Love that dirty water: The Gowanus Canal’s Union Street Bridge

Eye On Real Estate

March 23, 2016 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Bridge Over Troubled Water (thank you, Simon & Garfunkel for that lyric), AKA the Union Street Bridge. Eagle photos by Lore Croghan

Tainted Love.

That song by Soft Cell could serve as the sound track for a visit to the Gowanus Canal.

Just about everybody in Brooklyn is enamored of the dangerously dirty waterway, and rightfully so.

News for those who live, work and play in Brooklyn and beyond

Yes, yes, we know — it’s so famously filthy that it’s a federal Superfund cleanup site. Perversely, that’s part of the canal’s mystique.

If it weren’t so utterly polluted, we wouldn’t get to use expressions like “black mayonnaise” — which is what the ten-foot layer of coal tar, other industrial toxins and sewage at the bottom of the canal is called.

The poisonous waterway that wends its way through Gowanus (the neighborhood), Carroll Gardens and Red Hook down to Gowanus Bay offers vistas that are part urban decay, part upscale development and 100 percent mesmerizing.

And the five bridges that span the Gowanus Canal contribute to its picturesqueness.

The one with the biggest wow factor is, of course, the Carroll Street Bridge, which was built in 1888 and 1889, and is made of wooden planks. It has been an individual city landmark since 1987.


The other bridges are pretty great, too. We just photographed all five of them and some surrounding real estate so you can see for yourselves.

The one that’s closest to the head of the Gowanus Canal is the Union Street Bridge:

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Visitors to the Union Street Bridge near the border of Carroll Gardens and Gowanus are likely to get a good look at torrents of foam spewing into the waterway from the Gowanus Canal Flushing Tunnel.

We did on the day of our perambulation. The sudsy spume looks like dirty snowdrifts as it builds up behind a barrier in the canal.

When we turn our eyes to Union Street near the bridge, we see the Green Building, a former brass foundry built in 1889 that’s now an events venue. And there’s a nifty mural of fanciful aquatic creatures.  

The Union Street Bridge opened in 1905. It is a “double-leaf Scherzer rolling lift bascule,” a fact sheet from the city Department of Transportation indicates. That’s such a complicated explanation that we despair of defining it.

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