Borough President Marty Markowitz paid very close attention during the ULURP hearing on Toll Brothers' Gowanus development spot-rezoning last night. After Community Board 6 voted to approve the change in zoning ahead of a city-wide plan, it was now Mr. Markowitz's turn
to hear both from the developer and from the community.
There were two presentations of the project. First, Toll Brothers' Vice-President David Von Spreckelsen and his architect went through theirs, flashing the usual 'pretty' renderings of what their condo development will look like. Phrases like "the rythm of the streetscape" were used. Concerns about shadows cast by the two 12 story buildings countered by more charts and more drawings.
The second presentation was given by architects John Hatheway and Chris McVoy.
Both would like to see development along the shores of the Gowanus. Both would support the Toll Brothers' application provided it is dropped down to 8 stories instead of the proposed 12. In their drawings, the two architects showed the impact of the project on the neighborhood. One illustration was especially disturbing. When looking from Smith Street down Carroll Street towards Hoyt, the buildings will be clearly visible from this land-marked block.
Representatives from both the Gowanus Dredgers and from the Gowanus Conservancy spoke in support of the development. So did labor union members.
However, many residents stepping to the podium to give their testimony. They overwhelmingly urged Marty Markowitz to disapprove the spot-rezone. Kevin Duffy, Carroll Gardens resident, stated that he understood the need for jobs and affordable housing, but wants safety to be considered first. Building on brownfield, ' does not make sense.' He asked the borough president if he had ever read the Fema and D.E.P. reports. Both studies called the area along the canal 'uninhibitable' and situated in a 100 year flood zone. Duffy wondered who will take ownership of any problems that will arise from development on the Gowanus. He told Markowitz that he respected his judgment. " This vote weighs heavily on my family." he said.
More members voiced their grave concern about building ahead of a clean-up. Citing from the same DEP and Army Corp of Engineers report, Ludger K. Balan of the Urban Divers Estuary Conservancy told the audience that every thing from Beryllium, Cadmium, Chromium, Creosote,lead, manganese, mercury and zinc was found to be present in the water. (There were lots more chemicals on that list.)
Towards the end of the meeting, FROGG member and architect Ben Ellis summed it up best. To him, putting people next to the canal as a way of getting it cleaned up "sounds like an evil experiment."
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