Part of a much larger initiative by New York to clean up local waterways, the old Gowanus Station in Brooklyn, and its adjacent canal have been the subject of some controversy and proposed change in recent and even distant years. The latest, though this is a project still several years old, has to do with the construction of a water treatment facility where the Gowanus Station building was once prominent.
Many issues were added to the list of possible checklist items to finish this long-lived project from multiple EPA studies to new undertakings like tunnels and the preservation of Gowanus Station’s original brick facade. Despite well-documented knowledge of the canal’s polluted state and a need for ongoing cleanup efforts, the historical landmark status of certain buildings in the surrounding area, but not this one, has drawn ire from residents.
This leaves the project in a constant state of further development, and the different jobs involved that would ultimately complete the new facility continue to evolve.
Gowanus Canal and Gowanus Station: Still Cleaning Up
The new water treatment facility is part of an effort to clean New York City’s waterways and move away from an outdated combined sewer overflow (CSO) system that flushes most wastewater into NYC’s nearby rivers and coastlines. Gowanus Canal is one such site where the effects of this antiquated system are apparent to the point of being notorious.
While other buildings in the Gowanus area are slated for historical landmark status as symbols of the area’s industrial history, Gowanus Station narrowly missed being saved itself and was instead taken by the city of New York through eminent domain.
Some concessions were made between locals, the EPA, and the New York City once the 234 Butler St. building was slated for demolition, with the promise that the original bricks from the facade would be used. In March, just before construction and much of the city shut down due to the COVID-19 epidemic, the city attempted to go back on this promise and replace the facade with faux-aged bricks in order to save on costs and time.
Nearly everyone at every level disliked this. In late April, federal authorities, including the EPA, stepped in to state that the original plan would be kept: the original bricks from Gowanus Station must be used to construct the new corner facade. The new building in question is going to hold one of the two tanks that aim to stop sewage from entering the Gowanus Canal.
What Remains to Be Done on the Water Treatment Facility?
As essential construction work continues and some non-essential projects continue as an exception, the water treatment facility near the canal means ongoing work for local construction firms and tradespeople for another nine years.
For now, a major concern remains the preservation of the historic Gowanus Station in what ways it can be. The city wished to nix the use of the original bricks due to time and money concerns, and this in itself promises a sizable workload for those that can work with and maintain the integrity of vintage brick.
They call this a facade for a reason, though: it will sit outside just a part of all the new equipment and housing for a water treatment facility that may be Gowanus Canal’s only hope of getting cleaner and staying clean.