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City unveils massive Gowanus rezoning plan

The city has released details of a plan to rezone swathes of Gowanus to support new housing, jobs and green space.

The proposal covers an area roughly bounded by Bond Street to the west, Baltic Street to the north, 4th Avenue to the east, and Huntington, 3rd, 7th and 15th streets to the south. [See map]

One of the largest re-zonings of the de Blasio Administration, the plan sets out to help Park Slope’s gritty westerly neighbor “grow smart and grow green.’

Marisa Lago

DCP Director Marisa Lago said, “We’ve been listening to, learning from and working with neighborhood residents, businesses, community organizations and elected officials. There’s a consistent message:  grow smart and grow green. Now it’s time to devise land use policies that spur job creation across a broad array of sectors; that create and preserve housing, including permanently affordable housing; and that provide new open space as the canal is cleaned up. This will assure that the Gowanus that we love today will remain a vibrant mixed-use community for generations of Brooklynites to come.”

The proposal clusters light industrial, artist, commercial, and community space around 4th and Hoyt Streets, between 3rd and 4th Avenue and provide increased density for job-creating ventures. The new rules would favor loft-style building that’s in line with today’s business trends and in context with the low-rise neighborhood’s character and they would scrap outdated parking and loading requirements as part of the pro-business zoning changes

Along the canal and near Thomas Greene Playground, zoning and incentives would promote larger-scale mixed-use developments of apartments with ground floor commercial space occupied by service-type business such as “repair shops, nonprofit organizations, arts and cultural uses.”

Where new residential development is permitted, new buildings would be required to provide a portion of permanently affordable housing under the Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) program.

The plan also looks to right the missteps of previous zoning changes along 4th Avenue that failed to mandate affordable housing or street-level retail by applying MIH and increased density options to future developments that strive to make the street more pedestrian friendly.

On the vacant city-owned Public Place site, at the corner of Smith and 5th Streets, the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) will spearhead the development of a  “major” affordable housing development.

The sewer and transit systems will be improved through various easements the city wants to promote workforce development and job training opportunities for NYCHA and other neighborhood residents, particularly for City-sponsored projects.

At the center of the plan, is the long-maligned Gowanus Canal, a so-called Super Fund site to be dredged of 17,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment deposited by the industrial residents of the neighborhood’s past. The massive clean-up will be completed  when the bottom of the canal is capped, ultimately turning it into a clean and contaminant-free waterway.

A spokesman for the EPA explained, “The cleanup plan focuses on dredging the highly contaminated sediment that has accumulated on the bottom of the canal as a result of industrial and sewer discharges and preventing re-contamination of that sediment. The remedy also calls for stabilization and capping of contaminated sediments that are not targeted for removal. The bulk of the pollution in the canal is in these sediments. Disposal of all contaminated sediment at a facility out of the area will be done by barging the material.

“EPA and the parties liable for the cleanup are working collaboratively on the cleanup design and how best to implement it while conserving quality of life for the community and seeking to minimize disruption. The cleanup design is in progress and should be completed in 2019 and full-scale dredging is currently targeted to begin in mid-2020.”

The so-called  Gowanus Waterfront Access Plan will  ensure the creation of “continuous, high-quality public waterfront open space with ecologically functional design across properties and street ends, including opportunities for green infrastructure to reduce the impacts of runoff.”

“The Gowanus draft zoning proposal is a strong next step toward the sustainable, inclusive, mixed-use neighborhood that the community has been envisioning for many years,” said New York City Council Member Brad Lander. “The draft zoning proposal and framework updates address issues of environmental remediation and sustainability, a dynamic and resilient waterfront, significant new affordable and market-rate housing, public housing improvements, preserving the ‘Gowanus mix’ of arts and manufacturing, integrated schools, historic preservation, new open space, and school and transit improvements.

“If we keep working together, listening to community voices, having honest conversations about hard issues, and pushing ourselves to be creative and mindful of our shared values, we will be able to make one of the largest rezonings of the de Blasio Administration also turn out to be one of the best.”

Following a public review of the proposal, a Draft Environmental Impact Statement and land use application will be made before the official ULURP process  begins.

This report was updated to include a statement from the EPA.

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