Martha Schwendener writes:
“Access, usage, and a gentrifying neighborhood’s proximity to the water are central concerns for Mare Liberum (“Free Seas”), a Gowanus-based collective named after a 17th-century Dutch treaty that established maritime law and the concept of oceans as free zones, past certain national boundaries. Responding to rampant, “top down” development in the area—some of it laden with weird utopian overtones advertising Gowanus as the “Venice of Brooklyn,” despite the canal’s infamous toxicity—Mare Liberum started in late 2007 to offer boat-building templates through its website, as well as instructional workshops.
Using cast-off construction materials from local building sites—like the plywood for pouring concrete, which can only be used once—it has helped people make kayaks and dories to take out on the water. A member describes its boats as a kind of social sculpture but also cites CUNY professor and Occupy guru David Harvey‘s essay “The Right to the City” (2008, New Left Review) as important to its thinking. One of Mare Liberum’s boats, made with recycled paper from the publishing wing of the project, will be on view at the South Street Seaport Museum this fall.”