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City says Gowanus rezoning will create 8,200 new apartments

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Some 3,000 of those new units are earmarked as permanently below market rate

The city is in the midst of rezoning Gowanus, a former industrial stronghold in Brooklyn.
Max Touhey

A proposal to rezone Gowanus will create some 8,200 new apartments by 2035—making it the largest influx of new units anticipated by a de Blasio administration rezoning, according to city documents released this week.

City planning officials published the Draft Scope of Work for the Brooklyn neighborhood’s rezoning Monday, outlining the environmental impact study it must go through before progressing into the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP.) The framework is a plan years in the making to reshape the industrial community with a boom of residential development—including 3,000 units earmarked as permanently below market rate through the city’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) program, according to city documents.

“The Proposed Actions are intended to facilitate development patterns that meet the long-term vision of a thriving, inclusive, and more resilient Gowanus where existing and future residents and workers can participate in civic, cultural, and economic activities and where a wholly unique resource—the Gowanus Canal—can thrive and play an active role in that equitable and sustainable growth,” according to the Draft Scope of Work.

Under the plan, a swath of the low-rise neighborhood would transform into a hotbed of development by boosting density and encouraging mixed-use projects between Fourth Avenue and Smith Street. On several blocks bordering the polluted Gowanus Canal, soaring new residential structures could rise as high as 30 stories and up to 17 stories on part of Fourth Avenue.

The 8,200 apartments the plan is estimated to create far exceed the administration’s second highest total of 6,300 new units projected for the East New York rezoning, which was approved in April 2016. Some 7,200 of those new Gowanus apartments would be created on privately owned sites with approximately 2,000 of those slated as permanently affordable. Conversely, on city-owned land, officials estimate 1,000 new units of below market rate housing.

Overall, the rezoning is expected to create 696,000 square feet of commercial space, 251,000 square feet for community facilities, and generate 6.4 acres of open space (more than an acre of that is parkland.) City officials say the rezoning would lure nearly 18,000 new residents to Gowanus as well as create some 3,100 new jobs.

But the neighborhood would suffer some loses as well, including nixing 104,000 square feet of warehouses, 125,000 square feet of self-storage, and 60,000 square feet of other industrial land—space intended for light manufacturing, for instance. Future analysis will explore the project’s impact on core areas of concern for the city, namely potential residential and business displacement spurred by the proposed rezoning and what the scoping document calls “adverse effects on specific industries.”

The proposed rezoning is coalescing after years of community-driven planning through the Bridging Gowanus initiative led by City Council members Brad Lander and Stephen Levin, whose districts encompass parts of the neighborhood. Lander says he’s optimistic about several components of the proposed rezoning but recognizes that “we still have substantial work to do.”

“The Gowanus Neighborhood Rezoning is an opportunity to build a more affordable, integrated, vibrant, and sustainable community than the one we have today,” Lander said in a statement. “There are understandable reasons for the resistance that people feel to rezonings ... But as someone who’s spent my whole career fighting for livable neighborhoods and community-based planning, I genuinely believe we have a chance to get the balance right here.”

Lander wants to see significant investment in the area’s public housing including the Gowanus, Wyckoff Gardens, and Warren Street NYCHA complexes. New school seats, more funds going toward transportation upgrades, and a plan to preserve historic buildings identified by the Gowanus Landmarking Coalition are also priorities for the Council member. Lander also points to the nearby Industrial Business Zone as an area that must be kept in mind for new opportunities to help local businesses thrive.

“I’ll continue pushing, together with community leaders, as the rezoning moves through the public review process,” Lander continued. “We’ve got a long way to go, but thanks to the voices of hundreds of community residents across thousands of hours of community-based planning, the picture is starting to come into view.”

The city will host a public hearing on the draft scope of work April 25 at 4 p.m. in the auditorium of M.S. 51 (350 Fifth Avenue) in Park Slope. Written comments will also be accepted by the city until May 6.