Competition Objectives

Based on recent studies, it is likely that the Douglass and Degraw Street pool will be demolished in order to properly remediate the heavily contaminated soil below the pool, which is the site of the former Fulton Manfactured Gas Plant [MGP] site. GbD envisions this as an opportunity to consider a new urban typology while focusing on our protean relationship with water. Fresh water accounts for about 2% of all the water on the planet and as the climate continues to change, clean water is becoming a critical commodity. Its availability is subject to the vagaries of extreme weather patterns, such as droughts, hurricanes, and warm winters. Many designers are now evaluating the “embodied water” in their projects and seeking solutions that minimize the use of fresh water in a building’s construction and operations.

Despite the impact of climate change and efforts by the environmental and design communities, access and use of fresh water is still largely assumed to be a right, rather than a privilege. To challenge these assumptions, the competition program deliberately places two disparate uses of water on the same site. At the canal, the untreated sewage from RH-034, a Combined Sewer Overflow [CSO], is a conduit for waste entering the local environment. At the park, filtered water from the upstate reservoir system fills a pool that supports recreation. By redirecting the first 20% of each storm’s overflow to the park site where it will be stored in a retention tank during heavy weather events, the area in and around the park becomes an active participant in the water management solution that dramatically reduces the canal’s pollution. Design entries should present site-specific solution(s) that simultaneously explore water’s role in recreation, quotidian uses, and in contaminated urban environments, and demonstrate how a new community center and retention facility represent a more progressive view of our city's infrastructure. The jury will look for designs that explore these challenges and propose considering a stronger community node within an area that is slowly establishing its identity as a viable mixed-use urban neighborhood.

Canal Facts and History

The Gowanus Canal watershed is 1,758 acres. The combined sewer system serves 92%, or 1,612 acres. Of the remaining 8%, 2% is served by dedicated storm sewers and 6% is direct run-off into the canal. Pre-1840, the watershed drainage area was 1,286 acres where about 10,000 people lived. There were 439 acres of adjacent wetlands. Imperviousness of the land was 10%, with an annual wet weather discharge of 143 MG (modeled based on 1988 JFK rainfall). The top storm wet weather discharge was 8.8 MG with a peak run-off rate of 38.6 MG per day. Current statistics are as follows: drainage area is 1,758 acres where about 115,000 people live (2010 census). Imperviousness is 62% with an annual wet weather discharge of 473 MG. The top storm wet weather discharge is 33.6 MG with a peak run-off rate of 246.5 MG per day.

Cleanup Background

The party responsible for the remediation of the heavily contaminated MGP site is National Grid with oversight by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), in coordination with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) cleanup of the canal. As previously mentioned, this process will most likely require the demolition of the swimming pool and temporary closure of an important neighborhood amenity. Background information on this MGP site can be found at:

New York City is also under an order with the NYSDEC to bring its CSO discharges into compliance with the Clean Water Act.  By 2015, the City will need to submit a Long-Term Control Plan for the Gowanus Canal CSOs which analyzes what further improvements are warranted after the City completes the upgrades of the Buttermilk Channel flushing tunnel and the Butler Street pump station in 2013. More information can be found in the City’s detailed 2008 analysis of its current project:

Competition Awards

First Prize:$3,000

Second Prize:$1,000

Honorable Mentions: Up to six will be awarded at the discretion of the jury.

In addition to the winners, a selected group of submissions will be displayed at the exhibit in early 2013.