Gowanus is a colorful neighborhood with an industrial aesthetic, tree-lined streets, historic structures, as well as luxury condos and rental buildings. It has a great art scene, fantastic eateries and bars and a 1.8-mile canal that snakes through most of the neighborhood. The variety of elements make it a desirable place to live.
The neighborhood is on the crest of a major change due to a recently passed rezoning plan that will allow more residential construction. Especially around the Gowanus Canal where construction was once prohibited. The plan will bring new jobs, affordable housing, and create a neighborhood with walkable green spaces and amenities. It’s safe to say that change is coming to Gowanus.
Gowanus is bounded by Hoyt Street to the west, 4th Avenue to the east, Warren Street, Baltic Street and Wycoff Street to the north, and Gowanus Expressway to the south.
The neighborhood is named after Gouwane, a chief in the Canarsie Indian tribe. His name, according to the history books, translates to “the sleeper.” Other historic accounts say that the Gowanus name comes from the Dutch word gouwee, which translates to the word bay. Based on early New York History surrounding Dutch settlers and native tribes, both accounts seem plausible.
Gowanus began development as far back as the 1630s when the Dutch arrived. They began building farms and soon realized the marshy lands they settled were not the best for growing crops and farming. They began damming up certain areas of the land with hopes of creating better soil and powering their windmills. This was the beginning of the formation of the Gowanus canal.
The natural estuary was once brimming with oysters and fish. But in the 1800s, the canal was turned into an industrial and transportation waterway. In the mid 1900’s, industrial factories like manufactured gas plants, paper mills, and other businesses opened along the canal and casually polluted the water. It’s cleanup efforts have come a long way but there is still much work to be done.
The newly approved Gowanus rezoning plan has caused lots of buzz this year. Mayor Bill DeBlasio's plan will rezone 82 blocks which will pave the way for an estimated 8,500 new apartments, 3,000 of which would be offered to low and moderate-income New Yorkers. The plan includes major improvements to the local infrastructure. Although the rezoning plan might not create a housing boom today or tomorrow, proponents say the rezoning sets the stage for major growth in Gowanus in the decades to come.
The F, G, D, N, R, and W subway lines service the Gowanus neighborhood.