The banks of the Gowanus Canal would become pollution-sucking sponges thanks to an innovative plan put forward this week by the Gowanus Canal Conservancy — but details for implementation remain as murky as the canal’s notorious waters.
The Conservancy on Monday unveiled its plan for a filth-fighting park that would use wetlands and other permeable surfaces to absorb rainwater that currently overwhelms the city’s antiquated sewer system and sends raw sewage into the canal.
Flora planted along the water’s edge and floating on the canal’s surface would also filter out heavy metals and toxins from the eerie canal.
Renderings of Sponge Park show couples snuggling along an esplanade amid flowering trees while brick warehouses and water towers loom overhead.
“A remediation landscape doesn’t have to be anti-urban,” said the project’s designer, Susannah Drake of dlandstudio, at the public unveiling at PS 58 in Carroll Gardens.
Drake said that elements like cafes fashioned from shipping containers could help maintain the area’s industrial character.
Public response was mostly positive. “How could anyone be against parks?” asked Buddy Scotto, a member of the Gowanus Canal Community Development Corporation.
“The question is, who’s gonna pay for it and who’s gonna maintain it?”
That’s up in air, admitted Conservancy Executive Director Bob Zuckerman.
“We haven’t even begun to take a look at the budget for this,” said Zuckerman, who has earned the nickname “Sponge Bob” because of his support for the innovative park.
Construction might take another decade.
Still in its earliest phase, the park plan stretches over a mix of public and private property from Douglass Street to 12th Street.
The Conservancy has not yet figured out how it will obtain all the land, which is becoming more and more expensive as residential developers remain hot for property on both banks of the diseased sludgeway.
Zuckerman said the group is working with developers like Toll Brothers and the Gowanus Green Partnership to incorporate the park system into both groups’ planned projects.
In the meantime, the park’s current name has put off at least one local resident.
“A sponge is nasty!” a woman declared during the comments session. “Have you ever had a sponge in your house? It stinks!”
Conservancy Chairman Andy Simons assured her that the name is just a metaphor.