Postcard from Brooklyn

A polluted canal seemed poised for renewal until a federal decision deferred the dream. On the banks of the toxic Gowanus

Jose Gaytan

Industrial waste and raw sewage give the Gowanus a sometimes pungent odor.

New York, a city of Islands and rivers, has almost no accessible waterfront. Highways line Manhattan's riverbanks. Frontage real estate in Brooklyn and Queens — which comprise the bulbous western end of Long Island — is largely postindustrial wasteland. Most New Yorkers rarely venture to Staten Island, and much of the daily commuter traffic across the Hudson and East rivers occurs underground in subways and tunnels.

Perhaps this is why the possibility of a new, Venice-like waterway in the heart of Brooklyn held such appeal. Against all odds, for the past several years Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration has lobbied to turn...

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