How do you clean up a toxic waterway that, every time it rains heavily, receives a new top layer of sewage? With sponge(-like plants) of course, a whole park full of 'em. The long-delayed Sponge Park, planned for the banks of the superfunded and thus largely developer-free Gowanus Canal, will soon start soaking up toxins.
Yesterday the Carroll Gardens Patch reported that the first section of Sponge Park, a pilot project along the canal's Second Street bank, will be installed in spring 2012. Designed by Brooklyn Heights-based architecture and landscape architecture firm dlandstudio, the park will function like a sponge, absorbing rain and storm water, and any overflow from the canal with strategically planted plants that will act as filters before releasing the water back into the canal.
The experimental park's pilot project is a partnership between dlandstudio and the Gowanus Canal Conservancy, and funded by a grant administered by the Department of Environmental Protection's Green Infrastructure Plan. Whether Sponge Park will eventually extend the entire length of the Canal is unclear, but for now the pilot project still needs approval from Community Board 6 and the DEP. Susannah C. Drake, president of dlandstudio, is confident they'll get the go-ahead, telling the Patch: "We were looking for a day-to-day way to manage this on a real level. It's just kind of what we do."
And it's true: earlier this year dlandstudio's entry in the Center for Architecture's imagineering exhibition project Glimpses of New York and Amsterdam in 2040 proposed carving a new canal into Long Island City to connect its many almost-connected transit systems. Here the goal is much simpler, but the variables much murkier (and muckier).