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700-Unit Residential Development Approved Along Gowanus Canal

CARROLL GARDENS — A 700-unit residential development on the Gowanus Canal has been approved by the New York City Planning Commission, this week, the developer said.

The Lightstone Group, a real estate company based in New York, was given the green light to begin construction at 363-365 Bond St., an area that is home to Gowanus Grove, a popular outdoor music spot.

The construction, beginning later this year, will span from Carroll Street to Second Street on the Gowanus Canal waterfront.

After multiple presentations to Community Board 6, that oversees both Gowanus and Carroll Gardens, the committee accepted Lightstone’s proposal in October 2012, said Ethan Geto, a spokesman for the developer.

While the project was slated for review by the City Planning Commission in October last year, the meeting was postponed after Hurricane Sandy.

Following the storm, local officials and community members raised concerns, urging the developer to reconsider and withdraw their plans.

“I believe it would be a serious mistake for you to proceed as through nothing had happened, without reconsidering or altering your plans and putting over 1,000 new residents in harms way the next time an event of this magnitude occurs,” said Councilman Brad Lander, who represents the area, in a letter.

Lander, along with Community Board 6 and the Brooklyn Law School Community Development Clinic, also questioned the project’s “Minor Modification” status, which was eventually switched to an “as-of-right” approach, according to a press release. 

The as-of-right design, approved by the planning commission Monday, increased development’s waterfront park by 2,955 square-feet more than the earlier plan, in complying with waterfront regulations.

The wider community space was also welcomed by the CB 6’s Land Use Committee. “We’re thrilled at that,” said Committee Chair Peter Fleming.

The developer will also construct a boathouse and office for the Gowanus Dredgers, an organization that provides access and education to the waterfront.

To tackle environmental concerns raised by the community, Lightstone agreed to construct  “state-of-the-art” bulkheads, which are barriers between the land and canal that prevent contaminants from entering the water, said Geto.

They will also add new storm drains to the development and follow FEMA’s new advisory flood maps for Gowanus and Red Hook that were released earlier this month.

“It seems like the responsible thing to do,” said Fleming.

At the same location, developer Toll Brothers had planned to build a 447-unit rental building, but after the Environmental Protection Agency deemed the Gowanus Canal a superfund site in 2010, the developer backed out of the deal.

While the Lightstone’s project is very similar to the Toll Brother’s design, it will also include 140 affordable apartments that will be integrated into the building, the developer said.

“We view this development as an enormous opportunity to transform a neglected waterfront resource into a lively component of a thriving residential community with an abundant cultural and recreational life,” said Lightstone CEO David Lichtenstein, in a press release.