Archives for posts with tag: gowanus canal conservancy

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. 🙂

On May 19 6:30-8PM, our Living Things in an Urban Ecosystem series ended on a high note with Beyond the Honeybee: Exploring Critical Pollinators where we explored the role pollinators play in urban ecosystems and the ways in which individuals and community groups can support their habitats.

Ecologist Howard Ginsberg, Ph.D. from United States Geological Survey first presented a brief survey of native and non-native bee species typically found in NYC.  He found that our city has approximately 50 different species of bumble bees, compared to 100 found in more natural environments which is great news for our urban ecosystem. One fun fact is that bees tend to pollinate on specific seasons because they favor flowers in bloom during that time.  One example is Halictus ligatus, a communal or non-territorial summer bumblebee whose nests are typically found in holes in the ground and their workers are daughters of the queen, unlike honeybees whose workers are typically male.

Summer bee

Halictus ligatus – Summer bee

Our second panelist Tina Harrison, Ph.D. candidate from Rutger’s University Department of Ecology, presented some key ways to support our pollinators here in NYC.

Pesticides used in gardens

Chlorantranilliprole kills less worker bumble bees in a 2013 study

Gardeners and horticulturists should be mindful of the primary chemical used in the pesticide. For example, a study by Larson, Redmond and Potter showed that pesticides containing chlorantraniliprole kills only a small amount of worker bees, especially compared to clothianidin. So be sure to read those labels!

Effects of pesticides on bumble bee populations

Effects of pesticides on bumble bee populations

And finally, biologist Sam Droege, also from USGS, focused his presentation on the challenges of studying bumble bee populations.  He not only highlighted his work on cataloguing bee species (view the beautiful photography here), he spoke on the challenges scientists face when studying bees. One fascinating example was the attempt to study the Bombus bimaculatus, a bee species that, in natural settings, kicks out and takes over nests built by chickadee birds.  After scientists recreated these nests to attract this bee species, they were unable to replicate this occurrence in a controlled setting. Clearly there is more to be studied on attractive bee habitats, which, once successful, would lead to more effective methods of attracting and keeping them within our city.


We then segued into the panel discussion, moderated by landscape architect Hans Hesselein, where we were truly able to unpack the issue of bee colony collapse (which actually does not effect bumblebees), action steps we can take to support their survival, and the potential for future on bee habitats studies .  Listen here for the entire discussion.

We at the Gowanus Canal Conservancy send our heartfelt thanks to our venue sponsor Threes Brewing for generously offering their event space, our panelists, volunteer coordinators and most of all our audience for being part of such a vibrant season.  Stay tuned for the fall schedule!

Join us on our next Clean & Green July 18 11AM-3PM by signing up at where volunteers will participate in the Tree Census and other stewardship activities.

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

Steven Handel, Ph.D. and Director of the Center for Urban Restoration Ecology at Rutgers University gave a dynamic presentation on urban landscape restoration to a packed house at Threes Brewing. Proving case studies of Fresh Kills Park, Jamaica Bay and Brooklyn Bridge Park, Handel highlighted the challenges unique to urban environments such as soil erosion and contamination from pollutants, large amounts of litter, invasive plants that discourage biodiversity and human stressors such as vehicles and nearby commercial businesses.

Jamaica Bay

Jamaica Bay estuary highlighting restoration sites




Brooklyn Bridge Promenade

Promenade at Brooklyn Bridge Park rendering of its restoration that has since been completed










Probing questions were asked by both Handel and the audience such as, would restoring it to its original landscape 100 years ago make sense in today’s climate? What are the key ingredients to a successful restoration? And is there such a thing as over-restoration?  These answers were not simple, given budgetary constraints, environmental stressors and the growing need to address climate change effects.  As shown by Handel’s case studies, partnerships between scientists, city government agencies, landscape designers, environmental nonprofit organizations, and most of all, the local community, can make effective changes for New York City urban spaces and the community members within them.

land stewardship

For more information on restoration ecology, follow Steven Handel on Twitter @snhandel and click the link below to read his article:

Handel – Ecological Restoration Foundations to Designing Habitats in Urban Areas

Click on Eventbrite to come to our next Urban Ecology Lecture on Tuesday, March 24 6:30-8PM where we will explore a hot topic in restoration, Oysters: Limits and Possibilities.  This panel discussion will dive into the role oysters can and do play in marine and coastal shoreline restoration, the challenges and, perhaps most importantly, if they truly live up to their reputation as marine system restorers.

Steven Handel with Gowanus Canal Conservancy staff @ThreesBrewing

Steven Handel with Gowanus Canal Conservancy staff @ThreesBrewing

Follow us on Twitter @GowanusGreen and on Instagram @gowanuscanalconservancy #UELS2015 for more Conservancy news, fun facts, and upcoming events.

The temperature may have been low, but spirits were certainly high! The Conservancy rallied approximately 45 volunteers on Sunday in an effort to support NYC Park’s annual MulchFest event. Mission MulchFest Gowanus was simple: Locate discarded Christmas trees throughout Gowanus as well as neighboring areas and return them to the Salt Lot for chipping. We created five teams, each equipped with transportation and a map of pick-up zones. Trees were collected from Gowanus, Park Slope, Carroll Gardens and Boerum Hill. We were well on our way to reaching our goal of 500 trees by the early afternoon. Volunteers fueled up on warm apple cider and gingerbread before returning to the field. Our mission was complete by 4PM with a total of 642 trees collected and chipped. We could not have done this without our dedicated volunteers and gracious sponsors. Special thanks to Arborpolitan, Urban Arborists, Forth on Fourth Avenue and GreenSpace on Fourth! Stay Mulchin’.

The tree that got the MulchFest party started.

The tree that got the MulchFest party started.

One of our volunteers in the field.

One of our volunteers in the field.

A carload of trees.

A carload of trees.

Collecting trees by any means necessary.

Collecting trees by any means necessary.

Where the magic happened.

Where the magic happened.

On October 28th, the eve of the anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez, DEP Commissioner Emily Lloyd, and the Gowanus Canal Conservancy celebrated the 6th Street Green Corridor. Watch the video here!


(l-r) GCC Board Chair Andy Simons, GCC Board Member Stephen Kline, Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez and DEP Commissioner Emily Lloyd marked the occasion with a few words.

The 6th Street Green Corridor is a pilot green infrastructure project in the heart of the Gowanus, marking the first of a network of hundreds of bioswales that the DEP will be constructing in our community. We managed the design and construction of this project, working with EDesign Dynamics LLC, Drexel University and Perfetto Contracting Co.  Funding was generously provided by DEP and the EPA, the latter which was secured by Congresswoman Velázquez.  This green infrastructure network will collect stormwater off of adjacent streets, lessening the impact of combined sewer overflows on the health of the Canal.  The curbside gardens will also enliven our streetscapes with trees, native grasses, flowering perennials and pollinators!

As a pioneer project, the 6th Street Green Corridor features several alternative configurations to test for success.  The project will be monitored for several years with state-of-art equipment to measure and record water volumes captured, pollutants removed and ambient temperature effects.  Drexel University and the GCC will be working together to collect and analyze results, which will provide a set of real-world lessons for the coming wave of green infrastructure design and construction.  The GCC is also developing a maintenance training course for citizen bioswale stewards, who will practice techniques on 6th Street. The lessons learned from this pilot project, as well as the community of stewards developed, will contribute to the success of the thousands of bioswales that the DEP will be constructing across New York City.

We ended the joyous occasion with a tour of all 11 bioswales, led by former GCC Executive Director Hans Hesselein.

To get involved with bioswale stewardship, please contact


A small crowd gathered at the bioswales on 6th Street between 3rd and 4th Avenues. (photo credit – Dan Wiley)


An aerial view of 6th Street between 3rd and 4th Avenues shows how bioswales can fit alongside a busy industrial corridor. (photo credit – Gowanus Low Altitude Mapping)


As we tested the hydrologic function of the bioswales on 2nd Avenue, a Monarch butterfly feasted on the nectar of Echinacea purpurea. Bioswales provide many benefits for our urban environments, including stormwater capture and pollinator habitat.

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:


Last summer, our Citizen Pruners conducted an inventory of over a thousand trees within two blocks of the Gowanus Canal. Over the past few months, our partners at TreeKIT organized the data collected to map these trees, and we’d like to share their work with everyone.

Street Tree Species mapped (click to enlarge):


Screenshots of Tree Inventory on (click to enlarge):

a) North: In this image we see what the inventory looks like around the northern portion of the Canal. Note that there are many street trees on lower-density residential streets -- but none on a public housing super-block nearby.

a) North: In this image we see what the inventory looks like around the northern portion of the Canal. Note that there are many street trees on lower-density residential streets — but none on a public housing super-block nearby.

b) Southwest: In this image we see what the inventory looks like around the Southwestern portion of the Canal. We were pleased to find so many trees growing in the predominately residential portion of this area. Note that many residential blocks do not have street trees.

b) Southwest: In this image we see what the inventory looks like around the Southwestern portion of the Canal. We were pleased to find so many trees growing in the predominately residential portion of this area. Note that many residential blocks do not have street trees.

c) Southeast: In this image, we see what the inventory looks like around the Southeastern portion of the Canal. As in the southwest, we found many trees growing on residential blocks, but few in the industrial areas.

c) Southeast: In this image, we see what the inventory looks like around the Southeastern portion of the Canal. As in the southwest, we found many trees growing on residential blocks, but few in the industrial areas.

Complete Tree inventory.

Complete Tree inventory.

To download the Excel file of our Tree Inventory, please click here:
T304833 Gowanus Tree Inventory with Key and LatLong_150527.

This project was funded by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Environmental Protection Fund.

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:


Restoring the environment in a post-industrial landscape involves finding ways to attract animals and insects to the neighborhood. In other words, real estate for the birds and the bees. While ground for new residential complexes on the Canal, we’ve been busy with smaller residential complexes of our own: Introducing the Wildflower Corridor!

A row of planters.

A row of Wildflower planters.

The Wildflower Corridor project aims to install wildflowers down 9th Street from 2nd Avenue to Prospect Park. May 17 will see the installation of 24 planters between 2nd and 5th Avenue. The plants were adopted by residents and businesses who are volunteering their services to keep the plants alive and healthy.

The Salt Lot has been really busy lately.

The Salt Lot has been really busy lately.

During April’s Clean & Greens on the 12th, 13th and 27th, volunteers put together the 24 wildflower planters with the help of Future Green Studio. Plants and materials were donated by The Home Depot, North Creek Nurseries, Greenbelt Native Plant Center, Quadrozzi Enterprises, Build it Green!NYC, and Scout + Gather.

Assembly line!

Assembly line!

Volunteers install cladding on a planter.

Volunteers install cladding on a planter.

The wildflowers will hang out and grow in our nursery until May 17.

The wildflowers will hang out at the Salt Lot nursery until May 17.

The planters are looking great, and we can’t wait to finally install them in a few weeks. We’ll even be celebrating after the event with a block party on 8th Street! We hope to see everyone there. Save the date – May 17!

If you’re interested in signing up for a Clean & Green event, our schedule for 2014 is posted up on our website.
As always, check our events page for more goings on at the Conservancy!

[Photos by Jason Diaz]

Thanks again to the Wildflower Corridor’s fantastic sponsors for helping us make this project a reality: