Saturday, April 18th, 2009 | Contemporary Art, Public Art/Interventions, Tonky Limited Editions



I just redid my Gowanus Canal Tonky Octopus in green and pink and added text referring to how government scientists are determining whether Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal is polluted enough to add it to the EPA’s Superfund list. The EPA published a nifty brief on the neighborhood and the Superfund proceedings HERE.

Giving a site Superfund status gives the federal government the authority to intervene and clean up the toxic contamination whether it be chemical, fissile, biological, or other. A corollary of the process is to force those responsible for the contamination to pay for the clean up via litigation.

I am not a scientist, but I am an artist with a studio in the neighborhood and I can smell the overflow sewage that cascades into the canal after heavy rains, inhale the concrete dust billowing from mixing facilities, and meditate on the prismatic oil-slick rainbow floating out to sea. The Gowanus Canal area is an unhealthy place for New Yorkers to live and work and I hope it gets cleaned up soon. It seems that adding the area to EPA’s Superfund list is the most expeditious way to do so.

Here are some links to thorough news coverage:

WNYC – Brian Lehrer Show



First And Court.com



April 22, 2009

I hope you plan on being an artist in this neighborhood for the next 15 years, because maybe then you will not get the smell anymore. Do you even realize the stigma that is going to be on this neighborhood if the government comes in?, It is basically putting us on a sexual predators list, I suggest you do some research into previous government funded cleanups before you start rallying the neighborhood for it. Maybe Bloomberg has been a little slow with his efforts but this would surely push it along, You seem to think that they are only going after “rich” landowners for the finances,but they wont stop there,all the small business in the neighborhood will feel it too.Residential and commercial land value will plummit,but guess what wont, the taxes, atleast for a few years. So you may think you are doing a good thing with this blog and that thing on 9st. But you are really digging the neighborhoods grave.

April 23, 2009

The above commenter is either a moron or in the pocket of big business (based on her punctuation I’ll guess the former). Everyone already knows the Gowanus is a toxic mess (or should by now). We need it cleaned up, not empty promises from the mayor and his developer buddies.

I applaud your efforts to help save the Gowanus! Say it loud and proud!

April 28, 2009

Hi Tonky

Yes that first commenter is most likely a female member of community board 6 who just looves to use the sexual predator analogy, she is extremely concerned with property values rather than health risks. If it is the same person, she also publicly commented that “maybe it’s the artists with their oil paints who are polluting the canal”.

Don’t forget to get your comments in!

Chris Rywalt
May 3, 2009

Hey, Tony, remember me? I offered to help you put up the panels when you first mounted them. I’ve watched as your first sticker peeled off, and then as the panels gradually emptied of everything but the green paint; and then I saw the graffiti start to show up. I thought maybe you’d moved or died or something. I was thinking maybe I should put up a memorial on the spot. Then last week — two weeks ago? — I was thrilled to see your new design. Well, same octopus, new paint job. Smart of you to use the sticker as a frisket this time. Much more sturdy.

Speaking of Superfund: During the Bush administration the EPA and the Superfund program were pretty much eviscerated, so having the site declared Superfund wouldn’t have been very useful. Hopefully Obama’s people care a bit more. Still, the history of Superfund hasn’t been very promising.

Anyway, the only reason anyone really wants to clean up Gowanus is so it can be developed like everywhere else in Brooklyn, just about. I grew up in New York City, so I’ve seen the gentrification process happen — I remember when Park Slope was a bad neighborhood. It’s mostly a good thing, I guess, but the poor have to live somewhere, and the artists usually with them, and all gentrification does is make New York less livable for them.

Glad you’re still among the living, though, and still in the area.

May 8, 2009

I understand this is a contentious subject. Some say Superfund status will only delay cleanup. However, for all Bloomberg’s talk I haven’t seen any action. Less talk more rock Bloomie. The Gowanus Canal is a stinking armpit and I’m sick of it.

Others lament how cleanup means development and how development means (gentrification)the pricing out of poor people. The point is taken, but I refuse this false choice between affordable rent and a healthy environment to work and live. We MUST design our city to be a hospitable and healthy place no matter what your tax bracket.


Chris Rywalt
May 11, 2009

I agree that clean-up shouldn’t mean gentrification, and gentrification shouldn’t mean overdevelopment and pricing out the working poor. I grew up in Staten Island, a couple of blocks from the only-slightly-cleaner-than-Gowanus Kill Van Kull River. So I know all about pollution and stink and general nastiness. I completely agree that Gowanus should be cleaned up.

However, realistically, the only reason to clean it up is if you can make more money from its being clean than not. Right now it’s a working body of water. Just last Thursday I had to wait for the Ninth Street drawbridge to come down, and almost every time I go by there’s a barge being loaded with construction debris.

Gowanus Canal isn’t some pond in the middle of the woods. It’s busy. It’s connected to a lot of stuff. The clean-up job is immense, and it’s been tried before, and it’s failed every time.

I think basically I just want to encourage you to realize the problem is really complex. You probably won’t see it clean in your lifetime. Not a reason to drop the subject, for sure, but keep it in mind. The improvement in the Hudson River and New York Harbor give me some hope.

May 18, 2009

This is what I see happening for Gowanus. They’ll clean it up as best they can. It will take years and years. Meanwhile, the community starts getting other visions: open space, wetland restoration, the need for wetlands to help clean run-off from all the neighborhoods in the Gowanus watershed. Historic preservation.
Meanwhile,the developers will realize that they can’t build their mega behemoths on the banks of the flood zone Gowanus – no one is filling up the mega behemoths they have built elsewhere. EPA came in at just the right time to save Gowanus from the clutches of the greedy developers and all those who were hoping for windfall profits from exploiting it! Historically, you could make a case that Gowanus is the beginning of our nation – had Washington not been able to flee across it, the Revolutionary War would have been won by the British.

June 4, 2009

I want that on a t-shirt.

June 8, 2009

Hi Tonky!

I love your sign! I wanted to let you know that I’m organizing a multi-rooftop performance spectacle bordering the F-Train stops over the Gowanus Canal. Could be an interesting platform for your work! All the info is on the website.

February 24, 2011

I saw this on a t-shirt worn by a TV host of a Brooklyn broadcasting program. Where can I get it?