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District 39

Brad Lander

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

There is well-founded concern that the rezoning will bring development that strains our basic infrastructure, rather than strengthening it. Rezonings have too-often enriched developers while generating little community investment. In Gowanus, concerns about extractive private industry are all the more resonant due to the legacy of industrial pollution and environmental degradation along the Canal. Through engagement and organizing, our community has defined clear environmental and community priorities around the necessary infrastructure to support new growth: 

  • The rezoning must generate significant investment to meet the capital needs at NYCHA’s Gowanus Houses, Wyckoff Gardens, and Warren Street Houses. 
  • Development cannot add pollution from combined sewer overflow to the Gowanus Canal. 
  • There must be adequate transit capacity to serve a growing population, as well as sufficient school seats.
  • There must be new and improved public open space for active and passive use, including continuous waterfront access to the newly remediated canal. 

The rezoning includes thoughtful answers to many of the most important infrastructure concerns, but it’s success depends on dedicated funding to address the hazardous and dilapidated housing conditions facing our neighbors in NYCHA housing. At this stage, the City has not studied our proposal to generate private funds through a transfer of development rights (TDR) from NYCHA property to waterfront sites. This means that funding for NYCHA must come from City capital or another program, as determined through meaningful engagement with NYCHA tenants and resident leader

Recent Community Investments

The Environmental Impact Statement, when it’s released, will shed more light on any infrastructure burdens due to the rezoning, and the City must commit to mitigations. However, these issues are not new for our community. Any investments related to the rezoning will build on significant capital projects in recent years to improve local water infrastructure, parks, and schools.

Canal Cleanup  High Level Storm Sewers (HLSS): New high-level storm sewers on 3rd Avenue and a planned project for 9th Street and 2nd Avenue will reduce flooding at key pinch points, and redirect stormwater away from the combined sewer system. In combination with the new CSO tanks required by the Superfund, as well as Green Infrastructure improvements throughout the neighborhood, these new pipes will reduce the total volume of CSO’s in the canal by 76%. 

CSO retention tanks required by EPA: The Superfund requires NYC DEP to construct two sewage retention tanks. Their combined volume of 12 million gallons will reduce overall CSO volumes by 56% annually by increasing system capacity in the two largest Canal sewersheds – RH034 and OH007

One 8-million gallon capacity tank will be located at the north end of the canal at 234 Butler Street, and constructed first. The second 4-million-gallon capacity tank will be located on the Salt Lot Site at 2nd Avenue and 6th Street. The tanks are expected to be completed by 2028. 

EPA and DEP are negotiating a final timeline for construction and completion of the two CSO tanks. The City had asked for a delay in construction, but the EPA, with the support of the local elected officials, is requiring DEP to maintain the proposed timeline. 

New bulkheads on waterfront properties: As a part of the federal Superfund cleanup, all property owners along the canal have been required to replace their bulkheads to prevent pollution from entering the canal through groundwater.

Investments in Local Public Schools New school capacity projects in the area in recent years: 
PS 133 (600 new seats) and PS 118 (350 new seats): Part of a school rezoning plan for the 2013-14 school year alleviating  overcrowding in Park Slope elementary schools and introducing a groundbreaking diversity admissions policy at PS 133
PS 32 expansion (436 new seats): The first comprehensive school rezoning process that seeks to alleviate overcrowding at nearby elementary schools and integrate the seven schools within this subzone through a deep, prolonged community engagement process. Rezoning will be implemented for the 2022-23 school year
9th Street Pre-K: (180 seats): With the growing emphasis on providing Pre-K and 3K seats to all NYC students, this additional District 15 space is anticipated to open September 2022.
– PS 372 Playground: $600K in RESO A funds allocated to create an ADA accessible playspace for this school serving a large population of students with special needs.
Open Space improvements St. Mary’s Playground: The Parks Department rebuilt St. Mary’s Playground under the Culver El line along Smith Street was rebuilt with funding from Council Member Lander and Borough President Eric Adams. The first section reopened in May 2018 and the second section in October 2019. 

Ennis Playgound: A full renovation of this .5 acre park was completed in July 2019 with funding from Council Member Lander, Borough President Eric Adams, and Mayor Bill de Blasio.

How the Rezoning Plan Addresses Infrastructure Needs

Thanks to years of community planning, the Gowanus rezoning will introduce innovative regulations and zoning tools to ensure that private development contributes directly to our community’s needs.  A new city-wide Unified Stormwater Rule will increase standards for on-site stormwater retention to offset additional wastewater from new development. Requirements and incentives built into the Gowanus plan will generate private investments in new and improved public open spaces, public transit infrastructure, and new public schools as seats become necessary.

While these investments do not take the place of City funds to address needs identified in the Environmental Impact Statement, they will help to minimize any adverse impacts that require mitigation.

Development cannot add pollution from combined sewer overflow to the Gowanus Canal. 
WHAT’S IN THE PLAN DEPs 2021 Unified Stormwater Rule (USWR) will increase requirements for on-site stormwater management, reducing the total volume of water that enters the combined sewer system during rain events. 

Pending review by the EPA, this rule is projected to reduce overall CSOs in the Gowanus Canal by up to 5 million gallons per year, even with 8000 new apartments in the sewershed. The new rule: 

Applies to a broader set of sites: The current rule applies only to sites 1 acre and larger that are in separated storm sewer (MS4) areas. The new rule applies in both separated and combined storm sewer areas to any project that disturbs at least 20,000 square feet of soil or creates 5,000 square feet of impervious area, with a more limited set of additional requirements for all new construction on any site.

Introduces water retention requirements: The current rule has no requirements for buildings to retain (absorb on-site without release) stormwater. The new rule adds retention volume requirements, based on a higher rainfall estimate, with a new, more flexible set of design guidelines for achieving them.

Strengthens water detention requirements: For water that cannot be infiltrated on site, the new rule reduces the allowable release rate into the sewage system, in part by reducing the minimum orifice size (from 2” to 1”) through which water can be released.  Detention and retention prevent wastewater treatment plants from reaching capacity during high-volume rainstorms, reducing the likelihood of a CSO event. 

In addition to CSOs, the new rules are expected to reduce street flooding due to additional stormwater controls.

New developments must demonstrate compliance with all of these new guidelines to receive a building permit.The new stormwater management standards will apply to construction citywide, but the rezoning will intensify its impact on the Gowanus Canal.

NEXT STEPS EPA has agreed to conduct a detailed review of the USWR’s effect on preventing contamination of the canal due to rezoning-related development. 
REZONING OBJECTIVE There must be adequate transit capacity to serve a growing population.
WHAT’S IN THE PLAN Transit bonus: Development sites within the proposed C4-4D zone along Fourth Avenue will be eligible (through an authorization process, which goes to the community board) to increase the buildable density on their site up to 20%, and height up to 3 additional stories, in exchange for building commensurate subway improvements, as determined by the MTA. 

Eligible sites may contribute to improvements on- or off-site. This allows the MTA to make the best use of private investment generated through land use action, in coordination with the City Planning and the community.

NEXT STEPS We are working to utilize this bonus to create a new elevator and subway stairwell at the Union Street N/R station as part of new development there. 
REZONING OBJECTIVE There must be sufficient school seats for emerging need.
WHAT’S IN THE PLAN Elementary School at Gowanus Green: The planned development at Gowanus Green will include a 500-seat public elementary school, adjacent to a new schoolyard and public park.

School Tool: The rezoning will include a new zoning tool for the Gowanus Special District to support the creation of new neighborhood public schools in mixed-use buildings. 
– Sites over 30,000 square feet will be eligible for a floor area exemption of school space up to 60,000 square feet.
– The tool would allow bulk and height modifications as-of-right in the Canal district, with a maximum height increase of 40 feet. Schools will be located on the bottom floors of any building, with playground space on the roof when necessary. 
– Private developers will provide the space, and the School Construction Authority will build it out, reducing SCA acquisition and construction costs. 

SCA and the community will receive notice of new developments early in the permitting process. SCA monitors school seat need citywide, and will continue to do so as new development comes online in Gowanus. Since exempted school space can only be used for a public school, SCA will be well situated to negotiate a good price for the space.

NEXT STEPS The tool applies to more sites than will be needed to meet demand, even at full build out. The City should explore using this tool to generate new 3K schools. 
REZONING OBJECTIVE There must be new and improved public open space for active and passive use, including continuous waterfront access to the newly remediated canal.
WHAT’S IN THE PLAN New 1.5 acre public park at Gowanus Green: The site known as Public Place (bordered by Huntington St., Smith St. 5th St, and the canal), will be transformed into a vibrant residential community with 950 below market rate homes, a new public school, and a new 1.5 acre waterfront park. The former MGP site is currently undergoing remediation by National Grid, with oversight by the State and EPA. The development team must complete additional remediation to meet safety standards for all proposed uses, certified by the State Department of Environmental conservation, prior to development. 

Canal developers must build a 40-foot, climate resilient public waterfront: The plan will include detailed guidelines to ensure that each segment contributes to a continuous, publicly accessible waterfront park. Design standards allow for active and passive uses, and adjacent buildings will have commercial ground floors with public access from the water-side. This new esplanade will be designed with the highest coastal flood resiliency standards ever imposed in New York City, to protect against long-term daily tidal flooding as far out as the year 2100.

Thomas Greene Park: The building of the new CSO tank at Butler Street will require remediating the land under the pool in Thomas Greene Park, and building a new and improved pool as part of the work. After the CSO tank is completed, additional park space will be created along the Canal between Douglas and Degraw Streets.

NEXT STEPS The Gowanus Green team has agreed to submit their development plans to the EPA for review, so that the EPA can analyze them for health and safety, and to follow any recommendations they make.

Remaining Priorities for the ULURP Process

The rezoning plan must include commitments to mitigate environmental burdens identified in the EIS, including strains on our infrastructure. While we will not know the full extent of impact until the study is released, the following table summarizes next steps for top infrastructure priorities.

The rezoning must generate significant investment to meet NYCHA’s capital needs at Gowanus Houses, Wyckoff Gardens, and Warren Street Houses. NYCHA developments are not included in City’s study area for the rezoning, and the plan itself does not address their capital needs. However, I will not support the plan without a commitment from the city of significant funding, as determined by residents through a meaningful engagement process. This will very likely entail a capital funding commitment, but other funding strategies remain in discussion.  

The city has begun meetings with Tenant Association leaders and resident activists. It must conduct meaningful outreach to resident communities, with opportunities for input and engagement. 

The city should release information about its funding plan as soon as possible. 

There must be adequate transit capacity to serve a growing population. The EIS will provide analysis on any impacts to transit capacity, vehicle congestion, and other transportation related impacts due to the rezoning.  

During the MTA’s Brooklyn Bus Network Redesign process (and for years before), the community showed strong support for renewed bus service along the old B71 route along Union Street. We must have a plan to resume this process and address our community’s transit needs. 

Our office will continue to work with the DOT and the MTA to establish commitments to necessary mitigation measures.

The plan must include adequate open space to meet new need The Gowanus neighborhood lacks adequate open space today. Recent park investments, and the new waterfront park and esplanade in the rezoning plan would help remedy this, but with additional residents, we may still have an open space need to address. 

Some opportunities for additional public open space include: 
– A portion of the Salt Lot, after the second CSO tank is complete 
– The former “Under the Tracks” playground,  between 2nd and 3rd avenue under the F/G platform. 
– “Schoolyards to Playgrounds” conversions at several neighborhood schools, in partnership with DOE and Parks. 

We have begun conversations with the relevant agencies, and will continue to discuss through the ULURP process.