Street Creeks: Restoring the Gowanus at Dwell on Design NY

Architect Ate Atema presented an innovative, aesthetically pleasing plan to divert raw sewage from New York City's waterways.
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New York antiquated sewage system, a relic of 19th-century engineering, works well enough most of the time, but heavy rains cause overflows that currently dump 27 billion gallons of mixed raw sewage into the city’s waterways each year. Ate Atema and his colleagues at Flow Collaborative have come up with a possible solution, using the rapidly gentrifying area around Brooklyn’s polluted Gowanus Canal as a test case.

Street Creeks is artchitect Ate Atema's proposal for diverting runoff into a series of curbside channels to ease the burden on New York City's antiquated single-pipe sewer system during rain events. He is looking to Brooklyn's rapidly developing Gowanus neighborhood, and the Gowanus Canal, as a test case.

The plan, called Street Creeks, would involve the creation of a network of covered curbside channels for storm runoff. Catch basins would strain off large pollutants while cisterns would collect and store the water, keeping it from being dumped into the Gowanus Canal as overflow. Meanwhile, the city’s sewer system, its burden of processing stormwater runoff significantly lightened, would be able to focus on its core function of treating the city's sewage.

The system would filter water through a catch basin, removing detritus and other large pollutants, before funneling it into a cistern. Only when the cistern is full would the stormwater move to a channel that would carry it into the city's combined sewer system.

Atema shared his concept in a presentation titled "Street Creeks: Restoring the Gowanus" in the Humanscale discussion area at Dwell on Design New York. Check back in to see what's on the docket for the next show at

By diverting raw sewage from the Gowanus Canal, the Street Creeks program would promote efforst to clean the canal of pollutants, elevating it as a community asset.


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