Friday, April 02, 2021

On The Passing Of Gowanus Activist And Historic Preservationist Linda Mariano

Linda Mariano at Yesterday's News 2018

Dear Readers,

The news that Gowanus resident Linda Mariano has passed last night after a brief illness was shared amongst those who knew her with infinite sorrow.  This morning, it feels as if a huge empty space has opened up in the neighborhood, which she called home and loved so dearly.

To have known Linda will forever be one of the greatest privileges of my life. She could brighten the cloudiest day with her huge smile and laugh. She was a fearless activist, and passionate advocate for Gowanus. She always spoke truth to power and taught many that one never gives up fighting for what is right.  Over the years, she became a mentor to many of us and we all aspired to become just like her. She was fiercely loyal to her friends and her house was always open for a glass of wine, some food and stimulating discussions. 

Most neighborhood residents might remember her from Yesterday's News, the Court Street vintage store, where she worked on week-ends for many years.

Linda moved to Gowanus with her husband Joseph Mariano and daughter Rachel over 40 years ago from Manhattan. They bought a dilapidated house on President Street in the 1970's, which they lovingly restored into a welcoming home. They displayed a black and white photo of what the building had looked like when they first laid eyes on it, as a reminder of how they had saved this piece of neighborhood history.  In the spring, Linda would plant her window boxes with the brightest fuchsia geraniums, making the house the prettiest on the block.

Linda was one of the founding members of Friends Of Greater Gowanus (F.R.O.G.G.), a group that was founded in 2002 to safe the Green Building on Union Street near the canal when the old brick building was slated for demolition to make way for a high rise.
Together with F.R.O.G.G., Linda became a very vocal supporter of the Environmental Protection Agency's Superfund designation of the Gowanus Canal and was a founding member of the Gowanus Superfund Community Advisory Group after the designation in 2010.

However, as passionate as she was about the environment, it was preservation of the neighborhood that was always her main focus. She tirelessly worked with the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC), the Historic Districts Council (HDC), and the NYS Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), to pursue historic designation of the Gowanus Corridor as an Urban Industrial District.
In 2019, because of her perseverance, five important Gowanus buildings were landmarked by New York City.  But of course, she wanted to save many more. It comes at no surprise that she vehemently opposed the massive rezoning for Gowanus which is currently being discussed.

On a personal note, I cannot express the deep sadness I feel at knowing that I will never sit around her kitchen table with other members of FROGG again,  envisioning a better and more sustainable future for the neighborhood than the plan cooked up by developers.  
She will forever be my role model, and I will try, in my way, to continue to make her Gowanus dreams a reality.

My deepest sympathy goes to her daughter, son-in-law and granddaughters, whom she loved passionately.
We share your sorrow.

To hear Linda tell her own story, please visit the Preservation Archive Project

Joseph and Linda Mariano at their home in 2009
With Marlene Donnelly and Bette Stoltz, receiving a Preservation League grant
A very happy moment with FROGGS in 2019.
from left to right, Margaret Maugenest,  Marlene Donnelly, Linda Mariano and me.


Josh Karpf said...

Thank you for a fine encomium. I also love how she's introduced in Joseph Alexiou's 2015 Gowanus: Brooklyn's Curious Canal: "'It was edgy,' Linda, by this time around sixty-seven years old, recalled in 2010, above the great wooden table in her kitchen, cozy and cluttered with newspapers and kitschy objects. Linda's petite frame and tufts of hair haphazardly piled onto her head barely contain a woman of almost shocking energy, paired with timeless chutzpah. 'You couldn't park your car outside without some breaking the window or stealing your hubcaps!' she finished, grinning. Surrounding her was thirty years of eclectic decor -- funky tiles, and painted cabinets; mismatched doors framed around stained-glass windows, kitschy picture frames with family members and artwork of call kinds (the work of her grandchildren was particularly featured). . . ."

(See more about her, including the trembling yet punchy launch of "her career as a neighborhood activist for industrial preservation," and the canal, in the book, .)

Katia said...

That is such a perfect description of her and her house. She loved Joseph Alexiou and was so proud of him and his book

Unknown said...

Katia, thank you for writing this beautiful piece for amazing Linda. As you say, the sorrow for her loss is immense. It is wonderful to have these photographs and feel the warmth and joy of that smile.

Cynthia said...

What a beautiful tribute. I will miss sitting at Linda’s table or just bumping into her in the neighborhood and walking back home together. She was a good friend to me and my family. I know her own family must be devastated.

Lindab60 said...

Thank you Katie . Our community lost the ray of sunshine we all needed. I will miss her friendship, and the times we would go the the Vintage Shows, her favorite thing to do. Rest In Peace Linda, I will miss your smile and laughterπŸ™πŸ»πŸ™πŸ»πŸ™πŸ»

Unknown said...

We have lost a giant. I already miss reliably running into her on her ceaseless excursions around the neighborhood, I know we all have a thousand Linda stories to share.

Blessed to have been her friend, Mark Karwowski

Unknown said...

Thank you Katia, Josh and the other commenters. We couldn't imagine a nicer or more fitting tribute to the work that Linda was so passionate about, and the friendships she so valued. There aren't words to express how much we miss her, but we are so happy for the unique bonds she shared with all of you. Love, Rachael, Michael, Maia and Rosie.

Martin Rowe said...

Thank you, Katia. I'm sorry to hear that she has gone. She was a character and I always enjoyed talking to her—usually at the farmers' market. She had a lovely smile and was very passionate about the neighborhood. I will miss her.

David Congdon said...

Katia, thank you for this lovely memorial. I will miss Linda terribly, and her wonderful laugh. For the rest of my life, I will hear her assessment of our local politicians and their developer cronies ringing in my ears - “They are the worst, David. The WORST!”. My condolences to Linda's family - Rachael, Michael, Maia, and Rosie. I am sorry for your loss.

Katia said...

Oh, absolutely, David. She certainly did not suffer fools, nor politicians and/or developers. She was a real champion for this community.

Katia said...

Thank you for this, Martin.

Katia said...

Mark, I am glad you were able to spend so much time together in the last few months.

Unknown said...

I will do my best to preserve our beloved Gowanus honoring Linda's leadership and moxie with every petition signed, every recommendation submitted, every sign waved, every 3 minute statement proclaimed.
What a great human.

Anonymous said...

Oh no. I hadn’t seen her at the store recently but what is a brief illness that could take her?
She was lovely and I will miss her and her personality. Ive known her for many years.
I am sad for her family

Anonymous said...

Sad news indeed. Thank you for commemorating our valiant neighborhood champion.

Joe & Eunice said...

Thanks for a wonderful and endearing remembrance of Linda. Have missed our encounters on Court Street and the Vintage Shop. She was truly passionate about the neighborhood. She will be greatly missed, so happy that we got to know her.. our condolences to her family.

Unknown said...

So sorry to hear of Linda’s passing.
Linda will be remembered for her generous
& warm spirit. She truly embodies the
community of President Street and the
neighborhood she loved so much.
She will be remembered & missed.

Susan Y said...

I will miss Linda & Joe. My best neighbors in NYC for a short time. I moved in Gowanus the day after Hurricane Sandy. Immediately, they told me, "It's your mom who told us to buy the building." when they were young & coming from the E. Village. They proudly showed me the photo of their entering an empty shell as I stood in their great kitchen, drinking Joe's homemade wine. I've lived in many neighborhoods as an anonymous NYer. The Marianos gave me memories of their extended neighborly love. I'm amazed of Linda's strengths in community activisms & keeping a 50 years marriage. I hope her efforts are continuous to inspire others.

Katia said...

Rachael, Michael, Maia and Rosie, sending a big hug your way. Both Joseph and Linda were so proud of you and your family. We will never forget them.

Unknown said...

Such sad news. Linda was a neighborhood institution who always had time to stop and talk. I used to love running into her on the street and catching up on things and local goings on. She was a big supporter of ours when we opened a business on Smith Street back in 1995. She would always stop in and see how things were, how we were doing, and encourage us to keep up the good work. The neighborhood is a better place because of all she did and her indefatigable spirit. We will miss her!

nancy said...

When we lost Linda we lost our ties to our youth.. when we believed that we can change the world -a little piece at a time. We were idealists,but always tenacious. When we allowed ourselves to slow down Linda continued...with that immovable smile that hid her steel determination . I will miss that smile, that voice, that compassion. I will miss that friend from my youth who
always believed that we can move mountains even when it's a pebble at a time. My thoughts and sympathy and love are with Rachael and her family. We all walk in Linda's footprints. Nancy Stehle, C.I.C.P. (Committee to Improve Carroll Park)

Katia said...

Nancy, thank you for these lovely words on Linda.

Anonymous said...

Sad sad news. Linda was a gem of a woman and true community activist and spirit. She was never afraid to speak truth to power, yet she was also one of the warmest, kindest spirits you could find. Carroll Gardens and especially Gowanus has lost such a huge and fierce advocate. We should remember her and honor the work she did in this community.

Unknown said...

Oh, no! This is truly sad news. Linda was one of the last people left who embodied the heart and soul of my old neighborhood home. I always enjoyed stopping in to Yesterday's News to say "Hello" when I was visiting my family in Brooklyn. Despite the fact that I did not know her very well she always had a big smile for me and never failed to ask after Mom and the rest of the family. She will be sorely missed. My heart goes out to her family and friends. She touched a great many people and the neighborhood will not be the same without her. May she rest easy.

Anonymous said...

I just loved visiting Linda there at the store.
It will never be the same place.

Anonymous said...

I am so sad to hear of Linda's passing. She was such a delightful person. I wish we could have spent more time together.

EllenB said...

I am just seeing this now and it really saddens me. I moved away 5 years ago - but Linda was such a wonderful lady to spend time with in Yesterday's News. I bought so many treasures there. Her smile lit up the place. Her advocacy for the neighborhood was so important. I live next to a tiny park now in the Bronx and a developer bought a single family home that is on a small plot of land on a steep slope. We have been fighting the plans to build a 29 unit apartment building as it is not appropriate for the space at all. Plus no Environmental Impact Study has been done on how it will affect our little woodland park. They are taking all our green away. Or the building will kill it off.
Condolences to Linda's friends and family.