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Eric Adams’ approval of Gowanus Rezoning will boost NYCHA

Public housing upgrades will insure diversity In Gowanus

August 27, 2021 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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On Friday, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams formally released his recommendations on the proposed Gowanus rezoning as part of his Charter-mandated role in the Uniform Land Use Review Process (ULURP).

He didn’t reject the rezoning plan, but he had a list of recommendations tied in to approval, especially providing more capital funding for the two NYCHA public housing developments in the area, Gowanus Houses and Wyckoff Gardens.

Earlier this month, at a more informal setting at the Gowanus Houses itself, Adams basically made the same points — that he supports the wide-ranging zoning proposal, but that the city needs to provide nearly $300 million in funding to the NYCHA projects, according to the Architect’s Newspaper. The funds would be “likely earmarked from the tax revenues of new development.”

“As we look to re-envision the Gowanus community, public housing residents cannot be left out of the equation,” said Adams. “For too long, we have neglected people living in NYCHA, forcing them to live in substandard conditions. By leveraging public and private investment in the area, we can finally fulfill the city’s commitments to our NYCHA residents and ensure they have a real voice. 

“I thank Councilmember Brad Lander, the tenant association presidents, and all the community advocates for making their voices heard in this process,” said Adams, who is also the Democratic nominee for mayor and is likely the next mayor of this heavily Democratic city. 

The proposed Gowanus Green affordable housing development. Rendering by Marvel Architects/SCAPE Landscape Architects

In his recommendations, Borough President Adams stressed the need for the city to meet its commitments to fully fund the capital needs for Gowanus Houses and Wyckoff Gardens. He called for the following steps in his ULURP recommendation to secure these investments:

Dedicating five-year upfront capital funding for Gowanus Houses and Wyckoff Gardens, based on NYCHA physical needs assessments, estimated at $274 million and ongoing consultation with the tenants of both developments; and ensuring that the resulting Gowanus Houses and Wyckoff Gardens capital projects prioritize NYCHA tenants and low-income residents.

If the city cannot commit to the level of funding needed for capital improvements at the two developments, Borough President Adams recommends capping allowable maximum heights and floor-area-ratio for certain areas the city is seeking to upzone, unless the developers of buildings that fall within those areas are willing to purchase development rights from NYCHA.

“We believe what we are doing here in Gowanus can serve as a model for future rezoning processes throughout the city, particularly those that are expected to attract a significant amount of private investment,” said Borough President Adams. “Every rezoning must take into account the needs of long-time residents, and deliver real results for those with the greatest need. These recommendations lay out a path for achieving that.”  

In addition, Borough President Adams recommended that public housing residents in Gowanus be given priority for housing in new affordable housing developments in the area, including Gowanus Green, a 100 percent affordable site along the Gowanus Canal that is expected to provide 950 new below-market units. 

Fifty percent of the units will be dedicated to extremely low/very low-income households with incomes averaging at or below 50 percent area median income (AMI), according to a recent release from the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD).

The Gowanus rezoning is expected to foster greater diversity in the area, according to the BP’s Office.  A recent report estimates that 20 to 25 percent of the new lottery apartments under the rezoning would be rented by Black households, and 25 to 37 percent of them will be rented by Latino households.

All in all, Adams made 38 recommendations as conditions for his approval of the rezoning. Among them are: 

  • Permanent affordability for the resulting affordable housing units.
  • Relocating the Gowanus Emergency Management Services station on Bond and Carroll streets, to realize the affordable housing potential on the underutilized site.
  • A public comfort station accessible for users of St. Mary’s Park, as well as greater investments in open space.
  • Investments in new school seats, community childcare, street safety improvements, and stormwater management infrastructure.
  • A new accessible subway entrance for the Union Street station on the northbound R line.
  • Safe public waterfront access.
  • Supporting the Southwest Brooklyn Industrial Business Zone and its artist, artisan and manufacturing businesses.
  • Funding for tenants’ rights training, workforce development, and youth programming.
  • Proactive and preventive measures to protect this community from canal pollution and sewer overflows, following EPA guidance.

The City Planning Commission is expected to vote on the rezoning proposal in the coming weeks.


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