Friday, October 24, 2008

CB6 Land Use Committee Votes Yes To Toll Brothers Project: That's What $365 K Worth Of Lobbying Buys

The Toll Suits

Toll VP David Von Spreckelsen

Von Spreckelsen with Land Use Chair Bob Levine

Computerized elevations of Toll Brother's behemoth Project

Oh, dear reader, the CB6 Landmark/Land Use Committee meeting was long and drawn out.
But I was determined to stay till the bitter end in order to report back to you.
The committee voted
last night on the Toll Brothers' behemoth condo project along the shores of the very polluted Gowanus Canal.
Let me just say that no amount of testimony from concerned residents at last month's meeting, no concerns about pathogens in the waters of the canal, nor warnings that the land is in a flood zone were able to sway a majority of our board members from voting yes for Toll's spot rezoning.

Most may have felt like member Jeff Strabone, who stated that he had misgivings about voting for the project because of the risk factors involved, but that in the end, he wanted to see the canal cleaned. That, he felt, would happen quicker if condo buyers would move to its shores.
"These people will be guinea pigs next to the toxic canal, but it will get cleaned up quicker if a couple of fat cats live there."
Well, that's one way of looking at it, but what if those guinea pigs start growing tumors...
The only no vote came from Roy Sloane. (May I just say thanks, Roy! You are my new hero!)
So there it is, dear reader. The vote is a sad outcome for the community. However, it is hardly surprising. Toll Brothers has deep pockets and has spent upwards of $365,000 to lobby for the project.

But pardon me for asking, why was Bill De Blasio, our Councilman, lobbying the Land Use Committee members to convince them to vote for the project? At least four board members received calls from DeBlasio's office in the last two weeks.
I wonder how many more members received a call as well?

The councilman has always been gung-ho on the project, but having his office lobby the board members is not cool in my book.
I think there is a lot of lobbying going on and not enough time spent actually listening to constituents.

Related Reading:

Toll Brothers Spent $365,000 On Lobbying For Gowanus Rezoning

For Home Page, click Pardon Me For Asking


Anonymous said...

This breaks my heart. Along with Mayor Putin winning over the City Council, this truly is a day that will live in New York infamy.

Lisanne said...

Arrogance reigns the week of October 20th in NYC and the existing citizens without deep pockets are the losers.

Anonymous said...

I daresay this project will go the way of the 3rd Ave Whole Foods project...nowhere. The toxicity issues are just to formidable.

Anonymous said...

As a resident of Carroll Gardens I am deeply concerned by the lack of representation on the matter of flood risks associated to private development of the Gowanus, in particular by Councilman Mr. Bill De Blasio.

I have done my own research as any citizen should and don't take 3rd party information as gospel. The facts are there. FEMA, Army corps of Engineers and DEC reports reflects great hazards for the area with respect to pathogen or flood surges. Is everyone daft?

I call Councilman De Blasio out on this because he is the man front and center closest to this topic of private development along the Gowanus. In the future, folks will look back as we are now reviewing the mistakes made in our financial system as pundit after pundit speaks about "gross miscalculations."

Much like the failure in our financials, we will have to one day confront the great danger of tidal surges, whether New York City broadly, or Carroll Gardens specifically.

As vested community members we need to take responsibility and not rely on our political representatives. They failed us in recent history and you can bet they are failing us now. It's up to us NOT to rely on heavily lobbied politicians. Write to your council members or speak to your community board members whenever you can. Let them know you care enough to ask.

Anonymous said...

Just another example of government corruption at its worst. The only way to defeat it is with massive public resolve and the support of the mainstream press. A few passionate voices and blogs are not nearly enough to overcome the money and influence. Public apathy is to blame for this. Every Carroll Gardens resident who sat silent should ashamed....

Anonymous said...

I think that some members of CB6 and the CB6 land use committee should have recused themselves since their jobs are dependent on real estate, construction, affordable housing construction, etc. Most of these members do not even live in Carroll Gardens nor do they represent those of us that do live and work in the area. While their support might not rise to the level of a conflict of interest it does create an appearance of impropriety and it smells worse than the canal. They are serving their own self interest rather than the community.

Katia, thank for sitting through last night's showing of Invasion of the Body Snatchers which is what people in the neighborhood are calling the meeting.

Anonymous said...

Toll Brothers still has a big battle on their hands, the economy, the dirty canal and then if it does get built selling those apartments with the taint of the seriously dirty canal and suronding land. I bet it will be a struggle. The polluted reputation will be tough to overcome with a marking campaign especially if we all keep that awarness alive. These are very real and tough issues compared to our "political" will as a neighborhood to modify their plans.In the end community "concern" had little effect with the politicians, developer and CB6.

Over the last 18 month I have been to a large number of community meetings, CGNA, CORD, USBA,SOBNA,FROGG ECT and at all we always say, "yes it is a batlle", "we do not have much money or power", "but we have the power of the vote". Most often at these meeting we are discussing policy, zoning, lifestyle issues and not really politics, like who we are supporting in the elections. Groups like CGNA may have a mission to not be political in that sense I understand that. However more than at anytime we need to get more serious about politics, get candiates into our meetings and vet them on issues and not just have them there for informational content or a pat on the back. We need to see them debate and to participate in forums and for us to begin to draw conclusions and take political sides. We are going to have a major election year for the city at a crucial time and we should get a feel for the best mayoral canditate as well and look beyond very local issues. It has been a rollercoaster ride of love and hate even in the last 3 months with Councilman De Blasio. He has stepped up on the bigger city wide stage in a positive way on limits. We voted him in to make tough decision for us. I hope we can stay focused through the many defeats, and we still have the BSA decision on 360 Smith to deal with, and get a clear understanding of what we want and who we want our elected officals to be. I think it is time to make those hard decisions ourselves and as community groups to get political and see if we do have any real power.