Thursday, March 05, 2009

Carroll Gardens And Gowanus Residents Showed Up To Testify, But Council Members Not There To Hear Them

City Hall
Borough President Marty Markowitz testifying in front of 
Zoning and Franchises Subcommittee Chair Tony Avella
Councilman Bill DeBlasio, left
(listening while texting during the hearing)
Toll Brothers' New York V.P. David Von Spreckelsen
John Hatheway, Architect, in background
Craig Hammerman, CB6 District Manager, foreground.
John Heyer, Glenn Kelly, Josh Skaller and Gary Reilly
Buddy Scotto and Bob Furman

Dear Zoning and Franchises Subcommittee Members,
We were there.
Where were you?
You should be ashamed!

Close to twenty Gowanus and Carroll Gardens community members showed up to testify at the Zoning and Franchises Sub-Committee's public hearing on the Toll Brothers' Gowanus project. Only Chair Tony Avella was present. The other committee members were missing or had sent their assistants. Since there was no quorum, a vote on the matter was delayed. Which is just as well, I say.
Also present was our own Councilman Bill DeBlasio who was on hand to re-iterate his position in favor of the development. Explaining that he had at first been dubious about the project, he changed his mind because "the project is one I felt comfortable with because its commitment to affordable housing was real."
He stated that he will "suggest that my colleagues support this project."
Dismissing the community's calls for a height limit of 8 stories as opposed to the 12 stories proposed by Toll, De Blasio felt that "there is going to be a certain amount of height to make it feasible. That is just the reality we are living with."
However, during the public comment session, Carroll Gardeners voiced their frustration with the process, with the lack of community involvement and with
the sense that the politicians seem to listen more to developers than to their constituents.

Councilman DeBlasio took offense at the suggestion. Raising his voice, DeBlasio
rebuked the allegation that politicians are serving developers. "You are being heard," he said, "but we disagree." Affordable housing was important to him, he said. So was diversity. "I cannot accept a neighborhood that is only one kind of people."

Chairman Avella had a different opinion and sided with community members. He said: " I do think real estate interests control the agenda."

Bill DeBlasio seemed to have missed the point. No one was testifying against affordable housing. On the contrary, the community wanted guarantees that Toll Brothers would not end up building their luxury condo complex without the affordable component.

Craig Hammerman, Community Board 6 manager, conveyed the concern of CB6
that the project lacked any guarantee for affordable housing in return for giving the applicant permission to build higher and with more bulk than would otherwise be acceptable to this community. The board had understood that there would be a deed restriction on the property for the affordable housing requirement.
However, no such resrtiction exists and no guarantees are given.

Architect John Hatheway gave a presentation of an alternative to the Toll project.
In his opinion, "it is shortsighted to approve this project just because it contains public housing." According to him, the development "can be designed in such a way that the affordable housing can be achieved at a lower height without loss to Toll's project."

Councilman DeBlasio turned directly to Toll Brothers' VP David Von Speckelsen, to clarify the commitment and relieve the concerns over the affordable housing.
Mr. von Spreckelsen confused matters further when he said: " If you can assure us the money is there, we will build the affordable housing."
Not quite what he wanted to hear, deBlasio wanted to know from Von Spreckelsen if he knew of "any specific fear that these subsidies may not be made available."
To this Von Spreckelson said "no."
Josh Skaller, Council District 39 candidate, expressed what many Gowanus and Carroll Gardens residents feel: " If you want to increase the density by the Gowanus Canal, clean it up first." He questioned the safety of residences along its banks considering the toxic nature of the site. Turning towards Bill DeBlasio, he said:
"You must have found a way to feel OK with this. I would like to know how."
(See Bill De Blasio's response on You Tube Below)
No vote was taken after the lengthy meeting due to the lack of quorum. The matter has been tabled until Monday. It seems that Chairperson Avella's fellow Committee members did not deem it necessity to show the least consideration to the residents most affected by the project.
Which just reinforces their claim that their concerns are not being considered.

Tony Avella seemed to agree. (See the video below)

Bill De Blasio's response to Josh Skaller

And just for the record: Toll Brothers on environmental clean-up

Related reading:
Gowanus Area Resident Speaks Out Against Toll Brothers' Project


Anonymous said...

Dear Katia,
You are doing an amazing service for the community with this thorough and multi-layered report - the pictures, the videos, the descriptions. I can't believe De Blasio is using the same old line of affordable housing needs and not wanting only one kind of people in a community. His 4th Ave upzoning threatens affordable housing and the mix of community as it "yuppifies" and "uglifies" the neighborhoods. Amazing that he will reassure Toll Bros., but not the community he represents. What a creep. And I would love greater detail about the cryptic exchange between De Blasio and Toll - that Toll needed the assurance that the subsidies were there for Toll to include affordable housing. This city is busted, but Toll wants subsidies. This neighborhood has become so less mixed in the 25 years I have lived here. Now Gowanus rezoning talk is threatening rent stabilized/controlled units already existing. When I hear developers and politicians say their motive for unpopular projects is their desire to create affordable housing, I know I am listening to double talk. Our politician should know better (WE'RE NOT DUMB DE BLASIO!)- and the developers should come up with some truth for once!

Anonymous said...

The Tolls probably would LOVE it if there was just "one kind of people" in there, then they could just build this project without all this scrutiny....

I loved it when the Toll guy said he was "insulted" oe was it "offended" that there were children living near the canal. Well I am sorry, they are insulting the community with their project.

I don't get that DeBlasio expects us to trust this "Fortune 500" company (which is frightening in March 2009) to have the responsiblity of cleaning up the canal. Has has he read the paper lately? and as far as him sort of being offended that the community doesn''t really feel he is there for us, ummmm i have seen the guy come to community board meetings, do his spiel about affordable housing and then leave before even bothering to listen when non community board members get to speak. I have nothing against Tom Grey but he is not our council person! Corporations have screwed us over. As Josh S. quoted Bob Toll, "Take the money and run!"

Great coverage Katia, if you didn't do this no one would.

Anonymous said...

Today's NY Post has an article that De Blasio received $8,000 in campaign contributions from billboard sign makers after public railing about tough billboard regulations. Of course his reasoning is that he is "supporting small businesses." It does make one wonder.

I agree that Bill was incredibly disengaged from Carroll Gardens for years and ignored constituents requests for help in regard to dangerous and illegal development until he was called out publicly via the neighborhood blogs and the community became impossible to ignore. He seems to resent having to deal with people in this section of his district unless they are pulling the strings at the IND.

Anonymous said...

De Blasio was not present at the 2007 Toll scoping hearing to hear the community's concerns; he arrived at the end to make his statement. He was not present at any of the other hearings either to listen to the community. He was at the CB6 hearing only long enough to make his statement.

SO now he wants to hold additional meetings. Why are we listening to this guy?

Anonymous said...

Katia, Great Story Coverage Here!

Also, here is some followup to the statements in the vedio on the brownfield issues. The following statements are excerpts from:

Toll Brother’s, May 31, 2005, PHASE II INVESTIGATION REPORT 363 Bond Street,
Prepared by: Environmental Liability Management of New York, LLC.

"On April 15, April 20 and 21 and on April 28, 2005, ELM conducted the Phase II Investigation activities, which consisted of the advancement of ten (10) soil borings, five (5) of which were completed as ground water monitoring wells.

Evidence of petroleum contamination (odors, staining or elevated photoionization detector [PID] readings) was noted in all ten soil borings/ground water monitoring wells installed during this investigation. Soil was noted to be saturated with product in two boring locations: MW-5 and SB-1. Additionally, free product was encountered in two monitoring wells: MW-3 and MW-5; however, no free product was noted in the soil samples collected from MW-3.

Elevated concentrations of VOCs, above New York State Department of Environmental Conservation [NYS DEC] Technical and Administrative Guidance Memorandum 4046 [TAGM 4046] Recommended Soil Cleanup Objectives [RSCO5]) were noted in soil in five sampling locations: MW-3, MW-5, SB-1, SB-3 and SB-4. …….

SVOCs were detected in soil at concentrations atypical of urban fill material in 6 boring locations: MW-2, MW-5, SB-1, SB-3, SB-4 and SB-S. One or more soil samples collected from each of these boring locations contained concentrations of total SVOCs above 100,000 ppb. Samples from two of the locations, MW-S and SB-1, contained concentrations of total SVOCs above 500,000 ppb, which is the TAGM 4046 RSCO for total SVOCs.

Pesticides were detected in soil above TAGM 4046 RSCOs in two boring locations: MW-2 and MW-5. Pesticides were also detected in ground water above Class GA Standards in MW-5.

Metals were detected in soil above TAGM 4046 RSCOs in all 20 soil samples collected. …. Mercury was detected at concentrations one order of magnitude greater than the TAGM 4046 RSCO of 0.1 ppm in soil collected from five boring locations: MW-2, MW-4, MW-5, SB-1 and SB-5. ….Lead was detected in soil at concentrations exceeding the upper limit of the average background level in metropolitan areas in one or more samples … Arsenic and lead were detected at concentrations above their respective Class GA concentrations in ground water collected from monitoring well MW-5." |elm|

Anonymous said...

The whole thing is disgusting and horrible reflection politics in our community. Mercury, Lead, and Arsenic??? How can any sensible person think the thing is a good idea? Bill DeBlasio should be ashamed of himself, along with all the board members who are too chicken to uphold their responsibilities and attend meetings. How can these scoundrels be tossed out (know that BDB is going away, but what about the rest of them)?