Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Voice Of Gowanus Holds Press Conference To Address Concerns About Neighborhood Rezoning

Voice of Gowanus members holding press conference on the Carroll Street Bridge this morning.
Glenn Kelly with fellow members of Voice Of Gowanus
Tom Angotti Professor Emeritus at Hunter College's Urban Policy and Planning
 Tom Devaney of the Municipal Arts Society
photos courtesy of Voice of Gowanus

Bright and early this morning, we joined our Gowanus area neighbors on the Carroll Street Bridge to hold a press conference to express our concerns about the proposed rezoning of the Gowanus neighborhood, which will bring an estimated 20,000 new residents to the area.
With one voice, we urged our City and our elected officials to "complete the environmental remediation of the Gowanus Canal first, address the Combined Sewer Overflow issue, before moving forward with the rezoning.
Below is the press release from Voice of Gowanus.

May 22, 2019


GOWANUS - Over thirty five concerned Gowanus-area residents, representatives from several city-wide civic organizations, and representatives of public officials gathered along the Gowanus Canal at the Carroll Street Bridge this morning to express outrage over the proposed Gowanus rezoning.

“This is New York City! This is the 21st Century! We should not be increasing residential density in areas subject to flooding. There are better, safer, and less expensive places to add the needed housing,” said local resident Glenn Kelly. “The first priority is to bring environmental justice to this community by thoroughly cleaning the toxic poison from the Canal and upland. This cleanup should include planning to prevent combined sewer overflow into the Canal. We should not have an open sewer in an area targeted for development.”

“We need to look closely at the stacked layers of incentives that developers stand to get as part of this rezoning,” said Gowanus resident Debbie Stoller. “While everyone supports affordable housing, should it be at the water’s edge? Is Mandatory Inclusionary Housing the way to achieve this goal? How much will it cost per square foot to create this affordable housing and does it make sense for taxpayers?”

Susannah Pasquantonio, a representative from Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon addressed the crowd, too, reading a statement noting that the Assemblymember heard and understood the concerns of those gathered. Experts were on hand to weigh in as well.

“This is probably the most important community struggle in Brooklyn this century,” said Tom Angotti, a professor of Urban Policy & Planning Professor at Hunter College.

Marlene Donnelly of Friends and Residents of Greater Gowanus spoke of the ongoing need to reclassify the waters of the Gowanus Canal before the area is zoned for more residential. “Right now,” Donnelly noted, “the Clean Water Act’s requirement to limit pathogens in the water is not applicable because this is still deemed an industrial waterway.” Katia Kelly of the blog Pardon Me for Asking reiterated Voice of Gowanus’ call for a moratorium on the rezoning until the Gowanus Canal has been cleaned up, calling it a public safety issue that Council Member Brad Lander has yet to face up to as the process moves forward.

Several of the speakers touched on how the proposed Gowanus rezoning is moving forward after an improved but still fundamentally flawed process. Lynn Ellsworth of Human-Scale NYC said her organization “calls for a moratorium on all upzonings until the conflicts of interest at the Department of City Planning are cleaned out and real estate interests are removed from serving on the Commission.” The Municipal Art Society was on hand as well: “No planner has a crystal ball to tell us exactly what the future will hold, but communities deserve a reasonably accurate picture of what’s ahead,” said Thomas Devaney Senior Director of Land Use & Planning at MAS. “The final scope of work and draft environmental impact statement for the Gowanus rezoning need to tell us much more about the potential impacts that these zoning changes could produce, not just the expected results. From Long Island City to Hudson Yards, we see time and again that these expectations drastically underestimate the development that ultimately occurs.” Gowanus resident Brad Vogel mentioned that “even though many of us gathered here have attended many, many, many planning meetings, we still do not believe the current rezoning plan reflects our input. For one, we did not get concrete answers from the city about how the anticipated development will avoid polluting the Canal with more combined sewer overflow.”

Joseph Alexiou, author of Gowanus: Brooklyn’s Curious Canal, cut to the chase: “We’re up to our necks in poo around here.” His comment referred to the fact that planned infrastructure intended to capture combined sewer overflow (CSO) in tanks or a tunnel is only sufficient to capture CSO loads from the existing neighborhood - not from new development.

Beverly Corbin, a resident of Wyckoff Gardens, joined other residents of public housing in calling out Council Member Stephen Levin for failing to show up at rezoning meetings, noting that Council Member Brad Lander does not have public housing in his district and that affordable housing is not always affordable for everyone. Karen Blondel, local activist, called for the rezoning to slow down so that the needs of public housing residents could be considered in full.

Victoria Cambranes, a candidate for the 33rd District of the NYC City Council, attended and spoke of the need to organize, drawing on her experiences in Greenpoint. Linda Mariano, longtime Gowanus resident, pointed to the spot-zoning that has occurred along the Gowanus Canal as a harbinger of what is to come despite the Gowanus neighborhood’s ability to heal itself organically. Triada Samaras of CORD in Carroll Gardens called out the need for consideration of artists given their longtime importance in the Gowanus.

The coalition also acknowledged the presence of Shakti Robbins-Cubas from NYS Senator Velmanette Montgomery’s office, who attended to listen to constituent concerns.

In the end, the Coalition remains concerned that the result many feared during the planning process seems to have come true: limited zoning choices and massive development but little actual planning. The Coalition seeks reform of how land use decisions are made in our communities since it is communities like ours that suffer the consequences, both expected and unintended. The Coalition supports a better process that involves careful planning and sensible development that is not focused on maximizing profit for developers. Until that better process materializes, a moratorium on the current Gowanus rezoning proposal is the only responsible option.

As Glenn Kelly noted in his closing remarks: “If we rush through this rezoning before the Canal is cleaned up, we will have a greater risk of failure. There are too many unanswered questions and unfunded wishes,” Kelly said. “The community is not happy with the 4th avenue zoning, we were all surprised with how the LIC and downtown Brooklyn zonings were built out. These were the best that NYC Planning could do with the tools available to them…but it was only the developers who got what they wanted. If we slow down and plan carefully, we will definitely produce a better result. And don’t we all want a better result?”

More press coverage of the event:
Patch: Clean It Before You Rezone It,' Gowanus Activists Tell City


Anonymous said...

Bravo. But. Has Lander or any of the actual people doing this, like the Mayors office and anyone else, been contacted? The Governor? The news? Like the times and or local news people? Will it. Like down to suing the city like in Two Bridges? UPS is bulldozing Red Hook for a terminal along Ferris street. No one knows anything. UPS won’t talk to anyone. There must be someone that can stop this horror. Just look at The canyons of Kent Ave.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations to all of the unemployed, retired, or wealthy people who were able to spend a weekday morning trying to keep people out of our neighborhood!

Katia said...

Aha, I was prepared for such a comment.
I guess it does not occur to you that some of these neighborhood residents took the day off or went to work late to make sure that the canal is cleaned first BEFORE new residents move in.
Wealthy? Not everyone who lives in the area is wealthy.
Would gladly have a discussion with you about these issues if you are willing to put a name to your comment.

Anonymous said...

Brad Lander has an op ed in the NYT. It must be an attempt at damage control and to reassure the developers that he is on their side. I haven’t read it as it’s behind a firewall and I’ve already unsubscribed from the NYT three times.

Katia said...

Yes, he just posted it on Twitter. I already commented and added photos of raw sewage floating on the canal.
Called him disrespectful to his current and future constituents.

Anonymous said...

thank you for fighting the good fight

Katia said...

Thank you so much for your support.

Dirty Gowanus said...

Not his NYT op ed. Someone else's op ed that he is referencing to support his "we need to build super high density because AFFORDABLE HOUSING!" but we all know it's bullshit. because with the half a billion dollar in NY State subsidies, no property taxes for 35 years, AND Trump-era tax breaks for investors in the area via the "Opportunity zone" designation (supposed to be for poor neighborhoods but Brad likes to call gowanus a white wealthy neighborhood so i guess that means we need to get rid of the opportunity zones, right?), we should be getting 50% affordable housing and no additional height. but that's not what we're getting. instead, the develoeprs are being handed over the best real estate deal of their lives. Brad is about to run for Comptroller. He needs to cozy up to these developers because he needs their $$ to run (despite how much he denies that). bill deblasio is vying for a cabinet position - i'm guessing Housing and Urban Development. So yeah, he needs to be palsy walsy with developers too. So tired of YIYBYs (Yes In Your Back Yard!) telling a community what we do and don't want. We have lots of poor people living here in Gowanus; we have 3 NYCHA housing developments. And those developments are getting NOTHING out of this rezone. Nothing at all, just losing everything they need. but =ooooh, affordable housing! waaah! it's bullshit. and it's exhausting.

Anonymous said...

Shouldn't there be a moratorium on ANY new buildings that contribute sewage to Canal water? The rezoning would move forward and be adopted or rejected. No new toilets would flush until after our current overflow is captured, with the hope that EPA will extend the catchment pipe to capture the future growth of this area of Brooklyn.

Katia said...

Sounds reasonable to me.

Will Davis said...

I highly recommend Farhad Manjoo’s latest column in the Times for those interested in the broader context and implications of this debate:

Katia said...

That’s the article Councilman Lander posted on his twitter account today. Broader implication? Again, clean the canal and address the CSO first. Then we can talk about housing. Why is that such a big ask?

Anonymous said...


Why ... such a big ask? Do you agree that NYC has a housing crisis and our middle and lower class struggle to raise families in gentrified Brooklyn? Our electeds say we have a housing crisis and despite awful impacts to surrounding communities, Gowanus will generate +3,000 "affordable" apartments. Is this not for the greater good? Big ask because many think affordable housing is a big problem!

Katia said...

So you are ok to build in Gowanus before the EPA has a chance to dredge and before appropriately sized CSO tanks are constructed and operational?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous - the "affordable" apartments are not affordable. You either haven't been paying attention, OR REBNY paid you to comment as they do for all articles related to new development. I'd bet big money that you are in the latter category.