Gowanus Lounge: Serving Brooklyn

What Will the Gowanus Artists Do?

May 10th, 2007 · 2 Comments

Among the many issues in the ongoing discussion about Gowanus rezoning and planning is how to preserve the neighborhood for the hundreds, if not thousands, of artists that are working there. One proposal, to make Gowanus an Artist’s District, or to at least provide some buildings where artists can work at low cost is the subject of a story in this week’s Observer, which also offers a nice thumbnail of the neighborhood:

How do you solve a problem like Gowanus? On the one hand, it’s an oddly quiet valley of low buildings and big skies between Park Slope and Carroll Gardens, where pedestrian bridges cut across a winding canal. On the other hand, it’s a fetid, carcinogenic cesspool that’s proven resistant to nearly 100 years of attempted detox. If you squint, it could be Amsterdam. If you inhale, it’s Love Canal.

But like the last debutante at the ball, Gowanus is starting to attract some suitors it doesn’t really deserve: Whole Foods is building a sprawling, two-acre complex within smelling distance of the canal; a 106-room Comfort Inn will soon open amid the empty lots and auto-repair shops; and developers like Toll Brothers and Shaya Boymelgreen are buying up land around the waterway with dreams of luxury high-rises.

All of which has Dana Matthews in a state.

Ms. Matthews, a photographer who rents 3,000 square feet of studio space above an industrial Laundromat, likes her Gowanus gritty—and affordable. So she’s proposing some new rules: Make Gowanus a specially zoned “Artists’ District,” where painters, sculptors, musicians, et al. would be free to get their art on without sweating the rent.

More than a thousand artists like Ms. Matthews have quietly established a thriving little community in Gowanus over the past 10 to 15 years, and her idea has become a topic of conversation. As they tell it, after being priced out of Soho, Chelsea, Dumbo and Williamsburg, the artists are finally entitled to a homeland.

It will be interesting, and revealing, to see whether space for artists is included in the Gowanus planning process. You can read the entire story here and, of course, visit the Brooklyn Artist’s Gym, which is in Gowanus, to get a sense of one approach to space for artists in the neighborhood.

Tags: Gowanus · Urban Planning

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Crown Heights Realatorian // May 10, 2007 at 10:21 am

    I thought the artists are going to Bushwick

  • 2 Matthew // May 10, 2007 at 11:00 pm

    While I would absolutely love to see NYC make an effort to take care of its artists, I haven’t an ounce of hope that it will actually happen, and will be utterly shocked if any kind of plan that actually includes artists (current and future) comes into being.

    Maybe it is just my own frustration shining through, but I feel as though it is now passing the point where it makes any sense at all to live in NYC as an artist, lest you already be successful and/or independently wealthy. Once this current wave of development has met its end the number of artists living and working in NYC will have dwindled to disgraceful numbers. I hope I’m wrong, though, because I am not really ready to start looking for another place to live just yet.