowd of over 300 people, AntiFreeze 2014 proved to be the Conservancy’s most successful winter fundraiser to date. With live performances by Aabaraki and Trixie Whitley, a wealth of silent auction items, food catered by Lot 2, Brooklyn Brine Co. and Whole Foods, and beer lovingly provided by Brooklyn Brewery, how could it have gone any differently?

True to the fundraiser’s new name, the midday snow shower did not deter guests from the corner of Bond St. and Degraw, where Ray Smith Studio opened its doors to an early VIP reception at 6 PM. Among these early guests included community leaders such as Borough President Eric Adams and Craig Hammerman, district manager of Brooklyn Community Board 6, as well as Comptroller Scott Stringer and Congresswoman Nydia Velasquez. At 7 PM, AntiFreeze officially opened its doors, and guests flooded in through the main door to escape the snowfall that lasted into the evening and found refuge in the relative warmth of the studio provided by a few powerful heaters reminiscent of jet engines.

Conservancy Executive Director Hans Hesselein kicked off the party with a great speech.

Hans joined by Borough President Adams, GCC Board Chairman Andrew Simons, and GCC Board Member Ted Wolff, Esq.

Guests followed up their dinner with the smooth sounds of Aabaraki, and as the party moved into the night, Trixie Whitley shared her strong voice and mellow melodies with a very enthusiastic crowd. Twenty-five of our donated silent auction items found homes at the end of the night, including Miska Draskoczy’s Egret, a piece displayed on the New Yorker!

As with many of the Conservancy’s major events, the major force behind the party was its volunteers. Twenty-six volunteers donated their Saturday nights to ensure that AntiFreeze ran smoothly, from set-up to check-in, collecting Silent Auction prizes, and selling ever-popular beer tickets. The Conservancy would like to extend its thanks to all of our volunteers – the show couldn’t have gone on without you!

There’s not much more we can say about this party unless you were there, and if you were there, you know exactly how it all went. For those that weren’t able to make it, let these pictures tell the rest of the story!

Setting up the sound.

Trixie’s sound check.

Volunteers help set up.

Mannequin strikes a pose wearing a jacket donated to our silent auction by Patagonia.

A beautiful painting of a street tree donated by Jessica Dalrymple is hung for display next to a series of photos by Patrick Schnell. All four auction prizes found homes that night.


…and after.

Aabaraki works the crowd!

Enjoying that Brooklyn Brew!

Board Chair Andrew Simons chats with a crowd.

Bunch of cool people.

Trixie lights up the stage. It’s a black and white photo, but we assure you that she did indeed light it up.

It was as fun as the pictures show, and more. If you couldn’t make it this year, look forward to next year’s fourth annual winter fundraiser! Everything the Conservancy does will only get better from here.

AntiFreeze 2014 was sponsored by:


Over 60 volunteers joined the Conservancy during our Clean & Green on November 16. Among the volunteers that joined us on this unexpectedly bright and sunny day were groups from Con-Edison, St. John’s University, and a group of Georgia Tech alumni from the New York/New Jersey area. During this year’s final Clean & Green, volunteers assisted in garden stewardship, street tree stewardship, and windrow turning.

Garden Stewardship

The bulk of our volunteers participated in assisting with the stewardship of our gardens on 2nd Ave., Huntington Street, 3rd Ave., and Degraw East.  A total of over 300 seeds were propagated into 1-gallon containers for the Salt Lot nursery, and 20 perennials and shrubs were installed in the 2nd Ave. Gardens. A total of nearly 4,000 square feet of green space was stewarded by our volunteers!



Street Tree Stewardship

Bob Lesko led a small team of volunteers to cut and prune 35 trees on 9th Street as part of our Street Tree Stewardship program.

It is notable that under the guidance of Bob, over 100 street trees were managed over the course of the month of November! Thank you, Bob!

Windrow Turning

Finally, a portion of the volunteers helped to turn the September windrow into a curing pile, where it will rest in the back of the lot for two weeks. Moving the September windrow cleared space for the November windrow to be built the next day.

In terms of composting, 350 lbs of organic materials were collected, 700 lbs of compost was distributed, and 250 lbs of trash were collected.



At the end of the day, all volunteers were treated to some great grilled burgers and hot dogs, courtesy of our friends at Whole Foods. November’s Clean & Green ended up being an extremely productive way to end the year! From the bottom of our hearts, we would like thank our volunteers for their extraordinary service this day. To those seeking further volunteer opportunities this year, there’s one more Composting event on December 22nd – e-mail us for more details and availability. But for those that won’t be able to make it, whether you’ve become interested through this post or just wish to come back – we hope to see you in March at our first Clean & Green in 2014!

Happy Holidays!

With the creation of the Urban Ecology Lecture Series, the Gowanus Canal Conservancy has expanded its platform and increased its education initiatives within the community. These programs share knowledge about subjects related to the Canal and issues that the Conservancy directly tries to address. However, it hasn’t been only community members who have been learning new things – this summer, staff members were able to go on a field trip to the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens!

At the Gardens, we went inside their Visitor Center and learned about the science behind it. Did you know it stays cool without using any fans or air conditioners? The combination of radiant heating/cooling systems, concrete floors, and the installation of a green roof allow it to stay cool even in the worst heatwave- now that’s amazing!

Check it out: IMAG0330
Later, we went outside and toured their grounds. We explored their rose gardens, walked through the cherry esplanade, and made our way to see the lilies and the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden! It was great to wander around such a large facility and see all the different exhibits they have.

Check out this cool treehouse-like structure they have on the grounds!
Their warm, desert, and tropical pavilion was a big hit among us.IMAG0332IMAG0331
As was their herb and vegetable gardens!
We then went inside their Native Flora Garden and saw many familiar species. There were plenty of street trees there that we recognized from mapping and stewardship projects. All in all, the trip was a great chance for staff to learn about a variety of flowers and plants, and to review and discover some native plants! Thanks for having us Brooklyn Botanic Gardens!