Here’s What’s Happening in the ‘Hood: A Lunchtime Walk in Gowanus

C’mon, admit it: You miss the old neighborhood! Sure, the Gowanus canal may be a giant toxic sewer, but the namesake neighborhood has a unique and gritty charm. People are coming out in droves to the neighborhood’s restaurants and bars these days, as vaccination rates and warmer weather bring a one-two punch of optimism to our little corner of Brooklyn.

Here’s what’s happening in Gowanus: Dispatches from a lunchtime walk around the block.

It’s a beautiful day. The sun is bright and the sky a flawless blue. Across the street from BCL’s main entrance, they still haven’t made much progress on the hotel in the empty lot across the street. Weathered construction permits, stapled to the construction fencing, flap beleaguered in the wind. Since covid hit, there hasn’t been any progress on the building, in sharp contrast to the lot two doors down, where a new Marriott is opening soon. Across the street, the guys at LLL Automotive smoke cigarettes and chat in the sunshine, which reminds me: I need to get my oil changed.

Over on 3rd Avenues, Natasha Corbie, a manager at Runner and Stone, shows off their new line of take-away wines and other grownup drinks. With neither sidewalk seating nor backyard seating, the beloved local bakery/restaurant has struggled this past year, and Corbie hopes that the line of take-away hooch will boost sales. I pick up an Arancini for the road. It’s a fried Italian rice ball, packed with broccoli rabe, pecorino, and a hint of chili. It is sublime.

Over on Carroll Street, the new building going up in the lot behind BCL is nearly complete. Concrete floors were poured a few months ago, and the window glazing is nearly finished. Rumor has it that the future anchor tenants may include a music school for kids, among other creative and professional tenants. Across the street, the Children’s School is quiet. You don’t realize how much you miss the activity until it’s gone. You know you’ve been cooped up for too long when you miss the daily after-school traffic jam.

Down the block, the Gil Hodges Community Garden on the corner of Carroll and Denton Place is in full bloom, a riot of purple Veronica and bright red tulips, their delicate petals almost translucent in the bright sunlight. The garden is locked today, but once open, it will be the perfect place to enjoy a light lunch from Daigo, a new sushi bar across the street.

As I turn onto Fourth Avenue, it’s like a reunion with old friends. Root Hill Cafe is doing a steady business from their front window. Gowanus Gardens beckons with its long beer list and innovative snack menu. And Oaxaca Taqueria? Forget about it. Who doesn’t like tacos? Meanwhile, the good folks at Ivy Garden, the grocery-deli-flower shop-gourmet food store, is showing off. The outdoor bins along the corner spot would give Paris a run for its money: citrus fruits stacked in neat pyramids, avocados, melons, and another explosion of color from the fresh flowers for sale around the corner on President Street.

Welcome to Springtime in New York. Hope to see our fellow coworkers soon!