Gowanus Dredgers

November 15, 2010

The Gowanus Dredgers is a non-profit organization, that takes people out on the water in canoes for free to inspire them to become advocates and activists for waterfront access, and environmental clean up. This approach of actually getting people on the water to reconnect them with the shoreline, and the water in general which we a have all seemed to have forgotten, despite living on an island. Over all the dredgers strive to instill a desire for remediation of the decaying and polluted canal, and the harbor.

This organizations believes in educating the public about  the NY/NJ harbor as a space for recreation, education, tourism, commuting, and transportation of goods. Their volunteer programs monitor health of oyster gardens, and sea grass along the canal.

They have several programs that get people out on the water: Estuary Discovery Tours, South Brooklyn water front tours, Waterfront Bicycle tours, and in class educational sessions, which can be brought to school. These run from March to November 1st, but  are closed for the winter months. The dredgers also have a series of other small side projects, like waterfront resource mapping, and a 30 minute documentary film about the history and current condition of the gowanus canal, which you can buy on their website.

Now that the Canal has become a superfund there will be much more regulation from the EPA on what is actually happening on the canal, the amount of access that will be available in the future is uncertain. Clean up won’t start for the next few years, and they may be safe for then, but  certainly, when the actual dredging of the Gowanus begins, these guys may have to figure out a new launch spot for their small boats.

Here are the highlights of the Interview I sent to the Dredgers:

>>Will the dredgers still be allowed access to the waterfront?
There’s concern about the 2nd St public launch because of the Newtown Creek closures but we rent private property and could continue our programs from there.  We are more afraid of litigation and potential loss of insurance but fortunately, neither has occurred yet.

>>How will the relationship to the canal change in the future?
My personal view is that with Superfund, not much will change in the future.  Plans for change have abruptly been halted as a result of Superfund AND the economy.

>>Do you worry about threats of development on the canal with the clean up on the way?
Cleanup was pending when development was on the horizon.  Aside from the pump rehabilitation, there is no clean up on the way.  Based on the Superfund track record, I would think cleanup should start between 2030 and 2040 if it ever gets funded.  The EPA may start a “pilot project” by 2025 but that’s optomistic!

Gowanus Dredgers Oath:

We will never bring disgrace to this, our estuary, by any act of dishonesty or cowardice, nor ever our suffering comrade in the ranks.

We will fight for the ideals and sacred things of the waterfront, both alone and with many.

We will revere and obey the waterfront’s laws and do our best to include a like respect and reverence in those above us who are prone to annul or set them at naught.

We will strive unceasingly to quicken the public’s sense of civic duty.

Thus, in all these ways, we will transmit this estuary, not only less, but greater, better and more beautiful than it was transmitted to us.



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