Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Municipal Art Society Of New York Urges City To Hold Off Certification Of Gowanus Rezoning As Currently Planned To Better Account For Known And Unknown Covid-19 Pandemic Impact


June 22, 2020 

Council Member Brad Lander 

New York City Council, 
District 39 250 Broadway, 
Suite 1751 New York, NY 10007

Dear Council Member Brad Lander,

Our world is in the midst of a crisis – evoking in the hearts and on the minds of many, the dismantling of the old system for a new one. Protest movements and a pandemic in the form of COVID-19 are clarion calls for monumental change and action from the local level to the global sphere. It is now time for bold change like never before.

It is incumbent upon us to act as a beacon of hope to ignite a transformation in the present and of the future in our city. The crowds of protesters (some constituents) taking to the streets, are daily risking their lives and livelihoods during the pandemic to demand change. Consequently, The Municipal Art Society of New York (MAS) is using this moment to make a sincere appeal for a hard look at the yet-to- be released Gowanus Rezoning Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS).

Superstorm Sandy was undoubtedly one of the most destructive storms to hit our region in 2012. It imperiled our great city’s residents, impacted our physical infrastructure, impeded air and ground transportation, and eroded our waterways at great cost in the billions of dollars. Superstorm Sandy had brought to bear quite drastically the importance of improving resiliency in our built environment. Moreover, Superstorm Sandy has taught us that we need to consider fundamental change in land-use policy and the planning of future development.

The COVID-19 pandemic makes it exponentially that much more pressing. Now is the time to double down and re-envision future large-scale developments and rezonings with a renewed emphasis on public health, demographics, long-term socio-economic and environmental impacts, especially in communities that have been adversely affected or previously overlooked. Taking into account the known and unknown impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the social justice issues that have recently boiled over, the city finds itself in an entirely new landscape when compared to a year ago at the release of the Draft Scope of Work.

Based on these happenings, we believe the scope and development assumptions that currently frame the rezoning need to reflect and adjust to both present and future conditions more accurately and synergistically. In terms of the CEQR analysis, in the least, evaluations of public health and socio- economic conditions—including impacts on current residents and small businesses—need to be revisited. We also believe a new public scoping process that focuses on these issues needs to be introduced before we can forge ahead with a proposal that would bring 18,000 new residents and transform the Gowanus neighborhood.

As such, we urge the City to hold off certifying the rezoning as currently planned in order to reexamine the proposal with fresh eyes. Given the magnitude of the development, we further urge the City to take this opportunity to adapt a new vision that sets a precedent for smart planning throughout the five boroughs.

We greatly appreciate your attention and thoughtful consideration on the given recommendations and look forward to having a larger conversation on the issues presented in this letter. I can be contacted by email (, or reached at 415-290-2328.


Elizabeth Goldstein 
President, Municipal Art Society of New York

A few days ago, the Municipal Art Society Of New York City (MASNYC)  sent the above letter by MAS' President Elizabeth Goldstein to Councilman Brad Lander in regard to the Gowanus rezoning.
PMFA is publishing it here with permission, so as to share it with the Gowanus community.

In the letter, MAS is urging New York City to hold off certifying City Planning's rezoning of the Gowanus neighborhood until the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on our city can be better assessed and to better evaluate current and future "health and socio- economic conditions—including impacts on current residents and small businesses."
In doing so, MAS joins the Voice Of Gowanus activists who are petitioning Lander for a moratorium on the rezoning for the same reasons expressed in its statement.

MAS, over its 125 years of history, has advocated for "a future in which all New Yorkers share in the richness of city life—where growth is balanced, character endures, and a resilient future is secured."

THANK YOU, MAS, for adding your voice to this very important issue.
It behooves all of us to get this, the largest rezoning currently planned by the City, just right. There is just too much riding on this.

Please join Voice of Gowanus in asking for a moratorium on the Gowanus Rezoning: 


Anonymous said...

Good to see some clear thinking from MAS!

As a side concern, Superstorm Sandy also had a virus impact component that should not be forgotten.

The schools were all closed for weeks following the storm. John Jay on 7th Ave was put to use as temporary housing for residents who were suddenly displaced by the storm. When other schools reopened, John Jay couldn't couldn't because the building became infected with a novovirus as a result of temporally housing of so many residents. The building needed to be disinfected throughout before students could be welcomed back.

Katia said...

Thanks for the reminder. I had forgotten about that.