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More than a dozen people clad in rainbow colors navigated the notorious Gowanus Canal to celebrate the waterfront's queer history

Gowanus Dredgers Canoe Club hosts 4th Annual Pride Paddle
Gowanus Dredgers Canoe Club hosts 4th Annual Pride Paddle 02:18

NEW YORK -  As we close out Pride month, many are looking for unique ways to commemorate LGBTQ history in New York City. 

The Gowanus Dredgers Canoe Club hosted their 4th annual Pride Paddle in the notorious Gowanus Canal Tuesday. 

"That's the thing about the Gowanus Canal, you never know what you're going to see. You might see a dead rat, you might see a living dolphin," says Brad Vogel, captain of the club. 

Attendees draped in rainbow colors were excited, too. 


"I love alternative Pride events that are not clubbing or drinking-related," says Cobble Hill resident Tyler Hampton. 

Vogel explains that he sees a symbolic connection between the treatment of the waterfront and queer people throughout history.  

"I really do think there are some strange intermingling currents between gay rights and the Gowanus canal," he tells CBS2's Hannah Kliger. "The story of being marginalized and forgotten, or actively abused just as the canal was for a very, very, very long time."

During our evening tour, we saw some of the things you'd expect to see: litter, debris, strange colors on the surface. 

"The sediment is gross and disgusting and is really bad, but if you don't poke it, it will leave you alone," says Gary Francis, a board member of the club.

For many here, however, the Gowanus also provides a sense of peace. 


"It's easy to feel a little bit starved for nature," says Melody Bates, a Gowanus resident. "It's really valuable to me to find ways to kind of ground and actually feel connected to our planet."

Due to the dredging happening in the most polluted part of the canal, we stayed closer to the mouth of Gowanus Bay, where the water started getting clearer. There were hints of nature all around; birds were swooping overhead, plants were growing in tires, Mulberry trees flourished on the banks. 

"It's incredibly vibrant, it is so full of life. People have no idea," says Francis.

The canal itself is what drew Bates to the area. 

"One of the reasons I was drawn to the weird and wonderful neighborhood of Gowanus is that there is this canal and it is terribly polluted, but it is also an ancient waterway, and that feels great," she says. 

According to organizers, this was their biggest Pride Paddle turnout ever. And they expect the mysteriously murky waters to continue to harbor interest.

"You long had this history, in New York City especially, of people who didn't quite fit in, finding a place to fit in at the waterfront," says Vogel. 

As the sun set, the city seemed quieter on the water, but with these views, you can never forget you're in New York. 

The Gowanus Dredgers Canoe Club was founded in 1999 and hosts a variety of programming year-round, including movie nights, poetry readings, and water tours in the dark. 

Have a story idea or tip in Brooklyn? Email Hannah by CLICKING HERE.

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