A new home for items found at the bottom of the Gowanus Canal

December 10, 2019 Scott Enman
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A local activist and landowner have teamed up to provide a temporary home for objects found at the bottom of the Gowanus Canal — and as it turns out, there’s a lot more than just black mayonnaise.

Resident Linda Mariano and John Quadrozzi Jr., president of the Gowanus Bay Terminal on the Red Hook waterfront, have agreed to watch over hundreds of artifacts removed from the toxic waterway until they can eventually be displayed in a permanent museum.

More than 275 relics — including a massive anchor, an electric iron and an antique coffee pot with its paint still intact — were removed from the canal’s Fourth Street Turning Basin as part of the waterway’s long-term clean up.

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The most common item was bricks from various companies. Other notable objects included wagon wheels, iron cleats and a wooden block with metal pulleys.

After the artifacts were retrieved, John Quadrozzi Jr. offered up the temporary storage space to keep them safe. With Quadrozzi is Linda Mariano of the Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group and Friends and Residents of Greater Gowanus. Photo: Paul Frangipane/Brooklyn Eagle

“The artifacts are important because we have a very important neighborhood,” Mariano told the Brooklyn Eagle. “One of the most important battles of the revolution was fought in Gowanus. Who knows about this? Practically no one. We have to bring that to the forefront and make it known in the country, and we will probably eventually discover some artifacts related to the revolution of 1776 in the canal or nearby.”

An old and rusted boat anchor helps tell the history of the Gowanus Canal. Photo: Paul Frangipane/Brooklyn Eagle

After the items were taken out of the water in June of last year, they were decontaminated, dated and archived in New Jersey.

Only the artifacts that could be thoroughly cleaned of their grime — and posed no health risks — were safe to be transported back to Brooklyn, where they currently sit in a shipping container on Quadrozzi’s property.

A pile of red bricks adorning their company names sit crumbled and chipped in the corner of the storage container. Photo: Paul Frangipane/Brooklyn Eagle

Fourteen items, including rubber tires, a piece of a wooden boat and spools of bright orange and blue carpet yarn were too polluted to be handed over.

Related: A massive steel wall is coming to the Gowanus Canal

Mariano said the Environmental Protection Agency’s lawyer Brian Carr, as well as Quadrozzi’s lawyer, signed an agreement passing custody over to Quadrozzi, though she said they truly are the property of the people.

A coffee pot still holds on to the majority of its white paint. Photo: Paul Frangipane/Brooklyn Eagle

“These items belong to the community and we are proud to have that designation and we will be looking forward to creating a museum for the items,” she said. “The items give us the history of the industrial development in Gowanus, which is so important. We need a repository. It’s important to highlight the history and the heritage here.”

Related: Quiet on the set! Giant soundproof wall going up around Gowanus Canal film studio

The canal’s turning basin is located at the intersection of Fourth Street and Third Avenue.

The underwater debris, accumulated over centuries, was removed from the area during the EPA’s pilot-dredging project in June 2018. The pilot involved a series of tests to determine the most effective methods for eventually cleaning the entire canal, which is slated to begin with dredging in August or September of 2020.

A wooden wheel remains largely intact. Photo: Paul Frangipane/Brooklyn Eagle

The Brooklyn Historical Society has offered to help research and archive the objects, according to Mariano, who said she can only imagine all of the important items waiting to be found in the main body of the 1.8-mile federal Superfund site.

“It’s wide open for all kinds of findings in the canal,” she said. “We certainly hope we do find more important items related not only to the industrial heritage and history of Gowanus, but to the revolution of 1776. I believe we will.”

Follow reporter Scott Enman on Twitter.

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  1. One can only imagine the finds- maybe bodies too-:( Sad canal was contaminated for so long, wouldn’t be interested in seeing any of the items. Remember the poor dolphin that wandered in and died.Glad it’s finally being cleaned, wonder if ‘Whole Foods’ had something to do with it.