Friday, March 28, 2008

Toll Brothers Team Talks Up the Gowanus Plan

Navid Maqami

A team of architects, planners and others working on the big Toll Brothers project along the Gowanus Canal made a presentation in Carroll Gardens last night. The group briefed the Community Board 6 Land Use Committee and fielded questions from an audience of about 50 people. Despite rhetoric in the community that has been heated at times, most of the questions were polite, although exchanges became heated around the topic of the project's impact on the neighborhood sewer system. The project would have 447 units of housing, and Toll Brothers VP David Von Spreckelsen (photo below) said the firm is looking for approval for the development apart from the overall rezoning of Gowanus because with a year and a half left for the Bloomberg Administration "we are not sure if that rezoning will happen." He said that "we'd like to set the standard for appropriate development on the canal." In response to a question about the sagging real estate market, Mr. Von Spreckelsen indicated the firm is "committed to the project" and said that "we'd love to go forward." The Toll VP also argued that the community has "a unique opportunity to help shape the development" and that it wouldn't occur after a rezoning when a developer could undertake a project on the site "as of right" without community consultation. He cited development along Fourth Avenue as an example of post-rezoning development and said, "I'm not sure anyone is happy with that."

About 130-140 of the units in the project would be designated as affordable housing rental units. The balance would be market rate condos. The project would have 268 parking spaces. L & M Equity would develop the affordable housing.

City Council Member Bill de Blasio said whether or not to go ahead with the project remains "an open question" although he said that he gives the Toll firm "credit for putting together a proposal that addresses public concerns."

The Toll team unveiled a number of previously unseen renderings of the project, which has been designed by GreenbergFarrow, including views of the development from the canal and from Bond Street as well as drawings of the "publicly accessible open space" that would be built along the canal. An environmental consultant said the firm had done 33 borings and dug 16 test wells and that it had found "exactly what would be expected" from a century of industrial use that included the manufacture of paint and the storage of oil. Cleanup plans include the removal of some contaminants, but some pollutants that can't be removed would be covered and capped. She said that environmental issues on the site were similar to others that the Toll Brothers had developed, including the Northside Piers property in Williamsburg and the Fifth Street Lofts site in Long Island City.

In environmental terms, the development would be LEED certified and would have its own storm water collection and treatment system, although the development would be unable to handle the volume of rainfall during the heaviest storms. The issue is particularly sensitive in Gowanus because raw sewage flows directly into the canal if it rains hard enough. Architect Navid Maqami (photo above) of GreenbergFarrow explained the project's design and layout, with four story structures along Bond Street, rising to 12 stories along the canal. (The building height is one of the most controversial aspects of the project in the community, although it may be in line with what the overall neighborhood rezoning would allow.) Landscape architect Lee Weintraub, who designed the Valentino Pier in Red Hook, called the public space on the Gowanus "a canal park as opposed to an esplanade."

Brownstoner has a full rundown of the presentation plus a photo gallery and there is a photo gallery of renderings at Curbed. The developers hope to begin the land use review process sometime before summer.

Von Spreckelsen

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was all a bit scary, that group, parading in single file with their renderings and statistics. They were like a team from Walt Disney with visions of the future complete with a shrinking machine and flying cars. I had a mini fantasy of myself: soaking up rays along a processed canal of filtered water, waving to my husband on the Water Taxi to my own private dock, racing with the 8 hour shadow being cast from my glass box. I also saw that maufactured forest of transplanted trees, swaying in an artificial breeze downwind from the unfiltered part of the canal while slipping on my wellies to wade through the flood plane to my above ground parking garage.'s just too big, too ambitious..too much what we want, but, not enough of what we need in a realistic context.

12:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Funny 12:53 I thought Disney too. It was like Main Street would look like if it were in Brooklyn. I actually dreamed last night that I was in Disneyworld. Either I need a Disney vacation or we're on to something.

1:18 PM  

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