Is It A Waste?


The strangest sight of other worldly lumps and bumps planted with a variety of grasses and a smattering of young trees along the perimeter has been evolving under the Whitestone Bridge now for many years.

On a former landfill, closed in 1963, sits a World Class Golf Course. The New York Parks Department and Donald Trump have put years into its realization.

I have blogged a few times about repurposing landfills such as Fresh Kills and redeveloping Superfund Sights such as the Gowanus Canal. As the engineering gets more sophisticated and the understanding of toxic pollution over time gets known, we are creating some interesting solutions.

A few weeks ago, I attended a lecture on the Gowanus Canal.  I learned that its status as a Superfund sight puts the financial burden for the pollution primarily on National Grid and New York City.  This means that they are responsible for funding the clean up of the water, the sediment and the surrounding land.  The costs are staggering and may never be known.  So the city is giving incentives to developers in exchange for cleaning up the portion of land they want to build on.  Whole Foods was the first to step in and it took over five years.

a  - gowanus_0

There was even a pair of swans fishing in the water when Martin and I were there this weekend.  I hope they survive!  Eventhough, the reality was not quite as spectacular as the renderings full of open park land and people picnicking along the canal, it was a nice experience with its brick walls and greenhouse glass roof.  All creating the feeling of potentially good things to come.

The challenge for Gowanus will be our sewer system and heavy rain. We have a one use system that was built more than a hundred years ago.  All storm water, sewer water and household water goes into the same pipes.  These old pipes have a limited capacity to deliver the water to the treatment plants and clean it before it goes to the Gowanus that feeds into NY Harbor and the Atlantic Ocean.

You have been warned!  The following video is really bad!

How You Can Help:

  • Be aware that everything going down your drains has the potential to end up in the waterways around our city, especially during storms.
  • As hard as it is to support commercial development at times; if they come with resources to clean up our biggest mess. . . how bad can that be?
  • Take up golf?  Yes, the grounds are covered with pesticides and fertilizers to keep that course green and inviting for the wealthy few. . .it looks better than a landfill and the birds love it!
  • For more information about concerns due to gentrification and bad development. 
  • Look for  Joseph Alexiou has a new book coming out.     Gowanus: The Rise and Fall and Rise of Brooklyn’s Curious Canal.

Until next week,

Garbage Girl



2 thoughts on “Is It A Waste?

  1. So Aud, what do you think about golf courses? I am seriously torn about the resources needed to keep these “strange and beautiful” pieces of terra green…


    • I think they are fun to play on, they provide great exercise, they are cool in the summer, and they are becoming better designed for the environments they are built in. The biggest problem I see is that all of those chemicals to keep the grass green need to be carefully monitored. The potential for water contamination can be eliminated by managing the chemicals they use. In many areas of the country, water conservation is also an issue. Clubs need to examine changing irrigation amounts and intervals, using effluent water and wetting agents on the greens.
      Few courses could provide the quality of greens that members demand without the use of some pesticides and fertilizers. Pesticides need to be stored safely. Clubs should have concrete floors in their storage sheds with good ventilation and pesticides should be separated by group and inspected often. A spill cleanup procedure is a must. Pesticides should be chosen with an awareness on impact to pollinators.
      The club must decide whether to recycle or dispose of grass clippings, pesticide rinsate, batteries, motor oil, and solvents. Grass clippings can be repurposed by spreading them along roughs and around trees. Batteries can be turned over to a company that recycles them. Pesticide rinsate can be recycled in the field, but only if done in the proper doses.
      Proper golf course management can help protect and sustain existing wetlands. Golf courses provide large recharge areas that help supply wetlands with water and filter the water to help purify it before entering wetland areas. Also, golf courses help erosion control and serve as buffer zones between urban environments and wetland areas.

      So! Enjoy your game and encourage your club to take their environment as well as their course seriously.


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