Decades of industrial waste and raw sewage have turned Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal into one of the nation’s most polluted bodies of water. On the verge of an EPA cleanup, but still dangerously contaminated, the neighborhood along its banks is attracting boutique hotels, farm-to-table restaurants, and luxury apartments. Gowanus’s role as a place for manufacturing and a home for working class New Yorkers is changing fast.
GOWANUS CURRENT began in 2013, soon after the canal’s Superfund designation and just before the opening of the upscale Whole Foods Market. Starting before most of the obvious changes to the neighborhood are visible, we see Gowanus become a trendy nightlife destination, lose artists and small manufacturers, and enter an era of increasing community awareness. Neighborhood icons like the beloved Kentile sign are dismantled, while new landmarks like the 700-unit 365 Bond apartments gradually rise up. The Department of City Planning just released a transformative rezoning plan, and local groups struggle to have their needs addressed. This film will continue to explore the changes to the community as these mounting conflicts finally reach their resolution with City Council’s final decision on rezoning later this year.
The film takes a dual approach to immerse the viewer in the neighborhood, layering passages of sensory details with verite scenes featuring the people of Gowanus and their struggles. We want the audience to feel like they are there, imagine what changes to the neighborhood may bring, and consider what is most important in a community.
GOWANUS CURRENT will ask, Who are the winners and losers in this transformation? Is the neighborhood finally realizing its potential with an injection of money and energy, or is it being hollowed out as its deep-rooted jobs, artists, and residents are forced elsewhere? What do we attach value to in our communities, and what are we willing to give up? Gowanus’s real estate pressures, struggling manufacturing base, and neglected infrastructure are a sharp reflection of those exact concerns shared by many other part of this country. The neighborhood is a microcosm of the rest of urban America, and what is currently happening here will resonate with people across this country, and even abroad.