Land ho! Toll pioneers Gowanus

The Brooklyn Paper
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The transformation of the industrial Gowanus Canal zone into a high-class high-rise zone will take its first baby steps this week.

Toll Brothers, famous for both its suburban McMansions and such urban development projects as the Northside Piers complex along the Williamsburg waterfront, will begin the eight- to 12-month public approval process for its 447-unit project slated for two manufacturing blocks along the polluted waterway.

A luxury project next to a waterway that is so polluted that it will require its own cleanup before anyone will be allowed to move in? Yes — especially one that would be a bridge between tonier Park Slope to the east and Carroll Gardens to the west.

That’s what makes the project site of warehouses, vehicle storage and vacant land bounded by Bond, Carroll and Second streets and the canal, so attractive, a company executive said this week.

“It’s close enough to the real heart of Carroll Gardens,” Smith Street and Park Slope, said David Von Spreckelsen, a Toll Brothers vice president, and DUMBO resident.

Besides luxury buildings up to 12 floors tall along the Gowanus and lower-rise townhouses on the side streets, 30 percent of units will be made available at below-market rates. Toll Brothers will also create a public open space along the canal.

Their two-block proposal kickstarts the expected transformation of the rundown Gowanus. Mayor Bloomberg has proposed rezoning large portions of both sides of the canal for housing and commercial activity while setting aside other sections for the dwindling manufacturing base.

The size of Toll’s project and the inclusion of an accessible greenway compliment the Bloomberg Administra­tion’s general vision for the canal, and has the support of the local councilman, Bill DeBlasio (D–Park Slope).

“This project will not only entail proper cleanup of the site, but it will also benefit cleanup of the Gowanus Canal and have minimal impact on the local infrastruc­ture,” DeBlasio said in a statement.

DeBlasio’s support could be pivotal as neighborhood opposition begins mounting.

Some of the critics want Toll Brothers to minimize the environmental impact from hundreds of new, car-owning and toilet-flushing residents. The canal, after all, fills with raw waste on heavily rainy days.

The Toll Brothers environmental study says the developer would invest in new sewers and catch basins to minimize the sewage impact. Toll’s traffic analysis says the increased traffic on Carroll Street can be offset by adjusting the timing on stoplights during rush hour. The study also concluded that the hundreds of new residents would not crowd local schools.

Critics are not convinced.

“The affordable housing and open space are all very desirable, but before we open the floodgates [to development], we need to have a comprehensive plan to protect against out-of-scale development and guarantee that the necessary infrastructure and environmental work are in place,” said Brad Lander, a member of Community Board 6 and a candidate for the term-limited DeBlasio’s seat.

Community Board 6 will meet at PS 32 (317 Hoyt St., between Union and President streets), 6 pm on Sept. 25. Call (718) 643-3027 for info.

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Reader Feedback

Gowanus from Gowanus says:
“This project will ..... benefit cleanup of the Gowanus Canal ...” DeBlasio said in a statement.

How does your paper let this guy get away with making such absurd statements? It isn't physically possible for this project to "benefit the cleanup of the canal". The canal is in such a distressed environmental state precisely because of all of the existing units of housing that already exist within it's watershed!

Building housing, by it's very act, has negative environmental impact. Adding 477 new units of housing, here along the canal, will only be adding insult to injury. A claim to build "green", like using low flow toilets in the construction, may help reduce the intensity of the environmental impact, but cannot possible eliminate the negative effects that will result.

Let's get real here and stop making the same kind of ridicules claims that the mortgage banks were making a year ago. At some point, reality will set in.
Sept. 18, 2008, 7:09 pm

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