A developer wants to install six dumpsters filled with dirt and plants in parking spaces around Gowanus this summer, which it says will help soak up rainwater to keep it from flooding the canal — surprising locals who say it is nice to see real estate tycoons finally bringing something other than luxury condominiums to the community.
“It’s new for me to have developers coming to the neighborhood and doing something positive,” said Park Slope resident Joanna Oltman Smith at Thursday’s Community Board 6 transportation committee meeting. “It provides much needed infrastructure in the neighborhood.”
The committee voted unanimously to approve Alloy Development’s pitch to install six 11-foot-long, 4-feet-6 tall dumpster gardens across the nabe — each taking up two parking spots at Third Street between Bond Street and the canal, Union and Nevins streets, Union Street between Bond Street and the canal, Sackett and Nevins streets, Nevins Street between Douglass and Butler streets, and Third Avenue at Douglass Street.
Alloy — which is breaking ground on its new company headquarters on Carroll and Nevins streets next year — is partnering with local eco-advocacy group the Gowanus Canal Conservancy on the project, and says it will be a way to bring awareness to the need for rainwater-absorbing infrastructure in the area.
Currently, storm runoff flows into a sewage tank underneath the canal, but it often gets overwhelmed and the waste seeps into the fetid waterway.
The city is installing more tanks as part of the federal canal cleanup, but those won’t be ready for years, and one of Alloy’s honchos says the dumpsters — which can each absorb 2,000 gallons of water at a time — will put a small dent in the stinky problem. The trash-can gardens will also direct passersby to a website about Gowanus’s infamous struggles with storms.
“Water management is a critical issue for Gowanus,” said AJ Pires, Alloy’s executive vice president. “We hope the project can help draw attention to the issue while we wait for the larger remedies the government is planning.”
The dumpsters are being sanctioned under the Department of Transportation’s “Street Seats” program, where businesses can apply to stick pop-up public plazas in parking spaces.
Only two of the sites will actually include seats — which will be separate and on the sidewalk, not part of the gardens — but a spokeswoman for the agency said the project is still in the program’s spirit of creating “vibrant, social public spaces” on “underused” streets.
The committee members didn’t sweat losing the parking spaces, arguing Gowanus has plenty, and championed the planters as a more effective use of the asphalt.
“I like seeing our public shared space and the roadway being used for things above and beyond storing private vehicles,” said Oltman Smith.
The city offers up taxpayer dollars for building Street Seats structures, but Alloy says it will foot the full bill for buying, refurbishing, and planting the dumpsters along with some sponsors, including construction company Monadnock and wedding venue Gowanus Hospitality Group.
Once the summer is over and the dumpsters are gone, the Parks Department will take the vegetation out and plant it around the borough.
Community boards don’t hold general meetings during summer, so Community Board 6’s executive committee meet and vote on the plan. If it approves it, the dumpsters will be ready to roll out by July 4.