The following is a message sent to constituents on the vote on November 23rd, 2021 on the Gowanus Neighborhood Rezoning.

Dear neighbors,

This afternoon, the City Council will be voting on the Gowanus Neighborhood Rezoning, a plan which will bring 8,000 new units of housing, 3,000 of which will be permanently affordable to low-income and working class families, new space for artists and light manufacturing, as well as new sewer, school, transit, and park infrastructure to the area.

I’ll be voting yes, and here’s why: 

If we believe that we do indeed need more affordable housing and a more integrated city, then neighborhoods like ours will need to welcome new neighbors. The Gowanus rezoning is the first neighborhood rezoning to apply Mandatory Inclusionary Housing in a whiter and wealthier area (sitting as it does between Park Slope and Carroll Gardens). This plan will bring as many as 8,000 new homes, 3,000 of which will be below-market units, including both extremely low income rentals and low income homeownership opportunities. For the first time, a racial impact study was conducted that found strong evidence that the plan will lead to a more racially and economically inclusive neighborhood.

Planning for this rezoning began nearly a decade ago, not as a proposal from developers or City Hall, but in conversations in our community. Through a multi-year process, neighbors articulated key priorities that any plan for growth needed to meet: from funding for public housing to the preservation of affordable artist space that gives this neighborhood its creative character. We demanded a commitment to further the cleanup of the Gowanus Canal, and the resources to ensure that happens. We fought for new public space in the form of a continuous public esplanade along the remediated waterfront including a great new park, and for climate resilient buildings that will withstand flooding. 

The plan we are voting on today meets those goals. It includes the strongest affordability and sustainability requirements ever imposed on developers.

The list is long, but here’s just some of what the City and developers have committed to through this process:

  • $200 million dollars to ensure that every one of the 1,662 units in NYCHA’s Gowanus Houses and Wyckoff Gardens developments will receive a comprehensive interior modernization.
  • Nearly 3,000 units of permanently affordable housing, including a commitment to 100% affordability on the City-owned Public Place site.
  • Nearly 150 affordable artist studios, and the preservation of historic buildings, as part of a strategy to preserve & strengthen the “Gowanus mix” of uses.
  • Substantial funding commitments for renovations at the Pacific Branch Library ($14.7 million) and the Old Stone House ($10.95 million). 
  • A $174 million upgrade to sewer infrastructure to address long-standing flooding along 4th Avenue.
  • Enforcing the new Unified Stormwater Rule that increases on-site requirements for stormwater detention and introduces new retention requirements, which will reduce CSO volumes and events, and help address localized flooding.
  • Investments in new open space, including a resilient waterfront esplanade along the Gowanus Canal. 
  • Historic preservation of 5 landmarked sites and a new zoning tool to keep Gowanus creative and mixed-use.  
  • Community, social service, and workforce development resources totalling more than $3 million for NYCHA residents.
  • Commitments to street safety improvements at high-crash intersections and a comprehensive traffic study of 3rd avenue and the IBZ to address road safety and truck circulation issues. 
  • Over $10 million for new curb extensions and widened sidewalks, bioswales and other green infrastructure, and street furniture such as benches, wayfinding signs, bike racks, and street trees.
  • Tenant protections including an expanded Certificate of No Harassment program (recently adopted citywide through legislation I sponsored), resources for tenant outreach, and a tailored rezoning that protects rent-stabilized units.

I know that a lot of people are hesitant about new development. It can be hard to watch the neighborhood we love change, especially when it feels like someone else is profiting while the rest of us just have to live with change, construction, and uncertainty. 

But this neighborhood is already changing, in ways that do not necessarily bring the resources we need for a thriving neighborhood. The bars, hotels, shelters, and storage buildings that proliferated in Gowanus in recent years do not help our city solve our housing crisis and they certainly don’t bring investments in parks, schools, transit accessibility or sewer infrastructure.

I’m grateful to this community for all the ways you have debated and organized around this plan, your advocacy and participation made it far better. 

As Fifth Avenue Director Michelle de la Uz says, the work for the future of Gowanus does not end here — the passage of this plan is the end of the beginning. Over the next few years, under the stewardship of Council Members Shahana Hanif and Lincoln Restler, and with the partnership of many organizations and many of you, there will be work to do to ensure that commitments are kept and projects unfold in ways that benefit the neighborhood. I’ll be an engaged neighbor still, living just 2 blocks from the rezoning area. 

Together, we will organize both to welcome new neighbors and to ensure this area remains a wonderful place to live.

I really am hopeful that we can.