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Gowanus has potential to become the 'Venice' of Brooklyn, experts say

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Developers could be required to foot the bill for public spaces

Soon, New Yorkers could be promenading along the Gowanus Canal in our Sunday best, relaxing and taking in the industrial scenery of a superfund site. Or at least, that’s the hope (kind of) of some City Council members, who say rezoning could potentially turn the area into a regular Venice.

"There's a possibility to have a public access right of way along the canal," New York Councilman Stephen Levin told Crain's. "It could be created with the very same mechanism used in neighborhoods like Williamsburg where waterfront developments were required to build out an esplanade on their property."

As Crain’s points out, development in Gowanus has indeed been booming lately, giving the city “leverage to press developers to cover the cost of building an esplanade along the canal.”

Worried about a potential “bonanza” of luxury housing, Levin, along with Councilman Brad Lander, spent the past three years helping to create a so-called “blueprint” for the rezoning, authored by the nonprofit Bridging Gowanus. Among the report’s recommendations: preserve and incentive building more manufacturing and commercial spaces to create jobs, install flood protections, and build more affordable housing. Also, you know, detoxify the canal.

But while the city officially kicked off the rezoning process back in October with a series of community meetings, it’s not clear yet how much of the Bridging Gowanus blueprint they’ll take into account. Will they indeed require developers to build out an esplanade? We may not know for a while. Though Levin told Crain’s he anticipated the city to release details of the plans in the coming months, he said the idea that the plan could be pushed through the approval process by the end of 2017 was “ambitious.”

Still, hopes are high. “For years there has been a dream of creating a vision of Venice along the Gowanus Canal and it seemed fanciful," Mitch Korbey, a land-use attorney at Herrick Feinstein told Crain’s. “But now it feels like we're starting to get our arms around it.”