Pratt Center for Community Development (not to be confused with the Pratt Institute) has been hired by the elected officials as the facilitator and consultant in charge of running the planning process.
According to an overview prepared by Pratt, the goal is to:
*Develop the outlines of a comprehensive, community‐based infrastructure and land‐use plan for a safe, vibrant, and sustainable Gowanus area
*Bring community stakeholders together to build as much consensus as we can around a long‐term vision for the Gowanus Canal area
*Shape the next NYC mayoral administration’s thinking about the Gowanus Canal
*Create a space for honest conversation about different viewpoints.
The first such meeting had been convened this past August. On the list of invited stakeholders were representatives from local organizations and neighborhood associations. Those same stakeholders met again in October for a series of small group interviews.
Pratt Center compiled the information from these interviews and will present the findings at the first in a series of public meetings to be held on Monday December 9th, 2013.
The end result of these meetings, according to a press release "will be a community supported blueprint for an environmentally safe, vibrant, and sustainable Gowanus to inform de Blasio Administration."
Personally, I remain very skeptical of this entire 'Gowanus planning' process and doubt that at its conclusion, the community will be able to truly influence the outcome.
Mayor-elect Bill De Blasio, who once served as our Councilman, not only supported the Toll Brothers Gowanus spot-rezoning back in '08, he fought hard to drive away the EPA when the agency proposed to list the Gowanus as a Superfund. I have no doubt that he is itching to hand over the Gowanus corridor to developers.
However, as I wrote previously, I do believe that the community needs to take the planning process back. We owe it to ourselves and to all who will come after us to take our seat at the table, and to push for a true, transparent, democratic process. We need to tell our politicians that before any new development is envisioned, we need to first find out what the Gowanus can sustain. We need to first invest in infrastructure to strengthen the businesses and the residential areas that are already there, and we need to demand new tools in City Planning's tool box.
As a community, we need to remind our politicians that before moving ahead with any re-zoning, we need a health study to gage the effects of exposure to the environmental hazards in Gowanus. Secondly, we need a hydrological study to evaluate the effect of new development in this flood prone area.
Most importantly, we need assurances from Mayor-elect De Balsio that the City Of New York will pay and follow through on the EPA-mandated retention basins that will help reduce the Combined Sewer Overflows and improve water quality in the canal. Without these studies and without the retention basins, planning more housing in Gowanus seemed "recklessly premature."
Whether you live or work in Gowanus, Carroll Gardens, Boerum Hill, or Park Slope, whatever your vision for the future, we will all be affected by how the Gowanus corridor will be re-zoned.
Please stay involved. You can visit BridgingGowanus.org for upcoming meeting announcements and information about the process.