Thursday, August 27, 2020

Can Gowanus Be Both A White, Rich Neighborhood And A Low-Income Opportunity Zone? Why It Matters In Regards To The Proposed Rezoning

Of Shifting Neighborhood Lines Between Carroll Gardens And Gowanus, 
And Diverging Narratives About The Neighborhood's Income Level In Regards To The Proposed Gowanus Rezoning

For decades, the area between New York Harbor and the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn was strictly known as "Red Hook" to locals. It was only in the 1960's that real estate agents began calling the area from Degraw Street/ Warren Street to 9th Street and from Hicks Street to the West side of Bond Street "Carroll Gardens."

It was an attempt to elevate and differentiate the brownstone enclave from Gowanus and Red Hook.

The rebranding of Carroll Gardens, a mostly working class neighborhood in the 60's into a more genteel sounding one was obviously a success. Carroll Gardens is now ranked as one of Brooklyn's most expensive neighborhoods.

Though some of the boundaries of Carroll Gardens sometimes shift depending on who you talk to, New York City officially rezoned the neighborhood in 2009 and set the boundaries mentioned above.

New York City Planning map of Carroll Gardens

So imagine our surprise when we recently googled Carroll Gardens on Trulia and saw that the real estate site defined the eastern border of Carroll Gardens at Smith Street, not Bond Street. The site included everything from Smith Street to Bond Street as Gowanus.

That seemed odd, especially since it would place the Carroll Gardens Historic District in Gowanus.
We cannot say for sure but it seems to us that the site's boundary shift is recent.

Why would this matter?  For one, it may have affected the dialog regarding the proposed rezoning of the Gowanus neighborhood.  As we all know, Carroll Gardens is rather affluent.  Gowanus, on the other hand, is mostly still industrial, though speculation by developers pushing for the rezoning have increased prices in the past few years.

However, shifting the border between Carroll Gardens and Gowanus from Bond to Smith Street would certainly raise median house prices and the median income level of Gowanus by quite a bit.

It is also important to note that the Gowanus Canal Rezoning Framework left out the Gowanus Houses and Wycoff Gardens NYCHA housing, though according to Community Board 6, the majority of Gowanus residents live there. Leaving NYCHA housing out of the framework thereby further skewing the median income in the area.

This has allowed pro development groups like Open New York to claim that Gowanus is "the only affluent, majority-white, high-opportunity neighborhood that the de Blasio administration has proposed rezoning for greater densities."

Councilmember Brad Lander, who is in full support of the Gowanus rezoning, claimed on his City Council page that "Gowanus would be the first “mandatory inclusionary housing” (MIH) neighborhood re-zoning proposed for a whiter, wealthier neighborhood, where there’s relatively little risk of displacement. So we have the opportunity to create a real model for an integrated neighborhood, with diverse schools, and a vibrant community life, right here in the middle of Brownstone Brooklyn."

On the same page, however, Lander writes: "I love the neighborhoods of Park Slope and Carroll Gardens. But they are not integrated or affordable. According to City Planning’s analysis, the Gowanus Neighborhood Rezoning would likely lead, over time, to an estimated 8,200 new housing units, 3,000 (or 37%) of which would be permanently affordable to low- and moderate-income families."
So, which is it? If Gowanus is a white, wealthy neighborhood and needs to be integrated, why allow 63% of the new units to be market rate or luxury housings? Why not push for more affordability?

Complicating Lander's argument even more is the fact that under President Trump, the Gowanus area has been designated as an Opportunity Zone. The Opportunity Zone program offers tax incentives for investors to place their capital gains into low-income communities.

The Gowanus area slated for rezoning overlaps almost exactly with the Gowanus Opportunity Zone.

So, is Gowanus a rich, white neighborhood, as Councilman Lander claims?  Is it a low income area, as per the Opportunity Zone program? Will the rezoning diversify the neighborhood by adding low income housing to a high priced area, or will it displace poorer residents by gentrifying a lower-than-average poverty community.

Is Brad Lander using his narrative to claim that the rezoning will not displace current residents, knowing fully well that developers and investors will profit from huge tax incentives by claiming the opposite?

One thing is for sure: Gowanus can't be both rich and poor at the same time. As a community, we need to make sure we deal with real data and facts while engaging with Lander and New York City when discussing the rezoning.  The truth always matters.

Additional reading:
Bond Street at Carroll Street
Smith Street


Anonymous said...

I don’t live in Gowanus. But what happens there affects me. So according to that Trulia my block is now considered Gowanus?! Where are those people getting their information from? How can it be challenged or corrected? Does their robot not look at actual maps from the city?

Anonymous said...

Why always associate 'white' with 'rich'? Not going to deny a correlation but there are rich, or at least quite well off, brown, black and other hued people too. And 'white' people who are low income.
Just leave it at 'rich' vs 'low-income' to make this contrast and express the concern.
[I am a well off, very brown, very ethnic professional who lives in Brooklyn Heights.]

Katia said...

I agree with you, just using Brad Lander’s description of what he thinks is Gowanus.

Anonymous said...

I recall, back when the Carroll Gardens was up for the new R6-B height limited zoning, the local real-estate/community development folks at CB6 pushed for leaving everything east of Smith Street to Bond out of the new R6B district, they wanted to leave it for later to be rezoned along with the Gowanus Industrial district. There were statements made from CB6 members that this was reasonable because the buildings east of Smith were all small 3-story dwellings ripe for serious development. There was push-back and these blocks remained in the Carroll Garden's zoning district with the new R6B height limited designation too.

It amazed how Landers later claimed that allowing super-high buildings in Gowanus was not out-of-scale for the area because the F-trail rails have such height; totally ignoring this mass of 3 store residents that he now wants to build 22 story towers nears.

Politician and their city agencies happily slice up data to exclude realities and create false facts in order to make any claim needed to support goals of their corporate donor base; and then expect the public to hold them as being "truthful" individuals.

Anonymous said...

I checked out the competition. So has gowanus starting (rightfully) at Bond Street. So does zillow (which bought trulia, interestingly.)

Google maps has Gowanus starting at Hoyt Street!

Here is a fascinating/depressing nytimes piece on how google decides:

Yet how Google arrives at its names in maps is often mysterious. The company declined to detail how some place names came about, though some appear to have resulted from mistakes by researchers, rebrandings by real estate agents — or just outright fiction.
Google said it created its maps from third-party data, public sources, satellites and, often most important, users. People can submit changes, which are reviewed by Google employees. A Google spokeswoman declined further comment.

Matthew Hyland mentioned in both articles as guy who submits to google about brooklyn. He is co-owner of New York’s Emily and Emmy Squared pizzerias, who polices Google Maps in his spare time

Anonymous said...

anyone who associates "white" with rich is a moron and doesn't belong in Brooklyn.

Anonymous said...

1:50 That would be Brad Lander associating and stereotyping "white" = "rich", and he is representing us all in what he calls "Gowanus." He doesn't belong in Brooklyn, and he certainly doesn't deserve our votes in his run for NYC Comptroller. Everyone may know that NYC Real Estate dealings are shady and corrupt - Brad Lander makes this corruption so obvious and transparent. He is a racist to boot. Written by a proud-to-be-brown Gowanus resident.

Anonymous said...

An important point of clarification: The Gowanus census tract that overlaps with the rezoning area is not a low income area. It qualified as an Opportunity Zone because federal law allowed states to designate a handful of census tracts that were not low income/high poverty as Opportunity Zones if they were adjacent to a qualified low-income tract.

Gowanus was one of those adjacent tracts that otherwise would be too rich to qualify. The median family income in the Gowanus tract 2017 was $95,000, and the poverty rate was 7.9%. It qualifies because it is adjacent to the two census tracts to the north (also designated as OZs) that contain the Gowanus Houses, Wyckoff Gardens, and 572 Warren. In other words, Gowanus got designated because it was a more affluent area adjacent to a low income area.

See here:

Katia said...

It all seems like a scam:

equilibrist said...

I don’t think Smith Street is right for the western border of Gowanus, but Hoyt seems completely right. More modest houses, sloping downhill toward the canal, in the flood zone.

Anonymous said...

Be wary, Gowanus, Carroll Gardens, Boerum Hill and Red Hook, whatever your borders may be: Opportunity Zones are complete b.s.when it comes to helping low income and underserved communities.

There’s No Evidence That Opportunity Zones Benefit Low-Income Residents and Their Neighborhoods

It's a rich developer land grab. "How a Trump Tax Break to Help Poor Communities Became a Windfall for the Rich"

Here's why mapping matters: "A Trump tax cut meant to help poor areas could pay off for Kevin Plank and Goldman Sachs thanks to misaligned maps"

Also, the line about "three-story buildings ripe for redevelopment" really rankles: those are homes and retail/residential combo bldgs that make up the vast majority of the neighborhoods from Atlantic to Hamilton and Buttermilk Channel to 4th Ave.

More reading:

So Far, Real Estate Dominates a Tax Break Meant for Businesses

Developers Look to Hit Tax-Break ‘Jackpot’ in Opportunity Zones
"Billions pour into funds targeting low-income areas as Treasury lays down rules for who benefits"

Anonymous said...

Let's be rank. Brad Lander is supporting Real estate people including Kushner ( Trump's son in law ) that owns several properties in Carrol Gardens/ Gowanus. Plus add in Manafort's brownstone on 177 Union St. Brad is looking out for Brad's bank account not residents. DO NOT VOTE FOR BRAD LANDER!.

Anonymous said...

1:41 OMG THANK YOU for confirming what in our bones we knew. Anything coming from Trump, supported by him, is only meant for the already rich, and greedy for more, at the expense of the already suffering low-income. Be wary warning noted.

Anonymous said...

@ 5:53, it's unfortunate that the reality is always so much worse than imagined.
Frankly, Opportunity Zone legislation and policies need to be structured more like reparations for decades of red-lining than windfalls for rich, white mega-developers.
Because there is no mechanism to ensure that 100% of the "opportunity" begins and ends entirely within the community – e.g., from the investment coming in to true locals via grants that don't have to be repaid or no-or low-interest loans with extremely favorable terms only for immediate locals or community-based developers, and a requirement that the profits stay in the community via reinvestment – it's just another land grab by the usual suspects.
Thor Equities, Two Trees, and the Kushners of the world don't need any more overly beneficial opportunities that come at a steep cost to taxpayers and locals.
- Anonymous @1:41

Anonymous said...

11:30 I wish I could follow you - and that's the problem with all this stuff. It's made so complicated and then it becomes a matter of trust. This blog entry has shown that boundary lines shift depending on the agenda being pushed. And we haven't even considered what the City, CB6 considers the Gowanus boundaries.So then it becomes a matter of trust - and we have had absolutely no incentive to trust what is being presented to he community - and the reality is always MUCH worse than imagined, unfortunately. Who ever thought that in a flood zone, on an open sewer, in a hurricane evacuation route, on toxic lands, in a neighborhood with already established narrow streets, the Rezoning proposed would be 22-30 story buildings and dense population.

Anonymous said...

@9:33 pm - Yep, the complications and misinformation serves to confuse and divide the local community, so big developers can come in and make a buck.

To your point, as long as there's money to be made in the short term, nothing like "flood zone, on an open sewer, in a hurricane evacuation route, on toxic lands, in a neighborhood with already established narrow streets" and zero supporting infrastructure will stop the city from allowing these changes.

Katia, what's the course of action against this, starting with contacting Lander's office en masse to challenge him on his position?

- - Anonymous @1:41 & 11:30

Anonymous said...

Hmm...isn't the City governed "by the people?" And, notwithstanding complicated laws, rules, and regulations, shouldn't common sense go into decision-making? Where is the simple common sense in building massively on an open sewer, in a flood zone, on toxic lands, in a hurricane evacuation route? And in the name of needing to create "affordable housing," no less. That's smells of environmental injustice. Cram the poor densely into an environmental catastrophic area.

Anonymous said...

Part of the shenanigans these developers & the city commit is agreeing to build affordable housing as part of the project, and then building the affordable housing way out in East New York. Or they discriminate against new tenants.
Dozens of Affordable Brooklyn Apartments Sit Empty For Months, Two Trees claims it's the law's fault
This series from ProPublica isn't about redevelopment specifically, but is eye-opening:
The Rent Racket: How landlords sidestep tenant protections in New York City.

Anonymous said...

I just wish that the people who would ultimately benefit from the proposed rezoning (i.e. the future residents of a redeveloped Gowanus) had a voice in this process. They don’t, at present, because they’re scattered around the city and don’t yet know who they are (which is to say, they haven’t yet decided to move into the new housing that would be built there). But until they do, I fear that NIMBY-ism will always prevail in debates such as this one.

Anonymous said...

It's amazing how so many rich (white) people have chosen to move to Gowanus instead of affluent Carroll Gardens, Boerum Hill and Park Slope where so many white people live. I suppose they all wanted to live next to those other white people inhaling fumes from toxic power plants?

Before the massive Lightstone development of +1,000 people, which DeBlasio and CB6 supported, of which 2,000 who are lower income, our Gowanus 'hood was diverse. Now our neighborhood is being called 65% white and white politicians with a few sell-out housing advocates argue the new Gowanus rezoning is for racial equity?

Aren't most of the new 2,000 lower income residents of Gowanus white?

Let's get real people!

Anonymous said...

The Lightstone development blocks have +700 apartments which is +/-1,000 people with 80% MIH so 200 are lower income. However, many of the upper income tenants are not white.

The few other residential blocks in the rezoning have such a low legal residential population that they are not statistically significant but there's no good data on their ethnicity.

Let's complete the census folks!

Agnes said...

5:52 I am so sick and tired of that word NIMBYISM that is supposed to shut ip all protests. I didn't move to Gowanus in 1984 to ultimately have all my open sky and view blocked up by completely out of a=scale out of context 20-30 story buildings all around me, thank you. I have every right to say not inmy back yard. If you want it, get it built in yours.

Louisa B said...

This rezoning could lead to some interesting changes to the area. How do you think it will affect the values of homes already on the market?

Anonymous said...

4:37 "interesting changes to the area" Have you see what the proposed rezoning would do? It's not "changes to the are." It's obliteration of Gowanus. 20-30 story buildings on both sides of the canal would create a wall between Carroll Gardens and Park Slope and make Gowanus unrecognizable. This is on the scale of Hudson Yards plunked right in the middle of Gowanus. Your home values are another matter - because the toxicity is being ignored by the City, and I think part of your home proces are high because of the charm of open skies that will be GONE

Anonymous said...

Lightstone are big deblasio donors, lots out there, and EDC appointment. Can someone list the actual Census Tracts that are being s=discussed?