Thursday, June 26, 2014

Frustration With Councilman Lander's "Bridging Gowanus" Expressed Clearly And Loudly At Last Night's Final Meeting

At last night's Bridging Gowanus meeting
Councilman Brad Lander being interviewed
NYC DEP Commissioner Emily Lloyd with Gowanus residents Lzzie Olesker and Linda Mariano
Representatives of a consortium of neighborhood groups voicing their frustration with "Bridging Gowanus",
Joseph Alexiou speaking for several Gowanus community groups to demand a a truly democratic and transparent process.

For the past year, Councilman Brad Lander tried hard to portray 'Bridging Gowanus', a year long process to "build consensus around a neighborhood framework for the infrastructure and land use regulations needed in the Gowanus Canal area" that he is hosting with several other elected officials, as a real chance for community stakeholders to jointly shape a vision for the future of the neighborhood.
In theory, that sounded like a wonderful opportunity.

In reality, the "Bridging Gowanus" community meetings are highly curated affairs, seemingly designed to divide stakeholders at small group tables, making a more inclusionary discussion impossible. In addition, facilitators from Pratt Center for Community Development , which was hired as consultant in charge of running the process and to come up with a final report, stuck to rigid scripts that seemed expressly designed to get  specific comments and a pre-determined outcome.

The frustration that has been building from meeting to meeting finally was expressed clearly and loudly last night.
JoAnne Brown, Vice President of Warren Street Houses in Gowanus, stood up and demanded to know what the plan was once the digging for potential new condo development begins. "Once you begin digging, you are going to create a whole lot of fooding around here.  We already have a lot of flooding here right now." She also mentioned that residents of Warren Street Houses had to deal with raw sewage in their basement and and gurgling out of their kitchen and bathroom sinks and tubs.

JoAnne Brown, Vice President of Warren Street Houses demanding better infrastructure and oversight.

Below are photos to illustrate JoAnne Browns point.  They were taken by another Gowanus Houses resident, who attended the meeting last night.

More frustration with "Briging Gowanus" was expressed to Councilman Brad Lander by Joseph Alexiou, who spoke on behalf of  consortium of neighborhood groups.
Alexiou, an author and historian, thanked Lander for bringing together a diverse community and for thriving to foster a conversation about "how those who live and work in Gowanus would like to see our neighborhood developed, preserved, restored, repaired…but we do not believe hat your process is fair and democratic."   He continued: "A 'bridging' process that divides us into groups and asks leading questions that heavily favor residential development but never sits down at one table -with no quorum or forum- for discussion cannot claim to represent the true voice of the community."

Alexiou, with the help of members of Friends And Residents Of Greater Gowanus, Voice Of Gowanus and  Save Kentile, has organized a "Take Back Gowanus" meeting on July 9th, 2014 at 7pm at the Green Building, 452 Union Street at Bond.
The purpose of the meeting is to continue the discussion of preservation and future of Gowanus, but with "a truly democratic and transparent process" as well as a real collaboration between our community and the City of New York.

The meeting will be open to everyone in the community.  Let's all be there and continue this very important conversation.

GowanusMockupAlexiouFront copy


Anonymous said...

The pictures that the resident of Gowanus Houses shared with you speak volumes. It is unconscionable that necessary repairs and serious sewer issues are being neglected and ignored whole Brad Lander is leading discussions about "affordable" housing for families earning a $100,000 or more. We should repair the existing housing and ensure it is protected from flooding before building new housing.

The residents of public housing do not have their heads in the sand and know that the concept of affordability is relative. Of course Brad doesn't answer to them as he does not have any public housing in his district but he made sure to get all the lots along the canal during the redistricting process.

Bklynebeth said...

Very well said and a clear representation of the frustration with the lack of transparency in the Bridging Gowanus process. I think it's safe to say the tide was turning by the end of the meeting with many attendees coming round to understanding why Joseph's statements were so meaningful. Kudos to the NYCHA leadership for speaking up as well.

George Fiala said...

I love this article. Speaking truth to power. The Lander/Lloyd team was at the Gowanus CAG meeting the previous evening, I was more slightly more polite...

Anonymous said...

Residents with Sewage backup in CM Levin's district should speak to their CM!

CM Lander is a leading force in community planning and budgeting and funding. Meetings like this follow the same format as every other planning meeting including Bklyn Bridge Park, Red Hook 197a Plan and Coney Island.

Critics of the process simply don't want any change - let's stop the NIMBY attitude please!

Anonymous said...

Residents in Gowanus Houses have been saying for years that they get sewer backup into their sinks on the lower floors.

All that Lande/Pratt has offered them in the Bridging scheme was that lame presentation of the "sewer in a suitcase" that showed them the problems of the combined sewer infrastructure. And where are the Bridging solutions? Has Pratt even allowed a discussion on building a separated sewer in Gowanus Wyckoff area to help solve the problem?

We need a discussion on infrastructure to support existing housing, and then maybe we might have a clue about needed infrastructure for anything new.

Anonymous said...

Councilman Lander has been tone deaf to the grassroots community throughout this entire process. By grassroots I mean actual longtime residents who live with the flooding, the poo poo tsunamis, and other Gowanus goodies on a regular basis. Those benefiting from Lander's exclusive "Bridging Gowanus" approach are clearly real estate developers and other investors with financial stakes and vested interests many of whom are relatively newcomers to the community. This latter group simply wants to be pacified regarding the Gowanus Canal contamination, flooding, and clean-up issues to accelerate rapid new development. For these people, accelerating Gowanus Canal future development is big business plain and simple. Forget the brownfield, forget the fact that this is Zone A, forget the health risks, etc. The former (grassroots) group lives and breathes the Gowanus Canal daily and knows the reality of the situation. I wonder: Has NYC stopped to think where all the new Gowanus residents be evacuated to when the next storm hits and all Zone A dwellers are forced to get out of Dodge?

Anonymous said...

I think some people are mistrustful of this process which stems from last summer's "secret" meetings where only a select few were permitted to attend. Apparently, it us from these meetings that the "shared values" emerged. Brad has not disclosed who he invited to these meetings.

At the more public sessions, Brad has been unwilling to address concerns or answer questions from his constituents. We deserve to have that dialogue. Maybe he is good at planning but he is lousy at interfacing with those who elected him to his position and pay his salary.
It is frustrating that our representative will not take the time to answer very basic questions. This lack of transparency along with what appears to be an open contempt for some of his constituents only breeds suspicion.

Anonymous said...

This is very NIMBY, and does not recognize that this is the accepted practice in most visioning processes.

However, can anyone complain that Brad lander is not NIMBY enough? He is the KING NIMBY:

"If you agree to withdraw your application at this time, I will be glad to work with you in the
future as we develop new plans for the area," Lander said. "If you choose not to reconsider in light of what we have learned from Hurricane Sandy, but instead push forward with your existing proposal unchanged, I will urge the City Planning Commission to reject your application."

"I’m deeply distressed to learn of the imminent threat to the Kentile Floors sign."

"Let me be clear: those who are paying big price tags for industrial buildings in Gowanus and demolishing historic structures on the assumption that they will be able to build market-rate condo buildings like those on Fourth Avenue are making a big mistake."

This is the big bad developer friendly guy we are scared of?

Unknown said...

Ahoy Gowanus Fans,

We've been saying it for years - if you want to reduce Gowanus Sewer Overflow, replace your toilet with a dual flush. Giardini's Pizza did it!

EPA could give some $uperfund cash to NYCHA to replace all toilets or ask the Congresswoman for a grant?


Anonymous said...

Landers makes a good show of it doesn't he. But those are all just his words and those words don't reflect his actions. He did not oppose Lightstone going forward after Sandy, when he could have insisted on a proper Environmental Assessments with proper review--something that was never done for the as-of-right zoning.

Landers participated in a call for a hydrological study of the canal, but he never moved the ball on that one either.

And his stand against the demolition of the Kentile sign can be seen like his after-the-fact stand against the loss of the B71 bus. Both great opportunities to get some positive community press on high profile items that he wasn't actually doing anything about--but he comes out looking to be on the side of the community.

Actions, results, speak louder then words.

One would think that power in city council would mean one could deliver better on his word.

Last night, Lander's Pratt team gave us the choose, 13 story towers in exchange for a park and a school in Gowanus. Only the developers make out with that; the new school and the park would soon be over crowed with the new tenants, and the existing community, residents and businesses, only looses.

Fed up with Business as Usual said...

I am so sick and tired of valid concerns and criticisms being characterized as NIMBYism. You are obviously not one of those people affected or potentially affected. NIMBY is valid, as in, not in my back yard inappropriate land use, dense development, continued flooding, dense population on a hurricane evacuation route, etc. etc. etc. Yes, it is suspect that Brad Lander managed to redistrict the lands along Gowanus. He is working for someone, and it is NOT the people. I have been to Visioning Mtgs for Gowanus since way back 12 years ago - and they are rigged. It is the same old rigged. And just because that is business as usual does not mean we have to be stupid enough to fall for it, over and over again.

George Fiala said...

The sewers overflow not from toilets but during heavy rainstorms. It has much less to do with toilets than with the extra rainwater.

The words that Lander always uses here are 'tradeoffs.' Just the same way that de Blasio stopped saying 'hospital' in referring to LICH.

Citizens Defending Libraries said...

Another example where "Councilman Lander has been tone deaf to the grassroots community throughout" is the way that Lander has been a proponent of selling and shrinking New York City libraries and getting rid of books and librarians to create real estate deals for developers, going out of his way just recently to again urge the sale and shrinkage of the Brooklyn Heights Library which is tied in with a plan to eliminate more books at the Grand Army Plaza library.

I would suggest that everyone pay close attention to the arguments that Mr. Lander is making on behalf of the real estate industry in this area for the sake of comparing notes.

You can do that by signing the NEW Citizens Defending Libraries petition calling fora halt to these sell-offs and shrinkages available below (we send out reports on what Lander is up to) and also by learning more at Citizens Defending Libraries web pages. We also put information and breaking news out through our Facebook page and Twitter.

Petition: Mayor de Blasio: Rescue Our Libraries from Developer Destruction

Citizens Defending Libraries web pages:

Anonymous said...

People who attended the meeting were asked to pick three scenarios. The first was do nothing and sit back and wait for hotels and big box stores, the second was low density housing and preservation of existing manufacturing but no new manufacturing. Both these scenarios included a new school.

The third and final scenario included a list a amenities such as more Pre-K seats, parks, affordable housing, "deeply" affordable housing, new artist space, new "maker" (maybe they meant manufacturing space) and for each of these you would add two floors to new development. The exception was deeply affordable housing where you would add four floors.

Maybe one of the local reporters will see if Bead or Pratt would provide them with this form.

Clearly, people are being steered toward more density for residential as an amenity comes with a density trade off. At least the current need for a school is acknowledged. Any large scale development in Gowanus would impact the availability of middle school seats available to children throughout district 15 (Red Hook, Kensington, Sunset Park).

I know that people from Lightstone's PR firm were there and participating in this community driven process.

Katia said...

I just added a photo of the form you are referring to to the post.

Rita Miller, Resident and CORD co-founder said...

I attended the first and third Bridging Gowanus Meetings.

I can say that the "scenarios" presented at meeting 3 were pretty much the same scenarios we were asked to relate to in meeting 1---so i am not sure exactly where the "shared values" were discussed and must have been at the meeting i missed.

As the people in my group in meeting #1 made very clear, what the community needs is an infrastructure/hydrology/services study and improvements for what ALREADY STANDS HERE; since it is obvious to everyone except those who wish to call anyone with an intelligent objection to sewage backup and flooding a NIMBY, that our antiquated system, as well as our lack of schools and now, hospital care, just for starters is totally inadequate right now.

That is still true and still necessary post meeting #3.

Does it make sense to talk about how many extra floors on higher rise buildings we are willing to "trade off" for so we can add even more people to a system that does not serve the current population well at all?

Let me also add that I was quite surprised to learn that Pratt Institute, the group leading this study and who will be the ones to publish the results of these so called community planning meetings, do not have nor do they engage any engineers during this process.

How can urban planners plan communities without the knowledge, guidance and expertise of engineers?

Would you only use an interior decorator to renovate your bathroom?

I, for one, will be at the Planning Gowanus meeting on July 9th. Every single resident within a mile and a half of the Canal should be there as well.

This is OUR community and what affects one of us affects ALL of us.