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Gowanus Rezoning Plan Envisions High-Rise Development

By Leslie Albrecht | November 21, 2014 7:24am | Updated on November 21, 2014 4:25pm
 Lander's vision for the future of Gowanus includes highrise affordable housing developments, a thriving manufacturing zone and an active arts scene.
Councilman Brad Lander's Bridging Gowanus Planning Framework
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GOWANUS — Imagine a cleaned-up Gowanus Canal flanked by parks, high-rise affordable housing, a thriving manufacturing zone and an active arts scene.

That's the ambitious vision that City Councilman Brad Lander will unveil to the public Monday when he announces the results of his Bridging Gowanus initiative, a 15-month effort to craft a proposal for how Gowanus should develop.

Lander created the proposal, which he calls a framework, with input from roughly 300 local residents at a series of public meetings that started last year. The initiative was meant to put locals in the driver's seat in determining the area's future, as new businesses flock to Gowanus and land values skyrocket.

“You see the prices that land is trading at down there,” Lander said at a press briefing about Bridging Gowanus this week. "There is significant private interest in moving something forward. That has to be balanced and guided in the direction of the community’s goals."

The Bridging Gowanus plan lays out a broad set of goals including flood-fighting infrastructure upgrades, affordable housing and a rezoning that would bolster manufacturing and allow new residential development, including high-rises in some places, for the first time since 1961.

Taller residential buildings are likely to be controversial, but Lander said most locals who attended Bridging Gowanus meetings are open to high-rise development, "if and only if that genuinely advances the core values we have for Gowanus."

Under Lander's proposal, taller buildings would be required to include affordable units and meet sustainability standards.

People polled at a Bridging Gowanus meeting said they would be willing to see buildings from eight to 18 stories high in their neighborhood, Lander said.

A study by the City Council's Land Use division found that allowing residential high-rises in Gowanus would increase land values by up to 20 times, Lander said, so allowing new residential development would also create the tax revenue needed to fund infrastructure upgrades, Lander said.

"In many ways that's the key to activating the plan and achieving the goals that people have," Lander said.

High-rise development is just one piece of the proposal. Other goals include:

► Creating a "super manufacturing" zone to protect industrial businesses. Certain uses would be restricted, including hotels, big-box retail and self-storage facilities.

► Preserving artists' spaces with mandatory mixed-use zoning.

► Renovating existing parks and adding more green spaces, including esplanades on the canal.

► Taxing new development to pay for infrastructure upgrades.

► Adding more school seats.

► Reactivating the B71 bus line.

► Making infrastructure upgrades to minimize flooding.

► Making overdue improvements such as new elevators at neighborhood public housing developments.

► Preserving historic buildings such as the former ASPCA headquarters at 233 Butler St.

To become a reality, the plan will need support from Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration, the Department of City Planning and a host of state and federal agencies. The Mayor's Office and the Planning Department did not respond to requests for comment.

The website detailing the results of Bridging Gowanus will be live as of Friday. Lander will present the framework on Monday, Nov. 24 at 6:30 p.m. P.S. 32, 317 Hoyt St.