Rezoning

Join Brooklyn Community Board 6 on Thursday, October 22nd at 6pm for a Department of City Planning presentation on next steps for the Gowanus rezoning – RSVP for the meeting

Background

In 2016, the NYC Department of City Planning (DCP) initiated a Gowanus Neighborhood Planning Study to determine strategies for the future development of the land around the Gowanus Canal. This study is built on community priorities identified in the Bridging Gowanus process, including supporting a mix of uses, affordable housing, investment in the public realm, sustainability, resiliency, arts, and culture.

In June 2018, DCP released the Gowanus: A Framework for a Sustainable, Inclusive, Mixed-use Neighborhood, which includes recommendations for open space, infrastructure, transportation, and increased density that prioritizes a mix of uses.

In January 2019, DCP released the Draft Zoning Proposal. This release included details on the Waterfront Access Plan, which will promote resilient and publicly accessible esplanades that support programming, soft edges, and water access. Our response to this proposal is here.

In March 2019, DCP released the Draft Scope of Work, which lays out proposed methodologies and assumptions for the rezoning’s environmental analysis. This is a critical point of the process to ensure that the City accurately measures environmental impacts of rezoning and plans for needed infrastructure. A summary of our comments on the scope are here, and the longer formal comments here.

Due to the COVID crisis, the city land use process was put on hold in March 2020 and restarted in August 2020.  The city announced in October 2020 that the Gowanus process will restart, with precertification meetings in Fall 2020, and formal certification in January 2021.  The formal certification will start the ULURP process – learn more about what to expect in this helpful guide from our neighbors The Center for Urban Pedagogy.

Join Brooklyn Community Board 6 on Thursday, October 22nd at 6pm for a Department of City Planning presentation on next steps for the Gowanus rezoning, including opportunities for comment in pre-certification meetings and throughout the official land use process and ULURP process. RSVP for the meeting

Read more about our advocacy below.

Our Position on the Gowanus Rezoning

Updated October 14, 2020

We are living through an unprecedented crisis that has brought to light the systemic inequalities in our city and country while calling attention to the urgent need for robust social and physical infrastructure. This need is as pressing as ever in Gowanus, where decades of contamination, neglect of basic infrastructure, and gentrification have disproportionately affected low-income BIPOC community members, especially those who live in public housing. As the neighborhood changes, it is essential that we work together as a community to adapt to a changing climate, invest in essential infrastructure, and support a resilient and equitable Gowanus. We believe that, if done right, a district-wide Gowanus rezoning offers an opportunity to make progress towards a more just and green neighborhood. 

After more than a decade of real estate speculation and property acquisitions throughout the Gowanus neighborhood, new development is likely to occur with or without a district-wide rezoning. If we move forward without a comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and rezoning, individual owners will apply for land use changes through private applications, limiting opportunity for community input and benefits. We believe that the City should restart the rezoning process, address the community’s priorities, and hold developers accountable in planning for a future Gowanus.

The City still has significant work to do to incorporate community needs into its proposal. And we need to continue to fight, as a neighborhood united, through the land use process to address the needs and priorities across the neighborhood, including advocates for the environment, public and affordable housing, industry, and the arts. We stand with our partners in the Gowanus Neighborhood Coalition for Justice (GNCJ), to fight for a Gowanus that is thriving, inclusive, and resilient for all – read more in our joint op-ed and sign the petition to support our priorities.

The following priorities are specific to our expertise and vision for a Gowanus Canal and surrounding urban environment that is clean, resilient, diverse and alive:

We need Net Zero CSO in the Gowanus Canal

Ongoing combined sewer overflow (CSO) pollutes the Canal with raw sewage and stormwater runoff nearly every time it rains. To ensure that new development does not further contribute to pollution, we are calling for a Net Zero CSO rezoning. To realistically achieve this, we need to see a multi-pronged approach that includes new developer requirements for storm and wastewater management, along with planned City capital investment in grey and green infrastructure. 

We are encouraged by the City’s work to date on the 2021 Unified Stormwater Rule, which will improve citywide stormwater controls on new development sites in combined sewer areas. In August 2020 City Council passed legislative Intro Bill 1851, which authorized DEP to begin the rulemaking process for a new Unified Stormwater Rule. The new rule is on track to be in place by the time the Gowanus Rezoning is complete, and will require developers to manage on-site stormwater using green infrastructure infiltration practices, and ensure that runoff is either detained during wet weather events or completely retained or re-used on site. 

These proposed regulations could result in Net Zero CSO in Gowanus, but we need to see proof of this in DEP’s hydrologic model of the sewer system as well as the forthcoming Gowanus Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS).  Additionally, for the citywide rule to be effective in Gowanus,  it must acknowledge the system impacts of stormwater runoff in streets and other publicly-owned land. The new rule should encourage private development practices that take on stormwater management in the adjacent right-of-way and adaptive green infrastructure practices for maximum performance where the groundwater table is high. 

We need a Waterfront Access Plan

The Gowanus Canal’s shoreline is changing dramatically under the Superfund clean-up. While a clean up of industrial waste will result in a cleaner Canal, new bulkheads, dredging and capping the bottom will also eliminate most of the current intertidal zone, which currently supports habitat for mussels, crabs, fish, and shorebirds. At the same time, rising sea levels and flooding threaten waterfront use and public access to the shoreline. It is critical that a Waterfront Access Plan (WAP), is put in place to guide waterfront design that allows critical habitat to be rebuilt, ensures equitable access, and provides permeability to manage stormwater and buffer storms. If done right, a WAP in tandem with the Gowanus Lowlands Master Plan will provide a path forward for a resilient, biodiverse, publicly-accessible shoreline with bilevel esplanades, soft edges, stormwater management, and sustainable programming and maintenance.

We are encouraged by the outline of the WAP included in the May 2019 Draft Zoning Proposal.  Through the proposed zoning text, the Waterfront Access Plan (WAP) will promote resilient and publicly accessible esplanades that support programming, soft edges, and water access. 

We need a Parks Improvement District

With major cuts in the city budget, including a 14% decrease for the Department of Parks & Recreation, funding and coordination is needed to ensure that our public realm is maintained, programmed, and accessible to the community. Maintenance for much of the existing and future public realm in Gowanus is underfunded, including streetscapes, parks, and proposed City-owned public spaces at Gowanus Green and on top of DEP CSO tanks. While waterfront landowners will be required to build and maintain public waterfront esplanades, coordinated maintenance and programming are needed to ensure that publicly owned spaces are resilient and meet the needs of diverse users. A Parks Improvement District (PID) should be established in concert with the Gowanus rezoning to coordinate maintenance across property lines.  A PID would leverage a tax assessment on new development to fund public space and streetscape maintenance, programming, sanitation services, capital improvements, technical assistance, and workforce development. Without a funding and coordination mechanism in place we will see deterioration of our public realm in the years to come.

We need capital investment

A fair and successful rezoning will require capital investment in essential infrastructure and community assets. This should include investment in public realm improvements as outlined in the Gowanus Lowlands Master Plan, including parks, streets, streets ends, NYCHA campuses, and other City-owned properties. In a district-wide rezoning this infrastructure investment would typically be funded through the City’s Neighborhood Development Fund (NDF). In a time of strained finances, the City will need to be creative in ensuring essential improvements do not fall by the wayside and that commitments are tracked publicly through the NYC Rezoning Commitments Tracker.

Read More

July 15, 2020: Our Position on the Gowanus Rezoning

May 23, 2019:

GCC Comments on Gowanus Neighborhood Rezoning and Related Actions Draft Scope of Work CEQR No.19DCP157K

GCC SUMMARY OF POSITION on Gowanus Neighborhood Rezoning and Related Actions Draft Scope of Work

GCC Testimony on Draft Scope of Work

February 6, 2019: GCC Response to Draft Zoning Proposal

Learn more

What’s Going On in Gowanus?
Created by the Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP), Fifth Avenue Committee, and Pratt Center for Community Development.

Gowanus Places Study

Bridging Gowanus

Gowanus Neighborhood Coalition for Justice

Gowanus: A Framework for a Sustainable, Inclusive, Mixed-use Neighborhood

Draft Zoning Proposal

Gowanus Canal Brownfield Opportunity Area Nomination Study