Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Next 'Bridging Gowanus" Meeting Scheduled For Thursday. If You Live In Gowanus, You Should Be There

Pratt Center's Draft Timeline For "Gowanus Community Planning"

Back in December 9, 2013, about 200 residents and business owners took part in the first in a series of community meetings on the future of Gowanus. Entitled Bridging Gowanus, the 'democratic' process was convened jointly by Councilmember Brad Lander, State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez, State Assemblywoman Joan Millman, and Councilmember Steven Levin.
To facilitate the conversation about a shared, sustainable vision for the Gowanus, Councilman Lander has hired and paid Pratt Center for Community Development (not to be confused with Pratt Institute) as consultant in charge of running the planning process.  At the meeting, Pratt gave a presentation on what concerns, hopes and future uses of the Gowanus neighborhood the community has expressed so far. (The presentation can be accessed here.)

Though the turnout for the meeting was terrific, there was little time after the presentation and speeches from public officials for the community to actually engage in the conversation. Residents had been separated into groups, so that discussions were limited to individual tables. The conversation that followed Pratt Center's presentation would have been more inclusive if it had engaged all the residents at the same time.

Another shortcoming was that Pratt Center had neglected to include a map of the exact area that was being discussed. That should have been the first slide shown that night.

At the end of the meeting, participants were asked to sign up for working groups that would get together at a subsequently working meeting.

This new meeting has been scheduled for tomorrow, Thursday January 16, 2014 from 6:30 to 8:30 pm at PS 58 – The Carroll School (330 Smith Street).

Here are details on the meeting from Catherine Zinnel of Councilman Lander's office:

"As described in December, the Working Groups will collect and develop creative ideas that help address challenges and achieve the shared values discussed at the first community planning meeting. (You can find a meeting summary here.) Those ideas will then be presented at the second community planning meeting, which will take place in late February.

The process facilitator has identified four general Working Group areas:

· Environmental Infrastructure
· Social and Cultural Infrastructure
· Strengthen the Mix of Uses
· Affordable Housing

Since the Working Groups are meeting simultaneously on Thursday January 16, 2014 from 6:30 to 8:30 pm, we ask that each person select one Working Group in which to participate. Please RSVP using this link by Monday January 13.

At the first meeting, Working Groups will:

· Identify the challenges to be addressed by their group
· If applicable, review some ideas that have already been developed to address these challenges
· Brainstorm new ideas

The second set of Working Group meetings are scheduled for Monday January 27 from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm at PS 58, during which participants will further develop and refine ideas for presentation at the second community planning meeting in February.

If you know of others who would like to join a Working Group, they should visit and click on the “Get Involved” tab. Shortly after signing up they will receive an email with more detailed information. The last day to sign-up for a Working Group is Sunday January 12. (Those without regular computer access can call 718-499-1090 to sign up.)"

Though the sign-up has passed, I would urge everyone who lives, works or owns a business in Gowanus to participate.  According to our politicians, this is a 'democratic' process, yet there have been questions about its inclusivity.

A first email about Thursday's meeting sent by Catherine Zinnel of Councilman Lander's office in early January did not seem to have reached everyone.  When a local resident made me aware of it, I emailed Catherine to let her know that neither I nor my husband had received notice, though we had both been part of the previous meetings.
Catherine subsequently sent out a second email a few days later, which made it to my mailbox.
However,  I know of at least four people, who signed up to be part of one of the working groups at the December meeting,  and who never received either one of the notices. They would not have known about Thursday's meeting if I had not forwarded the email.
For that reason, perhaps the deadline set by his office may be disregarded.

The 'Bridging Gowanus' process and its findings will ultimately lead to an overall rezoning of the Gowanus Canal area.  No matter what your vision is for the neighborhood, the more people participate, the more the community may have a say about its future.

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