The Vice and Vagrants of Old-School Gowanus
It’s now a seven-million-dollar property, but this one-time electrical substation along Brooklyn’s infamous canal was once a funhouse for runaway teens and renegade punks.
Photos by Will Ellis
“We found her in the winter,” he tells me over chocolate cake at Park Slope’s Tea Lounge.
It was the time of year when New York reminds you it’s on the same latitude as Russia; when the wind reminds your skin it’s alive. January 2001: Zachary Edminster and a few other teen runaways were mobbing through North Brooklyn alongside the fetid Gowanus Canal when they came upon an abandoned powerhouse, a red brick hulk that seemed to have been forgotten by time. Five Vietnam vets living in the alleyway warned them against going inside.
“I wouldn’t follow Christ into a hellhole like that,” one said. The kids didn’t listen. They had come looking for shelter. Instead, they found a home. “We named her ‘the Batcave’ because that seemed to have an appropriate amount of moral ambiguity,” Zach says.
After two semesters at the Bronx High School of Science, Zach had stopped coming back to his mother’s apartment in the West Village. The only one who was ever home was a cat named Pepperm…