Monday, March 17, 2008

More About Scoping the Toll Brothers Gowanus Development

Pratt Center for Community Development Director and City Council candidate Brad Lander was among those who spoke at the City Planning Scoping hearing on Thursday on the big and controversial Toll Brothers project in Gowanus. Late on Friday, Mr. Lander emailed to us to clarify things because he had been described as giving testimony that was supportive of the development. He said in the email that he is "not a supporter of the Toll Brothers project, generally or otherwise."

One thing that has become clear to us is that the Toll Brothers proposal has become even more polarizing in Gowanus and Carroll Gardens than the rezoning that it seeks to circumvent. (The rezoning discussion is like to revive when the city presents its draft plans in late spring or early summer, per a timetable related to us by Brooklyn Planning Director Purnima Kapur.) Based on comments that are appearing in our posts and conversations we are having with residents in both neighborhoods, the development is causing (or reflecting) deep divisions in the community and some is very personal. Public controversy about the Toll Brothers development has, in fact, been far louder than that surrounding the far bigger Public Place project which would be only a few blocks away.

Mr. Lander's lengthy testimony, from which we will excerpt a few passages, was actually quite thorough in terms of the issues with which the project review should deal. He spoke on behalf of a group called the Coalition for Responsible Redevelopment of the Gowanus Canal which includes the Carroll Gardens Association, the Fifth Avenue Committee, the Gowanus Canal Community Development Corp., the Gowanus Canal Conservancy, the NYC Central Labor Council and other labor and community groups. "Because Toll Brothers is proposing a rezoning for substantial residential development for 363-365 Bond Street in advance of a broader public rezoning of the Gowanus Canal area, this action must be held to a higher standard," he said. "If approved, this rezoning would likely start a chain reaction of development that would have significant and broad public impact far beyond its borders. It is therefore appropriate and necessary that a full range of alternatives be considered, and that the EIS be broadly scoped to answer questions about the potential impact of this action."

Significantly, Mr. Lander asked that the environmental review consider the Toll project with the "cumulative impact of other proposed development" in the area, even if they would not be finished until later. "The Scope of Work indicates that other projects that will not be completed by the Build Year of 2011 will not be considered in this DEIS," he said. "We strongly object to this exclusion. If every project is able to look only at short-term impacts, then no one project may trigger sufficient impacts to show the need for additional school seats, or infrastructure investments, or child care, or traffic calming … but surely collectively they will generate these impacts."

The testimony also requested that the environmental review consider on-site wastewater treatment, height limits, how it the development would impact overall zoning goals for Gowanus, long range impact of all developments on community facilities, and a host of other factors. Mr. Lander also called for a rezoning of Carroll Gardens to take place with a Gowanus rezoning (which is not likely to happen given the city's timetable) and that the Toll development take this context into account as well. In terms of canalside uses, the testimony said:
The DEIS should consider additional small-scale retail and commercial uses, preferably artisan-, environmental- and community-oriented, along the Canal. We believe that adding a mix of uses along the Canal will help to enliven it, to the benefit of the project and the community at large. These should not be uses that would draw car traffic, but instead that would encourage pedestrian visits.
Written comments about the critical environmental review and what it should include can be submitted through March 24. (While comments can cover anything, at this stage, the most useful comments should cover elements that should be present in the environmental review; opportunities for lengthy commentary for or against the project will be available later.) The comments should be sent to Robert Dobruskin, Dept. of City Planning, 22 Reade St., New York, NY 10007. A copy should also be sent to Community Board 6 at 250 Baltic St., Brooklyn, NY 11231.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

As the court reporter's notes will show, he clearly stated more than once, that this was "an exciting project".

That statement may not appear in the written statement, but it was said. Those in the room didn't invent those words.

So what could Brad mean by "exciting project"?

1:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was there for the afternoon session and my sense was that Brad Lander supported the project.
Maybe he is backpedaling because he did some Gowanus vote counting and is aware that we are less than thrilled with Bill DeBlasio and Brad is Bill's guy for city council.

Did Buddy Scotto really name Carroll Gardens? I had hoped I had misheard him but others have also commented that they heard him say he name CG.

3:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Many people who want something other than the contaminated parking lots of Gowanus are afraid to speak as you'll brand them as supporters of the project.

exciting does = support - this project HAS generated much excitement in our community - that's the fact!

Mr. Lander has never supported any project without conditions - for example, he speaks for inclusionary zoning to be a part of most rezoning projects...

The counnter argument is for us to preserve contaminated parking lots and trucks in our neighborhood for another fifty years!

4:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey 3.24. Where did you get the idea that Lander is de Blasio's guy for council? I thought he was staying neutral in that race.

4:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey 3/24,
What information do you have that Lander is deblasio's guy for city council? I thought he was staying neutral.

4:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course Brad Lander speaks for inclusionary zoning. He gets paid to do so. However, he doesn't live here.

4:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course Buddy Scotto named Carroll Gardens. He also got the Red Hook water pollution plant built. He also got the pump station fixed. He also cured cancer and invented the Internet. Didn't you know that?

Landers never met a project he didn't like. He shakes down developers for affordable housing on the promise that big government will give the money back to the developers as subsidies. People like ACORN and Ratner. Sleaze balls all of them.

Deblahblah's staff calls Landers Bill's housing adviser. If that isn't an endoresement, what is?

Yeah, Landers said it was an "exciting project" more than once. He sees dollar signs. Him and his good buddies, Buddy and Bill "dollar Bill" deblahblah. They all deserve each other. They don't deserve our support.

Michael Curatore

5:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Michael C.,
No, I didn't know Buddy found the cure for cancer and invented the internet. I should have played closer attention to what he had to say but as soon as I hear the words "Nelson Rockefeller" I tend to tune him out. I didn't realize there was something new to hear. Too bad Buddy couldn't keep the pump running.

5:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you NIMBY's are out of control. the gowanus is a sh*t hole in its current state. literally.

brad's got exactly the right idea. let toll brothers build their project and wring all of the public good we can out of them in the process.

8:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

but is in our backyards.

7:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For the record ...

No one has championed for a clean Canal more the Mr. Buddy Scotto.

Some say this is for his own benefit - good for his buisness or property interest or that he's got nothing better to do with his time but there's no debating the fact - he's been there for this waterway - for +40 years!

Now someone finally wants to take on his plan - and he's got government lined up to participate. Why wasn't anyone objecting before? Why not protest new as-of-right development that has no affordable housing, or community benefit?

Buddy and a bunch of other neighborhood democrats came up with the name Carroll Gardens. Old timers still call it Red Hook.

9:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Buddy Scotto notwithstanding, Brad Lander is for this project. He is not fooling anyone. Neither by the way is Scotto who stands to make big bucks off of it along with a few key others. This is a group we need to watch very carefully.

11:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

At the afternoon session Brad Lander said he was speaking on behalf of the Gowanus Canal Conservancy and that Pratt Institute testimony would be given in the evening. The GCC is very closely associated with the GCCDC and some other groups that have special interests in the canal.

7:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

right, gowanus is a shit-hole. it also a shit hold.

it only buddy finished what he started.

so isn't it better to park your car next to all the shit than putting your bed next to it? what a great idea for lux condos! toll must really know how to market.

9:13 PM  

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