Friday, August 24, 2012

From Condo To Rental: The Lightstone Group Presents Its Gowanus Project To Community Board 6

363-365 Bond Street 
CB6 Landmark/Land Use Committee meeting last night
Committee Chair Peter Fleming
Lightstone Representative 
Steven Lenard and Aline Fader representing New York City Planning
David Von Spreckelsen, senior vice president at Toll Brothers

After seven weeks in France, the last place I wanted to be last night was at the Community Board 6 Landmark/ Land Use Committee meeting, but The Lightstone Group was presenting its plans for 363-365 Bond Street on the shores of the Gowanus Canal. And well, it was too important to miss.

As many of you probably know by now, Lightstone is reviving the former Toll Brothers project. Back in 2009, after a Uniform Land Use Review Process (ULURP) that was set in motion by Toll Brothers, the property was successfully spot re-zoned from manufacturing to special mixed-use by the City of New York despite the protests of many members of the community who pleaded with city officials to first clean the Gowanus Canal thoroughly before rezoning the area.

Shortly afterwards, however, the Environmental Protection Agency came to the community to inform residents of the toxicity of the Canal and declared is a Superfund Site.
It did not take long for Toll Brothers to abandon its plans, stating that the Superfund designation made it impossible to go forward with the 447 unit condo project.

If Toll Brothers got cold feet, the Lightstone Group is ready to charge ahead with a 700-unit rental building. The developer came in front of CB6's Land Use Committee last night as a "courtesy" since the "relative minor alterations" apparently do not need a new ULURP nor a new Impact Statement.
CB6 Land Use Chair Peter Fleming was quick to tell board members and residents that this was an 'informal presentation' by Lightstone. "They are looking for input from the community, so try to be productive with your comments."

 Lightsone's project looks very much like what Toll Brothers had proposed. The "minor modification" are reflected in the massing to allow affordable apartments to be distributed throughout the buildings and 'to accommodate the addition of the NYC waterfront Sponge Park at the end of 2nd Street."
However, the new plan will "reflect the current economic conditions and real estate market." It is a mixed-use, all-rental development with fully integrated affordable and market components.
There will be 560 market rate apartments, 140 affordable apartments. There will be two small retail spaces on Bond Street, community spaces on the Canal and on 1st Street as well as open space along the Canal. There will also be parking for 316 cars.
The buildings will range in height from 6 stories to 12 stories, with the higher buildings on the canal front.
The affordable component will be affordable in perpetuity and will be managed by the Fifth Avenue Committee.

It did not take long for CB6 members and local residents to address the environmental issues affecting this particular site during the question-and-answer period. According to Ethan Geto, Lightsone's public relations person, "the EPA has responded positively to the development project" and "supports remediation of the site by Lighthouse" because the proposed steel pile along the bulkhead, storm sewers and other site work will reduce pollution in the canal.

Steven Miller, Committee member and EPA Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group (CAG) member urged Lighthouse to set up a meeting with members of the CAG and representatives of the EPA "as soon as possible".

The community also reminded Lighthouse representatives that the Gowanus area used to be marshland and that it is prone to flooding. In addition, the sewer infrastructure is totally inadequate. "I have had 5 feet of raw sewage in my basement, "Richard Beanman , who lives on Carroll Street at the corner of Bond Street, stated. "I welcome you to come to my house when it rains. Before you build. Not after."
Another resident added: "You are increasing the sewer load by 700 units in the area."

It is interesting to note that Lighthouse has retained the services of both Lee Weintraub of Lee Weintraub Landscape Architecture and of AKRF a leading environmental, planning and engineering consulting firm. Both had previously worked on the Toll Brothers Project.

It was also strange to see David Von Spreckelsen, senior vice president at Toll Brothers, in the audience. Longtime resident Celia Cacase asked directly if Toll Brothers still had any involvement with the project.  A Lighthouse representative was quick to deny. "Toll is neither directly involved or indirectly involved."

Also, when asked if Lighthouse had already purchased the site or had an option to buy, their representative said that because of confidentiality, he could not answer the question, but that 'an option to buy would not be a misrepresentation."


Rob said...

That's interesting. So I guess the guy who ones the round house and Gowanus Grove/BKLYN Yard area is selling. I can't blame him, they probably made him an offer he couldn't refuse. The thing is, how many people are going to want to rent from a building that will have a great smell at low tide. Those with apartments facing Bond St will be okay as there is a buffer but if you're right on the water, you're going to smell that.

Anonymous said...

I find it maddening that all these apartments can be built in the neighborhood without giving thought to the impact on the public schools. There should be some sort of school tax levied on new buildings to make room in our already over crowded schools for more kids.

Anonymous said...

It is too bad that our city council member Brad Lander did not send any staff to this presentation as he is in the best position to address the very real quality of life and infrastructure concerns his constituents have about this project. I am sure that Brad has devoted a lot of time to this project as his former employer, the Fifth Avenue Committee, will reap a nice benefit in administering the affordable housing.
Remember, Brad also wrote to the EPA requesting that the EPA DELAY the clean up process in order to work in conjunction with DEPand DEC. How does he square that with this project?

Anonymous said...

What a dreadful image that plan rendering conjures. Is this Dallas? Perhaps so. Anyway, kiss what little on-street parking remains goodbye. Make the F train entirely unbearable. Overburden already failing public sewer systems. Utterly alter the basic character of the neighborhood. Make a handful of people many millions of dollars. Sounds like an excellent idea, like all Bloomberg-supported projects in this neighborhood. What about some parks, swimming pools, tennis courts, places for people to improve their lives in sane ways? After our rental lease is up, we are moving on, finding ourselves unable to afford to buy a small apartment in this neighborhood already, despite two good salaries combined. The writing is on the wall. Enjoy.

Anonymous said...

I like the idea of developing the property for residential use, but feel there are too many units in the plan. It'll overpower the neighborhood. How many stories are being planned? Also, I never quite understood what exactly the superfund is. At some point, can you pleas explain it in the simplest possible way. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Here we go again.
Please stop this huge and inappropriate rape if a neighborhood. carriage before the horse. What's greedy fiasco, Lightstone.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

look up the word superfund and the words gowanus canal and you will have your answer. It means the canal is a toxic hazzard. poison toxic.
Search this blog for past answers about this project.

Anonymous said...

Katia, all I can say is thank you for your resilience and commitment. Resilience because, just getting back from France, you deal with this. Major joy-kill I would think.

Anonymous said...

This proposed project is NOT about "affordable" housing no matter how much they try to frame it as such. "Affordable housing," like "needed housing for seniors" is an TROJAN HORSE. Remember Rattner and how the "affordable" housing component of his Atlantic Yards project collapsed? This project is ALL WRONG and there should never have been spot rezoning by the City to allow it. The spot rezoning was pre-Superfund at a time when the City and developers thought the canal was clean enough to build on. It is 1. in a flood zone 2. hurricane zone 3. an out-of-scale, out-of -context assault on the existing Gowanus community. And, yes, there is a the saw sewage issue from the CSO's. Also, isn't this a Brownfield site? Can you put rentals on it?

Anonymous said...

This is where "Standard Oil of NY" ran their operations once, so is it a "brownfield"? Wouldn't parts of it need special cleanup?

The rezoning's answer to these questions was no-- no special cleanup needed on any of the site. The project can be build on the land, as-is.

And what did the EPA test wells discover on the site? Contradictions to the rezoning's conclusions on environmental cleanup.

So now they plan on building more units on this site?

Anonymous said...

The whole proposal seems like an assault portions of Carroll Gardens.

The development looks more like a new form of community terrorism.

Anonymous said...

I have heard some community people say that this is a done deal, and there is nothing to do about it - so work with these people so that you can at least have some input on it - that being totally negative about it will get you no concessions. My question is - what is there possibly to be gained from working with these people? They will not make the project smaller in scale - they are after maximum profits. And once this monstrosity is up, it will be hard, if not impossible, to fights against other developments on this scale in Gowanus. The facts are so many that this is a wrong project - the environmental realities, the out of scale, the non-supportive infrastructure.

Anonymous said...

People have a lot of legitimate concerns about this project and its impact on our neighborhood and we need to hold Brad Lander's feet to the fire when it comes to infrastructure and schools. Give him a call. 718-499-1090. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

I like the design, and they do not seem too large. I thing that building a whole community like this is the right way to go, especially if there are good services provided and retail space to support it, like a grocery store, etc.

Clearly the major problem is that the city infrastructure cannot support the existing community much less this new development. DEP needs to do a major overhaul of the sewer system first.

Agnes said...

The renderings are deceptive in that they make the scale and size seem much smaller than the reality. The renderings have nothing to do with the reality in other ways, also - like the boats on the water - the pristineness of it all. Gowanus is grit.

Anonymous said...

Terrorism indeed. What ugly trivializing hyperbole. Where were you in September 2001?

I am a fan of the development provided they can make it safe for the residents. That means appropriate cleanup of toxic residues, spending the $$$ to prevent CSOs and general management of drainage to avoid damage from flooding. Not easy but that is what is needed.

The area is in a prime location close to so much including good transport to the city, I think it is closed minded and / or selfish not to support the construction of more homes.

Re crowding of schools and transport - that can be solved with tax $ if it becomes a problem. Re parking that also could be solved with resident parking permits (though I am not unhappy if car ownership is more difficult)

As to the look of the development - I don't mind it at all. It isn't special but the windows are large, it isn't monolithic and there are trees.

Anonymous said...

@8:52 "Terrorism" -The use of intimidation in the pursuit of political or financial aims. For many of us in Gowanus, sadly, this Lightstone project is exactly that. If this project happens, you can kiss all we love about Gowanus goodbye.

Anonymous said...

I live just a block from this and I am terrified of this monstrosity being build. Please tell me there is something that can be done! How does one horrible development project get canned for another one twice as horrible? 700-something units? How does that fit in with this community>??? How can these greedy bastards come and do this to a neighborhood? have we learned nothing from the awful atlantic yards project? when will it end?? I am furious and horrified. What can we do?

Big Fun said...

It's clear that Brad "Blander" Lander is not going to bat for anyone other than developers and Buddy Scotto, who is one of his political patrons. This project makes it absolutely clear that too many politicians are on the take and collecting their kids' college tuition and summer house deposits.

We really need to reassess where we are going to be getting our strength from because it is NOT from elected officials, especially in Brooklyn these days. Blander never fails to disappoint. He and Craig "Hammerhead" Hammerman only do little things to collect political capital and then cash in that political capital to get the bigger payday with developers - and, like the Gowanus, it STINKS.

We need to organize better community groups and community protests, the same way that Jane Jacobs stopped the Robert Moses monster in the 1960's. If we don't get smart, we'll lose the character that still exists here in the Gowanus. And time is short, because these projects are insidious and expedited by the likes of Blander and Hammerhead (CB6 is just a tool for developers and for Markowitz at this point).

The main thing we need is more projects like parks and recreational facilities, especially in the sedentary age of laptops and so on. Why is eminent domain never used for parks and things that actually IMPROVE the quality of life for EVERYONE? Time to start a new era, neighbors...

Margaret said...

@9:36 SPOT ON!!!! Joni Mitchell so presciently sang:
"Don't it always go to show, that you don't know what you've got 'till it's gone."

Anonymous said...

More negative defeatist thinking. Instead of complaining so much about change (that if done correctly is good for the city, good for employment, good for the environment, good for low income people, etc) how about just laying out what are the minimum expectations of the project (ie safe habitation, prevention of CSOs, etc) and putting energy into lobbying for these + quality of life improvements (boardwalk, trees, etc).

While not directly related, an example of constructive lobbying is pushing for something like built over the BQE which would be great for the neighborhood in so many ways.

Ed said...

9PM - I can't believe you are comparing the Lightstone project to a project to create a community park. And then have the nerve to say that negative response to the Lighthouse behemoth is "negative defeatist thinking." I live in Gowanus and in no way see the Lighthouse project as a benefit to my neighborhood. It is a benefit to developers. As for the 5th Ave Committee taking over the "low income housing" units - by the way - the number of those kinds of units increased very little whereas the market rate units increased HEAPS - have any figures come out as far as how much "low income units" will go for? Not cheap, I bet!

Anonymous said...

Ed - do you deny this project would create jobs? Do you concede at adding medium/high density apartments close to the city, near a train station and shops (as opposed to further out) is good public policy? By all means push for a greater component of low income housing but surely you see that it will help at some level for some people? Do you see that this project should help the tax base of NYC by supporting higher population etc? Sure it helps the developers (assuming they finish the job) but the benefits spread much wider.

Ed said...

This will set a precedent that will actually take away jobs - consider that Gowanus is currently zoned for industry and that his was a SPOT rezoning! Industry in Gowanus is booming - and at the same time, threatened. I have a neighbor, a special effects company for films, broadway, TV, etc, who has had to relocate three times due to gentrification in other areas that were once zoned for industry - and this is their last stand. As for housing - there can be no more inappropriate place for density housing than this geographical area - flood zone, hurricane evacuation zone, as well as the environmental challenges. These are the realities. Not all land is equal. As far as taxes - industry pays a lot in taxes, also. I know of industry that has wanted to expand or locate to Gowanus but cannot because of the speculation going on here for residential, and residential brings in more bucks for property owners. the City must protect industry-this is one of the last places where it still exists in America!

agnes said...

The argument that this project will create jobs overlooks the fact that this spot rezoning from manufacturing to residential actually sets a precedent that will take away manufacturing from Gowanus.

Anonymous said...

TERRORISM?? you are comparing a development to terrorism? are you sick? are you off your meds?? have you seen a bomb rip through a bus full of children and people going to work? have you watched people jump out of burning buildings and land a few feet from you?? i have and THAT is terrorism.

IF the lighthouse group brought guns to the meeting and said "let us build it or else" you MIGHT be right. if they walked into your home and blew up you and your family you WOULD be right.

this is a case of a group asking to do something you do not agree with.

by all means protest, ask questions and demand answers. don't use absurd hyperbole to try and make your point. its nonsense like that which turns off people such as myself to your arguments. i hear phrases like that thrown around and I immediately say... "these people are nuts.. I hope they build something twice as big."

Reluctant activist said...

Lighthouse group is NOT asking - they came to the community to let them know what they intend to do. If you live in the area, bought, rented, whatever, then the prospect of having what you love completely destroyed has exactly the same effect as an act of terrorism. 9/11 does not own the word "terrorism." All of us have experienced 9/11 and grieve. How would Carroll Gardeners feel if in its midst you get a 700 unit 12 story complex as your direct neighbors - not down the hill, mind you, but right there in your face. Also to the point is that this is not an appropriate project for this site. I am well aware that there are people in the community who stand to profit greatly financially, who have been pushing for this. And this is a kind of war, isn't it, against those who do not want this, who want to protect the industrial zoning, also.

Anonymous said...

in recent Forbes - 100 million judgment against Lighthouse Group creator Michael Lichtenstein and his company for pushing his Extended Stay hotel chain into bankruptcy. And now Lighthouse is suing its lawyers. Hmmm...Forbes story link:

Anonymous said...

Why is there not more community outrage over this? I don't understand it at all. Nothing is ever a "done deal." It ain't over till the fat lady sings. And that hasn't happened yet.