Camera Eye: A Visual Exploration of Glass Bottle Beach

By Christine Stoddard |

Photo by Christine Stoddard.

File photos c. 2021 of Glass Bottle Beach at Dead Horse Bay in Gateway National Recreation Area, on the outskirts of the Marine Park neighborhood. The site has been closed since 2020 due to hazardous levels of radioactivity. From 1948 into the mid-1950s, it was a landfill with a mound elevation of 25 feet. Now eroding, the shoreline features a patchwork of broken bottles, ceramics, metal objects, clothing, and a mix of random household and industrial items.

Photo by Christine Stoddard.

Photo by Christine Stoddard.

Photo by Christine Stoddard.

Photo by Christine Stoddard.

Photo by Christine Stoddard.

GLOwanus–Using Light To Influence Water Quality

Brooklynites can turn to this lantern made of recycled plastics the next time a city-issued waterbody advisory is issued.

By Lauren Peacock |

It’s scary to think that a combined sewer overflow (CSO) could be happening on your streets even when it’s not visibly flooding.

A CSO can be caused by as little as a 1/12 of an inch of rain and can result in sewage being carried into the Gowanus Canal, hindering clean-up efforts. At the time of a CSO, all water is diverted into the Gowanus Canal. By reducing water consumption, the CSO is reduced, keeping the canal healthier, cleaner, and vibrant.

GLOwanus was created to make NYC waterbody advisory alerts easier to understand for residents. When the city issues an alert for the Gowanus Canal, the lantern will emit vivid colors and continue to do so until the waterboard advisory is lifted. When the colored lights come on, this tells residents that they should be cutting back on their water usage, whether that be waiting to wash dishes, flush the toilet, or do the laundry.

GLOwanus was created by Francesca Bastianini (Sight Studio) and Steven Koller (Environmental Science and Policy PhD student), two fellows from Van Alen Institute’s Neighborhood Design Fellowship program, and was designed by artists Manav Singla and Ridima Jain.

The Gowanus Canals are a superfund site. According to Bastianini, this means that despite the rapid change and development of the neighborhood, it is still undergoing repair from a long history of pollution, and ongoing pollution from an overwhelmed sewer system.

According to Andrew Brown, the Director of Programs at Van Alen, when there’s no city-issued waterbody advisory, the light glows white. When an advisory is issued, the light flashes different rainbow colors. Each color doesn’t specifically mean something, but the rainbow colors are meant to draw people’s attention so that they realize there is a City-issued waterbody advisory, meaning there’s a good chance combined sewage overflow (CSO) has recently spilled or may soon spill into the Canal.

The lanterns are made out of recycled plastics, creating a durable and translucent product that transmits light all around and avoids creating new plastic. According to Bastianini, the prototype of the lantern was created from the VAI Gowanus fellowship in 2021, and the current product was completed in the fall of 2023.

Instructions for the open-source code and 3D printing for the lantern are available. Shiloah Coley, the Program Associate at Van Alen, says that providing this information to the public makes it easier for other communities and neighborhoods that are interested in creating a product like the GLOwanus lantern to do so.

“We learned so much working on this, and we want to make sure other communities and individuals have access to this knowledge and feel encouraged to build on it,” explained Coley.

Bastianini hopes that the GLOwanus lanterns will not only expand on a large public scale, but expand awareness, provide prompts and support for local advocacy, and keep “pressure on agencies to follow through with their local officials.”

Coley hopes the lanterns help Gowanus residents feel empowered by providing the information they need during a CSO.

“That way if they choose to, they can act and adjust their own water usage habits. It would be great to see other folks build on our open-source code to make light installations in other neighborhoods.”

Approximately 20 to 25 GLOwanus lanterns are left at time of press. If anyone is interested in picking one up, you can email Shiloah Coley at

Why you should vote ‘Yes’ on Environmental Bond Measure

Voters across the state will have a question on their upcoming Nov. 8 ballot about whether the state should pass the Environmental Bond Measure. And we implore you to vote yes.

The Environmental Bond Measure would help unlock $4.2 billion for critical environmental spending by taking on debt, for issues including: at least $1.1 billion for flood risk and restoration, up to $1.5 billion for climate change mitigation, up to $650 million for land conservation and at least $650 million for water quality improvement. 

It’s a hefty cost, but a necessary one.

According to a 2020 report from State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, New York has the second highest debt burden behind California.

But the costs of doing nothing could reach a projected $10 billion per year (in 2010 dollars) by 2050, according to state reports.

We need to invest every dollar we can into fighting climate change.

It is an existential threat that requires long-term thinking and inaction will only make the situation worse.

With the surmounting costs of climate change, it would be better for the federal government to step in.

The Inflation Reduction Act brought some advancements in terms of federal dollars to help states battle climate change like tax credits for heat pumps and solar panels.

But due to the sniveling coward of a Senator Joe Manchin is, it was a compromise deal. 

We have very few options with how to deal with this issue. Inaction cannot be one of them.

So while adding more debt can be concerning to voters, the bigger costs are too big to ignore or delay.

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