TEDxGowanus showcases a superfund canal

The 1999 dredging of the Gowanus Canal and the opening of the flushing tunnel gave a short new life to the waterway. ©Mark D Phillips

TEDxGowanus showcases a superfund canal



The Gowanus Canal is a hot topic once more as gentrification moves ever closer to the Superfund waterway's shore. Brooklyn is hot and the canal is a gem that could become the heart of South Brooklyn.

Over the years, the list of advocates has grown. When I first started photographing the canal, the person who spoke loudest about its possibilities was Buddy Scotto. A lifelong resident of Carroll Gardens, he dreamed of a Venetian-type draw to its pristine waters and a hearty tourism to its banks.

Owen Foote has led the march to bring the Gowanus Canal to its full glory as one of the founders of the Gowanus Dredgers Canoe Club, bringing thousands to ride canoes along the polluted waterway. ©Mark D Phillips

In 1978, he formed the Gowanus Canal Community Development Corporation (GCCDC) , and over the years, more groups became involved in the dream of a clean, vibrant Gowanus Canal.

Owen Foote, who I met as a young staffer at the GCCDC, has carried the torch forward as an advocate for the Gowanus neighborhood. He helped form the Gowanus Dredgers in 1999, a canoe club that utilizes and educates the public about the Gowanus Canal and South Brooklyn's neighboring waterfront communities and waterways. The club has helped bring an interest to the waterway as a viable recreational center. Each summer, the club sponsors events to bring new paddlers to the estuary and each year the numbers grow.

It was inevitable that the Federal Government would become involved. the designation of the site as a Superfund location took place in 2012. The cost of the cleanup plan is currently estimated to be $506 million. It will be an interesting and arduous process. As the neighborhood watches and waits, more and more interest will be focused on the Gowanus Canal.

Look below for a slideshow of photographs by Mark D Phillips of the South Brooklyn Network and read our history of Gowanus! Let's all hope for a bright future.

Check out the upcoming, day-long conference on the Canal's future, The first ever TEDxGowanus will be held on January 26, 2014 with a day-long event on the banks of the Gowanus Canal at renowned event spaces The Green Building and 501 Union.
TEDxGowanus Organizer, Sean Gannet has a long track record working with TED Conferences, having been a producer on TEDMissionBlue and the TED Talent Search as well as video director for TEDActive.
"We are passionate about bringing TEDx to Gowanus because this area is a perfect representation of the culture, innovation, and change that are dominating the new Brooklyn landscape." –Sean Gannet, Organizer TEDxGowanus.
The theme of TEDxGowanus is INSPIRING COMMUNITY and speakers will include designers, entrepreneurs, artists, historians, and community leaders presenting Gowanus inspired ideas.  As a neighborhood that’s undergoing many changes – from the recent Superfund designation, to demographic and cultural shifts, to the physical rebuilding of the area post-Sandy – TEDxGowanus will also be an opportunity to hear visions of the area’s future.
While the inspiration for this TEDx began in Gowanus there will be a diversity of ideas to inspire and engage a broad audience.  Some of the over 20 speakers presenting:
Reggie Ossé (aka Combat Jack) – Host, The Combat Jack Show – Through storytelling, Reggie will recount Hip-Hop’s journey from counter-culture to pop-culture.
Ed Woodham - Founder, Art in Odd Places – Devoted to gently “awakening” the masses through art installations, Ed recounts how his public mission influenced a very personal journey.
Rachel Fershleiser – Tumblr – Rachel is creating “Internet Enabled Literary Communities” which are reinvigorating consumption of the written word.
Kate Orff – Partner, Scape/Landscape Architechture LLC – Following up on her TED.com talk about greening the Gowanus Canal with oyster beds, Kate will discuss her Blue Mussel Pilot Project in the Gowanus Bay.
Ate Atema – Atema Architecture – Will follow up on his previous TED talk about an innovative way to channel freshwater into the Gowanus Canal.
Leah Selim - Co-Founder, Global Kitchen – Discussing how gastro-diplomacy can bridge cultural divides.
Monica Byrne - Co-Founder ReStore Red Hook   - As a core member of Restore Red Hook, she has a new idea about how to shift the disaster relief paradigm.
Hans Hesselein – Executive Director, Gowanus Canal Conservancy -  Will be speaking about shifting the responsibility for public park maintenance to the community and residents  that use them.
Pete Raho - Owner, Gowanus Furniture – As an “Artisan Ambassador,” Pete will show how small batch industry has created a new manufacturing sector with industrial employment opportunities.
Joselin Linder – Author - Joselin shares a personal story about the history (and future) of a genetic disorder that originated in her family.  
Marlene Donnely - FROGG Member, Benjamin Ellis Architect – What it will take for Gowanus to become the first Urban Industrial Site listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.
Eymund Diegel - Director, Public Lab – Eymund  will describe how he used high-resolution, aerial photography to uncover "Ghost Streams" that feed the Gowanus Canal.
Joseph Alexiou - Author /Journalist (Co-Curator of TEDxGowanus) - Will explain the importance of the Gowanus watershed in the first major conflict of the American Revolution, The Battle of Brooklyn.  
T.M. Rives - Author – Using the Native American origins of the name "Gowanus" as a starting point, Rives will elaborate on the often mistaken history of Native American culture and NYC.
Plus more to be announced!
This independently organized event licensed by TED will host a live audience of over 200 and will also be broadcasted live on www.TEDxGowanus.com.  Attendees will have exclusive access to an exhibit providing an opportunity to network and interact with booths and activities provided by local businesses and organizations.
Tickets are available at Brown Paper Tickets starting December 5, 2013 at 12:00pm.

Check Out the Gowanus Canal on The South Brooklyn Network!

Gowanus Canal Flushing Tunnel pumphouse on Baltic Street in Brooklyn. ©Mark D Phillips
Gowanus Canal Flushing Tunnel pumphouse on Baltic Street in Brooklyn. ©Mark D Phillips

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