Toll Brothers Gowanus Project: Zoning, Toxins & Shadows
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.