Developer plans to install tree-filled dumpsters in Gowanus parking spaces

Brooklyn Paper
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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.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Jim from Cobble Hill says:
I like the idea, but irresponsible asshats are going to still toss garbage in them as they walk by. Soon they'll just be trees sticking out of a sea of coffee cups, cigarette wrappers, used tissues, and half eaten containers of french fries and onion rings. All waiting there to get blown out by the wind into the street and storm drains.
And the rainwater control idea is farcical. These are relatively small containers aren't capable of having much impact at all.
June 20, 2016, 7:46 am
Me from Bay Ridge says:
In many small towns sidewalks don't extend from the building line straight out to the curb but instead have an unpaved strip along the edge. The city has been enlarging tree pits to get more rainwater into the ground. Is there any reason sidewalks in less dense areas of the city can't be redone as I described? Bay Ridge below 3d Avenue, certainly below Ridge Blvd., comes to mind. [I know Gowanus is swampy; not suggesting it for there.]
June 20, 2016, 8:19 am
John Wasserman from Prospect Heights says:
I hate to say this, but every building in that area needs to have a very large dumpster filled with soil/paper on it's roof. For, what if those old water containers were to give out? This is no laughing matter, I'm afraid. What you're looking at here is a very concerned John Wasserman.
John Wasserman
June 20, 2016, 9:23 am
Charles from Bklyn says:
On the parking spaces? Ah ... so now we are giving away street parking spaces to developers? A good cause, but ENOUGH of the transfer of public assets to private hands. Oh, and for those who think the developer is being a good neighbor, you are smoking reefer dreaming of a better tomorrow. Please, this is being done primarily to help the developer. Period.
June 20, 2016, 10:05 am
Suzzie from Park Slope says:
Is the implication that trees are garbage? I don't like that.
June 20, 2016, 10:06 am
Mike from Park Slope says:
Charles, the public asset of parking spaces are already in private hands. People park their private vehicles, using public land for storage, along nearly every street in the city.
June 20, 2016, 10:55 am
Mike from upstate NY says:
this will not do anything for rainwater; it will only capture exactly what falls right into the container...a better idea would be for the developer to speak to the municipality about incorporating green infrastructure into a redesign of the approx. 8' of on-street parking lane as well as added pedestrian space.

Your local landscape architect could help you out with it...
June 20, 2016, 11:11 am
Eddie from Cobble Hill says:
Doesn't the car owner pay a registration fee to use the public street. Not to mention the summons fees.
June 20, 2016, 11:26 am
Tim from Gowanus says:
This is a silly, useless idea--perhaps they mean well, but the reality is that, as Jim pointed out above, any impact these containers might have on runoff is negligible/farcical. With the pace of construction in the neighborhood already, we already have too many dumpsters taking up too many parking spots and attracting all sorts of litter and trash. If Alloy really wants to do something useful, they should sponsor trash cans on every corner of 3rd Ave through Gowanus.
June 20, 2016, 11:33 am
Lisa from Cobble Hill says:
The only rain water these dumpsters will absorb is the rain that falls directly onto their surface. They will NOT absorb any of the water flowing by in the street. Ironically, planting trees in the dumpsters will direct the water away from the container. We'd need a lot more than six dumpsters to make any difference.

Dumpsters will undoubtedly be a magnet for garbage and dog poop bags. Garbage in the dumpster will collect standing water in which mosquitoes will breed. MOSQUITOES!

Dumpsters also attract graffiti (I do know some street artists who would love to paint them all pretty, tho).

Rats will love the debris that street cleaners won't be able to pick-up. Will city workers sweep? And heavy snow will be difficult to remove on the sidewalk and the street. Will city workers shovel?

There's also the increased incidence of men peeing on them! The city put a dumpster in front of my house for 2 years, and it was actually a destination urinal for delivery men. Yuck!

On the other hand...

At a community Board 6 meeting a few years ago, there was an announcement about the installation of "spongy streets" around the Gowanus. These are essentially large, deep tree pits designed to absorb excess rain water. Part of the design includes a curb cut that redirects street water into the pit, and another for the overflow to exit.

Whatever happened with the plan for "spongy streets?" Brooklyn Paper, please write an article about this proposal and what has come of it. Thank you.
June 20, 2016, 2:12 pm
Sean F from Bensonhurst says:
Street parking is not free. Motor vehicle owners pay a registration fee for the privilege of parking on the street (when we are not required to pay meter fees).

If streets and sidewalks are to be uncluttered by private vehicles, then every bike rack on sidewalks should be removed because bike owners don't even contribute a registration fee to use them. Free-loaders.
June 20, 2016, 2:37 pm
Paul from Brooklyn says:
It's laughable that people think their car registration fees cover the market rate cost of free street parking.
June 20, 2016, 3:16 pm
Rufus Leaking from BH says:
Out come the Marxists to chant about storing private property!
June 20, 2016, 4 pm
Sean F from Bensonhurst says:
Paul from Brooklyn. It may be laughable, but it's what the state charges. The "market rate" is exactly what is being charged. If you think street real estate is more valuable than what we pay, lobby your representative for an increase, but be honest enough to demand that bike owners pay for street parking, too.
June 20, 2016, 4:23 pm
Boris from Williamsburg says:
The topsoil is at an improved altitude, in relation to sea level, as oppose to some levee dependent, poorly graded, semi-permanent bioswales (and storm drains).

Interesting transitional experiment, though hulking. Do they filter/directional drain? A tree w more appropriate shaped leaves could prevent splishsplash.
June 20, 2016, 4:30 pm
Truth bomber from Reality says:
June 20, 2016, 5 pm
Truth bomber from Reality says:
Sean F,

You don't understand what a market is.
June 20, 2016, 5:02 pm
Truth bomber from Reality says:
Also Sean F,

Cyclists and Pedestrians DO pay for the streets and sidewalks, and in fact are subsidizing drivers. Read that link^
June 20, 2016, 5:07 pm
Misty Waters says:
Truth bummer - everyone uses and pays for the streets and sidewalks. The food you eat, the clothes you buy, everything in stores is transported to you on the streets. If you are in an emergency, the ambulance can pick you up by driving on the street. Even as a non-car owner you can take a taxi that drives on the street.
Parking is paid for by parking meters and parking tickets.
June 20, 2016, 5:42 pm
TOM from Sunset Park says:
Last time I looked the Gowanus was a commercial/industrial/residential area.

When the street grid was established a century ago the curb space was to provide for destination parking for local users. A utility, not an amenity.

Question: At what point does elimination of destination parking for whatever reason diminish economic activities? Does this matter to the community? When do business and/or residents leave?
June 20, 2016, 6:48 pm
Vian from Boerum Hill says:
The dumpster is in front of a wall, not a loading dock. It's mobile, which is appropriate given anticipated changes.

If only the area's ground level were as high (or higher).
June 20, 2016, 9:58 pm
Joey from Looking for a Parking Space says:
How come nobody cares about parking?

Dumpsters filled with dirt is the dumbest idea ever
June 21, 2016, 1:57 am
Tim from Parking Concerns Are Idiotic says:
Because it removes only a handful of parking spots in a neighborhood with plenty of excess parking? Also a neighborhood surrounded by transit?

Because street space has multiple utilities not just storage of private vehicles?
June 21, 2016, 8:49 am
Trollerskates from Moving Target says:
Because car owners are self absorbed planet killers, and need to be punished until they give up their killing machines.
June 21, 2016, 11:26 am
Sean F from Bensonhurst says:
Truth Bomber - I've read the link. Interesting, but not conclusive. For one, they note "It doesn’t examine the hidden subsidies associated with the free public provision of on-street parking..." So, if they don't get into the subject of on-street parking, the article neither proves nor disproves either of our points. They claim a hidden subsidy, but don't actually prove one.

Second, car owners still pay more into the road/street system than bicyclists or pedestrians. As I said before, if you want greater fees for on-street parking, then bicyclists need to pony up for the street furniture/real estate they use to park their private vehicles.
June 21, 2016, 1:51 pm
Sean F from Bensonhurst says:
Trollerskates - "self absorbed planet killers"? Why is it self absorbed to need to transport oneself, one's family, and one's belongings in a convenient, self-directed manner, IF one does so in accordance with all local laws?

As for "planet killers", I guess you haven't heard about the developments in high-mileage fuels, environmentally friendly hybrid and electric vehicles. The auto industry is doing more to reduce pollution than almost any other industry.
June 21, 2016, 1:55 pm
Paul from Brooklyn says:
@Sean F.

Regarding your statement "car owners still pay more into the road/street system than bicyclists or pedestrians."

NOPE - incorrect

Roads/streets are funded by city taxes which everyone pays. And guess what genius, most people in NYC don't have cars. This is especially true in the parts of NYC where the bulk of tax revenue comes from.
June 21, 2016, 2:09 pm
Brooklyn Bob from Gowanus says:
Just what Gowanus needs right now: Fewer parking spaces. I don't think there is any nabe that has as much construction going on right now as we do, and with every construction project we lose more and more parking spaces. Sometimes entire streets.

You may not like cars in the city, but they exist, and having a car and being able to access street parking is one of the reasons some people like living in Brooklyn. And this neighborhood is FAR from having excess parking space.

This is a dumb idea. Not surprised Community Board 6 approved it, since Community Board 6 is a bunch of asshats who don't care a whit about the community. (They sure do care about taking lobbyists' $$, though!!)
June 21, 2016, 2:20 pm
Trollerskates from Moving Target says:
When the parking spaces disappear, so will the cars. Continually fighting to remove parking is not done by accident.
June 21, 2016, 3:21 pm
Paul from Brooklyn says:
@ Brooklyn Bob

If you are willing to walk more than 5 feet outside your door you

1) Might get some exercise

2) Might see that Gowanus contains a gold mine of free available parking spaces at any time of day. (literally on any street)

3) You might post a more informed comment

So giving up 5 or so parking spots to help prevent canal flooding is not going to ruin the neighborhood.

Or if you want convenient parking directly outside your door, move to Long Island.
June 21, 2016, 4:39 pm
Me from Bay Ridge says:
Just finished reading the book "Gowanus" by Joseph Alexiou. [BPL has several copies.] If you think a few dumpsters are going to do anything about flooding in that area -- hahahahahahahahahaha!
June 21, 2016, 4:51 pm
Jim from Cobble Hill says:
Why do people think that a car registration fee somehow has anything to do with street parking? It doesn't.
June 21, 2016, 5:59 pm
Paul from Brooklyn says:
@ Jim from Cobble Hill

Because people are idiots. None of them understand how expensive the real market rate of parking would be.
June 21, 2016, 8:40 pm
Rylan from Gowanus says:
This plan is hilarious. What are they TEMPORARILY diverting with a dozen parking places of surface area, 0.0000000001% of the rain water that drains to the canal? Meanwhile they're removing all those parking spaces on top of thd spaces that will already be taken by their construction dumpsters, vehicles, etc.. How can people be so stupid!?
June 21, 2016, 9:38 pm
Sean F from Bensonhurst says:
Paul from Brooklyn According to the Public Interest Research Group, gas taxes and vehicle fees pay slightly less than 1/2 of the cost of road costs. The rest comes from approximately $1,100 per person in other taxes. Therefore, each car owner pays, not only our personal $1,100, but also what we pay in gas taxes and fees. Meaning that I, as a car owner, pay more into the system than a non-car owner.
June 21, 2016, 11:14 pm
Sean F from Bensonhurst says:
Paul from Brooklyn Most people in NYC don't have children, but we all pay for the education system, whether we use it or not. That, plus roads and payments for other city services are part of the social contract.
June 21, 2016, 11:21 pm
Paul from Brooklyn says:
@ Sean F

1) Yes, because educated children benefit all. Stupid people are a drain on society similar to drivers who whine about losing a few parking spots
2) Removing a few parking spots to reduce canal flooding also benefits all, thus the point.
3) Your $1,100 in usage fees is entirely optional on your part and yes only covers 40% of the cost.
4) Metrocard for the subway is $1,392 a year and covers 40% of cost
5) Roads are a city service FOR ALL. These damm containers have as much right to the spot as your private car.
6) Taxes are based on income so generally single higher income people in Manhattan and Transit Rich Brooklyn pay a higher rate which does trickle down a subsidy to drivers in the outer parts of the city.
7) Those same people use less services

So it's more even then you think.
June 22, 2016, 9:06 am
Sean F from Bensonhurst says:
Paul from Brooklyn

Since the category of "stupid people" seems to include so many avid bicyclists who ride without helmets, or lights, or signaling devices, or against traffic, or squeeze between moving motor vehicles, I will agree with you that they are a drain on society.

You have it backwards. The $1,100 is not from gas tax and usage fees, it's the amount every New Yorker contributes (on average) to the road system. My car registration, license fee and gas taxes are "optional", but the fact is that I choose to pay them, which means I do contribute more to the system than a non-car owner. I don't mind contributing it because it does benefit all New Yorkers.

Containers have no rights. Check the state constitution and city charter.

Actually, most of the "single higher income people" rent their homes. Home owners, like me, pay even more into the city for services. Again, all part of the social contract.

You score no points thinking you are superior to any other New Yorker (if you are actually a New Yorker, born and bred - if you came from elsewhere to live here, then kindly mind your business or go back to Podunk where the education system is clearly not up to NYC standards).
June 22, 2016, 9:54 am
Paul from Brooklyn says:
@ Sean F

Yeah good job changing the subject to the few cyclists that break the law. How is that even related?

Second, you choose to pay them, right. Very good, you are learning now.

Third, the container is there for the benefits of the neighborhood. Not sure why that needs to be spelled out for you.

Fourth, again not sure why these needs to be explained further. But higher income = higher taxes. Higher rent pays into property taxes.

Finally in relation to the NYC born and bred comment - with all do respect, go f-ck yourself Yeah I'm from here too, who f-cking cares? New Yorker's random entitled arrogance is why the rest of the country hates this city for the most part.
June 22, 2016, 10:55 am
Sean F from Bensonhurst says:
Paul from Brooklyn

I didn't change the subject. I used an example. It's not a few bicyclists who do this, it's the majority I pass in my car (and when I'm on my bike - suitably safety equipped and riding safely in accordance with the law).

As noted, the containers aren't going to make a dent in the water flow in that neighborhood. The volume is simply too small. It's a feel good measure, nothing more.

It's still the property owner paying the property taxes. Whether he gets it from tenants or not is immaterial. He could get it selling shaved ice on the corner, but that wouldn't make the customers any more entitled to dictate road policies than anyone else.

People move to New York all the time. Why? Because it's an amazing place to live and raise a family. So, why do so many come here, and think they need to "fix" it? They don't need to fix it. Stay back home and fix whatever was wrong there that made them move in the first place. Or, if there are things that need fixing in NYC (and I don't deny there aren't), they should do so in concert with the native New Yorkers, not by being so entitled and arrogant as to think they know better than we do what we need. I'm sorry, but if NYC isn't good enough for anyone who came here from elsewhere, there are plenty of other places they can go. Portland, OR loves a good bike lane and carless streets.
June 22, 2016, 11:23 am
Paul from Brooklyn says:
No Sean.

NYC is a transient city. Most people here are not "from here" and that doesn't give them any less right to speak up on issues that effect them. The city is and will continue to change whether you like it or not.

And may I suggest YOU LEAVE to another place if you don't like that.

Back to the containers, you may not be wrong in the limited effect but same goes for parking spots. There aren't that many being lost here, neither is there a shortage of parking in Gowanus.
June 22, 2016, 11:39 am
Sean F from Bensonhurst says:
I never said they can't speak up. I said they should do it in concert with the natives. What I hear is a lot of New York bashing from transplants from other places, and hipsterish wishes for some urban utopia. None of that is constructive to building a better New York. But we need to build New York in a way that doesn't eliminate the things that make this city a worthwhile place to live.

I hate the fact that my kids didn't get to play street games like I did because of traffic volume. But, I also don't begrudge those drivers the need to travel through the city on their errands and business. Can we control traffic? Yes, with reasonable laws and actual enforcement (against motor vehicles, bicyclists and pedestrians). Can NYC survive without private vehicle ownership? No.

As for leaving NYC, not likely, as much as my wife hates the cold weather here. My brother is a retired NYPD cop. He moved to L.I. once he'd seen the mean streets of the truly bad neighbors in Brooklyn, and then moved further away after retiring. He washed his hands of NYC. I don't give up on my city. I have faith that we'll figure it out. But that can only happen with compromise, not the radical idealism that passes for politics and debate these days.
June 22, 2016, 11:56 am
Paul from Brooklyn says:
No, shouldn't be a need to "work with the natives" either.

It's a transient city, people move in, people move out. Things change. Deal with it.
June 22, 2016, 12:28 pm
Sean F from Bensonhurst says:
I am dealing with it. By exercising my right to point out the idiocy of people moving here thinking they know better than the people who made this city worth moving to in the first place.

Have fun playing SimCity in your over-priced hipster pad. When you are ready to seek allies, some of us will be there to help.
June 22, 2016, 12:31 pm
Paul from Brooklyn says:
Yeah the "Brooklyn suburbanites" like yourself that drive everywhere and b-tch and moan about parking and cyclists are what made NYC great.

Might want to think about that one for a little bit longer. Keeping in mind that you are basically Long Island to most of the city.
June 22, 2016, 12:37 pm
Sean F from Bensonhurst says:
I don't drive everywhere. In fact, I bike a lot, which is why I'm sympathetic to the bike lobby, but leery of their knee-jerk car-hating. I've been riding these streets safely with only two close calls for 40 years. Any bike lobby person who thinks they know these streets better than I do is almost certainly wrong.

Yep, Brooklyn is on Long Island (though Queens is more Long Islandish than Brooklyn - they aren't even proud enough of their borough to use it in their mailing addresses). And Staten Island is a landfill, and Manhattan is a concrete jungle. Nothing wrong with admitting to geographic realities that don't actually change what a great city this is.
June 22, 2016, 12:55 pm
Paul from Brooklyn says:
It's not that binary.

Suggesting that we balance the road system so it doesn't favor cars while f-cking over everyone else is not knee-jerk car hating. It's just reality.
June 22, 2016, 1:21 pm
JamesonOohhaa from Bay Ridge says:
Balance road system, those SJW want everything balanced, now they want to balance roads okay, so as a I have a baby I want separate stroller line, as I am walking 5 mph I want 5 mph line. And using public space to store private vehicles? Please... you're walking on sidewalks as well, so you're using public infrastructure for your private purposes. SJW, SJW everywhere.
June 23, 2016, 6:19 am
You've All Lost Your Mind from In Brooklyn says:
It's amazing how stupid and psychotic people get over a couple of parking spots.
June 23, 2016, 3:14 pm

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