Thursday, October 11, 2012

Less Than A Stellar Moment For Community Board 6 As Members Reject Own Land Use Committee's Recommendations And Votes To Conditionally Approve Lightstone Gowanus Project

Community Board 6 Board  October Meeting at Prospect Park Residence in Park Slope
Board Chairman Daniel Kumer
The Lightstone Group suits
Chairman of CB6's Land Use Committee
Board Member Lou Sones
Board members Debbie Scotto (with hand raised) and Judy Thompson

Last night's monthly meeting of Community Board 6 was a bizarre, badly organized affair that left many Gowanus/ Carroll Gardens residents scratching their heads and wondering about the board's integrity.

First, CB6 should have known that their monthly general meeting would be well attended. After all, on the agenda for the night was the Lightstone Group's  application for "minor modifications" to the previously approved land use actions at 363-365 Bond Street in Gowanus.
When the issue was discussed at CB6's Landmark/ Land Use Committee's public hearing on September 28th, 2012, the community had come out in force, filling an entire school auditorium and overwhelmingly spoke against it.

Yet, no provisions were made to accommodate a larger crowd. Before the meeting even started, the room set aside for the night at the Prospect Park Residence in Park Slope was filled to capacity and members of the community were stuck in the lobby, unable to go upstairs to attend.
(Perhaps if someone had asked some of the 10+ representatives of Lightstone to leave, there would have been room? Just saying...)

Board Chairperson Daniel Kumer was quick to tell everyone that no comments would be taken from the audience. He stated that there had been plenty of opportunity for the community to speak out at the Landmark/ Land Use Committee on September 28th and at a previous meeting in August.
"Most of the real work happens in the committees" he stated.

True enough. After listening to much opposition to the Lightstone project, the Committtee had passed a motion requested that New York City Planning Commission not move ahead with the Lightstone project and that it be tabled until a supplemental Environmental Impact Study (EIS) is performed.
In addition, the motion requested
*that the developer commit to the following:
* that 30 percent of the units be affordable
*that the over-all height of the building be reduced to eight stories as opposed to 12 stories.
*and that the Community Board Responsible Contractor Conditions (which include union labor) be followed.
The motion passed 14 to 3.

The same committee's motion was now in front of the full board.  It is customary for the board to follow  the  committee's recommendation, but after discussion, the motion failed to pass with 27 members voting against.  (Strangely, some members, like Lou Sones, who had voted for the motion a week before, now voted against it.  What was up with that?)

A second motion was made by board member Debbie Scotto. It stated:
Community Board 6 was to neither approve, nor disapprove the application, but to ask City Planning to renew its commitment to a rezoning study and a full EIS for the entire Gowanus Corridor.  In addition, the Board insists that any developer agree to CB6's Responsible Contractor Policy.
It failed 19 to 18.

The following motion was then made by Bob Levine and voted on by the Board:
The Community Board conditionally approves the minor modifications provided that the developer follows CB6's Responsible Contractor Policy and that City Planning starts a full scale study involving the rezoning of the Gowanus Corridor.

The non-binding recommendation passed with 27 yes votes.
 (There were 4 abstentions and 4 no votes.

It was less than a stellar moment for CB6.  Local Gowanus residents who had taken the time to understand the issue,  to attend two prior CB6 meetings on the matter and had  testified in front of the Landmark/Landuse committee were disgusted by the board's refusal to consider the recommendation of its own committee.
"What a shameful performance," someone mentioned on the way out of the meeting.


Agnes said...

It ain't over. The community against this project is galvanized - as demonstrated by huge attendance numbers at mtgs. and the petition which now almost has 500 names. I think there should be full disclosure by CB 6 members who are connected to vested interest in this kind of Gowanus development. It was a very confusing night - attendees were confused what the resolution voted on was - I am sure not all CB6 members were clear as well. Shame shame shame for not having organized this in a more respectful way for the community, CB 6.

Anonymous said...

Even if CB6 had voted in favor of the motion in all likelihood City Plannng would have acknowledged it and then disregarded it which is what they did with all recommendations during the ULURP. And while it may make community board members feel good, City Planning has no authority require union labor, responsible contractors, or more than 20% affordable housing.

As for rezoning. I would hope that Sara Gonzalez and Steve Levin will be as involved as Brad Lander because a rezoning will directly impact their constituencies in terms of schools, traffic, transportation, public and community facilities, etc.

Anonymous said...

Since the City Council is currently in the process of redrawing the district lines and there will be a change in the administration it is probably not the time to start the rezoning process.

Katia said...

Good point.

Anonymous said...

The important message here is our Community Board has asked our City Planning Commission to rezone our entire Gowanus neighborhood instead of retaining the manufacturing areas defined on their website in the Gowanus Corridor Framework. This is a consequence of EPA's superfund as manufacturing in Gowanus is no longer welcome and owners are selling.

CB6 would like the rezoning to occur in one huge rezoning like Greenpoint-Williamsburg instead of rezoning one project at a time. Atlantic Yards was a huge redevelopment plan and Brooklyn won't get any new schools but people think a huge Gowanus redevelopment will be better.

Mike said...

No development on Gowanus! Empty lots forever! They shouldn't even clean it up. It'll just attract more development. Development = bad. Change = bad.

Unless I was that change when I moved to Gowanus 10 years ago. When I moved here as a gentrifier it was good. But now it needs to stay exactly the same. Keep all parts of Brooklyn in stasis exactly as I like them right now!

joeydonuts said...

Mike, stop being such a douchebag. What on earth makes you think that people who are against the specific project are against any change at all? Or do you prefer that the community just shut up and let the developers decide what's best for them? Because you know, developers' first concern is always what is best for a community. That's their entire motivation. They just want to make things better. Why won't the stupid community realize that? Ugh. People are so stupid! The people who are against this are lunatics! They are zealots!
Please. I find it hard to believe that you live anywhere in Gowanus, let alone anywhere near this development.

Anonymous said...


Eat another donut! The only suggested alternative by the opposition is to build 4 story townhouses which is not feasible due to cost of cleanup. The opposition has embraced a fear of change.