Floating garden cleans the Gowanus Canal

Floating garden cleans the Gowanus Canal

floatinggarden3 If any of you New Yorkers have been to the Gowanus Canal lately, you may have noticed a small, floating landscape in the polluted waters. The landscape is actually a floating garden designed by celebrated landscape architect and urban designer, Diana Balmori. The project, called “GrowOnUs” is an experiment in “floating infrastructure” that uses a process called phytoremediation in order to clean up the polluted canal. More than 30 different types of plants act as sponges in order to purify, desalinate, and mitigate the chemicals affecting the waterway. Some sustain themselves directly from the dirty waters of the canal, while others, including a several edible herbs, survive thanks to the water purifying devices they have on board, including some solar stills made out of recycled plastic domes. According to Balmori, they had already made three attempts to create a sustainable patch of vegetation in the waters to no avail because the pollution was just too much for the plants. They have since switched to a tougher, more conditioned greenery, and the garden is thriving.

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The island, which is approximately 12 feet by 8 feet, is, oddly enough, made up of metal culvert pipes, the same material that Brooklyn’s sewage systems are made of.

“The reason we picked the Gowanus Canal is the attempt to show that plant material can clean water,” Ms. Balmori explained. At the same time, she acknowledged, “We picked the hardest.”

The folks at Balmori plan to launch more floating gardens and selling the herbs from “GrownOnUs” to local restaurants and farmers markets to fund the upkeep, said Noemie Lafaurie-Debany, the head of Balmori Associates.

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“We’re hoping that it could be a productive island that could help to pay for the island itself, and also be viewed as public art,” she said. But don’t worry Brooklyn, she also said, “We will not be selling any of our herbs grown on the Gowanus,” this is just a test.”

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