Sleep near sludge: Gowanus boutique inn lures patrons by promoting its proximity to disease-infested canal

Newcomer: An early rendering of Baltic Huis hotel, where guests can revel at the Gowanus Canal and rub shoulders with actual residents.
Gradient Architecture Studio

Talk about viral marketing!

A new hotel is advertising itself by boasting about its proximity to the gonorrhea-infested Gowanus Canal and the chance to get up close and personal with actual residents, according to a press release announcing its October opening.

“Celebrating the canal that has for generations served as an eddy of inspiration for a slew of resourceful New Yorkers from gangsters, outlaws, artists and all manner of Gowanusians, communal pursuits will lure guests from their rooms to the hotel’s backyard garden and red brick patio,” it reads. “Nestled between longtime local residents, the hotel will be a house of serene surprise and inclusivity, an adult playground with quirkily themed neighborhood cookouts, community garden parties, and more.”

But guests of Baltic Huis, a 33-room inn on Baltic Street between Bond and Nevins streets, are more likely to encounter big rigs than residents, as the hotel is located on a heavily industrial block that is also home to a water distributor, warehouses, and auto body shops.

Along with the opportunity to admire the sludge-filled waterway that locals have fought for decades to clean, the lodge will feature Amazon Alexas in every room, neon signs, maps of the neighborhood highlighting area graffiti, community pig roasts on its patio, and a speakeasy-style coffee shop in its basement that guests access using a secret staircase.

The manufacturing-zone adjacent hotel, owned by Greenwich Street Equities, also promises “sharp-edged, graffiti covered relics of the Industrial Revolution” and “a home away from home for intrepid curiosity seekers.”

But local business advocates say the property shouldn’t sit on the industrial street in the first place and the lot would be better used for manufacturing, instead of giving out-of-towners a place to ogle hard-working Brooklynites.

“Gowanus has and should continue to draw businesses that provide blue collar jobs to the community, rather than a cool cup of coffee for tourists!” said Paul Basile, president of business group Gowanus Alliance.

The inn plans to court nearby residents with the opportunity to boat on the toxic canal by partnering with the Gowanus Dredging Club to offer canoeing, according to a spokeswoman.

But the canal won’t be ready for guests to dip their toes in anytime soon. Its long-awaited cleanup, which was scheduled to conclude in 2022, got underway last year and is facing delays that could push its completion to the end of the decade, according to an Environmental Protection Agency project manager.

The city has issued three stop work orders on the site since last August, for non-permitted after-hours construction, improperly installing a sidewalk shed, and insulation that deviated from Department of Buildings approved plans.

It has yet to get those orders lifted, according to a city rep, but a spokeswoman for the hotel said it is on track to open by October.

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

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