Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Where To From Here?: Notes From Last Night's Final Bridging Gowanus Meeting

Council Member Brad Lander
Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez
Council Member Carlos Menchaca
Councilmember Steve Levin
Charlene Nimmons, President of Wyckoff Gardens Tenants Association
Linda Mariano, member of Friends and Residents of Greater Gowanus
Gowanus Resident Carl Teitelbaum
Adam, Gowanus Resident
Joseph Alexiou of Gowanus Preservation Society

This past Friday, Council member Brad Lander and Pratt Center For Community Development released the result of Bridging Gowanus, an initiative to "develop a neighborhood framework for the infrastructure and land use plan needed for a safe, vibrant and sustainable Gowanus."
Last night, Lander, together with Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez and Council members Carlos Menchaca and Steve Levin, presented the framework to the public.

Bridging Gowanus has been touted as a community driven process that reflects the collective priorities of the community. The 'shared values' reflected in the framework are going to hopefully guide New York City Planning and the De Blasio Administration when a re-zoning plan for Gowanus will be put forth.

Though groups and organizations like the Fifth Avenue Committee, Gowanus Alliance, Gowanus Dredgers, and Wyckoff Gardens Tenants Association expressed their approval of the framework, quite a few local residents objected to the assertion by Pratt and Lander that many in Gowanus were open to high rises from 8 to 18 stories to achieve the goals set forth by Bridging Gowanus.
The density was determined by a rather leading exercise given to residents at the public meeting in June which asked residents to add two stories to a four story building for every amenity, like school, park or art space, that would be added to the neighborhood. Those who checked off every amenity ended up with 18 story buildings.

"I doubt very much that actual Gowanus residents would like to see buildings of that height", resident Linda Mariano stated during the public comment period  last night.  She asked for a show of hand.  Only three or four people in the audience raised theirs.

Elena Conti of Pratt Institute was quick to explain that  range of height of a hypothetical 8 to 18 stories represents a range of hypothetical height.  "That is NOT a recommendation. [Bridging Gowanus] is a framework.  There is no map.  This is NOT a plan."

Some Gowanus residents expressed deep skepticism about how Bridging Gowanus can influence any future zoning plan.  This is after all, a neighborhood that has seen its fair share of broken promises.
Some residents wanted to know what the next step will be.  They also asked how our politicians will be accountable.
Gowanus resident Adam expressed this doubt best.
"There is a lot of skepticism in this room, built on experience about broken promises and generation after generation of bait-and switch in the City of New York.  There will always be pressure .  There will always be political leverage that belongs to the interest of real estate speculation and development, many of which are represented here tonight and would probably not object to 18-story buildings.  We have a unique moment in which we have progressive leadership representing us, in Brad and his colleagues in the Council, and in the support from our State and Federal representatives.  I guess the question is :  What are the strategies that our representatives are going to use to take this framework and prevent it from being something that just goes to City Planning and they say "yea, 18 stories, that sounds great", and run it through the Council and get our mayor, who supported Lightstone to support this.  Where is our leverage? How is it going to work?"

Elena Conti answered: "If this framework moves forward and the City engages the community, a very thoughtful and detailed  block by block second conversation needs to to take place. Whatever plan eventually comes forth, we need to have those more detailed conversations."

Councilman Brad Lander suggested that it would not have been smart for him and other elected officials to engage the community in a conversation about the future of their neighborhood and then to allow a zoning process that would not take the shared goals into consideration.
He reminded everyone that any re-zoning plan would first need to be approved by the City Council, which defers to the local elected in such matters.

Congressmember Nydia Velázquez added:
"We are trying to be honest, we are trying to be constructive and pro-active and not re-acting to one developer here and one developer there.  When I was told by the Bloomberg administration and the mayor himself to back off on the designation of the Gowanus Canal as a Superfund, I told him and some of the people that were pressuring me,  that I wanted the process to be determined by science and not by the mayor or any developer. I will not lend my support [to Bridging Gowanus]  if I feel in any way that the community's desire and priorities are not reflected in this process.  I can assure you."

In other words, it is important that we keep engaged, ask questions and keep our elected officials accountable.

Have you taken the time to look at the Bridging Gowanus framework?  Where you there last night? What did you think? Do you believe that the community driven process will truly have an impact on City Planning and the deBlasio administration? Let's have a real, unfiltered community conversation about our neighborhood's future.


Anonymous said...

Since when is block-by-block an effective way to zone? Oh, there are two story houses here, but 20 feet away there are three story houses, three stories are "inappropriate" and "out of context" here.

Just because building codes and real estate values and engineering limited buildings to 3 and 4 stories 100 years ago doesn't mean we have to limit ourselves to that.

Anonymous said...

That's some picture of Brad!

I had thought this process would have culminated in something a little more tangible like a draft map. The big bugaboo is density and I think we all look forward to our electeds and city planning where they envision that.

Fifth Avenue Committe, Brad, Pratt and others need to stop with the retention tanks and using it as a wedge between neighbors. If the park is best location then Fifth Avenue, Brad, Friends of Thomas Greene Park, etc. should take the EPA's suggestion and advocate for a better park once the work is completed.

I also enjoyed how the most vocally opposed to a property owner's right to use his property for a permissible use are supporters of density.

Anonymous said...

While it was,easy to be distracted by visions of shiny glass towers there are some very important issues our neighborhood is facing. First, why is everyone treating the development of Public Place like it is a done deal? Doesn't the city need to sell the property and the zoning go through ULURP? Some explanation and clarification would be welcome on the status and process. It seems that that site might be a good location for the proposed super school. Or it could be used for a park.

There have been rumors now confirmed by the Bridging Gowanus framework that there is a plan to remove the trailers at 32 in order to construct a permanent structure. I would like to hear more about this plan and its timeline.

Anonymous said...

If all the mandatory elements of the framework are put in place (anti harassment of tenants, arts & cultural set asides, new mixed use and industrial zoning, guaranteed affordable housing stock, guaranteed landmarks & preservation, etc) nothing will get done and we will have the 1970's all over agin in Gowanus. the framework as presented by the Pratt Community Development team is a frame work for government control way beyond zoning. If this is progress please stay out of Gowanus. We need help, we need real zoning changes that will allow for new low rise housing. What we don"t need is high rise Manhattan style housing ringing the canal and our elected's friend, the developers making money and passing some off to our electeds.

Anonymous said...

the owner of the property that will be a parole facility.
was given a 70 car parking waiver by his friends in city Hall. 70 cars that will end up on our streets.
wonder how that would fly in Carroll gardens.
he did not have the parking needed, but thats ok, its not our Gowanus.
Shame on hypocrites!

Anonymous said...

Williamsburg. Polluted. High rises anyway. 700 unit nightmare already in progress here in Gowanus. This is all a travisty. Long Island City near the river towers and towers. Nothing is sacred. Gowanus will destroy itself.

Anonymous said...

Brad has been telling us, from the very first public meeting, at the very beginning of the first public meeting, just what the community shared goal are. And now it seams that the final frame work is just that with the kitchen sink thrown in to appease those who are still wondering how the shared goals were established. While many showed support for mixed-uses, many didn't imagine that housing was part of that mix which is partly why the height of that housing became such a heated issue.

But the fundamental question remains, even after this meeting; on what basis does the Councilman substantiate his claim that this is the community framework? Many in the audience showing support for high-rise structures are not local residents, nor even residents of NYC.

Anonymous said...

Since when do people expect anything from slimy Brad? And come to think about it Congresswomen for life Nydia? These are all career politicians. Democrat or Republican, it makes zero difference.

Margaret Maugenest said...

11:19 PLEEZE do not put Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez in the same sentence or breath as Brad Lander. Ms. Velazquez has demonstrated integrity towards the community, complex as the issues are, and wide-ranging the constituents. She supported superfund cleanup. Brad Lander, on the other hand, has been underhanded, glad-handing, closed-minded, manipulative,disrespectful,condescending, and an obvious puppet in office to do the bidding of the people who want to get things done their way - read - BIG DEVELOPERS. And I don't believe he supported superfund clean-up of the canal. so BIG DIFFERENCE between Ms. Velazquez and Lander.

Anonymous said...

Brad claimed to be "carefully considering" the superfund listing. He finally wrote up a campaign statement filled with shallow thoughts and rationalizations. He handed out his statement at an EPA meeting. It was the middle of the city council primary and other candidates had already expressed support or not. I think he saw which way the wind was blowing and figured he better come out in support.

I also agree that Congesswoman Velazquez has been an excellent representative and we are fortunate to have her.

Anonymous said...

Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez has failed to allocate $100 to clean our canal. Congressman Nadler has allocated millions of dollars to improve our waterfront.

Velazquez has failed to deliver cleanup funds and that's why private capital (housing) is needed. The Superfund program relies on settlement funds from local polluters but instead or in addition, the Feds could give us a grant?

Anonymous said...

Housing is not needed to clean the canal. The responsible parties have very deep pockets and have acknowledged their responsibility.

Didn't Congresswoman Velazquuez along with Congresswoman Clarke give a grant for Sponge Park? Nadler only has a very tiny portion of the canal and I don't recall him being very active in anything having to do with the canal.

Anonymous said...

8:44 your information is completely incorrect. Housing has nothing to do with Superfund funding. Your dots don't connect.