Architects compete to spruce up the canal zone

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Pig — meet lipstick.

With development stalled along the Gowanus Canal, a group of architects is seeking ways to spruce up the noxious waterway.

Yes, it’s a design competition for the Gowanus Canal.

The contest was borne out of frustration with the city’s approach to planning around the waterway, which, critics said, took on a top-down approach.

At one time, the Department of City Planning intended to rezone the Gowanus corridor, protecting manufacturing uses in places but also allowing 12-story buildings along the water’s edge.

But when the feds named the waterway a Superfund site, developers abandoned the area, saying they couldn’t wait more than a decade for the $500-million clean-up, and the rezoning plan was placed on indefinite hiatus.

The group sees opportunity in the development vacuum.

“The goal is that the entries become food for thought and it allows the community to start to look at the way it wants to have the area developed,” said Carroll Gardens resident Anthony Deen, an architect and member of the design group.

The first place winner will win $1,000. More contests are planned in the future as part of the group’s overarching Lowline Competition, a play on Manhattan’s High Line Park — only lower — which seeks to raise awareness about possibilities along the waterway.

Residents are supportive.

“It is definitely important to bring people to the waterway,” said Gowanus resident Steven Miller. “We can all look forward to a day that the canal is clean and far more integrated into the community. Right now, it stands alone, and I think there is a lot of opportunity there.”

Contest backers said there is no proscribed way of thinking about how to better connect the canal to the neighborhood.

“A pedestrian footbridge, new signage, even bird houses along the canal are simple tools that serve as markers, communicate something, and show there is activity,” said David Krieger, managing director of the Gowanus Canal Community Development Corporation, an advocacy group that is sponsoring the contest.

The deadline to register is April 1. The winning entry will be announced in May. Register online at

Updated 5:23 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

anga from cg says:
The fact that a group of individuals care enough to enter the contest shows how many people seem to be interested in upgrading the Canal's appearance. It has looked like a dump for so long that something to beautify it has to be an improvement.
What would have happened if a 12 story apartment house complex been built and the video showing what comes down the canal occurred with those families living there. Shows where the city's head was at.
It is time to take this one step at a time to ensure the Canal gets cleaned and beautified so that anyone who lives or works there in the future is not on totally contaminated or dumpy looking grounds. Bravo architects
Feb. 26, 2011, 6:01 am
Margaret from GOWANUS says:
to anga of cg
I am a Gowanus resident and I don't quite see Gowanus as you do. Are you aware that Gowanus was chosen by the NY Historic Districts Council as one of six neighborhoods in the ENITRE NYC area to celebrate - and that is AS IS! This was EXTREMELY competitive - many many neighborhoods applied.

I am sorry to sounds skeptical, but if one of the sponsors of this competition is the Gowanus Canal Community Development Corp., I fear that this is the latest in their long list of attempts to usurp Gowanus for residential development - and the "bird" houses" ideas are like other Trojan Horses they have supported, like the walkways along the canal (before cleanup discussion even took place).

The challenge, as I see it, as a Gowanus resident of 27 years loving the open sky, the historic buildings, the industry here, the quiet feel of it - is that the architects and judges respect, acknowledge, and integrate what is celebratory about Gowanus into their visions. And Land Use is a BIG PART. If I see a bunch of high-rise condos and "senior living" "lower income" units (other "Trojan Horses" usurping Public Place site - land that is STILL designated for public recreational use, I will know at a glance what this is really all about....the same old story with a new "dress."
Feb. 26, 2011, 11:44 am

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