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City Council, as expected, passes Gowanus Rezoning Plan

November 23, 2021 Raanan Geberer
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The City Council on Tuesday passed the Gowanus Rezoning Plan, after years of discussion and debate.

Although the official tally wasn’t available at press time, the plan passed overwhelmingly. 

While the Gowanus rezoning has been, and continues to be, a controversial issue, the item that generated the most dissent on Tuesday was not Gowanus but another rezoning plan for a blood center on the Upper East Side. That, too, passed.

The Gowanus plan 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.

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Before the vote, Councilmember and Comptroller-elect Brad Lander, who represents most of the zoned area, described the project enthusiastically and thanked its supporters, such as fellow Councilmember Steve Levin, the Gowanus Canal Conservancy, the Fifth Avenue Committee, the Gowanus Neighborhood Coalition for Justice, and tenant groups.

Among the rezoning’s benefits, Lander said, will be a comprehensive interior renovation of NYCHA apartments at the Gowanus and Wyckoff houses, including plumbing and electrical; affordable artists’ studios; a new waterfront park, and new stormwater infrastructure. Funding commitments for improvements to the Old Stone House and the Pacific Library are also part of the plan.

Councilmember Brad Lander at a press conference with the Gowanus Neighborhood Coalition for Justice. Eagle file photo by Paul Frangipane

The plan as it was finally voted on, the councilmember continued, is the result of more than 10 years of meetings with officials, small businesspeople, area residents, artists and others. For some officials, the promise of renovation at the NYCHA developments was what led them to support it.

After the vote, Lander’s colleague Levin said, in a statement, “Throughout my term, and that of Council Member Lander, the future of the Gowanus neighborhood has been a topic of many meetings and community planning sessions. Now we have arrived at a plan that truly benefits the community by providing up to 3,000 permanently affordable apartments, substantial investment in the capital needs of Wyckoff Gardens and Gowanus Houses, and improvements in our public spaces and drainage infrastructure.”

New York City Parks Commissioner Gabrielle Fialkoff added, “Built on parks and public space equity, the Gowanus plan offers a model of green urbanism not just for New York City but for the rest of the country. Not only does the rezoning provide an all-new 1.5-acre park, but it activates the waterfront to create a destination shoreline walkway that reflects the canal’s industrial past.” 

Councilmember Stephen Levin, a supporter of the Gowanus rezoning plan, speaks with another councilmember at a hearing in 2019. Eagle file photo by Paul Frangipane

One group that definitely wasn’t pleased was the Voice of Gowanus, the leader of the movement opposing the rezoning. In a statement put out soon after the vote, the group said:

“As Brad Lander celebrates a massive violation of state and federal law today — one that endangers the safety of our community and the environment, and bends to the interests of big real estate — we note that a certain lady has not yet sung when it comes to the Gowanus rezoning.

“See you in court!”

Indeed, in October, the group retained attorney Richard J. Lippes, who has handled environmental cases in 20 states, including representing plaintiffs in the famed Love Canal case.

And several days before the vote, the Voice of Gowanus made public an op-ed, published on this newspaper’s website, called “A Tale of Two Brad Landers,” in which it urged City Council members to vote against the project.

“For residents of Brooklyn’s District 39—where Lander has been our Council Member for the past 12 years—it can feel as if there are two diametrically opposed Brad Landers, because Lander’s support for the enormous Gowanus Rezone directly contradicts a host of positions he has loudly and publicly proclaimed for years on issues ranging from affordable housing to climate change to racial displacement,” the group wrote.

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