Housing for the Area?
Some See a Threat to Active Industrial Sector
The official, long-awaited process of rezoning the core area of Gowanus has begun.
Actually, the process began years ago. But on Tuesday, March 10, the “scoping session” about what should be studied in the environmental review was held at Borough Hall.
Among the gripping statistics amassed by the City Planning Department is the fact that the proposed rezoning has the potential of helping to create 5,479 new dwelling units, approximately 572 of which would be affordable.
It is this dimension that has drawn the most concern from are residents, residents of nearby Carroll Gardens, advocates for industrial use, and he Municipal Art Society of New York.
Most of Gowanus, even areas that have long been residential in fact, such as the area just west of the canal, is zoned for manufacturing. The purpose of the new zoning is to create a Special Gowanus Mixed Use District. This new district would consist of about 25 of the existing 60 blocks that are generally considered part of Gowanus.
In general, the boundaries of the district are Bond Street to the west, 100 feet west of Fourth Avenue to the east, Baltic Street and Sackett Street to the north, and Thirds and First streets to the south.
The new zoning defines maximum building heights as 55 feet at the street wall along Bond and Nevins streets, 65 feet along other narrow streets, 85 feet after a setback, and 125 feet for limited portions of larger sites south of Carroll Street.
(The rezoning plan does not affect development projects already announced, such as the plans for Public Place, Toll Brothers or Whole Foods.)
Streetscape regulations will require a percentage of the street frontage to be used for active, non-residential uses on portions of several identified corridors of Third Avenue, Third Street and Union Street.
There would be modifications to accessory residential off-street parking rules to address the physical conditions of sites in the district and possible limitations on below-grade parking.
A major part of the rezoning effort concerns the Gowanus Canal corridor. The plan calls for a special Waterfront Access Plan (WAP) that would modify the underlying requirements for public access on waterfront zoning lots. It would identify specific locations for required public walkways along the canal, upland connections, supplemental public access areas and visual corridors.
The overall goals of this challenging rezoning effort are to bring an underutilized part of Brooklyn back to life, and to recognize that a sizeable part of Gowanus has changed its character in recent decades.
As noted, the city realizes the potential of including Gowanus in the city’s plan to increase its housing stock. In that regard, the Inclusionary Housing Program would be applicable within portions of the proposed rezoning area.
`Leave Things Alone’
And it is the addition of new residents — 5,500 units could translate into 15,000 more people — that has people concerned. One resident, Deborah Greenspan, was quite candid about the whole thing. She said, “Why don’t you just leave things alone? I love Gowanus … we don’t need to change things.” This up-front sentiment is clearly shared by others.
Other residents made a plea that existing rent-stabilized housing be retained in the rezoning plan.
The Municipal Art Society weighed in with a sharp public statement that said:
“We believe the proposed plan does not do enough to support the area’s existing manufacturing uses and industrial job growth and that it incentivizes medium-to-high-density residential development in an area that lies in a flood plain with historical environmental contamination and a significant number of sewage overflow outfalls.”
In one artfully crafted statement, the MAS summed up the cutting edge issues that will dominate the Gowanus discussion for months.
As one long-term observer said, in an aside, “Well, here we go!”
By Dennis Holt