Mapping Gowanus: Douglass b/w Bond and the Canal

After a brief hiatus, we are back with another entry in Mapping Gowanus.

Director and photographer Miska Draskoczy gives some background on his piece:

Douglass Street is the site of the recently reactivated Gowanus Flushing Tunnel which pumps water from the East River to the head of the canal in an effort to reduce stagnation and improve water quality. This new current stirs up quite a bit of gunk though, with putrid chemical slicks floating down and giving off nauseating fumes. My clip is a reflection on this somewhat questionable approach, as all water sources in the world are ultimately connected. The animation elements come from photos and video I shot on Douglass Street and nearby.

Check out more of Miska’s work (and if you aren’t familiar with his stunning Gowanus WIld photo series – you are in for a treat).

Mapping Gowanus: Bond b/w President & Union

Writer Donnaldson Brown (who has written a play, The Gowanus Canal Anthology) provided these musings on her recent stroll.

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Nothing makes visceral the relentless march of time quite like a walk through the Gowanus these days.

There is renewal. The yeasty aroma of bread baking for another event at the hip Green Building, which always has cars the vintage of old time mobsters parked outside. I don’t know why.

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And the freshly pointed and painted coops for sale. “Modern Beauty, Classic Brooklyn,” the realtor’s sign says.

 

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Maybe the “Classic Brooklyn,” is the view across the empty lot to the circa 1970 Chris Craft cabin cruiser sinking in the canal.

 

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Or the rusting corrugated metal fence sloping past a bulbous ship’s stanchion (now purple) across the street.

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I don’t know what they’re branding, “Classic Brooklyn.” But I suspect these realtors are not natives.

And something is ending here, too. Not just the dead cat decomposing beneath the chainlink fence and razor wire surrounding sleeping tour buses. Tour buses. A reminder that Brooklyn is a destination now. I’ve been here thirty years. Back when relatives gave me a worried look each time I admitted to living here. Back when the sidewalks glistened with splintered crack vials and hookers waited outside the cement mixing plant on Bond and 4th.  I’m not nostalgic for those shattered lives or for the decay.

But I am a little nostalgic for the moment, the time between what may have been the Gowanus’ nadir and the now established revival, with its developers excited like they’re at some charismatic Pentecostal service. A little nostalgic for the time when those settling here had to have some guts and vision, and maybe a little desperation, not just money. A little nostalgic for what had to make way. And what’s always on the other side of nostalgia? Anxiety.

My dogs and I amble through the Gowanus still. Our walk now punctuated by the pounding hydraulic pile driver sinking pole after pole of metal through the dirt and mud for the foundation of a 700-unit apartment building going up three blocks away. It’s good. For some. Housing for new families. Families with children and pets. For bakers and teachers and bankers. And….

…I balance on that purple stanchion teetering between nostalgia and apprehension.

Mapping Gowanus: Nevins b/w President & Carroll

Photographer James Maiello visited his block with his new Canon 6D w/40mm lens. He likes the new camera. But we all know it’s only as good as the person using it. It was hard to choose from Jim’s photos, and this is probably more than he thinks I should include. But I couldn’t resist.

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All photos © James Maiello.

Mapping Gowanus: Carroll st. b/w 3rd ave. & 4th ave.

Royal

By Amanda Gorman

Oh, yonder chime the bells of the emperor

Awakening the citizens of an imperial scene

A royal parade of shiny yellow carriages

Which their metal brethren proceed in between

 

Flowers for the queen giggle in thin green gowns

Muffled by cement petticoats which tie them to the ground

Quite satisfied to ponder, immobile, in a fissure

For a city prince who is nowhere to be found

 

Perhaps he is in the palace, a church with banners and a fence

Or, more likely, gratified by the safety provided by brick forts

Red cubed restaurants, square stoned walls

In a historic place, according to Colombus’ report

 

The prince sits warm in Cotta Bene

And he drinks to his pleasure bubbling potions

His chef prepares a dish that could make the desert’s mouth water

Still believe this is just a street? Let’s reexamine your notion

 

Even the sky blushes in compassion for this kingdom

And pales into a cloud-white pearl to further match

The royal embroidery of milky snow lining the avenue

In more numbers than Cotta Bene’s largest bread batch

 

The fanfare, a lovely orchestrated symphony for the matriarch

Of car horns, the violin-like sigh of the wind, and percussion of tires

First, as a soft hum with the engine, and a resonating roar against the gravel

Followed by the soundtrack of violent scarlet trucks heeding fires

 

But before you reach the end of this grand, open palace hall

At the banquet of kinds, the toasty Roothill café

Grab your raincoat cape and your beanie crown

And stop by the royal garden on your way

 

Where emerald vegetation whispers in the silence

Which amber sunlight breaks with a few well-placed chimes

It may be small, but this garden is worthy of Versailles

For it possesses a magic even an actor can’t pantomime

 

Cigar buds you say? Heaps of trash?

Dirty snow? Acrid smells?

Perhaps I missed these in my newfound heiress home

But I love it all the same, if not more, just as well

 

Yet I’m shocked that you do not hear the bells

They are always ringing, the sound gentle but clear

Perhaps the bells of the Gowanus are like my new emperor clothes

Hard to see and hard to hear

 

You can walk down Carroll street, the worn pavement well-lit

You can sit on 1st St, deciphering why the bells are silent with all your wit

But like everything in life, both the glamorous parts and painful bits

You will not find them unless, from the depth of your heart, a part so deep it is a pit

You are asking, and most of all, believing in it

 

And that faithful Brooklyn city pleasure

Is greater than any fantasy royal treasure

Because, although to Los Angeles I am loyal

There I may be a peasant, but in NY I’m always royal

 

Amanda stayed with us and got to know Gowanus while attending the UN Conference on Women and Girls as a delegate. Upon her return to her home in Los Angeles she started a campaign for global education. Visit onepencampaign.org  for more information.