The Whole Foods recently built on the toxic waste dump that is Gowanus has been cited a second time, reports Brooklyn Paper, for not fulfilling their promise to fix up the lovely landmarked Coignet Building they abut. The Coignet stands crumbling in Whole Foods' grip, a remnant of the past and maybe a thorn in the corporate grocer's side.
I went out to visit this Whole Foods after it opened, knowing well that the chain is a catalyst for change, a tool for spurring on hyper-gentrification, and that the Gowanus landscape surrounding it will soon be dramatically altered.
The mega-chain is trying very hard to look local, with sections hawking "Brooklyn Flavor," bike repair services, and a mini shop selling vinyl, both records and objects made from recycled records, by "a Brooklyn-based design and lifestyle brand."
There's even a mustachioed artisanal knife sharpener who cobbles together hand-made knives from reclaimed materials. And the "Stroller Parking" section speaks to the Brooklynite baby boom. (However, they don't call this store Whole Foods Gowanus, but Third and 3rd. What, is "Gowanus" too evocative of fecal stink?)
Still, all the signs screaming the word LOCAL can't take away the undeniable fact that Whole Foods Gowanus is utterly suburban.
Their parking lot is huge. It sprawls across what had once been a vast and wild vacant lot, apologizing for its existence by sitting under a roof of giant solar panels.
Outside, beyond the parked cars, Whole Foods has landscaped their bank of the Gowanus canal with a path. You can sit on a bench and watch the junkyard across the way, or wait for human bodies and dead dogs to go floating by.
Couples meander, hand in hand, breathing in the stink of raw sewage, a special Gowanus odor that all the fresh mulch in the world can't cover up.
On one of the garden walls--made from scruffy, graffiti-buffed stone--stands a piece of fresh graffiti, surely commissioned by the supermarket. Its hunter green color matches the branded shade of the Whole Foods logo banners just above it. With awkward diction, the "local" graffiti admonishes passersby to EAT MORE OF YOUR VEGETABLES.