The so-called Sponge Park along the banks of the putrid Gowanus Canal is finally becoming a reality — for a few feet, at least.
The $1.5-million park will be installed at the foot of Second Street, taking up less than half the area of a basketball court with adsorbent plants and special soil meant to soak up street runoff and keep it from further polluting the toxic waterway. Park boosters are pitching it as a pilot project that they hope will be replicated along the 1.8-mile length of the canal.
“The Sponge Park will help manage storm water run-off, filter and absorb contaminants, and create a pleasing street-end, park-like experience,” said Community Board 6 district manager Craig Hammerman. “Hopefully, someday soon, all of our Gowanus street ends will have sponge parks.”
The Gowanus Canal Conservancy, a group working to spruce up the noxious channel, first unveiled their vision for a pollution-sucking greenway back in 2008. But the storm water management project was delayed by fund-raising problems and sparring between the city and federal government over how best to scrub Brooklyn’s nautical purgatory.
Compounding the park’s early problems was a naming dispute in which the conservancy butted heads with the architecture firm it hired, dlandstudio, over the firm’s trademarking of the name “Sponge Park.”
That beef is squashed — or squished — but not forgotten, according to the conservancy.
“I think it’s unfortunate that a private entity owns the naming rights to a public park, but we’re still thrilled to have this project move forward,” said conservancy director Hans Hesselein.
The project will require digging up the end of Second Street in order replace the pavement with plants and soil-filled concrete.
Because there are no storm sewers between Second Street and the Gowanus, the small park will have no impact on sewage overflow into the waterway, Department of Environmental Protection officials said.
Backers of the park said it will still help clean up the waterway by absorbing road chemicals and roadside litter that pour into the canal when it rains.
“It will filter and clean the run-off from the street,” Hesselein said. “[Second Street] is a heavy dumping street.”
The federal government is expected to reveal its final, half-billion dollar Superfund canal cleanup plan this summer, which will likely include the construction of canal-side tanks to prevent millions of gallons of raw sewage from polluting the waterway during heavy rains.