Dyin’ gosling: These Gowanus Canal baby geese are going to die

A Gowanus miracle: A Canada goose couple and their goslings swim along the toxic Gowanus Canal in April. But they won’t last for long, says Captain John — the channel’s coal tar pollution will build up on their feathers and kill them.
Riverkeeper Patrol / John Lipscomb

Their goose is cooked!

A family of adorable baby geese living on the polluted Gowanus Canal will soon die after being covered in the waterway’s toxic waste, according to a longtime guardian of the noxious stretch.

“Those little goslings are going to get coal tar all over them and they’re goners,” said John Lipscomb, who has been captaining a boat on the waters of the Gowanus as part of water advocacy group Riverkeeper for 15 years.

Lipscomb spotted the Canada goose goslings and their parents on a trip along Brooklyn’s Nautical Purgatory on April 25 — in the Canal and Turning Basins between the Third Street and Ninth Street bridges — as first reported by local blog Pardon Me for Asking.

They are the first goslings he has ever seen in the canal since he began patrolling its fetid waters more than a decade ago.

But the coal tar that infests the waters — thanks to gas companies using the canal as a dumping ground for years — will soon build up on the tiny baby birds’ feathers, causing them to mat and separate, and they will either perish from being too hot or too cold, Lipscomb predicts.

That’s if they don’t die from ingesting the toxic matter first, he said.

Then, they will join a menagerie of other creatures who have met their maker in the filthy, watery grave in recent years — including at least two dolphins and a baby whale named Sludgie.

The Gowanus will likely be the only water the goslings will ever know, according to Lipscomb — the tiny birds were probably wetting their webbed feet for the first time when he laid eyes on them last month.

“The little goslings were born somewhere on the shoreline and these were their first excursions into the water,” he said.

Lipscomb says he has already seen plenty of dead birds floating in the canal during his patrols, and urged the federal Environmental Protection Agency to finally start scrubbing the channel clean and stop the carnage.

He slammed the city’s recent decision to go through the lengthy process of seizing private property for a giant sewage tank it needs to build before the cleanup can begin, when there is readily available public land it can use nearby.

“New York City is doing everything they can to maintain this disgusting waterway,” he said. “The city is not doing the right thing in slowing this process down and we’re losing the opportunity to have a new day in the Gowanus, when humankind can benefit and animal kind will benefit.”

But the captain still holds out hope that goslings in the Gowanus will be a normal sight one day.

“We have the opportunity in the Gowanus to have natural beauty in the heart of the city,” he said.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at lgill@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill

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