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Gowanus Rezoning Must Maintain 'Job-Intensive' Industries, Advocates Say

By Leslie Albrecht | February 21, 2017 2:36pm
 City planners will meet Feb. 22 with industrial businesses in Gowanus to discuss the possible rezoning of the neighborhood.
City planners will meet Feb. 22 with industrial businesses in Gowanus to discuss the possible rezoning of the neighborhood.
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DNAinfo/Leslie Albrecht

GOWANUS — Fast-changing Gowanus needs to hold onto its "job-intensive" industrial areas, advocates will tell city planners at a Wednesday meeting on the neighborhood's possible rezoning.

The Department of City Planning will host a 1 p.m. discussion where manufacturing and industrial business owners are invited to weigh in on the city's study of Gowanus, which could eventually lead to a residential rezoning of the industrial neighborhood.

City planners have indicated that any rezoning would probably preserve the neighborhood's Industrial Business Zone, where no residential development is allowed. But the manufacturing zones north of Third Street could become mixed-use areas where residential, commercial and manufacturing would all co-exist.

Advocates for industrial businesses want to communicate three main points to city planners on Wednesday, said Jesse Solomon, economic development program manager at Southwest Brooklyn Industrial Development Corporation. They are:

► Leave the Industrial Business Zone (roughly between Third Street to the mouth of the canal) alone unless the city intends to strengthen or expand it.

► Outside the Industrial Business Zone, the city should maintain as much manufacturing space as possible in Gowanus. "We're hopeful that the areas zoned for manufacturing outside the Industrial Business Zone will also stay zoned for manufacturing and at a minimum be designed to maintain high job-intensive use," Solomon said.

► The city should consider how a rezoning would affect industrial business operations. It's already a challenge for businesses to maintain their loading zones, for example, and an influx of new residents would add to that pressure, Solomon said. Foot traffic can interfere with trucking routes, for example, she said.

The city has said it wants to "promote job-generating uses including industrial, arts, cultural and creative sectors" in Gowanus and "improve access to jobs at a variety of skill levels." But it must balance that desire with the need for affordable housing and preserving the neighborhood's arts spaces.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a plan in 2015 to protect Industrial Business Zones like the one in Gowanus from encroachment by hotels and self-storage. But that plan has been delayed because the city now wants to look at adopting the policy in all manufacturing zones, which will require more study and review.

The delay has frustrated advocates such as the Association for Neighborhood & Housing Development, which says Industrial Business Zones provide good-paying jobs.

"There’s a really big opportunity for community groups and residents to get a lot out of this rezoning," said ANHD campaign coordinator Armando Chapelliquen. "There’s a lot at stake, whether it's on the economic development side, resiliency, residential development. What's really going to be interesting is, how does the city balance those different priorities and concerns?"

The Department of City Planning did not respond to requests for comment.

UPDATE FEB. 22: An earlier version of this story said Southwest Brooklyn Industrial Development Corporation was hosting the meeting, but the Department of City Planning, which did not respond to requests for comment on this story, called an hour prior to the meeting to say that the Planning Department, not SWBIDC, was the host.

The meeting between industrial business owners and Department of City Planning staff will start at 1 p.m. Wednesday at the Gowanus Alliance office, 135 13th St.
Business owners who plan to attend or have questions should contact Jesse Solomon at jsolomon@sbidc.org.


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