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Old Posted Mar 12, 2019, 3:10 PM
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Heights of Potential Development Concern Some in Gowanus

By Sadef Ali Kully
March 4, 2019

More than a month after the release of its Gowanus rezoning proposal, the Department of City Planning presented the framework Thursday to a meeting convened by Brooklyn Community Board 6, where residents and stakeholders questioned city agencies over the details of the rezoning plan.

“We are talking about specifically what the zoning can do, stuff that rezoning can’t do and who we are thinking about and also the next steps,” DCP Project Manager Jonathan Keller said as he opened the meeting.
Some resident’s questions focused on what the rezoning wouldn’t do—at least, not as currently presented. Gowanus Neighborhood Coalition for Justice member Karen Blondel asked about the city’s commitments to NYCHA, such as the development of the Gowanus community center, transferring development rights to fund repair at NYCHA and the role of NYCHA properties and residents in reducing polluted overflows into the canal..

Keller said transferring development rights to fund repair at NYCHA was not part of the plan but said DCP would look into that suggestion. He also explained the rezoning proposal was not “set in stone” and additional commitments could become part of the plan further into the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP).

But the concern that took up the most questions from residents was something City Planning does want to do: Boost allowable building heights.
Along the Canal corridor the city has proposed zoning to create a mix of uses from housing to commercial, artist and maker spaces surrounded by green areas and offering access to the waterfront. The proposed residential zoning, R7-2, would allow for buildings to reach 6 to 8 stories and the proposed manufacturing zoning, M1-3, is for light manufacturing buildings that could reach up to six stories— both height limits depend on the floor area ratio, which is the relationship between a building’s bulk and its lot size.

DCP’s senior urban designer in Brooklyn, Sagi Golan, said the guiding principle for the proposed development along the Gowanus Canal was setting back the buildings away from the waterfront. He said the idea was to keep the buildings low but also give room for flexibility for various buildings forms and courtyards. During the presentation, he broke up the Canal in three parts: upper canal which is surrounded by narrower streets such as Bond and Nevins, mid-canal which is larger and allows for more open space and lower canal is where the city-owned site Public Place is located and has even more room for affordable housing and public space.
“If you go up in one location you will run out of floor area and you will have to drop down. That is the relationship between floor area and envelope. Any additional height has to be located in specific space on the block so that plenty of air and space get the the courtyard as well,” said Golan.

Golan said that, generally, along Bond Street buildings would be allowed to reach between 5 and 6 stories, while most of the Canal corridor buildings will be able to reach 6 stories tall and those along Nevins Street buildings could go up to 8 stories. He admitted that in some cases buildings would be able to reach 22 stories but those buildings would be rare, “Yes [developers] can go up to 22 stories but doesn’t happen on all blocks or everywhere. If [developers] go up [they] have to down in other locations.”
But Gowanus resident and author Debbie Stoller described the waterfront design as “mullets—shorter buildings in the front and nightmare towers in the back.” She believes the community made clear during the city’s engagement process that 14-stories was the top height acceptable to residents, but developers were unhappy with that limit. Stoller is unsympathetic to the builders because she thinks developers will be rewarded sufficiently by tax breaks and other incentives. “The height came up in all the meetings, so I want to know, what happened? Who sold out the neighborhood? Why is it that what the community decides—developers can override?”

Keller said building up was part of the deal with keeping the buildings lower at the base near the canal.
Other community members did not object to higher buildings as long as it meant that affordable housing would come into the neighborhood.

Bond Street resident and artist Clarina Bezzola, however, said she wanted to know exactly how she would affected because she is the last home on Bond Street, near the beginning of the Industrial Business Zone, which is not part of the rezoning. “I am the last house and I am touching that open field” she said, referring to empty lot next to her home. “What is going to be my reality? Are we going to have a six-story wall next to us? We have these setbacks and we have backyards. So if the buildings next to us are going to have a courtyard, are they gonna put a big wall for privacy and we are going lose all our light and air?”
The draft Gowanus rezoning proposal spans an estimated 80 blocks bounded by Bond Street to the west, Baltic Street to the north, 4th Avenue to the east from Pacific Street to 15th Street and cuts off near Hamilton Avenue in the South in the Southwest Brooklyn Industrial Business Zone. It is part of the de Blasio administration housing plan to create and preserve 300,000 affordable housing units, partly through rezoning up to 15 neighborhoods across the city.

In the upland area from Bond to Nevins streets and blocks surrounding parts 3rd Avenue near the Gowanus Canal, the city proposes a mixed-use zoning of medium- to light manufacturing and residential buildings, “We are proposing to pair residential districts with those [new manufacturing districts] to help strengthen the mixed use character—the live, work nature of the neighborhood,” Keller said.

....DCP says its waterfront access plan will take a closer look at existing requirements for public access and identify specific locations for required public walkways along the Canal, upland connections, supplemental public access areas and visual corridors.

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Last edited by NYguy; Mar 12, 2019 at 4:13 PM.
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