Thursday, December 06, 2012

Whole F(l)oods: Site Of Future Gowanus Organic Supermarket Submerged During Hurricane Sandy

Future site of Gowanus Whole Foods Store 
photo credit: Urban Divers via Martin Bisi
The same site during Hurricane Sandy
rendering of future Gowanus Whole Foods
(credit: Whole Foods)

Whole Foods' future store on Third Street and Third Avenue in Gowanus may soon be offering the company's products "without the standard array of modern toxic and persistent chemicals" but in case of a Hurricane like Sandy, those apples and oranges will have lots of nasty stuff on it.

That's because the store is right smack in the middle of a flood zone and right next to the Gowanus Canal.  During Sandy, at the end of October, the future site of the Gowanus Whole Foods was entirely under water. (See photo above)
As per the EPA,  that flood water had incredible amounts of bacteria as well as traces of petroleum and gasoline.  Luckily, the truly dangerous toxins at the bottom of the canal were left undisturbed.

Had the Whole Foods store already been open, it is safe to say that it would have had to be entirely gutted, much like Fairway in Red Hook, or so many homes and businesses along the canal.
Keep in mind that Sandy was not even considered a major rain event and let's remember that it doesn't take a hurricane to cause flooding in Gowanus.

The flooding probably did not surprise Whole Foods executives. After all, the company used the fact that the Gowanus "property is in a Flood Zone A and has a high water table and would need extensive waterproofing and additional measures to resist hydrostatic pressure" as one of the hardships  to get a zoning variance from NYC's Board Of Standarts And Appeals.

I suppose we should be lucky that Whole Foods did not go forward with their original plan, which called for a below-ground building.

I swear, one can't come up with this stuff even if one tried....

I would like to thank the Urban Divers and Martin Bisi for the use of their photo.


Anonymous said...

Please stop using a disaster to promote NIMBY arguments.

Had Whole Foods been open, it would have been evacuated, and reopened after the flood withdrew. Redevelopment of the Gowanus-Red Hook flood zone area will prevent such damage in the future. Red Hook Lobster Pound is rebuilding at the same location but the new construction will now be flood resistant because they cannot raise their elevation like Whole Foods.

Had the Whole Foods project been completed, the site would not have flooded to the extent shown in the photo. DOB now requires occupied floors to be above the flood level or to have flood barriers to protect occupied floors of building interiors.

The only valid flood-development argument is that older structures damaged by the flood should be demolished so new structures can be built with flood protection.

Anonymous said...

You know, Ikea is also in a flood zone and was untouched during the hurricane. It was clearly built with the consideration of it's location. Fairway was retro-fit in to a warehouse to become a grocery store.... I would have to think that Whole Foods will do the same as Ikea, and build out of the way of floodwaters. Time will tell.

IanM said...

Even with the picture, it's tough for me to tell how far up the water goes. But, certainly not surprised this lot flooded.

I don't get the point here - if the Whole Foods had been built here, it might have had to deal with some flood damage, and perhaps temporarily close and reopen. Therefore, we the people in the area are "lucky" that it isn't built yet, and also it should never exist at all? Better to not have a grocery store at all than one that occasionally has to manage the effects of weather? Huh? I'm not that worried about the ability of Whole Foods to pay for their repairs. But somehow, the argument is that we're better off preventing any development or businesses from moving into the area, ever, because they'll need to manage some flooding (which the plans address)?

not in anyone's back yard said...

A flood plain next to a canal with CSO's is an inappropriate place for a supposedly healthy food store. period.

Rob said...

I think you all miss the point. The city essentially "bailed out" Whole Foods after they picked a bad spot to build. They wanted to build a huge store but didn't think to check the zoning laws on the property BEFORE they purchased it? They're already getting tax incentives to build and yet they still went and whined to the city that it wasn't going to make them enough money to scale the sq. footage down and they want the city to change the zoning laws when they're the ones who screwed up. When they got called on it too at one of those open meetings the rep for Whole Foods blamed it on his predecessor with no real explanation on how they could have overlooked something as big as that.

The real kicker is it's not like there wasn't retail space to set up somewhere else in the general area. That wasn't the last parcel of land in all of South Brooklyn. City Point has got over 500,000 sq. feet of retail space coming soon that they could have set up at.

Anonymous said...

Let us re-focus this negative energy on stopping CSO discharge! The Feds need to give funds to NYC to stop discharge / help us comply with the Clean Water Act. Or ... the City can impose a sewage tax on all property that discharge to Gowanus during rainstorms.

NYC/DEP are being proactive - in three weeks, they will start handing out $125 checks to reduce sewage - the EPA and DEC should step up and do the same so the next time it floods, all that's in the floodwater is seasalt! Whole Foods sells seasalt. see:

m.a.m said...

3:18 floodwater from the Gowanus is NOT just saltwater. Where were you when they were passing out most rudimentary info? too dumb for words.