It wasn’t so long ago that the Brooklyn neighborhood of Gowanus had many of New York City’s (and the country’s) biggest developers chomping at the bit, throwing money around, planning huge residential projects that would transform the area’s post-industrial landscape. No small scale development in sight, these were big plans.
Who cares if the Gowanus Canal, which geographically defines the neighborhood, is one of the most polluted, most toxic, bodies of water on the planet? Gowanus apartments for rent and sale would be located between two of Brooklyn’s most desirable communities, Park Slope and Carroll Gardens, with an easy commute into Manhattan, so they would be easy to fill. Or so the thinking went.
Then something happened in the spring of 2010… or, I should say, Superfund happened, and suddenly all big-development bets were off.
Staring at a decade or more of remediation before any new construction could be done–not to mention the marketing challenge of selling luxury rentals and condos on an officially designated “toxic waste site”–the developers blinked, and Gowanus has been left to its own devices, continuing a period of slow, local-level growth. And there are plenty of people, both residents of existing Gowanus apartments as well as New Yorkers from all over town, who couldn’t be more happy about it.
The New York Times pointed out in a piece on Gowanus that ran recently, the sort of organic, small scale development that’s been happening here on the banks of the canal is a rare thing these days, in Brooklyn, or elsewhere in the city.
As Times reporter Marc Santora put it: “Artists and small businesses priced out of other neighborhoods have been taking up residence in the old warehouses. Nightclubs have popped up on streets that taxi repair shops and truck depots once dominated. Restaurants, bars and bakeries have all moved in, creating a scene that longtime Brooklyn residents compare to Dumbo before the multimillion-dollar lofts and Williamsburg before Bedford Avenue became a destination.”
If this sounds appealing, to live and work and play in a neighborhood mostly left to its own devices, then apartments in Gowanus, Brooklyn may be just the thing for you… toxic waste or no toxic waste. Among our favorite spots that give the neighborhood its home-grown appeal: Four and Twenty Blackbirds, a tiny shop that makes the best pies in town (pictured below); The Bell House, which not only consistently books great indie-minded bands (like the Feelies, above), but is also a terrific-looking space in which to see them play; and the Gowanus Grove (formerly BKLYN) an unlikely outdoor space hard by the Gowanus Canal (pictured from the Carroll Street bridge, three above) that hosts an excellent summer daytime party hosted by Mister Sunday. And the massive Whole Foods planned for the (almost) empty lot in the photograph that’s two above? The company still plans on going forward.