Red Hook

BlueCity: A floating eco-lab planned for the waters off Red Hook

April 24, 2019 Mary Frost
BlueCity Lab, a floating industrial eco-lab and community space, is planned for the waters off South Red Hook's GBX~Gowanus Bay Terminal, shown above. Photo via Tim Gilman, executive director of RETI Center

A Brooklyn-based collective is planning to build a floating industrial eco-lab and community space in the industrial waters off South Red Hook.

BlueCity will combine a climate laboratory, classroom and training facilities, a public gathering space and floating gardens. The prototype, now in the planning and fund-raising stage, could eventually expand into an entire community of floating research and meeting spaces for commercial and water-based industrial uses.

John Quadrozzi Jr., the president of South Red Hook’s GBX~Gowanus Bay Terminal, has partnered with Brooklyn’s RETI Center and Pratt Institute professors Gita Nandan, principal of thread collective, and Zehra Kuz, founder of Oasis Design Lab, to build BlueCity. The prototype will float in GBX~ waters. Tim Gilman, executive director of RETI, heads the project from RETI’s end.

Quadrozzi envisions an industrial ecosystem called “inecsy…” at GBX~ on the Gowanus Bay, with waste-to-energy production and increased maritime operations.

He is also proposing to install solar-powered EV charging stations along the water’s edge, so visitors to BlueCity can charge their electric vehicles while they are on site.

As an owner of the rebranded historic Prospect Park Stable (previously Kensington Stables) and the new operating entity Be•Brooklyn equine, Quadrozzi wants to incorporate a horse manure composting program into the project and is looking into “doing a model anaerobic digestion with horse manure to power the facility — a more modern form of horse power but redefined,” he told the Brooklyn Eagle.

Councilmember Carlos Menchaca, who represents Red Hook, is working on funds for sidewalk and street side improvements, Quadrozzi said.

The collective also includes Space&Matter, a Dutch company that built a floating neighborhood in Amsterdam, and ONE Architecture, a New York City company with expertise in large-scale resilience infrastructure.

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“The first piece will be the BlueCity climate lab, and a place for people to hold events and have discussions about what it means to be resilient in New York City,” Nandan told the Eagle on Tuesday. “We are also looking at how our industrial waterfront can be built upon the water.” Quadrozzi calls this space “… on the edge of industry!”

New York City doesn’t inhabit its coastal edges well, Nandan said. The city’s waterfront is “lined with parks or hardened edges — storage boxes, Home Depots.” These hard edges “will be tenuous spaces in 100 years or so … or maybe even within our lifetimes.”

A floating city, however, “can rise with the tide,” she said.

The group envisions a science lab in the hull, with classroom and training facilities the next level up. Atop that would be a public gathering space, topped by a marine garden.

Brooklyn’s waterfront could be inundated

According to climate scientists on the New York City Panel on Climate Change, New York could see a roughly 2-foot increase in sea level rise by the 2060s and as much as a 6-foot increase under a worst-case scenario by 2100. Many of the waterfront buildings in Brooklyn and Queens will be in a flood zone.

Nandan said the group’s Dutch partners are important players in the plan because of their experience in building flood-resilient structures.

The Dutch, however, have still waters, Nandan said. “We have wave action and currents.”

The group is doing a mapping project now to find the calmest waters. So far, GBX~ is perfect, she said. “It experiences a 4- to 5-foot tidal change, but has very little wave action.”

Designs should be finished this summer, Nandan said, and a prototype could be placed in the water within the next year or two. The prototype might have the form of a “hollow concrete box” of a type first used as floating emergency landing strips during WWII.

The platform, ideally, would be fabricated at GBX~ and floated out into the water, Nandan said. “We’re talking to scientists and Quadrozzi about carbon capture concrete,” she added. The model structures, once established, could be fabricated in production at GBX~ and floated to waterfront sites all around Brooklyn and beyond.

The group is also exploring a textured surface that would attract beneficial species to become a marine habitat, like a reef.

“The issue of climate change is serious for New York City,” Nandan said. “So many New Yorkers live along the water’s edge, and the city will be dramatically transformed. BlueCity will be a public space where people can go to learn about this issue, get a positive perspective on adapting to climate change and how to live with this situation.”

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