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District 39

Brad Lander

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

Gowanus, a historically industrial neighborhood, maintains active industrial uses, thriving local businesses, and a strong community of artists and manufacturers. Keeping Gowanus mixed-use has been a goal for this rezoning from the beginning, and it has only grown more important in light of the pandemic and its assault on small businesses. The Gowanus community has made it clear that the following goals should be advanced in this plan: 

  • Invest in and expand space for arts and light manufacturing in the rezoning area
  • Protect and support the Gowanus IBZ
  • Preserve and highlight Gowanus history and culture

People often associate rezonings with large-scale residential development at the expense of everything else, but the plan for Gowanus includes thoughtful approaches to the gamut of community priorities. Here are some of the ways that the plan keeps Gowanus creative: 

  • Industrial mid blocks: Mid-block areas (between Nevins, Third, and Fourth Avenues) will remain zoned only for industrial and commercial uses. The rezoning will add modest development rights on these blocks, with no hotels or self-storage allowed. 
  • Gowanus Mix: The rezoning would codify a unique new “Gowanus Mix” use group in the zoning text, generating dedicated space for light manufacturing, arts, and nonprofits. It’s unusual for the city to impose use restrictions that limit the potential revenue for a property owner (because we all apparently still believe in trickle down economics), but necessary to achieve community goals. 
  • IBZ: The Industrial Business Zone (IBZ) south of Third Street is not being rezoned. To preserve and strengthen the industrial community in that area, the City has committed to establish a framework to guide future development, and to make investments in infrastructure and workforce development. 
  • Historical Landmarking: We have now completed the landmarking of five historic buildings and will continue working with advocates to expand this list. The wonderful Powerhouse Arts building is already being redeveloped as a nonprofit facility that will house fabrication and production in wood, metal, ceramic, textile and print.   
OBJECTIVE Invest in and expand space for arts and light manufacturing in the rezoning area
WHAT’S IN THE PLAN Mid-block manufacturing zones: While the rezoning proposal would add residential development rights in many areas, large sections of the rezoning area will remain restricted for manufacturing uses. Where FAR is increased, the added space cannot be used for retail or entertainment. M zones in the study area will: 
have maximum heights of 8 stories (M3) and 12 stories (M4)
add approximately 1.57 million new square feet of development capacity for office/light industrial/arts/community facility 

“Gowanus Mix”: In mixed-use areas with new residential development rights, developers must dedicate a portion of commercial space for “Gowanus Mix” uses. This new use group is intended to foster and expand the unique combination of creative and production activities that Gowanus is known for. By allowing arts, light-industry, and other production-based uses, and excluding higher-rent uses, the zoning will effectively maintain lower rents in these spaces. 

The rezoning allows for a total of approximately 450,000 square feet of “Gowanus Mix” space overall, with 340,717 square feet on projected or potential development sites. 

Powerhouse Arts: The recently landmarked BRT Power Station, just outside the rezoning area but well within the community, is being redeveloped as a non-profit facility. Powerhouse Arts will house fabrication and production in wood, metal, ceramic, textile and print, occupying approximately 77,000 square feet. .  

Old American Can Factory: Landmarking on this site will restrict the bulk of new development, but it does not protect the arts and creative business uses currently in the building. While these site-specific issues have not been studied in the EIS, DCP will include an “authorization text” with the rezoning that reduces barriers to accessing the full allowable FAR, in exchange for permanently restricting uses in the landmarked parts of the building to arts and light manufacturing.

NEXT STEPS Brad expects to expand the area in which Gowanus Mix is applied, and negotiate additional restrictions to the use list during ULURP to ensure that the space achieves its intended purpose. 
OBJECTIVE Protect and support the Gowanus IBZ
WHAT’S IN THE PLAN IBZ zoning framework: Outside the rezoning area, the city is developing a framework to guide future development in the Industrial Business Zone (IBZ). While this framework does not change the zoning in that area, it establishes guidelines for individual rezonings in the area. It will also establish a zoning incentive for building dedicated industrial and arts space.
NEXT STEPS The City must make commitments to specific investments in infrastructure needs and workforce development in the IBZ
OBJECTIVE Preserve and highlight Gowanus history and culture

WHAT’S IN THE PLAN

Historical Landmarking: Last year, five of the most striking examples of industrial development in Gowanus during the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries were designated for preservation through the landmarking process. Together, they are a significant cultural resource and strong contributor to the neighborhood’s unique sense of place. The buildings are: 
– the Gowanus Canal Flushing Tunnel Pump House and Gate House (2 buildings) at 196 Butler Street; 
– the Brooklyn Rapid Transit (BRT) Central Powerhouse at 153 2nd Street; 
– the Old American Can Factory (3 buildings) at 238-246 3rd Street; 
– the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) Building at 223-237 Butler Street; 
– the Norge Sailmakers Corporation Building at 170-172 2nd Avenue. 
These buildings join three existing historic landmarks in Gowanus: Public Bath #7; the New York and Long Island Coignet Stone Company Building; and the Carroll Street Bridge. 
NEXT STEPS Brad wants to establish an authorization framework for historic interpretation in public space in Gowanus