Gowanus Rising: New Development, Rezoning & Other Issues
It's been an eventful, if not tumultuous month or two, for the Gowanus Canal and Gowanus. Last week, the Hudson Companies was picked to develop the polluted Public Place site. Earlier, Toll Brothers unveiled their plan for a big Gowanus development and their intention to leapfrog the city planning process. A new gallery opened on Bond Street a couple of weeks ago and the Brooklyn Center for the Urban Environment unveiled its new headquarters on Seventh Street on Friday. Then, there is the Gowanus Hotel District, fully chronicled and mapped out by Brownstoner. And, there is more in the pipeline, with major properties on the market for tens of millions of dollars.
When we spoke with him last week, Council Member Bill de Blasio said he was confident that some of the big developments on the drawing board--like the Toll Brothers and Gowanus Green projects--could go forward. "The odds are still good for them," he said. "This particular area is so appealing on so many levels." He said that Public Place enjoys the "advantage of publicly-owned land" and that it would spark a "cleanup waiting for decades to happen." As for the Toll Brothers, who seek to circumvent the ongoing zoning process, he said, "the jury is still out on whether they should be able to move forward" ahead of the overall zoning. He said the project had "some good elements" including the level of affordable housing and public space that it offers.
On the topic of the polluted canal itself, which will be the subject of a cleanup effort over the next decade, Mr. de Blasio said he believes "the best way to get the canal clean is to create a residential area around it" and, therefore, a constituency for faster action on a cleanup. Mr. de Blasio, whose support would be crucial for the success of the city's Gowanus rezoning, said that he is "comfortable with the framework as a starting point for discussion." The framework calls for buildings up to 10-14 stories tall on the canal as well as for affordable housing and public space requirements. He has called for the upzoning to be linked to a downzoning of Carroll Gardens. The city has refused to commit to a timetable for the latter. "The burden is on City Planning to make them correlate," he said. "I would be shocked if the whole upzoning would fail because they won't move a downzoning." Mr. de Blasio added that "I can't support a rezoning unless that downzoning is garuanteed." He did say, however, that the two wouldn't necessarily have to happen at the same time.