Red Hook’s working waterfront, home to boats … and goats
Red Hook’s GBX-Gowanus Bay Terminal is about as industrial a setting you’ll find in New York City’s urban environment.
The terminal is home to deep water marine docks, fuel companies, slag and scrap metal processors, a shipping depot — and goats.
Two adorable goats, named Goatwanus and Bay, scamper around the site gobbling up weeds and keeping the grounds well maintained.
The animals are “a perfect and natural means” of grounds keeping, says John Quadrozzi Jr., the president of the terminal.
“This is a very industrial working waterfront site,” he told the Brooklyn Eagle on Tuesday. “The goats climb piles and go between things. That’s their job.”
Before the arrival of the shaggy critters, the 13 acres above water (33 acres are below water, including piers) had to be kept clear of weeds by gas-powered cutters, lawn mowers and herbicides, Quadrozzi said. It was the use of the herbicide that bothered him the most.
“One day I ran into an article about how harmful herbicides were to human health, and I started looking for alternatives,” he said. “I tried vinegar. It’s not so effective.
“Then I read stories about people using sheep and goats. I read that sheep graze, eating grass, while goats are browsers, eating a diversified diet including weeds. So I decided to try them.”
Quadrozzi traveled to the Syracuse County Fair and spoke to experts about his idea.
“I brought the goats back from Syracuse,” he said.
Goatwanus is a Nubian goat and Bay is an Alpine goat. Both are gelded males. “They’re very sweet and personable,” Quadrozzi said. When he is walking with business visitors on site, “They come over and say hello, then go back to eating weeds.”
They also work as a traffic calming measure, as vehicles “drive nice and slow” when their drivers see the goats. “It makes for a more social and safer atmosphere,” he said.
“I had no idea what charming animals goats are,” Quadrozzi enthused. “They’re very sweet. They cuddle with you and walk with you. They do these crazy acrobatic dances when they’re happy.”
Quadrozzi said his two daughters, ages 13 and 17, love to walk around with the “kids.”
Goatwanus and Bay spend their nights in an old masonry building on the grounds. “It’s pretty substantial compared to a wooden barn,” Quadrozzi said. “At dawn, we let them go out.”
Being prey animals, the goats would rather not spend the night outside, he said.
“Usually, they come in all by themselves when you call them.”
Hopes to Change NYC Law
Despite their utility, goats are illegal to keep in New York City. Quadrozzi had to obtain an exhibit permit in order to use them. Under the terms of the permit, they must be returned to Syracuse over the winter.
“We’re looking to change that as we go forward,” he said. The terminal is working with Gwen Schantz, CEO of Brooklyn Grange, who helped him “shape the concept” and is helping to put together legislation that will allow goats to be a working part of New York City’s “industrial eco-system” Quadrozzi calls “inecsy.”
Quadrozzi says it was an article in the Brooklyn Eagle about a goat experiment in DUMBO that inspired him to contact Brooklyn Grange.
“Together we hope it brings about both positive change and inspires other industrial locations to think creatively in the ongoing effort to improve our world,” he said.
The terminal also partners with Added Value farm in Red Hook, where the goats eat waste.
How did the president of the GBX-Gowanus Bay Terminal get so green?
Quadrozzi said he grew up next to Jamaica Bay and surrounded by animals – a sort of “Huck Finn” type of childhood.
As an industrial complex, “we need to have the right type of practices to be acceptable,” he said. “We started with green products like slag, and focused on maritime transportation, which reduces truck traffic. We’re talking to the Harbor School about habitat restoration. We want people to understand the importance of the working waterfront and maintaining our industrial infrastructure. Dollars are driving much of this land use away; it’s being rezoned for residential.”
“People should be aware of the good things that are happening on the Brooklyn waterfront,” he added.