Since the Omnibus crew decamped from our previous digs on the banks of the Gowanus Canal this past fall, we’ve tried to hold ourselves back from reblogging every time its tortuous path to cleanup makes the news. But today that path became a little clearer – the Canal has been designated a Federal Superfund site. According to The New York Times, “The E.P.A. estimates that the federal cleanup will last 10 to 12 years and cost $300 million to $500 million.” The City expressed disappointment; its own plan claimed to be “a faster route to a Superfund-level cleanup and would have avoided the issues associated with a Superfund listing” including costly litigation and a stigma that will likely change development priorities. Nonetheless, spokespeople for City Hall have promised to work closely with federal agencies to achieve everyone’s stated goal – a clean canal.
In addition to following canal news closely in our roundups, we’ve reviewed art projects about it, shared videos shot along it, and co-hosted (along with our friends at the Center for Urban Pedagogy) a live talk show that went beyond the slugfest community meetings about Superfund designation to mine the environmental and biological histories of toxins. To analyze the EPA’s Superfund program in the context of emerging art forms informed by both eco-visualization and internet-based art practice. To connect the local landscape to national precedents. To ponder what any of this has to do with the ethics of risk, the implications for financing local development, the design of our environments. Given today’s news, maybe it’s time for a look back at some of the ideas that emerged from that event. Below are video excerpts from the presentations of our three panelists last summer, artist Brooke Singer, environmental historian Sarah Vogel and environmental activist Anne Rabe.