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Headliners: Ray Howell of the Gowanus Dredgers

Howell wants everyone to be in a canoe on the canal.

If you've ever visited the shores of the Gowanus Canal, you've probably seen Ray Howell. He's hard to miss. An amicable man, often in a windbreaker and brightly colored sneakers, Howell is in love with the canal.

Nearly every weekend he's at the waterway, taking people out on canoes or teaching them about the wildlife that exists despite its Superfund status. , we learned more about the Canal than we thought possible.

Howell moved with his wife and son from Manhattan to Carroll Gardens in 1999, and has never looked back.

Howell is one of the principal people involved with the Gowanus Dredgers, a volunteer-run group devoted to providing the public with access to the waterfront, and education about it.

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Questions for Ray Howell

1. What do you like best about Carroll Gardens?

"I like the scale of Carroll Gardens, with an uncrowded feeling, green and open space! This, combined with convenience to Manhattan. My son attended Stuyvesant High, a very short commute, and closer than where 90 percent of the students lived.

"Add to that the community involvement. What amazes me is the amount of knowledge and interest that people show in this community. It's such a wealth of knowledge, but also diverse opinions."

2. Currently, what is your favorite restaurant in the neighborhood?

". When we first moved here we came here. The food is quite excellent, a balance between traditional and not too much of the fusion, which is something i'm not interested in. It's the same owner and staff for as long as we've been around. It's comfortable and reasonable with a fair amount of space between the tables. The food is quite good."

3. Where do you like to shop for food?

"For groceries, on Henry. For prepared foods, Garden of Eden and Lassen and Hennigs in Brooklyn Heights. For meats, on Smith Street.

4. Are you afraid of the Gowanus Canal?

"Obviously, not afraid of the Gowanus Canal! It's slowly becoming an idyllic waterway and complementing the outdoor life style of Carroll Gardens residents."

5. What's the best (or worst) change you've witnessed during your time in the neighborhood?

"I think that Carroll Gardens has found a way to progress without physically changing its assets of space and scale; for example modernizing its housing stock without losing its traditional scale. More so than many neighborhoods, Carroll Gardens has been able to maintain its scale thanks to the efforts of the community.

It's the same caring that I described earlier. We're willing to put the time and the effort into maintaining the neighborhood."

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