Thursday, June 06, 2013

SAVE GOWANUS Determined To Fund Own Independent Study To Evaluate Hydrological Impact Of Large Scale Elevated Developments Like Lightstone Group's On Flood Prone Area

Warren Cohen of Save Gowanus
Carl Teitelbaum
Lizzie Olesker
Marlene Donnelly
Jim Vogel of State Senator Velmanette Montgomery's office

On Tuesday evening, members of Save Gowanus Association (SGA) updated the Gowanus/ Carroll Gardens community on the proposed Lightstone Group development on several properties at 363-365 Bond Street and on the impacts the project will have on the neighborhood.

Warren Cohen started the meeting by giving a brief summary of the project, which calls for two twelve-story towers at the base of Bond Street that extend to Carroll Street and Second Street. The 700 apartment units will add around 1,200 residents to the shores of the Gowanus Canal, which has been declared a EPA Superfund Site.

Though there are obvious questions regarding the impact of the project on local schools, subway and street traffic, there are more serious environmental concerns surrounding the proposed development which relate to the impact of flooding in the area. In the wake of two hurricanes and recent flash floods that caused mayor damage to nearby buildings and disabled traffic along some of the roadways, there are serious concerns about Lightstone's plan to regrade and elevate their building site above the floodplain.
Since the Gowanus canal was originally engineered to allow rainwater from surrounding areas to drain into the waterway, elevating the site may have major ramifications for surrounding buildings.

"We are afraid that this will alter drainage patterns that have been in existence since the neighborhood was founded one hundred and fifty years ago. There are also major sewage system issues." Cohen told local residents.
Addressing the overall redevelopment of the Gowanus area, that could lead to many more twelve story buildings if the area is rezoned for more residential use, Warren stated: "I know a lot of people want to see interesting changes in the Gowanus area. We all want to be part of that discussion, but we think that twelve story buildings, building basically the equivalent of Battery Park City in our own back yard, is not the way to go."

In early May, Councilmember Lander, Congresswoman Velázquez and State Senator Montgomery sent a letter to the Mayor's office asking for a hydrological impact of large elevated sites in flood zones, including the Lightstone Group's development."
The City has not responded to the letter yet. Given Mayor Bloomberg's shameful attempt to stop the Superfund designation and his refusal to build retention basins to reduce sewage discharge into the canal in any meaningful way, that hardly seems surprising.
Save Gowanus has decided not to wait for the City and has started collecting money to be able to commission an independent comprehensive hydrological study for the community.  (The cost is approximately $5,000)

The Association has already raised enough funds since their last meeting to retain the services of Jeffrey Baker, an environmental lawyer at Young/Summer LLC. Baker has already taken the first legal action on its behalf relating to Lightstone application to New York State's Brownfield Clean-Up Program. If the application is approved by the State, the program would make the developer eligible for tax credits relating to the cleanup and redevelopment of the Bond Street site. This could mean that upwards of 25 % of the entire cost of Lightstone's development could be footed by New York tax payers.

A letter sent by Baker to NYS Department Of Environmental Conservation calls into question the eligibility of the properties at 363-365 Bond Street because "the Applications do not demonstrate that the contaminants present on the sites may be complicating the development, use or re-use of these properties as required by the BCP regulations."

Save Gowanus is determined to advocate for residents near the Gowanus Canal and to fight against out of scale developments like Lightstone Group's residential project 'that is out of scale and inconsistent with surrounding land use."

Please help contribute towards Save Gowanus legal fund and/or an independent hydrological study. Click here.

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