District 39

Brad Lander

Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Columbia Waterfront, Gowanus, Park Slope, Windsor Terrace, Borough Park, Kensington

Comments From Councilmembers Lander and Levin on the Draft Scope of Work for the Gowanus Rezoning

Dear Chair Lago,

We write today, as the New York City Council Members representing the Gowanus area and surrounding neighborhoods, with comments to the Draft Scope of Work for the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Gowanus Neighborhood Rezoning.

The Gowanus Neighborhood Rezoning presents a real opportunity to create a future for the Gowanus community that is more sustainable and resilient, more inclusive and affordable, and that preserves and strengthens the vibrant mix of uses in the area today. However, in order to achieve those goals, there is still a long way to go: in what must be studied in the EIS; in the Gowanus Neighborhood Rezoning proposal itself; and in related infrastructure and neighborhood investments.

More than five years ago, our community came together to outline goals for the future through the “Bridging Gowanus” community planning process. In 2016, DCP began working with the community, holding scores of meetings including large public sessions and issue-specific working groups open to all who were interested. Building on that work, in June 2018, DCP released Gowanus: A Framework for a Sustainable, Inclusive, Mixed-use Neighborhood. In January 2019, DCP released the Draft Zoning Framework.

We appreciate DCP’s work to implement an extensive and transparent public planning process over the past three years, and we know that commitment will continue going forward. We are also deeply grateful to the hundreds of community members who contributed many hours to shaping this vision, including long-time and newer homeowners, tenants, NYCHA residents, business owners, environmental activists, artists, affordable housing advocates, and more.

We are encouraged by many elements of the proposal: Innovative steps to require a more resilient and continuous waterfront, to advance and support the cleanup of the Canal, and to insure buildings with high environmental standards offer an opportunity for a sustainable and resilient neighborhood. Plans to include a signficant amount of affordable housing for low- and moderate-income families in an area with extremely high housing prices, along with strong policies for preventing displacement, will generate a far more integrated and inclusive neighborhood than nearby Carroll Gardens or Park Slope. The new incentive zoning for light industry, arts-related, cultural, and civic uses, along with preservation of mid-block areas for commercial and manufacturing uses, offers space to preserve and strengthen the “Gowanus mix.”   

At the same time, there are numerous areas where the proposal does not yet fulfill our shared vision, and where substantail improvements are neeeded. The plan must include significant investments in NYCHA’s nearby Gowanus Houses, Wyckoff Gardens, and Warren Street Houses, which it does not yet do. It must prevent additional sewer overflows (CSOs) from flowing into the Gowanus Canal after rain events, and instead contribute to the canal’s cleanup and restoration. It must strengthen light manufacturing, arts, and artisan uses inside as well as outside the Industrial Business Zone (IBZ). It must include a plan to preserve historic buildings and connect people to that history.

Critically, as the largest neighborhood rezoning of the de Blasio Administration, the plan must do far more to include investments to meet the needs of a growing community for schools, transit, open space, flooding and resiliency, energy, and other infrastructure.

Planning for the future of our city is not easy. We are facing an ongoing affordability and inequality crisis, even as the city’s population continues to grow, so we need to build new housing, especially in neighborhoods like Gowanus that offer strong opportunities to connect to good schools, jobs, and transit. At the same time, we know that many residents fear or oppose additional development in their neighborhood. Our shared obligation is to develop a plan that allows for growth, makes sure that growth achieves our public goals, invests in the infrastructure necessary to sustain it, mitigates potential impacts, and creates a community that is a great place for people across lines of difference to live, work, and recreate.   

It is therefore imperative that the Department of City Planning (DCP) rigorously and transparently analyze all anticipated development impacts and hold the Gowanus Neighborhood Rezoning (the largest proposal of its kind in recent years) to the highest standards for public infrastructure and sustainability, from transit and sewers to public schools and open space. We also urge DCP to study zoning tools that could generate sorely-needed resources for the NYCHA developments in Gowanus, foster a genuine Gowanus mix of uses, and expands our transit and related infrastructure.

Areas of Strength in the Current Proposal and EIS Scope-of-Work

We are encouraged by the following elements in the Gowanus Neighborhood Rezoning proposal:

  • Out of a legacy of industrial pollution, become one of NYC’s greenest and most resilient neighborhoods by supporting the Superfund remediation of the Gowanus Canal, facilitating the cleanup of polluted land around the Canal, requiring construction of more sustainable and resilient buildings (which will be built to high standards of resiliency, and now must include rooftop solar, wind, or a green roof), and generating a waterfront esplanade designed with attention to long-term sea level rise.
  • Create a more inclusive, affordable, and integrated community by building thousands of much-needed affordable and market-rate housing, through mandatory inclusionary housing (MIH) and by committing the City-owned “Public Place” site for affordable housing at a wide range of incomes, including deeply-affordable units. New York City is in the midst of a severe affordable housing crisis, and this proposal — the first MIH neighborhood rezoning in a whiter, wealthier part of the city — can be part of the answer. The EIS projects that 3,000 out of 8,200 units (37%) would be affordable to very-low, low-, and moderate-income households, resulting in a community that is far more inclusive and integrated than the surrounding neighborhoods of Carroll Gardens, Boerum Hill, and Park Slope. We are also encouraged that the area is included in the City’s “Certification of No Harassment” (CONH) pilot program and the City’s “right to counsel” program, to protect existing tenants from harassment and displacement.  

  • Strengthen a vibrant, genuinely mixed-use neighborhood by preserving many midblocks for industrial and commercial uses, and providing a compelling incentive developers building along the Gowanus Canal and around Thomas Greene Playground to dedicate space to the “Gowanus mix” of light manufacturers, artists, artisans, and not-for-profit organizations.
  • Create and connect significant new public open spaces, including a new waterfront park on the Public Place site, a continuous waterfront esplanade that will activate and enable Brooklynites to connect with the Gowanus Canal, as well as offer a compelling new place to gather and recreate, and making new connections between existing open spaces (several of which have been improved in recent years) including Thomas Greene Park, St. Mary’s Park, and Ennis Playground.

  • Connect to Gowanus historic and cultural resources by knitting new development together with the preservation of historic buildings (with a commitment to identify buildings earlier in this planning process than in prior rezoning efforts), and introducing future generations to that history through historic interpretation and placemaking strategies.

Areas Where More Rigorous Study and Action are Needed

At the same time, with a polluted canal that is finally on a path to remediation, nearby public housing developments that have over $400 million in capital needs, well-loved schools at or near capacity, crowded subway platforms, and chronic street flooding, there are many critical issues that must be more comprehensively addressed. Stronger study and action is needed especially in the following areas:

  • Preserving and improving public housing. NYCHA’s nearby Gowanus Houses ($291m), Wyckoff Gardens ($119m), and and Warren Street Houses ($48m) have over $400 million in capital needs. It is imperative that the Gowanus Neighborhood Rezoning include significant investment to meet those needs. It would be unacceptable to build a new, mixed-income neighborhood just steps away, without addressing decades of neglect that impact our community’s lowest-income residents.

    We have outlined a proposal for a transfer of development rights (TDR) program, comparable to what is contemplated in the recently released “NYCHA 2.0” plan, that could generate between $100 and $200 million to help meet the capital needs of the public housing developments in Gowanus. The EIS should study this innovative approach as an alternative. If DCP chooses not to analyze this alternative, the de Blasio Administration must offer a plan that achieves a comparable level of investment.

  • Preventing additional CSOs into the Gowanus Canal. With plans for the remediation of the Gowanus Canal advancing under the EPA’s Superfund program, after many years of advocacy from member of our community, the Gowanus Neighborhood Rezoning must align with and support the Superfund remedy. One area of particular concern is that new development must not worsen pollution, including combined sewer overflows, into the waterway. The EIS must assess impacts to existing infrastructure at the watershed and CSO-shed scales and consider a range of potential mitigations, including imposing new standards for new developments via the Gowanus Special Mixed-Use District (GSD), and/or expanding the anticipated CSO tank/tunnel infrastructure to include outfalls that would be affected by new development.
  • Address infrastructure issues including schools, transit, flooding, and power. As noted above, the Gowanus Neighborhood Rezoning is the largest neighborhood rezoning of the de Blasio Administration, projected to add over 8,000 new housing units to the area. DCP must therefore conduct thorough and transparent analysis of the impacts on the area’s physical and social infrastructure, develop specific plans to address identified areas of need, and commit the funding necessary.  

    We are encouraged by the inclusion of new zoning tools to enable school sitings and subway station improvements. However, these tools are currently too vaguely designed to evaluate their efficacy; they must be made more specific. In addition, the EIS should study the possibility of a density bonus for developers who fund and construct subway station improvements as part of their project.

  • Preserve and strengthen the Gowanus mix of uses. While we are encouraged by the anticipated “Gowanus mix” zoning incentive, it must be more specifically defined in the Scope of Work. DCP should continue to work with stakeholders to define the zoning tool to generate light manufacturing, arts, artisan, and not-for-profit space within new residential developments. This desigation should also be applied to mid-block areas preserved for manufacturing. In addition, DCP must make good on its commitment to create a vision plan for the Gowanus Industrial Business Zone (IBZ) including infrastructure, land use, and workforce development initiatives that will enable job-generating businesses to continue to grow and thrive into the future.
  • Promoting sustainability and resiliency. The current proposal includes strong attention to climate change. At this moment, however, we must push ourselves to do everything we possibly can … and then some. The EIS should include a detailed discussion of the potential effects to climate change, alternative approaches to reduce emissions and promote renewable energy (e.g. perhaps through shared opportunities for neighborhood-scale battery storage of solar power), and design measures that could be incorporated into new development. In addition, the City should commit to a thorough analysis of integrated flood protection, connecting potential flood gates at the mouth of the Gowanus Canal to a levee along the Red Hook waterfront.

Below are detailed comments on the DSOW, section by section:

Proposed Zoning Map and Text Amendments

We support providing an incentive along the Canal and around Thomas Greene Playground to dedicate space to the “Gowanus mix” of uses, including light manufacturing, arts, artisan, and not-for-profit uses. The DSOW describes this incentive as including, “a more specific set of uses that include light industry, arts-related, cultural, and civic uses; and repair and production services” (37). As part of the Scope of Work, and before certification of the rezoning proposal, DCP must continue to work with stakeholders to finalize and more specifically define the “Gowanus mix” of uses.

Further, DCP should apply the “Gowanus mix” incentive, described above, to the M1-4 districts would be within scope during public review. Currently, the M1-4 districts within the Project Area would allow, “retail and entertainment uses at a maximum FAR of 2.0 and industrial, community facility and other commercial uses, such as office and arts-related uses at an FAR of 3.0 or 4.0, depending on the location” (32). We support a modification that incentivizes inclusion of the “Gowanus mix” of uses within the M1-4 districts. (It should be noted that we believe that such an action would be within the scope of the proposed application, since all of the uses within the contemplated “Gowanus mix” fall within allowable M1-4 uses, and since the incentive concept itself will be studied).

DCP should additionally consider the following modifications (and insure they are in scope during public review) in order to potentially better achieve framework goals:

  • Modifying the mixed-use districts that permit both residential and manufacturing (M1-4/R6B, M1-4/R6A, M1-4/R7A, M1-4/R7X, and M1-4/R7-2) as to remove residential use and only permit the proposed manufacturing and commercial uses.
  • Applying ground floor use requirements at all locations within the Project Area, for commercial space, light-industrial space, arts-related space, and/or community facilities.
  • Mapping the block of 4th Street, between Smith and Hoyt, as M1/R6B, in order respect the existing context and consolidate the block (where there are already a signficant number of row-houses) for low-rise residential development.
  • Applying storefront size requirements, in order to encourage the creation of small businesses, rather than big-box stores.

Use Regulations

The proposed zoning tool to facilitate school sitings must be further defined. According to the DSOW, “the GSD would also apply special FAR regulations to promote community resources such as schools” (37). DCP must work with stakeholders to define and analyze this tool.

Parking and Loading Requirements

Additional analysis is needed to evaluate potential reduction of parking requirements. The DSOW contemplates that “the GSD would modify the underlying accessory residential parking requirements to 20 percent of market-rate DUs” (38), versus 50 percent of market-rate DUs in comparable areas. Analysis is required to evaluate the impact of this amendment, including its likely impact on car ownership among new residents, usage of parking spaces in new development, and impacts on on-street parking. We support parking reductions, and especially steps that would reduce car-reliance by new residents. However, we are sensitive to the challenges of on-street parking for nearby existing residents (especially given potential impacts of congestion pricing).

One particular proposal that should be analyzed is requiring developers seeking parking reductions to include car-share vehicles (with a long-term agreement) in their buildings, in order to provide an incentive for residents not to own private vehicles.  

Transit Easement Zones

We are encouraged that the DSOW includes a requirement for transit easement zones for development above subway platforms. In addition, the EIS should also study the possibility of a density bonus for developers who would themsleves fund and build station improvements at projected and potential development sites adjacent to subway stations.

Waterfront Access Plan

The DSOW provides that “the GSD would establish the Waterfront Access Plan (WAP) in order to institutionalize a framework by which a continuous shore public walkway would be constructed over time through a mix of public and private investment” and “…ensure long-term continuity of public access across all sites along the canal, including at street ends, and at bridge crossings…” (39). The anticipated Waterfront Access Plan includes many elements developed by the Gowanus Canal Conservancy (GCC), and we appreciate both their work and your inclusion of many of its elements.

In order to ensure a continuous shore public walkway, there must be a plan to construct pedestrian bridges at key locations. The DSOW should define the easements and other provisions from the WAP that would be necessary to enable construction of pedestrian bridges at key locations.

The WAP should also include provisions for direct access to the water at key locations. Boating and related recreation has become a strong feature of the Gowanus Canal, and the rezoning must support and strengthen this goal.

Zoning Map

In order to preserve existing buildings within the rezoning area while also achieving the community’s goals, it is important that the rezoning proposal be responsive to existing conditions and specific issues facing several historic properties. The properties below require additional attention beyond what is contemplated in the rezoning proposal today. We encourage DCP to engage with the below property owners and tenants, as well as others who face similar circumstances.

  • 232 3rd Street – The Old American Can Factory provides space for more than 200 people working in the arts, culture, and creative industries. We want to work together to appropriately enable new development at this location, beyond what which is permitted in the rezoning proposal, in order to preserve existing historic buildings as well as the existing creative community.
  • 543 Union Street (live/work) – 543 Union Street is an artist-owned commercial building. We are open to exploring how the residents of 543 Union Street could be permitted to include residential use, as part of a “live/work” building, with a guarantee of long-term affordability for artists.
  • 280 Nevins Street (live/work) – Similar to 543 Union Street, we are open to exploring how the residents of 280 Nevins Street (in this case, a building covered by the Loft Law) could include residential use as part of a “live/work” buildings, with a guarantee of long-term affordability for artists.

Analysis Framework

For the EIS to most accurately evaluate the impact of the proposed actions, the DSOW should include the following when defining potential development sites:

  • Lots containing multi-family (6 or more units) residential buildings, which should not be assumed to be protected by rent-stabilized status.
  • Houses of worship, due to significant development occurring throughout Brooklyn on these properties.

There is also concern that the criteria for analyzing projected and potential development sites in areas remaining as M-zones may be too conservative. Only sites of 20,000 sf or larger are analyzed.

Task 1. Project Description

The Proposed Actions discussed in the Draft Scope of Work (DSOW) encompass a roughly 80-block area. The “reasonable worst case development scenario” (RWCDS) estimates a net increase of approximately 8,200 dwelling units on 60 projected development sites by 2035, in addition to a net increase of 696,000 square feet of commercial space, 251,000 square feet of community facility space, and 6.4 acres of new open space. The RWCDS also identifies an additional 76 potential development sites that are considered less likely to be developed before 2035. As the largest neighborhood area rezoning of the de Blasio Administration, a full, thorough, transparent analysis of all impacts is essential.

Task 2. Land Use, Zoning, and Public Policy

Figure 9 defines the secondary land use study area that will be used to analyze cumulative impacts of neighboring development trends. We are concerned that this area only includes a small portion of Downtown Brooklyn when wider areas of Downtown Brooklyn share a school district, sewage and energy infrastructure, traffic, subway, and bus ridership areas with the Gowanus study area. The Borough-Based Jails EIS recently did an accounting of the Downtown Brooklyn area development pipeline and found 5,407 projected housing units, 1.14 million sf of retail space, 1.65 million sf of office space, 586 hotel rooms, and 868,000 sf of community facility space projected in that area by 2027. DCP should consider a wider area for development projections where relevant (schools, sewer, energy/electriciy, traffic, bus, subway) in the analysis of this proposal.

Task 3. Socioeconomic Conditions

The Gowanus Neighborhood Rezoning has the potential to be a “fair housing” rezoning, which confronts the legacy of residential segregation by creating a diverse, integrated, mixed-income neighborhood without displacing existing residents. This includes the strategies for generating 3,000 affordable housing units out of 8,200 total residential units (approximately 37%), through both MIH and affordable development on the Public Place site, and plans to better connect the nearby public housing developments to new amenities. We appreciate that the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) and DCP worked with us on a workshop bringing the fair housing principles of the City’s “Where We Live” process to Gowanus, and we have been benefitted from working with the Gowanus Neighborhood Coalition for Justice (GNCJ) and the Fifth Avenue Committee as part of their “Redesign the Redline” initiative.

Previous MIH neighborhood rezonings during the de Blasio Administration have all been in neighborhoods with a much higher proportion of low-income tenants, and therefore had a much greater potential for displacement. In Gowanus, and the surrounding neighborhoods of Carroll Gardens, Boerum Hill, and Park Slope — neighborhoods where gentrification took place years ago, and current market-rate rents are quite high — there are fewer low-income tenants (outside of public housing). This lower likelihood of significant residential displacement, direct or indirect, is one positive element of the Gowanus Neighborhood Rezoning. In addition, we are encouraged by the inclusion of the area in the City’s Certification of No Harassment (CONH) Pilot Program (which was developed in partnership by Council Member Lander’s office and the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development).

Nonetheless, there is still important work to do, if we are going to make Gowanus a meaningfully equitable and fair housing rezoning. Centrally, this includes our insistence above on generating significant improvements in the nearby NYCHA developments, as well as investments in the NYCHA community centers. It also includes plans to insure that neighborhood schools are integrated, as outlined below.

In addition, the EIS must thoroughly analyze and address potential for residential and business displacement:

Direct Residential Displacement

DCP should include a plan for the preservation of rent-stabilized buildings within the Project Area, including analysis of how the proposed rezoning is anticipated to impact buildings with rent-stabilized units.

Direct Business Displacement

There should be a detailed analysis to ensure that displaced businesses will have access to available space to relocate, such as in the IBZ or in the midblock M1-4 zones. Analysis of direct business displacement should analyze adverse impacts on low-cost services like bodegas and laundromats that serve the majority of low income tenants of public housing. This analysis should also determine the number of artists and makers that will be displaced. Any analysis should reference the IBZ study and framework and its future implementation. Requiring permanently affordability or not-for-profit stewardship of the “Gowanus mix” should be looked at as a potential mitigation strategy.

Indirect Residential Displacement

In order to ensure the most accurate and responsible analysis of indirect residential displacement, DCP should determine the status of all affordable housing regulatory agreements in the area, and identify any that may be expiring in the next ten years.

Indirect Business Displacement

The most likely potential for “indirect business displacement” in the Gowanus area will be the effect on the nearby industrial areas within the Gowanus IBZ. The added residential population and congestion may, absent any action, make the business environment more difficult for industrial businesses and increase real estate speculation, indirectly displacing industrial businesses while fueling conversion to commercial uses. Any analysis should reference the IBZ study and framework and its future implementation. DCP must make good on its commitment to develop a vision plan for the IBZ, to allow room for growth of manufacturing, industrial, and job-generating uses and invest in the infrastructure, workforce development, and services needed to sustain and share the benefits of this growth.

Task 4. Community Facilities and Services

Public Schools

With such significant projected residential growth (compounded by project development in Downtown Brooklyn and vicinity), it is essential that the Gowanus Neighborhood Rezoning guarantee the creation of sufficient school seats, including the identification of specific sites (both public and private) and funding. The EIS must provide the full analysis necessary to achieve that goal.

The DSOW makes reference to a new zoning tool to site new school seats: “The GSD would also apply special FAR regulations to promote community resources such as schools” (37). However, it does not provide sufficient specificity to insure that this tool will be used. DCP must provide additional clarity about this zoning tool. In addition, DCP should identify private development sites that are most appropriate (re: size, shape of lot, proposed density) for school sitings and the zoning incentive should be clearly proposed and tailored to these sites.

The EIS should also consider the impact of the proposal not only on capacity and utilization rates within local elementary schools, but also on school diversity. Compositional changes to a population (racial, socioeconomic, etc.) fundamentally affect the services delivered by a school. The Gowanus Neighborhood Rezoning must improve school integration, not worsen it.

Libraries

The DSOW explains that, “if the Proposed Actions would increase a branch library’s ¾-mile study area population by five percent or more over No Action levels, and it is determined, in consultation with the New York Public Library [sic], that this increase would impair the delivery of library services in the study area, a significant adverse impact may occur, warranting consideration of mitigation” (54).

The Pacific Library, operated by the Brooklyn Public Library (not the New York Public Library), is located within the study area and is in need of capital investment in order to serve patrons today. BPL has recently embarked on an engineering analysis and public planning process to identify necessary improvements and enhancements for the branch. DCP must work together with BPL and other stakeholders to insure that these improvements and enhancements are addressed under the rezoning proposal.

Police/Fire/Health Care

DCP does not proposed to analyze potential impacts on police/fire stations or health care services, however the CEQR technical manual uses the threshold of the “Introduction of a Sizeable New Neighborhood.” In this case, the increment of projected development significant is significant enough that the EIS should absolutely include this detailed analysis.

Gowanus Community Center

The Community Facilities task within the EIS must also address the need to reopen the Gowanus Houses Community Center. While funding for the physical renovation of the facility is accounted for in the 2020 Executive Budget, the need to fully activate the space with a Cornerstone provider so Gowanus Houses, the largest development in the neighborhood, can have the services they have been lacking for fourteen years must be addressed.

Task 5. Open Space

We are enthusiastic about the proposal to map and create a new public, waterfront park at Public Place, a new and continuous waterfront esplanade, and connections between and among new and existing open spaces (including Ennis Playground and St. Mary’s Playground, which have been recently renovated, and Thomas Greene Park, which will be renovated as part of the Superfund remediation). The following additional analysis and commitments are needed to meet the open space needs of this growing community:

Washington Park/Old Stone House

The open space analysis contemplated in the DSOW should consider expected changes in the future usage of Washington Park (a portion of which falls within the rezoning area), including the “Old Stone House,” a historic home situated in the center of Washington Park and committed to developing programming that enriches the site. Washington Park and the Old Stone House are in need of capital investment to serve patrons today; this will only increase with the additional population generated through this rezoning. Cultural programming in Washington Park dramatic exceeds the capacity of it current facilities. The public bathrooms in the Old Stone House are inadequate.

The leadership of the Old Stone House has developed a comprehensive proposal to build a new cultural facility in Washington Park, with space for performances and rehearsals, as well as new public bathrooms to serve the park. DCP must work together with stakeholders to identify appropriate mitigations to address the anticipated increased usage of this open space under the rezoning proposal.

Consideration of Impact on and Funding for Renovation of Carroll Park

While it does not lie within the rezoning area, Carroll Park will certainly see increased usage as a result of new development generated by the Gowanus Neighborhood Rezoning. Carroll Park has not had significant capital improvements for many years. The Parks Department recently embarked on a plan for renovation. DCP should work together with stakeholders to identify appropriate mitigations to address the anticipated increased usage of this open space under the rezoning proposal.

Funding for New Public Park at Public Place

While we understand that the site may be used as a staging location for the remediation of the Gowanus Canal, funding for the design and construction of the new waterfront park at Public Place should be included in the City’s Ten-Year Capital Strategy. The community must have confidence that this park is 100% guaranteed.

Bridges

As noted above, in order for the Gowanus Canal esplanade to be continuous, new pedestrian bridge connections will be needed in several locations:

  • Across the north end of the Canal (at Douglass or Degraw Street)
  • Over the (newly excavated) First Street Basin
  • From Second Avenue to Whole Foods
  • From Public Place to the DSNY Salt Lot site

The DSOW should assess this need, and outline the steps necessary to move forward to plan, permit, design, and construct needed pedestrian bridges in the years to come.

Maintenance of Waterfront Open Space

A plan for maintenance and programming new open spaces, including community oversight and funding, should be articluated as part of the Gowanus Neighborhood Rezoning. One possibility would be modeled on the City’s “business improvement districts” (BIDs), applying an additional assessment on property within the area to fund a not-for-profit organization with local leadership to insure maintenance and programming. An option of this type, which could be aligned with the Waterfront Access Plan, should by studied as part of the Scope of Work.

Task 7. Historic and Cultural Resources

The Gowanus Canal area has a deep and rich history, as a site where Native Americans once lived, as part of our Revolutionary War history, in the industrial development of Brooklyn and New York City, and in the dynamic and often-fraught relationship between the residents of our city and the environment. Honoring this history, even as we build a new future, is an important component of the actions we are considering.

As part of the Gowanus Framework, the NYC Landmark Preservation Commission committed to identify buildings worth of landmark desigation by the end of June 2019 (based on submissions by a coalition of stakeholders, and we which also included in prior communications). We look forward to this analysis and presentation in the very near future. Designation and preservation of historic structures in Gowanus are an essential component of a future Gowanus that balances preservation of our past with investments in our future.

In addition to assessing the potential impacts of the Proposed Actions on both architectural  and archaeological resources, the EIS should include discussion of measures to incorporate historic preservation interpretive elements in the Waterfront Access Plan, as well as in other public rights-of-way. We have proposed, and are eager to see, the establishment of a program of historic interpretation (and public art) which can serve to connect future generations to the area’s history. We believe it is important for the City to designate an official program for this task, including a stewardship organization and a plan for the necessary resources.

Task 9. Natural Resources

Given projected development, we must be aware of the natural environment and protect the biodiversity that exists in the rezoning area. Any studies undertaken must be sure to utilize local resources and datasets such as Eymund Diegel’s Historic Stream Modeling Results, Gowanus Canal Conservancy Bioblitz reporting, Brooklyn Bird Club monitoring, NYC DEP soil boring records as part of Green Infrastructure Planning, and NYC GreenThumb community garden inventory so as to fully understand the natural world that currently exists in and around the Canal. Based upon this analysis, mitigation efforts must be made to protect the existing flora and fauna.

Also crucial to the health of the community is an understanding of the groundwater system.  This is a critical feature that must be closely examined as part of the field investigation effort. The Project Area and surrounding area has a very high groundwater table and numerous underground creeks, which should be mapped, and studied further to investigate the impacts of contaminant movement as well as future sea level rise.

Task 11. Water and Sewer Infrastructure

The Gowanus Neighborhood Rezoning must not result in additional sewer overflows (CSOs) into the Gowanus Canal. Instead, it must contribute to the canal’s cleanup and restoration. The EIS must study wastewater and stormwater management at the watershed and CSO-shed level in order to accurately measure impacts and consider mitigations. Mitigations that are studied should include new standards for new development, as well as City capital projects.  

DCP should also develop a detailed analysis that includes projected development in Downtown Brooklyn and the larger Red Hook Treatment Plant catchment area. The Red Hook Treatment Plant, where Downtown Brooklyn and a large portion of the projected development in Gowanus would be routed, is one of the City’s smaller such facilities.

Task 12. Solid Waste and Sanitation Services

The DSNY garage within Brooklyn Community Board 6 is located adjacent to Ennis Playground, within the Industrial Business Zone. Often, DSNY trucks park on the street, creating a hazard for the children and families who use the playground and limiting the on-street parking available to local businesses. The EIS assessment of “the impacts of the Proposed Actions’ solid waste generation (project developments) on City’s collection needs and disposal capacity” and potential mitigations should address this existing condition (63).

Task 13. Energy

The EIS discussion of “the effects of a proposed action on the use and conservation of energy” must include the impact of anticipated development in Downtown Brooklyn (63). The section of the grid that covers the Gowanus area is projected to reach capacity. Mitigation measures must be included, with a focus on sustainable investments, such as renewable energy, local generation, and site- and community-scale battery storage of solar and renewable power.

Task 14. Transportation

Traffic

The EIS should include the cumulative impact of Downtown Brooklyn development on traffic patterns in Gowanus, and should consider the potential impacts of congestion pricing and the reconstruction of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway cantilever. Analysis should include strategies for improving street safety for all users (pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers), including safety improvements at key intersections (e.g. 3rd Avenue and 3rd Street). Additional steps for reducing car-reliance and creating a more livable public realm should also be included (bike-share and car-share, bike lanes, pedestrian-only streets, etc).

Subway & Bus

Bus transit mitigations should include modeling of the B71+ bus route, as proposed by local leaders in February 2018. The route would revive the cross-Gowanus B71, which was eliminated in 2010, and add a new link through Red Hook to Manhattan. When documenting conditions at the subway stations within the rezoning area, the EIS should include the current unmet need for ADA accessibility improvements as well as platform and stairwell expansions. Public transit improvements should be modeled as traffic mitigation.

Task 16. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Climate Change

The Gowanus Neighborhood Rezoning includes strong attention to climate change. At this moment, however, we must push ourselves to do everything we possibly can … and then some. The EIS should include a detailed discussion of the potential effects to climate change, alternative approaches to reduce emissions and promote renewable energy (e.g. perhaps through shared opportunities for neighborhood-scale battery storage of solar power), and design measures that could be incorporated into new development. In addition, the City should commit to a thorough analysis of integrated flood protection, connecting potential flood gates at the mouth of the Gowanus Canal to a levee along the Red Hook waterfront.

Task 19. Neighborhood Character

As noted above in Tasks 3, 4, 5, and 7, attention to socioeconomic diversity, community facilities, open space, and historic and cultural resources are essential elements for preserving and strengthening neighborhood character, while allowing room for growth and a more inclusive community.  

We strongly support providing an incentive along the Canal and around Thomas Greene Playground to dedicate space to the “Gowanus mix” of uses, including light manufacturing, arts, artisan, and not-for-profit uses. The DSOW describes this incentive as including, “a more specific set of uses that include light industry, arts-related, cultural, and civic uses; and repair and production services” (37). As part of the Scope of Work, and before certification of the rezoning proposal, DCP must continue to work with stakeholders to finalize and more specifically define the “Gowanus mix” of uses.

Further, DCP should apply the “Gowanus mix” incentive, described above, to the M1-4 districts would be within scope during public review. Currently, the M1-4 districts within the Project Area would allow, “retail and entertainment uses at a maximum FAR of 2.0 and industrial, community facility and other commercial uses, such as office and arts-related uses at an FAR of 3.0 or 4.0, depending on the location” (32). We support a modification that incentivizes inclusion of the “Gowanus mix” of uses within the M1-4 districts. (It should be noted that we believe that such an action would be within the scope of the proposed application, since all of the uses within the contemplated “Gowanus mix” fall within allowable M1-4 uses, and since the incentive concept itself will be studied).

Task 20. Construction

The Gowanus Neighborhood Rezoning will generate construction over the next 10-15 years that will result in hardships for community residents, pose health risks, and have a measurable environmental impact. Given the scale of construction, it is imperative that a detailed construction impact analysis be conducted as part of the EIS.

This construction impact analysis should include the HVAC capacity of buildings both within the study area and the surrounding impacted neighborhood, with special concern for vulnerable populations including schools, public housing, day cares, senior housing, and community facilities. If construction noise and debris limits the use of windows, we need to ensure proper ventilation, circulation, and air conditioning, and ensure a safe environment.

In order to support the community in dealing with construction impacts, a Gowanus Area Construction Task Force should be established to monitor the the impacts and serve as a primary resource for the community in the coming years.

Task 21. Mitigation

It is critical that proposals for mitigation that require zoning adjustments or alternatives be considered and developed in advance of certification. Some of these proposals cannot be fully analyzed until the relevant portions of the EIS analysis are complete; for example, plans for addressing CSOs and existing street flooding conditions cannot be completed until the wastewater and stormwater analysis is complete. We therefore request that DCP provide the community with EIS analysis in advance of certification, especially in key areas where adjustements to the rezoning may be needed.

Task 22. Alternatives

As noted throughout these comments, we have identified several zoning alternatives which we request be studied in the EIS:

  • NYCHA TDR: We have previously outlined a proposal for a transfer of development rights (TDR) program to support pubic housing improvments. Under our proposal, some of the contemplated density in certain areas (e.g. the residential increment from 4.0 to 4.4 FAR in the Canal Corridor) could be made attainable only by purchasing development rights purchased from NYCHA. We believe this could generate between $100 and $200 million to help meet the capital needs of the public housing developments in Gowanus. The EIS should study this innovative approach as an alternative. (If DCP chooses not to analyze this alternative, the de Blasio Administration must offer a plan that achieves a comparable level of investment.)
  • On-site CSO detention: While new development will be required to detain stormwater, additional analysis is needed to determine the CSO impacts in certain CSO outfalls. The rezoning should consider a range of potential mitigations, including imposing new standards for on-site CSO detention for new development in affected outfalls via the Gowanus Special Mixed-Use District (GSD). (Alternatively, impacts could be addressed by expanding the anticipated CSO tank/tunnel infrastructure to include outfalls that would be affected by new development.)
  • Transit density bonus: We are encouraged that the DSOW includes a requirement for transit easement zones for development above subway platforms. In addition, the EIS should also study the possibility of a density bonus for developers who would themsleves fund and build station improvements at projected and potential development sites adjacent to subway stations.

  • Live/work option: In order to preserve and strengthen the “Gowanus mix,” DCP should consider a live/work option with the GSD, to provide a long-term guarantee of affordability for artists, for potential use at sites like 543 Union Street, 280 Nevins Street, and perhaps 232 Third Avenue. While previous live/work options have faced challenges, we have presented a stewardship model which addresses many of those challenges.

  • “Gowanus mix” in mid-block M1-4 districts: DCP should apply the “Gowanus mix” incentive, described above, to the M1-4 districts would be within scope during public review. Currently, the M1-4 districts within the Project Area would allow, “retail and entertainment uses at a maximum FAR of 2.0 and industrial, community facility and other commercial uses, such as office and arts-related uses at an FAR of 3.0 or 4.0, depending on the location” (32). We support a modification that incentivizes inclusion of the “Gowanus mix” of uses within the M1-4 districts. (It should be noted that we believe that such an action would be within the scope of the proposed application, since all of the uses within the contemplated “Gowanus mix” fall within allowable M1-4 uses, and since the incentive concept itself will be studied).
  • Mapping the block of 4th Street, between Smith and Hoyt, as M1/R6B, in order to respect the existing context and consolidate the block (where there are already a signficant number of row-houses) for low-rise residential development.  
  • Modifying the mixed-use districts that permit both residential and manufacturing (M1-4/R6B, M1-4/R6A, M1-4/R7A, M1-4/R7X, and M1-4/R7-2) as to remove residential use and only permit the proposed manufacturing and commercial uses.
  • Applying ground floor use requirements at all locations within the Project Area, for commercial space, light-industrial space, arts-related space, and/or community facilities.
  • Applying storefront size requirements, in order to encourage the creation of small businesses, rather than big-box stores.

Thank you very much for your consideration of these comments. We appreciate DCP’s work to implement an extensive and transparent public planning process over the past three years, and we know that commitment will continue going forward.

We thank the City Council Land Use Division staff (especially Rosa Kelly), and our own district staff (especially Catherine Zinnell and Benjamin Solotaire) for their extensive assistance in preparing these comments. We benefitted greatly from the extensive discussions about the Draft Scope of Work at Brooklyn’s Community Board Six (thanks to CB6 Chair Peter Fleming, Land Use Chair Mark Shames, and District Manager Mike Racciopo); and from dialogue with Richard Bearak at the Brooklyn Borough President’s Office. We also learned from community stakeholders who prepared comments and analysis, including the Gowanus Canal Conservancy, the Gowanus Neighborhood Coalition for Justice (GNCJ), the Fifth Avenue Committee, Gowanus by Design, and others.

Finally, we are deeply grateful to the hundreds of community members who have contributed many hours to planning for the future of the Gowanus area, including long-time and newer homeowners, tenants, NYCHA residents, business owners, environmental activists, artists, affordable housing advocates, and more. Not all of these residents share our perspective, to be sure. Nonetheless, we believe that planning for Gowanus may well be the most extensive and inclusive process for any neighborhood rezoning effort — and it will undoubtedly be better for it.

We still have a long way to go together. We hope that these comments on the DSOW will have an impact on what gets studied, on the proposed zoning, on critical investments, and other elements of the plan for the future of Gowanus.

Thank you for your time and consideration.