Land Use Committee OKs Gowanus Rezoning, now heads to full council

November 12, 2021 Editorial Staff
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New agreement would repair all units in area’s NYCHA project

The City Council’s Land Use Committee on Wednesday unanimously passed the oft-debated Gowanus Rezoning Plan, which would add more than 8,000 new apartments in an 82-block section of the Gowanus neighborhood, with 3,000 designated as affordable for low- and middle-income residents.

The plan now goes to the full City Council, where it is slated to come up for a vote on Nov. 23. However, the opponents of the plan are still in the ring.

In addition to the vote, Councilmembers Brad Lander and Stephen Levin, leaders of Brooklyn Community Board 6 and members of the Gowanus Neighborhood Coalition for Justice announced Wednesday morning that they  had reached a consensus with the de Blasio Administration on “Points of Agreement” that they say will ensure the Gowanus Neighborhood Rezoning will meet community goals.

The “Points of Agreement” between City Hall and the councilmembers stipulates that every one of the 1,662 units in NYCHA’s Gowanus Houses and Wyckoff Gardens developments will receive a comprehensive interior modernization, estimated at $200 million. 

In addition, the city would invest hundreds of millions more in flooding and stormwater infrastructure, parks, schools, and workforce development, and substantial funding commitments for renovations at the Pacific Branch Library ($14.7 million) and the Old Stone House ($10.95 million), according to a statement sent out by the plan’s supporters. Developers along the canal would be required to build and maintain a public esplanade.

The agreement, they say, would also mandate “net-zero” combined sewage overflow from any new construction created as a result of the rezoning. The city committed to a $174 million upgrade to sewer infrastructure to address long-standing flooding along 4th Avenue, which is especially severe at the intersection of Carroll Street.

Earlier, Councilmembers Lander and Levin had expressed support for the plan, but said their ultimate approval was conditional on the city making a commitment to repair conditions at the two NYCHA housing developments in the area.

The same morning, Voice of Gowanus, a group that has prominently opposed the rezoning plan, sent out a statement saying, in part:

“No matter what Councilmember Brad Lander claims now, it’s clear that he has run his full dog and pony show to distract from a host of problems with the Gowanus rezoning (poisoned land, his own 2017 real estate donations, displacement, hypergentrification, flooding, etc.). 

“He and Councilmember Stephen Levin have also forsaken commitments made to their constituents to vote against the Gowanus rezoning unless 3 critical conditions were met, including verified scientific impact analysis showing that this massive development—that will bring 30,000 new residents into a FEMA Flood Zone A—would not further pollute or endanger our community with combined sewer overflow. 

“The CSO tanks won’t be built in time.  The CSO condition cannot be met.  Lander, Levin, and all Councilmembers must vote no.”

A bridge over the Gowanus Canal, showing the area as it would appear under the rezoning plan. Photo courtesy of Department of City Planning

In addition to the councilmembers, the Gowanus Rezoning Plan has been approved by the City Planning Commission, Borough President and Mayor-Elect Eric Adams (with conditions), and Brooklyn Community Board 6 (also with conditions).

However, in September, U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez and Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon held a press conference on the banks of the Gowanus Canal and called on the city to redo the plan’s environmental impact statement in the wake of Hurricane Ida. They said the study did not adequately consider the consequences of climate change or combined sewer overflow into the canal.

In addition, in August, the federal Environmental Protection Agency wrote a letter to the director of the NYC Department of City Planning, saying there were inconsistencies in stormwater calculations and asking that major sections of the environmental impact statement be redone according to EPA directives.

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