Gowanus

New initiatives could reduce Gowanus flooding

Water from sewers backs up into streets, even basements

December 3, 2020 Editorial Staff

Stormwater management and relieving pressure on combined sewer overflow infrastructure are among the Department of City Planning’s new initiatives for the Gowanus Neighborhood Plan announced Thursday by Marisa Lago, the department’s director.

During rainstorms, residents who live near the polluted Gowanus Canal have become accustomed to their streets, and sometimes their basements, being flooded. During storms, the sewer system, overburdened by rainwater, often backs up into the streets.

A $27 million sewer expansion project that is slated to create nearly three miles of high-level storm sewers along Third Avenue began earlier this year. Now, City Planning wants developers to include stormwater mitigation measures within new area buildings.

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Councilmember Brad Lander, seen here, hailed City Planning’s new measures to address stormwater runoff, the need for new schools and accessibility for local subway stations. Photo: Paul Frangipane/Brooklyn Eagle

“By working closely with Gowanus residents, leaders and businesses, and alongside other city agencies, we’ve come up with creative — and desperately needed — solutions to many of this community’s most pressing concerns: that local subway stations are accessible, that new developments will manage stormwater runoff to support the health of the Gowanus Canal, and that school seats will be addressed if needed,” said Lago.

“As we seek a just and durable economic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, the Gowanus Neighborhood Rezoning offers us an opportunity to build a more affordable, integrated, vibrant and sustainable community than the one we have today,” said Councilmember Brad Lander, who represents the area.

“That’s why we’ve worked hard to win a new stormwater rule to prevent new construction from adding additional sewage outflows into the canal, a resilient waterfront esplanade along the canal, and innovative school and transit zoning tools to guarantee that we’ll have school seats, subway access and sustainable open space,” Lander added.

Derek Buckner, a noted painter and Brooklyn native, has spent a quarter of a century documenting Gowanus. This is one of his oil paintings.

The three announcements are:

Stormwater management: The city Department of Environmental Protection is developing a new citywide rule for on-site stormwater management that will reduce stormwater runoff from future development properties. Even after creating an estimated 8,000 new homes, the updated rule means new development could result in an approximately 5 percent reduction (about 5 million gallons) in combined sewer overflow volumes per year.

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Schools: The Gowanus Neighborhood Plan would map a Gowanus special district with zoning rules that encourage the inclusion of public schools as part of new mixed-use residential buildings if seats are needed, as determined by the School Construction Authority. New tools will provide incentives for developers to include district schools in new construction. Throughout the rezoning area, the city would cover the cost of the school itself.

Transit bonus: In addition to previously announced transit easement zones, the Gowanus Neighborhood Plan would now also include a zoning incentive for developers to build new subway station improvements, such as wider stairs and ADA-accessible elevators. In exchange for funding and constructing these measures along 4th Avenue, zoning provisions would allow new developments an  additional floor area of up to 20 percent. The stations are Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center, Union Street and 4th Avenue/9th Street.

A Derek Buckner oil painting.

These new measures will accompany previously announced aspects of the Gowanus Neighborhood Plan, including permanently affordable housing, arts and culture, brownfield remediation, new parks, a strong industrial sector, waterfront access and more, according to the Department of City Planning.

The Gowanus Neighborhood Plan is expected to begin the formal public review process (ULURP) in January.


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  1. LoginNYC

    The plan for infrastructure is to cross their fingers and hope the developers will provide it all, from, schools, to rainwater controls, to new subway entrances.
    What will be the city’s recourse should there be nothing but new housing, no schools, no additional transportation and overly fouled water? –a likely outcome as the buildout takes place under long lingering clouds of the new COVID19 NY ecomomy.