While New York City sat at the nexus of many important canals built in the 19th century — the Erie, Morris, and Delaware & Raritan among them — the city had its own internal network of lesser-known canals, some filled in, some never built, and some still with us today. As part of our ongoing virtual program series on canals, we will examine the ambitious schemes from the 17th century onward to connect the city’s bays and streams, from the Heere Graft of New Amsterdam to the Wallabout Canal of Brooklyn.
Concrete is the world’s most ubiquitous building material, and many important milestones of its development took place in Brooklyn. In this virtual program, we will examine concrete’s history, production, and chemistry, then discuss some of the landmark structures that drove the development of steel-reinforced concrete in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. From Gowanus to DUMBO, Prospect Park to the Brooklyn Navy Yard, we will look at monumental buildings and small details designed by some renowned architects, including Cass Gilbert, Albert Kahn, and Calvert Vaux.
In colonial New York, reliable power came from muscles (human and animal), firewood, and tides. From Spuyten Duyvil to Marine Park, Wallabout Bay to Flushing Bay, settlers turned many tidal marshes across New York’s vast estuary into millponds to run machinery as the water ebbed. In this virtual program, Brad Vogel of the Gowanus Dredgers Canoe Club and the Tide Mill Institute will share examples of this green energy from the past.
In late 2020, as part of the long-overdue cleanup of the Gowanus Canal Superfund site in Brooklyn, dredging of the toxic sediment began, and photographer, filmmaker, and writer Nathan Kensinger has been there to document it. For more than a decade, Nathan has been recording images and stories of New York City’s waterfront, with a special focus on the industrial landscapes, hidden ecosystems, and environmental challenges of coastal communities. In this conversation, Nathan will show some of his photography and film about the Gowanus and discuss the canal’s environmental history, the cleanup process, and the changing neighborhood around it.
Best known today for its pollution and gentrification, the Gowanus Canal is an historic waterway that has seen war, industry, innovation, and reinvention play out along its banks. We will speak with poet, preservationist, and paddler Brad Vogel, captain of the Gowanus Dredgers Canoe Club and executive director of the New York Preservation Archive, about the history of the Gowanus Canal over the past 300 years, as well as initiatives today to help the Gowanus small business community weather the current crisis.