The Gowanus Canal - South

Fifth / Sixth Streets

5th St is bisected by the canal. 6th Street only exists on the east side of the canal with the analogous street on the west side called Nelson St.

The six acre brownfield on the west bank of the Gowanus Canal between 5th and Nelson Streets was the home of a manufactured gas plant (MGP) which converted coal to gas for use in buildings, street lights and industrial processes. Manufactured gas was widely used in the late 19th and early 20th century, but competition from oil and natural gas led to the end of most manufactured gas production by the mid 1960s.

The plant at this location was built by Citizens Gas Company and opened soon after the Gowanus Canal opened in the 1860s and provided convenient shipping of coal to the plant. The plant initially consisted of three gas holding tanks, a retort house and coal storage areas. The plant was purchased by Brooklyn Union Gas (later renamed KeySpan) in 1895. A fertilizer plant on the lot just to the south closed sometime before 1915 and that lot was used for additional tar handling facilities and oil storage tanks. The plant reached its peak size and output in 1939. As manufactured gas became less popular, the site was converted to an oil gasification plant in 1952 before closing in the 1960s. The plant was subsequently demolished and Brooklyn Union Gas sold the land in 1969.

Manufactured gas production creates significant toxic materials, notably coal tars that seep into the ground and do not degrade with time. The careless handling practices of the 19th and early 20th century lead to significant contamination of the area and ignorance of the problem once the facilities had been demolished. The lot to the northeast on the canal became a concrete plant. The lot to the north along Smith St became a truck maintenance facility and parking lot. In 1971, a large warehouse was built on the lot to the south. The main lot itself remained barren when I visited in 2008, although plans were to get superfund money to clean up the site and turn it into a mixed-use development for the wealthy and powerful called "The Public Place".

Old manufactured gas plant site
11/19/2008 03:38 PM
Old manufactured gas plant site
Old manufactured gas plant site
11/19/2008 03:38 PM
Old manufactured gas plant site
Entry gate to old plant site
11/19/2008 03:39 PM
Entry gate to old plant site
Concrete plant - old MGP site 5th at Hoyt Sts
11/19/2008 03:35 PM
Concrete plant - old MGP site 5th at Hoyt Sts
East side of the concrete plant
11/19/2008 03:30 PM
East side of the concrete plant
Warehouse parking lot on southern end of MGP site
11/19/2008 04:18 PM
Warehouse parking lot on southern end of MGP site
Warehouse on southern end of MGP site
11/19/2008 04:19 PM
Warehouse on southern end of MGP site
Gowanus Canal from the Culver Viaduct - Old MGP site in the distance
11/19/2008 04:30 PM
Gowanus Canal from the Culver Viaduct - Old MGP site in the distance

St. Mary's Playground

St. Mary's Playground is a parks facility under the 9th Street subway viaduct. It is named for the nearby St. Mary's Star of the Sea Roman Catholic Church, which was founded in 1851 and given a name common to sea-faring communities. The viaduct for the IND Crosstown line opened in 1933. The land was acquired by the NY Dept. of Transportation in 1934 by the WPA with the intention of using it for the proposed Gowanus Expressway. The expressway was routed to the south (opening in 1941) and in 1955 the land was transferred to the Parks Department. The first playgrounds opened in the late 1960s.

Ninth St Subway Viaduct curving over Smith St
11/19/2008 03:39 PM
Ninth St Subway Viaduct curving over Smith St
Culver Viaduct curving over Smith St
11/19/2008 04:15 PM
Culver Viaduct curving over Smith St
St. Mary's Park
11/19/2008 03:41 PM
St. Mary's Park
St. Mary's Park
11/19/2008 03:41 PM
St. Mary's Park
St. Mary's Park
11/19/2008 03:42 PM
St. Mary's Park
St. Mary's Park
11/19/2008 03:42 PM
St. Mary's Park
Alley off Nelson St
11/19/2008 03:43 PM
Alley off Nelson St
St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church - Court Street
11/19/2008 03:47 PM
St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church - Court Street
St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church
11/19/2008 04:12 PM
St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church
496 1/2 Court St
11/19/2008 04:12 PM
496 1/2 Court St

Meanwhile on the far more industrial east side of the canal, just north of the corner of 5th Street sits a small subterranean pumping station that seems to be unrelated to the Butler/Douglass St pumping station. Although I haven't found any reference to the 5th St pumping station in the Army Corps of Engineers documentation or online, I could definitely hear water gurgling through grates in the sidewalk, and I presume that the water flushes the 4th and/or 6th Street basins.

2nd Ave at 5th St
12/18/2008 02:52 PM
2nd Ave at 5th St
Pumping station
12/18/2008 02:52 PM
Pumping station
Warehouses on the northwest bank of the canal just south of 3rd St
12/18/2008 02:53 PM
Warehouses on the northwest bank of the canal just south of 3rd St
Looking west down 5th St from 2nd Ave toward the canal
12/18/2008 02:53 PM
Looking west down 5th St from 2nd Ave toward the canal
Worldwide Tours / Great Escapes bus garage - 33 2nd Ave
12/18/2008 02:56 PM
Worldwide Tours / Great Escapes bus garage - 33 2nd Ave
Omega Express bus garage 35 2nd Ave
12/18/2008 02:57 PM
Omega Express bus garage 35 2nd Ave
Looking west on unnamed street between the 4th and 7th St basins
12/18/2008 02:56 PM
Looking west on unnamed street between the 4th and 7th St basins
Looking south on 2nd Ave from 7th St
12/18/2008 02:57 PM
Looking south on 2nd Ave from 7th St
Architectural Grille / Rock Salt Depot - 53 2nd Ave
12/18/2008 02:57 PM
Architectural Grille / Rock Salt Depot - 53 2nd Ave
Looking east down 8th St from 2nd Ave
12/18/2008 02:58 PM
Looking east down 8th St from 2nd Ave

Eagle Clothes opened a plant on 6th St between 3rd/4th Avenues in 1951. They filed for bankruptcy in 1989, although their sign has remained, perhaps because its sturdy construction will require considerable effort to demolish. (VanishingNewYork)

Eagle Clothes Sign - 6th St btw 2nd/3rd Aves
12/18/2008 02:46 PM
Eagle Clothes Sign - 6th St btw 2nd/3rd Aves
Looking up 3rd Ave from 6th St
12/18/2008 02:47 PM
Looking up 3rd Ave from 6th St
Round warehouse window - 6th St @ 3rd Ave
12/18/2008 02:47 PM
Round warehouse window - 6th St @ 3rd Ave
Looking west down 6th St
12/18/2008 02:48 PM
Looking west down 6th St
Dykes Lumber
12/18/2008 02:48 PM
Dykes Lumber
6th St Iron and Metal
12/18/2008 02:49 PM
6th St Iron and Metal
Metal recycling - 6th St
12/18/2008 02:49 PM
Metal recycling - 6th St
Metal recycling - 6th St
12/18/2008 02:50 PM
Metal recycling - 6th St
US Recycling - 141 6th St
12/18/2008 02:51 PM
US Recycling - 141 6th St
US Recycling - paper
12/18/2008 02:50 PM
US Recycling - paper
Looking east down 6th St from 2nd Ave
12/18/2008 02:55 PM
Looking east down 6th St from 2nd Ave

Seventh / Eighth / Huntington Streets

7th and 8th Streets only exist on the east side of the canal, with the closest analagous street on the west side being Huntington Street.

Concrete plant - Smith at Huntington Sts
11/19/2008 04:16 PM
Concrete plant - Smith at Huntington Sts
Concrete plant
11/19/2008 04:24 PM
Concrete plant
Huntington St dead end into the canal
11/19/2008 04:17 PM
Huntington St dead end into the canal
Huntington St dead end into the canal
11/19/2008 04:17 PM
Huntington St dead end into the canal
7th Street Basin on east side of the Gowanus Canal at Huntington St
11/19/2008 04:18 PM
7th Street Basin on east side of the Gowanus Canal at Huntington St
Looking north up the Gowanus Canal at Huntington St
11/19/2008 04:18 PM
Looking north up the Gowanus Canal at Huntington St
Warehouses on east bank at Huntington St
11/19/2008 04:19 PM
Warehouses on east bank at Huntington St
Warehouses just north of 9th St
11/19/2008 04:30 PM
Warehouses just north of 9th St

Culver Viaduct / Ninth Street Bridge / Smith Street Station

This is actually two bridges in one.

The upper Culver Viaduct houses the IND Smith/9th Street Station opened on 7/1/1933 and is the highest elevated station in the NYC subway system, sitting 91 feet over the Gowanus Canal. It has two truss spans surrounding the platforms.

Underneath the subway station is a vertical lift bridge for 9th Street (NYC BIN #2240240). This bridge opened in 2000 to replace a deteriorated bascule bridge originally built in 1903 on the same contract with the Union and Third Street bridges further up the canal. The lift span is 82 feet to provide a channel width of 60 feet under three lanes of traffic and two sidewalks. When raised, the lift span provides a vertical clearance of 60 feet above mean high water. Because the bridge sits underneath another bridge, the normal configuration of two counterweights over the roadway on either side was not possible while providing the maximum clearance, necessitating the unusual use of four counterweights - one on each pillar. The bridge was designed by Hadesty and Hanover, LLP Consulting Engineers

The viaduct concrete deteriorated considerably over the years and a fabric cladding was wrapped around the supporting structure to prevent chunks of concrete from falling off and causing damage or injury. (NY Times 2009).

Culver Viaduct over the Gowanus Canal - viewed from the SW
6/19/2008 05:23 PM
Culver Viaduct over the Gowanus Canal - viewed from the SW
Culver Viaduct
6/19/2008 05:23 PM
Culver Viaduct
Southern part of canal btw the subway viaduct and the Gowanus Expressway
6/19/2008 05:10 PM
Southern part of canal btw the subway viaduct and the Gowanus Expressway
Gowanus canal north of 9th St Bridge
6/19/2008 05:17 PM
Gowanus canal north of 9th St Bridge
Looking north up the Gowanus Canal from the 9th St Bridge
11/19/2008 04:23 PM
Looking north up the Gowanus Canal from the 9th St Bridge
Gowanus canal south of 9th St Bridge
6/19/2008 05:16 PM
Gowanus canal south of 9th St Bridge
IND tracks - Culver Viaduct
6/19/2008 05:10 PM
IND tracks - Culver Viaduct
IND tracks - Culver Viaduct
6/19/2008 05:10 PM
IND tracks - Culver Viaduct
IND tracks - Culver Viaduct
6/19/2008 05:10 PM
IND tracks - Culver Viaduct
Culver Viaduct bridge truss over the Gowanus Canal
6/19/2008 05:11 PM
Culver Viaduct bridge truss over the Gowanus Canal
IND tracks headed north toward downtown Brooklyn and Manhattan
6/19/2008 05:12 PM
IND tracks headed north toward downtown Brooklyn and Manhattan
9th St Bridge under Culver Viaduct
6/19/2008 05:15 PM
9th St Bridge under Culver Viaduct
9th St Bridge rededication plaque
6/19/2008 05:16 PM
9th St Bridge rededication plaque
9th St Bridge lift mechanism
6/19/2008 05:17 PM
9th St Bridge lift mechanism
9th St Bridge lift mechanism SE tower
6/19/2008 05:17 PM
9th St Bridge lift mechanism SE tower
Protective cladding on the Culver Viaduct
11/19/2008 04:24 PM
Protective cladding on the Culver Viaduct
Protective cladding on Culver Viaduct
6/19/2008 05:18 PM
Protective cladding on Culver Viaduct
Protective cladding on Culver Viaduct
6/19/2008 05:18 PM
Protective cladding on Culver Viaduct
Looking east under the Culver Viaduct from 2nd Ave
12/18/2008 03:01 PM
Looking east under the Culver Viaduct from 2nd Ave
Court St Office Supplies - 112 2nd Ave under the Culver Viaduct
12/18/2008 03:01 PM
Court St Office Supplies - 112 2nd Ave under the Culver Viaduct

4th Avenue IND Station

The IND subway line continues east from the canal on the elevated viaduct between 9th and 10th streets to the elevated 4th Avenue Station.

This station and the 9th/Smith St station are "local" stations, although there is actually no service on the express tracks, which may have been built simply to provide an opportunity for future system expansion. The southbound G train terminates at 9th/Smith, then performs a crossover at the 4th Avenue station, resting on the express track east and then performing another crossover to return on the northbound local track, thus making it difficult to actually implement express service on the express tracks. The tracks go subterranean at 4th Street as they head toward Prospect Park and the F train terminus at Coney Island.

4th Ave IND station - looking west
12/18/2008 02:08 PM
4th Ave IND station - looking west
G train waiting at 4th Ave IND station
12/18/2008 02:09 PM
G train waiting at 4th Ave IND station
G train waiting at 4th Ave IND station
12/18/2008 02:10 PM
G train waiting at 4th Ave IND station
G train crossing over to northbound tracks
12/18/2008 02:10 PM
G train crossing over to northbound tracks
4th Ave IND station - south side
12/18/2008 02:13 PM
4th Ave IND station - south side
4th Ave IND station - south side
12/18/2008 02:14 PM
4th Ave IND station - south side
VFW Post 9485 in 4th Ave IND station
12/18/2008 02:14 PM
VFW Post 9485 in 4th Ave IND station
Closed entrance
12/18/2008 02:15 PM
Closed entrance
Arch detail
12/18/2008 02:15 PM
Arch detail
Closed entrance
12/18/2008 02:15 PM
Closed entrance
North side
12/18/2008 02:16 PM
North side

Ninth - Twelfth Streets

Looking east down 9th St from 2nd Ave
12/18/2008 02:59 PM
Looking east down 9th St from 2nd Ave
Warning, Guard Dogs - 2nd Ave
12/18/2008 03:02 PM
Warning, Guard Dogs - 2nd Ave
Ennis Playground - 11th St btw 2nd/3rd Aves
12/18/2008 03:03 PM
Ennis Playground - 11th St btw 2nd/3rd Aves
Ennis Playground
12/18/2008 03:03 PM
Ennis Playground
Feral cat
12/18/2008 03:04 PM
Feral cat
Looking down 2nd Ave from 12th St - Sanitation Dept. trucks and plows
12/18/2008 03:05 PM
Looking down 2nd Ave from 12th St - Sanitation Dept. trucks and plows
Sanitation Dept. truck garage
12/18/2008 03:06 PM
Sanitation Dept. truck garage
Commercial photographer - 2nd Ave btw 12th/13th St
12/18/2008 03:07 PM
Commercial photographer - 2nd Ave btw 12th/13th St
Warehouse - NW corner of 2nd Ave @ 14th St
12/18/2008 03:08 PM
Warehouse - NW corner of 2nd Ave @ 14th St
Lowes - Hamilton Place @ 12th St
12/18/2008 03:09 PM
Lowes - Hamilton Place @ 12th St
2nd Ave side of Lowes
12/18/2008 03:02 PM
2nd Ave side of Lowes
A strip mall grows in Brooklyn - PathMark - Hamilton Place @ 12th St
12/18/2008 03:11 PM
A strip mall grows in Brooklyn - PathMark - Hamilton Place @ 12th St
PathMark
12/18/2008 03:22 PM
PathMark
PathMark
12/18/2008 03:09 PM
PathMark

The businesses most actively using the canal are on the lower half of the canal and deal with heavy, time-insensitive commodities like gravel, fuel oil and scrap metal that are perfectly suited to shipping by water. Accordingly, a concrete plant, scrap metal yard and fuel oil terminal are located on the west bank of the canal between 9th street and Hamilton Avenue - with ready access to the main roads through the area and water access requiring raising only the Hamilton Parkway bridge.

Gowanus Canal between 9th St and Hamilton Ave
12/18/2008 03:24 PM
Gowanus Canal between 9th St and Hamilton Ave
Concrete plant, scrap metal yard, fuel oil terminal
12/18/2008 03:23 PM
Concrete plant, scrap metal yard, fuel oil terminal
Unloading limestone
12/18/2008 03:22 PM
Unloading limestone
Unloading limestone
12/18/2008 03:22 PM
Unloading limestone
Unloading limestone
12/18/2008 03:12 PM
Unloading limestone
Unloading limestone
12/18/2008 03:12 PM
Unloading limestone

Hamilton Avenue Bridge

This southernmost crossing of the canal is another two-for-one bridge, with the Gowanus Expressway on the upper viaduct and the Hamilton Avenue bascule drawbridge directly below it. The drawbridge contains two separate parallel spans (one for eastbound, one for westbound - NYC BIN #2240231/2). This has been a very popular crossing point since the canal was a creek and a number of different bridges have been built here since the mid 19th century, including bascule bridges in 1905 and 1942. It was renovated around 2005, although I'm not sure how much of the 1905/1942 bridge (if any) was incorporated into the renovation.

Hamilton Avenue drawbridge
12/18/2008 03:14 PM
Hamilton Avenue drawbridge
Concrete plant north of the bridge
12/18/2008 03:14 PM
Concrete plant north of the bridge
Sign on NW anchorage - Leaving the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn Community Board 6
12/18/2008 03:14 PM
Sign on NW anchorage - Leaving the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn Community Board 6
Looking north on the canal from Hamilton Avenue
12/18/2008 03:14 PM
Looking north on the canal from Hamilton Avenue
Under the Gowanus Expressway viaduct looking west toward the Hamilton Avenue Bridge
12/18/2008 03:17 PM
Under the Gowanus Expressway viaduct looking west toward the Hamilton Avenue Bridge
Detail of Gowanus Expressway viaduct
12/18/2008 03:18 PM
Detail of Gowanus Expressway viaduct
Deck of Hamilton Avenue drawbridge viewed from the southeast
12/18/2008 03:19 PM
Deck of Hamilton Avenue drawbridge viewed from the southeast
Eastbound (southern) lane deck of the Hamilton Avenue drawbridge
12/18/2008 03:20 PM
Eastbound (southern) lane deck of the Hamilton Avenue drawbridge
Westbound (northern) lane deck
12/18/2008 03:22 PM
Westbound (northern) lane deck
Hamilton Avenue bridge operator house
12/18/2008 03:21 PM
Hamilton Avenue bridge operator house
Barge access bridge - northwest of Hamilton Ave drawbridge
12/18/2008 03:22 PM
Barge access bridge - northwest of Hamilton Ave drawbridge
Northern lanes of Hamilton Avenue drawbridge
12/18/2008 03:24 PM
Northern lanes of Hamilton Avenue drawbridge
Looking south on the Gowanus Canal from the Hamilton Avenue drawbridge toward the bay
12/18/2008 03:20 PM
Looking south on the Gowanus Canal from the Hamilton Avenue drawbridge toward the bay

DOT Hamilton Plant

This is where New York City's streets come from. Just to the south of Hamilton Avenue on the east bank of the Gowanus Canal is the NYC Department of Transportation's Hamilton Plant where asphalt paving material (asphalt concrete) is made by combining gravel and the thick liquid residue from the distillation of crude oil.

Gravel barges at the DOT Hamilton Plant
12/18/2008 03:20 PM
Gravel barges at the DOT Hamilton Plant
DOT Hamilton Plant
12/18/2008 03:27 PM
DOT Hamilton Plant
DOT Hamilton Plant
12/18/2008 03:27 PM
DOT Hamilton Plant
DOT Hamilton Plant
12/18/2008 03:29 PM
DOT Hamilton Plant
Department of Sanitation garage east of the DOT Hamilton Plant
12/18/2008 03:29 PM
Department of Sanitation garage east of the DOT Hamilton Plant
NY Auto Auction - 499 Hamilton Ave
12/18/2008 03:31 PM
NY Auto Auction - 499 Hamilton Ave

Red Hook

As the Gowanus Canal empties into the bay, to the west is the Red Hook neighborhood which was originally settled by the Dutch in 1636 and was later annexed into Brooklyn. After the American Civil War, developer and railroad contractor William Beard (1806-1886) initiated the development of what has been marshland into Erie Basin, a man-made harbor and storage depot that began the boom in Brooklyn dock activity. After WW-II, dock activity diminished considerably with the advent of containerization and the movement of most port shipping to New Jersey. The neighborhood was also cut off from Brooklyn with the opening of the Cross-Bronx Distressway and the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, and had no subway service, leaving it perennially depressed and, untimately, ripe for adventurously greedy developers during the building boom of the early 2000s. In 2006 Fairway opened a grocery store in the Civil-War-era Red Hook Stores building. In 2008, the furniture store Ikea opened an outlet on the site of the former Todd Shipyards.

For more info on Red Hook, including historic photos, see Forgotten-NY.com and RedHookWaterfront.com

Erie Basin viewed from the harbor
3/12/2009 02:15 PM
Erie Basin viewed from the harbor
Grain silo - built in 1922 to store grain for breweries
6/19/2008 05:38 PM
Grain silo - built in 1922 to store grain for breweries
Grain silo
6/19/2008 05:41 PM
Grain silo
Garden
6/19/2008 05:45 PM
Garden
Ikea, 1 Beard St.
6/19/2008 05:48 PM
Ikea, 1 Beard St.
Crane
6/19/2008 05:48 PM
Crane
Crane
6/19/2008 05:49 PM
Crane
Crane over Ikea
6/19/2008 05:49 PM
Crane over Ikea
Erie Basin
6/19/2008 05:50 PM
Erie Basin
School bus parking yard
6/19/2008 05:51 PM
School bus parking yard
Cobblestones on Beard St
6/19/2008 05:52 PM
Cobblestones on Beard St
The Hook - 280 Richards
6/19/2008 05:52 PM
The Hook - 280 Richards
Vacant land awaiting gentrification
6/19/2008 05:53 PM
Vacant land awaiting gentrification
Beard St
6/19/2008 05:53 PM
Beard St
Old warehouses on Beard St
6/19/2008 05:55 PM
Old warehouses on Beard St
Erie Basin warehouse pier
6/19/2008 05:55 PM
Erie Basin warehouse pier
Warehouse pier
6/19/2008 05:56 PM
Warehouse pier
Van Brunt Street
6/19/2008 05:57 PM
Van Brunt Street
152 Beard St gentrification
6/19/2008 05:58 PM
152 Beard St gentrification
Flowered sidewalk on Beard St
6/19/2008 05:58 PM
Flowered sidewalk on Beard St
Red Hook Stores / Fairway
6/19/2008 06:00 PM
Red Hook Stores / Fairway
Red Hook Stores
6/19/2008 06:04 PM
Red Hook Stores
Red Hook Stores
6/19/2008 08:17 PM
Red Hook Stores
Waterfront Museum
6/19/2008 06:04 PM
Waterfront Museum
Survivor - 26 Reed St
6/19/2008 06:01 PM
Survivor - 26 Reed St
Verrazanno Bridge at sunset
6/19/2008 08:18 PM
Verrazanno Bridge at sunset
Red Hook waterfront - Statue of Liberty at sunset
6/19/2008 08:20 PM
Red Hook waterfront - Statue of Liberty at sunset
Warehouse on Imlay St at twilight
6/19/2008 08:36 PM
Warehouse on Imlay St at twilight