It’s been about nine months since I properly blogged. Grad school is an all consuming entity that sucks away one’s soul and any sense of hobbies whatsoever. My apologies for failing to update.
I think it’s best to start with something I have become well acquainted with over the past 6 months, thanks to a semester project: Gowanus.
My first experience with Gowanus came before my semester project, I just didn’t know it yet, with “Half Nelson,” a film that garnered Ryan Gosling his first Academy Award nomination. Gosling played a teacher struggling with addiction in a primarily poor African-American neighborhood. The movie, was based on the short film “Gowanus, Brooklyn.”
In reality Gowanus is nothing like the movie. It may look like it’s struggling, but most of Gowanus is an upper-middle class, well-educated, white neighborhood. It’s a small neighborhood bordered by upscale neighborhoods like Carroll Gardens and Park Slope. More importantly it’s marked by the Gowanus Canal, which divides the community in half, and is the most polluted body of water in the entire country. You name it and is probably in the Gowanus Canal. Once upon a time the canal was an active waterway, transporting goods and used for manufacturing purposes. Today, it is disgusting. A recent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Superfund Designation. Sewage among other things, like gonorrhea. contaminate the canal.
Not more than two weeks ago I was stuck in a rain storm near the canal. The flooding waters and humidity left an unbearable stench. As I crossed a nearby bridge I watched as raw sewage swelled into the water. That’s Gowanus.
Despite the canal, Gowanus is an interesting vibrant community. Active, outspoken residents. Pleading for their rights and the rights of the neighborhood. A neighborhood dotted with low-rise manufacturing buildings. A rarity in much of New York. There’s an intense art history that still involves local artists squatting in manufacturing buildings. A history of close ties to the mob, which may be why a recent body pulled from the canal didn’t surprise anyone.
Gowanus is exceptionally unique.It is like unlike anything else in New York.