Friday, March 01, 2019

Feel Betrayed By Councilman Brad Lander Yet Regarding The Proposed Gowanus Rezoning? We Do!

Community Board 6's Chair Peter Fleming
CB6's Land Use Committee Chair Mark Shames
NYC Department of City Planning's Gowanus Project Manager Jonathan KellerUntitled
NYCHA resident and Gowanus Neighborhood Coalition For Justice member Karen BlondelUntitled
One of the local residents addressing concerns about rezoning

Representatives of New York City Department of City Planning (DCP)'s Brooklyn office presenting the Gowanus Draft Zoning Proposal to Community Board 6's Land Use Committee last night.
The entire meeting and presentation can be accessed on You Tube here.

Dear Neighbors,
Do you remember back in 2008, when the Department of City Planning worked on the first Gowanus rezoning study?  Back then, the City was pushing for buildings that rose approximately as high as the Lightstone development at 363-365 Bond Street adjacent to the canal, which moved ahead under a special spot rezoning from manufacturing to mixed-use, though the overall rezoning of the area was halted when the EPA declared the Gowanus Canal a Superfund site in 2010.

To many in the neighborhood, the Lighstone development is all wrong for this FEMA Flood Zone evacuation area. Shortly after Hurricane Sandy flooded basement and streets in Gowanus in 2012, Councilmember Brad Lander urged the developer Lightstone Group to withdraw its plans to build its complex.

In a December 2012 letter to David Lichtenstein, the CEO of Lightstone, our Councilman wrote:
“I believe it would be a serious mistake for you to proceed as though nothing had happened, without reconsidering or altering your plans, and putting over 1,000 new residents in harm’s way the next time an event of this magnitude occurs.”

Yet the 700-unit Lightstone complex, which rises to 12 stories was built, hundreds of residents moved in, and in the past few years, Brad Lander has been pushing for the Gowanus rezoning to resume.
In 2013, together with several other local elected officials, Lander's office launched Bridging Gowanus, "a community planning process to shape a sustainable, livable, and inclusive future for the Gowanus neighborhood-in the face of ongoing change, the Superfund clean-up, and real estate pressure."

Over a few years, hundreds of community stakeholders gave hundreds of hours of their time to take part in Bridging Gowanus on the promise that this visioning process would provide them with a real chance to jointly shape a vision for the future of the neighborhood and would inform the NYC Planning Department of the wishes of the community.

Many were shocked when the final 'visioning' report falsely claimed that the community was open to high rises from 8 to 18 stories to achieve the goals set forth by Bridging Gowanus.  In reality, most residents thought that the worse case scenario for the neighborhood were more 12-story buildings like Lighstone.

To Lander, higher buildings are a trade off for providing more parkland, more schools, more affordable housing and protection of manufacturing zones in Gowanus.  "We did ask people to think hard of the tradeoffs that are necessary," Brad Lander commented. "These kinds of investments and achieving the level of preservation we just talked about costs a lot of money."

By the time the New York City Department of City Planning (DCP) was commissioned to create a framework for a 'sustainable, inclusive, mixed-use neighborhood", the building density in the area had increased again. Along 4th Avenue, the framework called for 22 story buildings, though thankfully, it called for a "moderate" scale" along the canal.

That was not enough for investors and developers, who immediately cried foul. The density mentioned in the Framework did not "allow enough density along the canal to offset what they say will be the high cost of building on those sites," despite the fact that most landowners have or will clean up their polluted parcels under the New York State Brownfield Clean-up Program, which offers highly lucrative tax  breaks and tax credits, which are paid by taxpayers.

It appears that real estate pressure did have a huge influence on City Planning.
Last night, DCP's Project Manager for the Gowanus rezoning, Jonathan Keller, presented the agency's  recently released Gowanus Draft Zoning Proposal to the community.
The proposal now calls for approximately 22 story buildings along the canal,  and close to 30 stories on Public Place, the City-owned site along Smith Street near 5th Street.

Councilman Lander's response to the ever increasing proposed density?
I know that not everyone is excited about the idea of new residential and commercial development at heights taller than the surrounding brownstone neighborhoods, but I genuinely believe we are on the way to getting the balance right.”  (Brooklyn Eagle)

Most residents seemed shocked last night. This proposal almost doubles the density of what had been planned for the area in 2008.  Despite the participation of local residents in the Bridging Gowanus visioning process, this re-zoning plan guarantees few of the things that the community really cared about: artists lofts, maker spaces and parks.
How exactly the area will accommodate thousands of new residents when our infrastructure is already at a breaking point remains unclear.
The plan offers no contract with the community that would truly guarantee us new schools, new investments in our sewers, or increased subway service.
It does guarantee years of construction and a radical change to Gowanus and surrounding neighborhoods like Park Slope and Carroll Gardens.

Many in the community gave Brad Lander the benefit of the doubt when he promised us a better, more inclusive planning process, one that would lead to a better rezoning.
Instead, it is leading us to one that seems driven by developers and politicians, which in this City is business as usual.

I hope people will remember as he prepares to run for New York City Comptroller in the 2021 election.


Anonymous said...

Where is Steve Levin? He has been notably absent from these last two meetings and it seems that his constituents, which include members of GNCJ and public housing residents, have quite a few legitimate concerns and issues that need to be addressed. Has he washed his hands of this process? Is he embarrassed? Yes, I feel betrayed by Brad... I feel like he was laughing behind the backs of those who made a good faith effort to participate in Bridging Gowanus despite many of our misgivings. However, when it comes to feeling duped there is plenty of blame to go around when it comes to our electeds. Also notably absent from the last two meeting were any staff from Velazquez’s, Montgomery’s, or Simon’s office - all of whom were involved throughout the Bridging Gowanus process. Where are they now? Do they not care either? My trust in them has eroded.
Even though I feel duped, I can’t say I’m surprised by the outcome. Brad will most certainly be rewarded by his developer and property manager friends in his city council race.

a CG resident said...

I never felt betrayed by Brad Lander because I never trusted him. Neither I am surprised by his move and I want him to be removed.

Anonymous said...

Commercial real estate developers are ready to pounce. We have received 3 voicemails in the past month from a commercial real estate company - he thinks he's calling and leaving a message for my landlord (refers to him by name) about potential for this property, and what upzoning means for him... I just delete! (I'm sure they are waiting eagerly on the sidelines to offer cash to whoever wants to sell their lot!)

Anonymous said...

I'd feel better about your coverage if you took "yet" out of headline--implies everybody either does or will, i.e. should. Myself, I'm with "a CG resident," didn't trust him enough before to feel betrayed now.

Anonymous said...

Is the "Right Balance" Landers is talking about, the balance needed to appease the donor base who also have a hold on future political outcomes?

Because the proposal is a very long way from the right balance for anything that could be called a "sustainable" rezoning in this low lying drainage basin named "Gowanus".

Anonymous said...

Many years of Bridging and PLACES meetings with innovative community suggestions to require sustainability, affordability, vibrant streets, preserved historic buildings, significant investments in NYCHA and improved transit. Did DCP accommodate everything the community asked for but included slightly taller buildings to pay for it?

Anonymous said...

Are we having the wool pulled over our eyes with this notion that taller buildings will pay for all the problems their very construction creates?

Can we see the balance sheet between the massive multiplication in property with each additional floor, the "additional" community facilities provided, the long term tax reprieves being offered by the city and the state that run decades, and longterm city services costs that will need to be provided with no property tax base for all those decades?

Lander & DCP need to be more forthright about the costs and benefits they are proposing.

Anonymous said...

@11:40 - your comment is astounding - 1. nowhere in the draft proposal are affordability, significant investments in NYCHA, improved transit assured - 2. "slightly taller" buildings - since when is 30 stories "slightly taler than the current Gowanus skyline, even including Lightstone?

Anonymous said...

Why is our community so focused on building height? An 8 story and 30 story building has the same affect on the Gowanus street they front. The top of Flatbush Ave towers can been seen from Boerum Hill $10M brownstones. Is the concern that tops of Gowanus buildings may be seen from backyards of expensive homes in Carroll Gardens and Park Slope? That seems like a minor annoyance for 4,000 new affordable Gowanus residents.

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to say thanks for covering this. Don't think I would've known about it otherwise. It's a complicated issue, though. I would say that it's hard to write objections to large luxury developments that would radically change the neighborhood "NIMBY". What would you say is the best source for learning when the next meeting(s) are?

Anonymous said...

OMG 11:31 building height is absolutely NOT the same 8 story or 30 story - who are you and why are you making such outrageous assertions? And adding that 30 story height is a "minor annoyance for 4,000 new affordable Gowanus residents". I do not live in an expensive home in Carroll Gardens nor in Park Slope. I live in a 4th floor loft building walk up. I moved to Gowanus, to Brooklyn, because I wanted to see sky out of my windows. But where I see sky, developers see land, their opportunities for making the big bucks. ("Pie in the sky" takes on a whole different meaning - that's where developers' pie does indeed lie.) 11:31 you have drunk the developers' and their PR's Kool-Aid.

Anonymous said...

Brad Lander and DeBlasio are selling out the neighborhood in the guise of "affordable housing". This housing is expensive. The "affordable" name is a scam so that developers can get any zoning variance they want 30 stories! By making the building higher, Brad and &Co just added multiple millions to the value of the apartments. Nice trick. Developers were in the room taking lots of notes at the meeting.
Again like the last time scant details and lots of jargon trying to BS the neighborhood. No money to fix NYCHA, no infrastructure no schools, fire or street improvements. 3rd st bridge is a wreck. Brad and Bill's getting donations from developers . Foloow the money!

Anonymous said...

TO (MARCH 05, 2019 11:31 AM) you really should take a morning walk along all of Bond St with your eyes open. Note how the sun doesn't shine any more on a certain stretch of the street during the cold of winter. The new buildings at that stretch are only 4 stories but they have 12 story towers at the water's edge along that stretch.

But a real worry about DCP's classifying the Gowanus as a "wide street" and packing the highest buildings on the water's edge is that the canal isn't a road that city police or fire department can drive down to reach these buildings quickly. What if there were some problem blocking access to Fire and Police on Bond street (something like many construction vehicles blocking movement on the street as we saw when Lightstone was built as some need for urgent access occurs in the tower buildings). Bond St is a narrow street and the only physical access route to the proposed towers along the canal edge. Will the bridges remain operable for police and fire boats? Haven't seen anything like that in the DPC proposal.

Long time resident said...

The endless overbuilding of downtown Brooklyn won’t stop. Same 19th century streets, same overcrowded subway. Yet we are told 20k more residents is fine ?, and if we don’t accept it we are “closed minded” . That land use guy chair was like a dictator at that meeting, telling everyone to be quiet. None of this is democratic or anything anyone would vote for. The Democratic Party is corrupt to the core in NYC. I’m voting republican or anyone else to breath some air into the back room deals that allow a hospital to be torn down and a library. Greed plain and simple.

Anonymous said...

Be scared, Gowanus, be very scared about anything Lander says. Look no further than what he did to your neighbors in Cobble Hill and with the LICH development. He could have saved the parks but he did not. He could have worked with the community BEFORE he pre-negotiated (and loaded with ridiculous 'benefits' that drove the building heights to a ridiculous level), but he did not. The developer used the park lands in order to drive up their as-of-right plan to even higher heights. Now that community is totally screwed with even higher buildings planned than if Lander had worked with the community truthfully before he pre-negotiated the ridiculous ULURP plan. Read this: