700-unit Lightstone Group Development (credit: Lightstone Group)
Lightstone Development site, Canal at Carroll Street during Sandy (photo credit: Margaret Maugenest)
I just received a letter from Councilman Brad Lander's office that was sent to David Lichtenstein, COE of Lightstone Group in regards to the company's proposed Gowanus development at 363-365 Bond Street. The site, adjacent to the Gowanus Canal, is located in a Flood Zone A and was evacuated both during Hurricane Irene in August 2011 and during Hurricane Sandy just two weeks ago.
This is a brave step for Councilman Lander and I applaud him for it.
Below is his letter to David Lichtenstein.
November 13, 2012
Mr. David Lichtenstein
Chairman and CEO
The Lightstone Group
460 Park Avenue #1300
New York, NY 10022
Dear Chairman Lichtenstein:
I write to urge the Lightstone Group to reconsider – and, for the time being, withdraw – the application you have submitted to the New York City Planning Commission for 363-365 Bond Street, on the banks of the Gowanus Canal, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
As you know, Hurricane Sandy brought an unprecedented storm surge that inundated waterfront neighborhoods, caused billions of dollars in damage, and left tens of thousands of New Yorkers without electricity, heat, or safe shelter. Within my district, many of those most impacted by the storm live and work near the Gowanus Canal, which overflowed its banks and flooded neighboring homes and businesses. As you are no doubt aware, the site of your proposed development was under several feet of water during the storm.
In the wake of the storm, alongside our ongoing relief and recovery efforts, it is essential to rethink our approach to the development of areas along the water’s edge, which are most vulnerable to severe weather – especially those that flooded during Hurricane Sandy. I believe it would be a serious mistake for you to proceed as though nothing had happened, without reconsidering or altering your plans, and putting over 1,000 new residents in harm’s way the next time an event of this magnitude occurs.
I therefore urge you to withdraw your application for 363-365 Bond Street, and to take part in a planning dialogue that engage local stakeholders, elected officials, and public agencies at every level of government to account for the high risk of future storm surges. With this approach, we can turn this moment of disaster into an opportunity for thoughtful planning and infrastructure investments that will lead to sound, long-term, balanced development. Without such planning, we can expect to again see the high costs and, more importantly, the tragic impacts such storms have on our city.
If you agree to withdraw your application at this time, I will be glad to work with you in the future as we develop new plans for the area. If you choose not to reconsider in light of what we have learned from Hurricane Sandy, but instead push forward with your existing proposal unchanged, I will urge the City Planning Commission to reject your application. As I believe you are aware, I also have serious questions about the public process for consideration of “minor modifications,” which does not appear to be based in any applicable legal framework from the City Charter, Administrative Code, Local Law, or agency rules.
I therefore urge the Lightstone Group to take strong leadership by withdrawing and reevaluating your proposed project. Working together – with local stakeholders, elected officials, public agencies, and the development community – I believe we can formulate guidelines for waterfront development and create a future for the Gowanus Canal area that turns the destruction our city has seen over the last two weeks into a thoughtful, sustainable, long-term plan for our future.
Thank you for your consideration.
City Councilmember, District 39
CC: Kasra Sanandaji, Senior Vice President, Investments, The Lightstone Group
Ethan Geto, Principal, Geto & de Milly
Purnima Kapur, Director, Brooklyn Borough Office, NYC Dept. of City Planning
Craig Hammerman, District Manager, Brooklyn Community Board 6