Gowanus Station May Soon be a Thing of the Past

Gowanus Station May Soon be a Thing of the Past

The historic Gowanus Station is under threat of destruction, thanks to a recent City Council vote that voted 49 to 1 in favor of allowing the Department of Environmental Protection to acquire the building. Located at 234 Butler Street, the station is located near to two other lots that are also being acquired by the department. Both are located on Nevins Street, with one being located at 242 Nevins Street and the other being at 270 Nevins Street. The department is acquiring all three lots via eminent domain, with plans calling for demolishing the station in order to make room for an underground sewage storage tank needed by the Environmental Protection Agency to clean the Gowanus Canal.

What is the Gowanus Canal?

Originally known as Gowanus Creek, Gowanus Canal is a 1.8-mile long canal on the westernmost portion of Long Island within the borough of Brooklyn. When it was first developed in the mid-19th century, the canal served as a vital transportation hub. While it continues to be used for the incidental of goods and for the daily navigation of small boats, barges and tugs, the canal is no longer a significant part of the cargo transportation industry.

Arising from local tidal wetlands and freshwater streams, the canal gathered large amounts of pollutants by the end of the 19th century due to its heavy industrial use. Attempts to remove the pollution or to dilute the water have been unsuccessful, despite the fact that most industrial tenants stopped using the canal by the middle of the 20th century. By the late 20th century, it was recognized as one of the most polluted bodies of water in the country. Due to its low concentration of oxygen and high proportions of pathogens, the canal is generally viewed as being incompatible with marine life. Nonetheless, a significant amount of waterfront redevelopment is taking place along the canal, with modern-day efforts to clean up the canal beginning in 2013.

What Neighborhoods are Affected by the Gowanus Canal?

The Gowanus Canal borders numerous neighborhoods in New York City. Among these are the neighborhoods of Boerum Hill and Cobble Hill to the north along with Gowanus, Red Hook and Carroll Gardens to the west. Meanwhile, Sunset Park is located to the south and Park Slope is on the east. Several bridges also cross the canal. These include:

  • Carroll Street
  • Gowanus Expressway
  • Hamilton Avenue
  • New York City Subway’s Culver Line (the F and G trains)
  • Ninth Street
  • Third Street
  • Union Street

What is the Gowanus Station?

The Gowanus Station is a terracotta pump station that dates back to 1913. Located at the head of the canal on the north end, the Beaux-Arts building was part of a pumping tunnel used with the original canal. Last year, the Landmarks Preservation Commission denied two community requests to grant the station landmark status. With the Department of Environmental Protection receiving approval to take over the building, however, its final fate will rest in the hands of the EPA and the course of action it chooses to take in moving forward with canal cleanup.