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Superfund site specific: Pollution play staged beside Gowanus

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It’s not just the feds who are dredging up issues in Gowanus.

A community theater group is turning its venue into subtext by taking over an industrial warehouse just feet away from the mouth of the filthy Gowanus Canal to stage a play about a village facing health problems from contaminated waters.

Henrik Ibsen’s 1882 political thriller, “An Enemy of the People” — set in a Norwegian waterside village that discovers harmful runoff is ruining its economically vital public baths and harming denizens — draws striking parallel’s to the issues and concerns of communities along the Gowanus Canal, said director Reg Flowers.

And the timing couldn’t be better, as details of the Environmental Protection Agency’s half-billion dollar Superfund cleanup proposal for the fetid waterway are bubbling up.

“It’s a waterside community that is being asked to face a truth about the state of their health and the environmental conditions that they are living in,” said Flowers.

“There is a question of how the issue is going to be dealt with once it is discovered that the water is poisonous.”

The longtime director and actor — and member of Falconworks Artists Group that is producing the play — said the main reason for setting up a makeshift theater on John Quadrozzi Jr.’s industrial complex at the foot of Columbia Street is the community’s concern over a federal proposal to decontaminate sludge dredged from the canal on the site and use it to build a massive concrete landmass extending off the shore of Red Hook.

For use of his property during the lengthy cleanup, Quadrozzi would gain control of the newly built landfill after the project wraps up.

“This site is so much at the center of the discussion. It makes sense that the play is there,” said Flowers who will be playing the role of a noble doctor eventually declared “the enemy of the people” for exposing the health threat.

Flowers said that his adaptation of the play, which will be performed by a cast of professional actors and community activists five times in May, stays true to the original script and setting of the play, but uses language that alludes to the federal government’s cleanup of the inlet.

But don’t expect any overt references to the Lavender Lake during the two and a half-hour performance.

“Once we start talking about contaminated water because of the industry and once we start talking about dredging the reservoir and relaying the conduit piping, I think its going to be pretty clear to people what the matter at hand is,” said Flowers.

“An Enemy of the People” at the Gowanus Bay Terminal [699 Columbia St. past Otsego street in Red Hook, (718) 395–3218, enemyofthepeople.eventbrite.com]. May 2, 3, 8 pm, May 4, 3 pm, 8 pm, May 5, 3 pm. $25.

Reach reporter Natalie Musumeci at nmusumeci@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow her at twitter.com/souleddout.

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Reader Feedback

diehipster from Crushing Calebs says:
This theater group should consult with all the talentless and never-to-be-known transient, rent-raising, bearded and parentally subsidized fauxhemian 'creative class' hipsters and yupsters who frequent this toxic site for mid-day Nieuw Breuckelen adventures. They can surely give them some tips on how to hang out near a superfund site.

But what do I know. I only created this imaginary thing called the "Brooklyn hipster" in my head. They don't really exist.
April 3, 2013, 8:59 am
Jimmy from PH says:
diehipster -
Is this your "thing"? It seems weird. I keep seeing your comments every day on absolutely any topic that might possibly involve hipsters. Comes off as kinda pathetic. No? I mean, far more pathetic than the silliest of "hipster" antics.
April 3, 2013, 9:19 am
Jimmy from PH says:
Also, diehipster, it might be worth explaining how a small theater group performing an Ibsen play, a political drama with vague overtures to the Gowanus canal situation, is a 'hipster' thing? It's OK for BAM and Lincoln Center to do Ibsen, but not an independent theater group?

Weird and pathetic.
April 3, 2013, 9:30 am
diehipster from crushing calebs says:
Jimminy,

Please re-read the first 5 words of my previous comment to better understand how I was not associating the theater group with hipsters but only asking them to refer to the hipsters who we've heard playing near the Gowanus about a billion times - particularly via this newspaper.

Have a nice day Jimminy. Hope your reading comprehension gets better. Enjoy your soy latte.
April 3, 2013, 9:47 am
JAZ from Hunting Redbeards says:
Jimmy - diehipster's posts are a refreshing counterpoint to the constant nonsense we are overwhelmed with in Brooklyn on a daily basis (as well as large portions of lower Manhattan and LIC) from these wanna-be urban try hards. Gentrification is class warfare. It's a gravely serious issue and anyone who speaks out in favor of the working class against the constant media barrage of 'artisanal' this, and 'fair trade' that is a welcome voice. Since the media, with rare exception, willfully ignores an actual exploration of this problem, I see nothing wrong with an attack on this plague that does nothing to mask the absolute contempt most of us born and raised, non upper class, New Yorkers have for them and everything they represent.

There is certainly nothing pathetic about it, and I think you'd be surprised with how many native New Yorkers agree 100% with his side of the issue.
April 3, 2013, 9:51 am
Jimmy from DH says:
So... What I'm hearing is that there is nothing objectionable about this theater group and, in fact, you support their performances. HOWEVER, you've taken this opportunity, completely unrelated and in no way critical of the performance of this Ibsen play, to rant about hipsters?

In other words, you hijacked a thread about something you, if I'm understanding correctly, would consider a positive thing for Brooklyn and filled it will unrelated angry comments about hipsters.

Hmm. Yes. I'd call that weird and pathetic.

(Or you're lying and you actually DID intend to color this theater group as hipsters and suggest that these performances are a negative thing.)
April 3, 2013, 10 am
diehipster from cruising calebs at Shore Rd says:
I'm sorry; I live in my grandmother's basement and lament about how Brooklyn is leaving me behind as I get more and more insignificant by the day
April 3, 2013, 10:42 am
John Wasserman from Windsor Terrace says:
Hi "JAZ". John Wasserman here. I hoping that you'll forgive me for this, but the fact that you find anything that this Dead Hipster fellow says, at this point, refreshing, is amazing. Having said that, I do hope that you'll have a nice day, if you are able. Pardon the interruption.
April 3, 2013, 11:19 am
Pat I. from Brooklyn says:
...annnd in 3...2....1..
ART ART ART ART ART ART AWARENESS ART!
April 3, 2013, 12:45 pm
BunnynSunny from Clinton Hill says:
JW,

Couldn't disgree with you more. What we need are more dead hipsters around here. I love reading the comments.
April 3, 2013, 2:44 pm
ty from pps says:
Well, that's a nice sentiment.
April 3, 2013, 3:45 pm
Die Hamburger from Hamburger Hill says:
He says the same thing, every time. I suppose you still enjoy "why does the chicken cross the road"? How about, A:"cuz a smelly hipster was walking down it"....there, that's funnier than anything the loser has ever said. Now worship me.
April 3, 2013, 4:08 pm
Jim from Windsor Terrace says:
Jimmy from PH -

you sir are a fool
April 3, 2013, 4:12 pm
DyeHipster from Souf Bwookwyn says:
Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr....A theater group?!? Brooklyn never had anything to do with performance art before Caleb and the Kale Squad set up shop in Williamsburg. Real Brooklynites never act. Real Brooklyn goes to Broadway to beat down sissy actors. Transplants! Art! Arrrrgh!!!!
April 3, 2013, 5:17 pm
Jimmy from PH says:
I am?
April 3, 2013, 6:59 pm
Scott from Park Slope says:
If diehipster, Pat I, and JAZ represent "real" Brooklyn natives, then real Brooklyn natives are nancies who ought to run, not walk, to their gynecologists to get the sand removed from their vaginas. Real men don't trouble themselves with silly people, be they hipsters or what-have-you; they do real work for real people, without complaint or whining, especially whining incessantly about hipsters on the internet. Good Christ! If diehipster, Pat I, and the rest of their ilk want to live in a place where everyone thinks and acts the same, and no one ever has to worry about gentrification or change or creativity or silliness, then move the f**k to North Korea and trouble us real Americans and real men no more.
April 4, 2013, 10:11 am
jay from nyc says:
you know the whole anti-gentrification thing has gotten out of hand, the fact is the gowanus is literally a s*** hole, if someone wants to try and clean that up and do something with it, or call attention to it to maybe try and reclaim it is something useful, then good for them.
I personally think its a waste of time as the gowanus is hopeless and ruined and can't be cleaned up to make it safe, but maybe someday technology will be developed that can change that.
In addition if someone wants to point out the dangers and long term hazards of dumping crap every which way, as was done in the gowanus, which is a great example of what NOT to do, then that is ok too.
SO if you are against that diehipster, then instead of sending our garbage to New Jersey maybe we should just send it to your place, it seems that it might be the perfect place for it.
I don't want to live in a crummy falling apart crime ridden nothing works properly city, if I did, I would move to Rio, where at least its warm.
April 4, 2013, 8:32 pm
old time brooklyn from slope says:
live in "Gowanus" expect kids with flippers - a new branch for the uft (and the townies who teach the flippered) to make big $'s - bring em on - just keep them in their tanks
April 4, 2013, 9:36 pm
yea from from Red Hook says:
The neighborhood's gone to the dogs (cause that's what your all acting like - rabid dogs!).

Stop the misinformation. No matter how many times you call it a toxic waste dump, it doesn't make it one. It's being remediated, to non-toxic, for benificial reuse.

Dumping it elsewhere for no benifit IS a problem, the same problem that existed here, that which we're trying to rectify.

The EPA isn't here to hurt, their here to help. Let's smarten up and take advantage of them and the investment their offering to/for Red Hook.
April 4, 2013, 11:34 pm
jay from nyc says:
ummm no, even after the EPA is done it will STILL be too toxic to swim in.
April 5, 2013, 8:11 pm
joy from Red Hook says:
but de Blassio thinks it would be better to just let the developers cleanup the canal, not the EPA. Could be a plan for getting all the hipsters housed in one place for the next Super Storm to wipe them all out with the toxic sludge the developers overlooked removing
April 5, 2013, 10:27 pm
Daniel from Bushwick says:
Hello Neighbors,

I was wondering if you would take a look at my page and perhaps help me to publicize it. I am only getting started and I am not social media savvy. That said, as an environmental lawyer, I am alarmed at the lack of community notification which has occurred surrounding this National Priorities Listing.

FB: Bushwick Superfund Awareness
May 23, 2014, 9:49 am
Daniel from Bushwick says:
Hello Neighbors,

I was wondering if you would take a look at my page and perhaps help me to publicize it. I am only getting started and I am not social media savvy. That said, as an environmental lawyer, I am alarmed at the lack of community notification which has occurred surrounding this National Priorities Listing.

FB: Bushwick Superfund Awareness
May 23, 2014, 9:49 am

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