As Robert Toll continued to unload stocks of his company, Toll Brothers' New York V.P. David Von Spreckelsen showed up with his usual crew at the Planning Commission's hearing concerning their Gowanus development project. In addition, the unions sent half a dozen workers to speak for the project. Both Buddy Scotto and Mark Shames were there as well, whole-heartedly endorsing the project, even suggesting that it should be higher. Mr. Scotto told the board that he was " exceedingly happy and supports the project 100%, without reservations."
However,the voices of the community members who had yet again taken time off from their jobs, their families and their lives (and without pay) in order to attend this meeting, were loud and clear: The Toll Brothers' project should not go before the greater rezoning of the Gowanus area, the height and bulk of the development will dwarf the much lower surrounding brownstone neighborhood and foremost, the health risks of building on the shores of the polluted Gowanus may just be too much of a gamble.
Amongst those community members who voiced their concerns, were my local heroes:
Rita Miller, Steve Miller, Glenn Kelly, John Hatheway, Chris McVoy, Maria Pagano and Marlene Donnelly who handed in her statement.
Below is the testimony given by Glenn yesterday:
Dear Commissioner Burden:
I am writing to express our support for appropriate development along the Gowanus Canal and our concerns about the Toll Brothers project.
I have worked with the Carroll Gardens Neighborhood Association for the past few years and serve as an Executive Committee Director and co-chair of the Land Use Committee. The CGNA has determined that there is consensus in Carroll Gardens for some control over the development occuring in our neighborhood and we are acting upon that consensus.
NYC Planning has recently introduced its plan for the rezoning of the Gowanus corridor and has committed to moving forward on the contextul zoning of Carroll Gardens. This will both allow for future development and protect the character and quality of life in the neighborhood.
The Gowanus plan is a good start and shows that a great deal of thought and community input went into it including lessons learned from the Park Slope/ Fourth Avenue rezoning. We have a great opportunity here and we have to get it right.
Our concern over the Toll Brothers' application is that we are circumnavigating the master rezoning process and allowing a developer to take the lead on how the Gowanus will look and work. While their plan has some wonderful aspects, it is the first one they presented. we should not be so quick to accept it without community input. It can be better.
We should not forget that, while we don't own the property, we, as citizens, do own the right to rezone the land and increase its value. This right and this value have too often been undervalued. Since we, as local residents, will have to live with the results, we should not allow developers, with only a profit motive to guide them, to hijack the planning process. The Gowanus plan will undergo changes and improvements which should apply to all of the development there in order to get the best result and one which we can all be proud of.
Carroll Gardens Neighborhood Association
Below is a video of John Hatheway's testimony.
Marty Markowitz Hears From Both Toll Brothers And From Residents
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