A cleaner, more accessible Gowanus waterfront: City of New York and EPA break ground on $1.6 billion pollution reduction and open space project

Mar 21, 2023

Last week, NYC Mayor Eric Adams, NYC DEP Commissioner Rohit Aggarwala, and EPA Region 2 Administrator Lisa Garcia broke ground on a $1.6 billion project to dramatically reduce pollution into the Gowanus Canal while introducing 3.6 acres of publicly accessible waterfront open space to the neighborhood.

The groundbreaking marks construction on the first of two storage tanks with the combined capacity to prevent up to 12 million gallons of sewer overflow during rainstorms into the Gowanus Canal. The second tank, which will be located at the bend of the canal on a triangular peninsula at Second Avenue and Sixth Street, will include two acres of public space designed by SCAPE in collaboration with Hazen & Sawyer, Brown & Caldwell, Selldorf Architects, and a larger team, wrapping 1,770 linear feet of the waterfront.

Balancing the operational needs of city infrastructure with meaningful open space for the public, the design has been shaped by a series of ongoing community workshops. Latest plans for the site include an approximately 3,000-square-foot tidal wetland at the western tip of the peninsula, water access at the Second Avenue street end, and NYC’s first-ever public ADA-accessible kayak launch at the Sixth Street turning basin. It also includes flexible plazas, amphitheater seating, lawns, and areas for outdoor education—all with flood-resistant plantings and materials inspired by the neighborhood’s ecological and industrial history.

“This project is a powerful statement about our city’s adaptability and determination, and we’re not stopping here in Gowanus. We want to make sure that every waterway in New York City is clean enough for the dolphins we saw in the Bronx River to swim in, and whenever we have opportunities to bring new public open spaces to communities that are crying out for them, we’re going to seize those chances,” said Mayor Adams.

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