Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Toll Brothers Gowanus Project: Zoning, Toxins & Shadows

Toll Site High Tide

Community Board 6 has submitted its written testimony in the "scoping" process for the big Toll Brothers development on the Gowanus Canal. Among other things, the Community Board says the environmental review must look at the development in the context of other big projects that could be coming to the neighborhood and weigh its impact that way. It calls the scale of the Toll development "overwhelming compared to the surrounding built environment" and also says the project is, in some respects, "in direct conflict" with some goals of the city's Gowanus rezoning framework and faces significant toxic challenges that weren't outlined in the developer's document. The Toll Brothers want to develop their project independent of the overall Gowanus rezoning.

In terms of the area that should be studied, the Community Board suggests:
A “larger land use study area” should include all development projects that have been proposed to begin before the build out year of 2011, within a ½ mile radius around the site. Such projects as the City’s Public Place project at the southeast corner of Smith and 5th Streets, projects currently under construction and planned along 4th Avenue...
CB6 notes the site's long industrial history and says that the developers have not gone back far enough in time to gauge the site's potential environmental problems. Here are some of the details of possible contamination including lead and heavy metals, oil and asbestos, which are valuable:
...the eastern portion of Block 452, Lot 1 was occupied by Reliance Paint Company, a paint manufacturing site, which suggests that lead, heavy metals, and other hazardous materials may very well be present on the site. Block 458 was divided into a southern half occupied by Standard Oil Company of New York, with several tanks on the eastern portion of the site, and a northern half occupied by Frank D. Creamer & Company, building materials storage. The 1939 atlas showed Pure Oil Company occupying Block 452, Lot 15 having as many as 5 storage tanks on site. It also shows on the western portion of Block 452, Lot 1 the construction of several “fire proof” buildings, later identified as Major Warehouses, Inc. in the 1950 atlas. Friable asbestos and/or other fire proofing materials used in the construction of the buildings could likewise be present on the site.
The document suggests the city study "split zoning" for the site and says the developers proposal for taller buildings on Bond Street is "inconsistent" will goals laid out in the overall Gowanus planning framework and with any contextual zoning that might be planned for Carroll Gardens. It also warns the buildings would cast shadows across the canal, "plunging a substantial portion of the canal into darkness during extended portions of the day must be studied, not only for it’s impact on nearby property owners, historic resources and public open spaces (e.g., streets, sidewalks, etc.), but the potential disruption to the fragile ecosystem present at the canal." And, CB6 wonders if raising the project above the floodplain and "reconfiguring the site’s natural overall drainage system is likely to result in some unforeseen consequence." (Perhaps increasing the flood threat for neighboring buildings?)

There is much more in the document. (A PDF can be viewed here. WARNING: PDF File.) We will close with this passage about how the immediate future of the Gowanus Canal could be incompatible with condo development, particularly as the pumping station that keeps the canal from completely smelling like crap is shut down:
During this time we anticipate the return of odors to the area resulting from this stagnation of the canal water, which we consider to be incompatible with simultaneous residential habitation proximate to the canal.
To put it more bluntly: Gross.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

When CB6 vote on this resolution?

This is a statement of the District Manager misrepresenting the views of the Community and without consultation of the board he is supposed to serve!

7:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I see two signatories on this letter.

I am part of the "Community" and it accurately reflects my views. And just maybe they are trying to protect the community that already exists in Gowanus.

8:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

7:15 raises a legal question. Can a District Manager and Chair of a Community Board, submit testimony on a CEQR application without the approval of the Communiy Board?

Can someoine explain where this is power is given in their bylaws?

I also want the Gowanus neighborhood to remain an area of discarded, former manufacturing lots, mostly used for parking, but we need to be cautious of abuse of governmental power.

Doesn't Hammerman need to follow conflict of interest rules and the same laws as the rest of us?

9:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"incompatible with simultaneous residential habitation proximate to the canal."

I have lived on Bond Street for 14 years! Now my Community Board feels I am incompatible? Where were they in the 1990s when no one would fix that damn pump?


9:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hammerman explained to us that the Community Board will be reviewing Toll Bros when the ULURP application is certified in a few months. He gave us examples, notably the Atlantic Yards model, of testimony the Community Board has given in previous land use environmental reviews. And it's always submitted by the Chairperson and/or District Manager, sometimes has been delivered by their Land Use Chair or a member of that committee. I remember my friend Ernie Migliaccio used to regularly deliver testimony on behalf of the Community Board, when he was alive.

The "testimony" for a scoping session is really a bunch of suggestions of areas to be studied in the EIS, not a position on the project which the Community Board will eventually vote on. It's more questions to be studied than statements. Read it for yourself.

And, I don't think Hammerman owns any property in the area that would present a conflict of interest. I could be wrong, but I don't think he does. I know he lives on the other side of the canal.

Hey 9:49, if it weren't for the Community Board advocating to get the pump station fixed, along with the rest of the local groups, and even Buddy Scotto, we'd still be living in stink. What the heck did you do to get it fixed? At least they've got the records to show their involvement and advocacy on our behalf.


11:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess we should just allow anyone to build anything anywhere at anytime without asking any questions.

Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

Sylvia Gold

11:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

go Sylvia.

CG and The Gowanus area's time has come. We have no power, just small voices lost on the wind.

7:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I miss Ernest.

7:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


You have been misled - CB6 didn't even ask for funding and the reactivation of Flushing Tunnel and Pump Station in the critical years (1997-98) when funding was most needed. see:

1997 CB6 needs

1998 CB6 needs

Buddy and Ernest were not on CB6 at that time and they received no support from our community board.

Please don't re-write history.

9:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey 9:42, according to those statements the work on the Gowanus Pump Station was already underway in '97-98. Why would the community board be asking for money for a project that was under construction?

So I ask again -- what the heck were you doing for the Gowanus then? Speculating on property?

If you want to re-write history go right ahead, let's let others judge it as it is. Moving into the present -- what the heck are you doing NOW for the Gowanus? Griping on your computer about us pesky locals who don't think outside investors should write the next chapter in the Gowanus' history?


11:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

there are a few issues mentioned that are easily cleared up:

1. Both Buddy and Ernest were involved in getting the pumping station fixed. Ernest was great and I miss him too!

2. regardless of how anyone feels about buddy he has been the most influential person in the clean up of this canal to date hands down. we would not be having this conversation if it were not for him.

3. To be a successful district manager you always have to skirt the line between conflict and non conflict and put yourself out there on a limb. You do this becuase you would wait forever to get a vote sometin=mes and you have to give the statment that you feel is best fits the community. Soemtimes you get it right and sometimes you may be wrong.

4. I would like to see how someone else does at this thankless job.

5. The Toll project is in keeping with the framework that city planning came infront of CB-6 with last spring. Toll is not stupid and they do not have time to waste.

6. all of the activists who didn't fight the 12 story thing becuase they were fighting any residential at all can now kick themselves in the ass! This is what happens when you don't tell them what you would think is ok becuase you are afraid that by doing so you are saying housing is ok.

7. all of the activists are doing it again now and the building will still get built without any changes becuase you are still saying don't build it instead of saying build it like this or with this modification, or at this height and this set back.

these are all pretty basic facts. I could have written this last year or the year before or the year before.

Time for a change folks! stop listening to whom ever is leading you. and until you work as hard as they do stop hating in Craig or Buddy (fun to use them in the same sentence).

1:37 PM  

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