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Critics: Gowanus Canal development would be too populous

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A planned housing development will bring too many residents to the banks of the Gowanus Canal, claim neighbors who fear it will overburden a fragile sewer system, crowd schools, and pack the subway.

The real estate firm Lightstone Group wants to build a 12-story, 700-unit apartment complex on a canal-side site bounded by Carroll and Second streets, reviving a plan that different developers ditched two years ago — but adding roughly 250 apartments to the original design.

The proposal includes landscaped public esplanade, storm sewer upgrades, and 140 below-market-rate rentals — which the company claims provide much-needed housing “for people of more moderate means.”

“The way this project fits into the community is important to us — not just its design quality but also its environmental infrastructure, said Lee Weintraub, an architect heading the project at a hearing on Thursday

But dozens of Gowanus residents and activists said the area’s infrastructure can’t accommodate the roughly 1,400 new residents expected to descend on the blossoming industrial neighborhood.

“It’s completely out of line. We don’t want to see a monster building,” said Gowanus neighbor Linda Mariano at a hearing attended by more than 100 residents, activists and civic leaders.

Some residents said they feared the population hike would render the nearby Carroll Street subway station useless.

“None of you have ridden the F train,” neighbor Barrin Bonet told developers at the meeting. “You can’t physically get on in the morning.”

Others cited environmental worries tied to flooding and the polluted canal — which is so filthy it’s the site for a federal Superfund cleanup.

The new rentals come after the real estate firm, Toll Brothers, backed out of a similar plan to bring luxury condos to the same plot.

The company signed papers to buy the land in 2004, but six years into its plan — and in the midst of a nationwide recession — it walked away from a $5.75-million down payment, saying the Environmental Protection Agency’s clean-up would take so long and create such a strong stigma that the land wasn’t worth developing.

Lightstone Group now says their development makes only a “minor modification” to the already approved Toll Brothers plan — allowing the company to skirt a full review from the city.

Even though developers say the new proposal won’t differ much in scale from the Toll Brothers plan, some neighbors say the changes aren’t “minor” at all.

“We don’t have a sewer system that can support a project this size,” said neighbor Marlene Donnelly.

Others cheered the project, saying it will bring much-needed housing to the area, spruce up the neighborhood, and offer open space on a hard-to-access waterfront.

“I support it; it provides public access and a means to the canal,” said Bill Duke of the Gowanus Dredgers canoe group.

Lightstone representatives echoed that idea, saying the company is committed to investing in the neighborhood and could break ground next September if it gets approval from Community Board 6 and the city for the changes.

The plan will go before the CB6’s full board next month.

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Reader Feedback

Mike from Williamsburg says:
Pushing residents deeper into Brooklyn won't help the subway situation.
Sept. 28, 2012, 11:43 am
JAY from PSLOPE says:
This project could work IF, and its a BIG IF 1) The land is cleaned up so that it does not become a cancer-cluster area 2) The drainage and sewage system for the area is completely re-done and upgraded, 3) The MTA runs more f trains to accommodate the extra people moving into the area.
The question is who is gonna pay for it, the developer or the tax payer?
Sept. 28, 2012, 12:01 pm
Ian from 11211 says:
Oh yes, in the most expensive city in the United States, let's fight every effort to build more housing to accomodate the people who keep coming here. These same NIMBYs will also be arguing that they shouldn't have any affordable housing or rent control ordinances because real estate is a free market system.
Sept. 28, 2012, 12:07 pm
celina from carrollgardens says:
Oh yes, Ian, let's fight every effort to save the character (in architecture, in scale, in population) of a neighborhood by building any old crapshod, completely out of scale POS building that any developer comes along and wants to build. Just like Williamsburg, just like LIC. Because greedy investors always know what's best for "the people", right? Just like in 2008? Or did we forget all of that already?
Sept. 28, 2012, 12:50 pm
ty from pps says:
Yeah -- it's always a good idea to get an assessment of the sewer system and other infrastructure from random "neighbors" who don't even know where their garbage goes when it magically disappears twice a week.
Sept. 28, 2012, 1:28 pm
Or from Yellow Hook says:
"1) The land is cleaned up so that it does not become a cancer-cluster area"

Jay, when you "clean it up" where do you put the stuff you cleaned up?
Sept. 28, 2012, 2:51 pm
Joe from Gowanus says:
Currently "clean up" from the Gowanus Canal (for the new pump) is being transported contained in a toxic dump outside NYC and likely, that's where all of our industrial waste will end up as EPA will no longe allow it to seep into the Canal and be washed out to sea.

1,400 new residents is a lie! That's 2 people in every studio so shame on this paper for sloppy reporting from NIMBY propeganda!

The only issue for consideration is does the community want 400 condos on the Canal or do we want 700 rentals on the Canal.
Sept. 28, 2012, 3:17 pm
Or from Yellow Hook says:
So Joe, it's just moved around?

Who cleans up the toxic dump?

Is the solution to pollution dilution?
Sept. 28, 2012, 4:01 pm
Ian from 11211 says:
@celina Character is what Carrol Gardens had before the new bourgeoisie moved in. This is an empty, contaminated piece of land. No brownstones will be harmed in the making of this building. But yeah, lets make sure the city doesn't build anymore new housing units so that the already huge imbalance between demand and supply gets bigger! Yey! Rich people get richer, miniature State of New York flags for everyone else!
Sept. 28, 2012, 4:46 pm
Joe from Gowanus says:
Contaminated soil disposal facilities and Superfund sites are eventually sealed and become parkland. see:

http://www.mass.gov/dep/recycle/laws/bwp97001.pdf
and
http://www.nycgovparks.org/park-features/freshkills-park

Unfortunately, EPA's Gowanus Superfund will only clean land below the Gowanus water. They want to spend funds to clean sediment that poses no risk to human health as fish don't feed on river bottoms that don't grow plants like in Gowanus and Newtown Creek.

Fish in our Gowanus Canal are accumulating their contaminants from feeding on contaminated river bottom plants near Yellow Hook / Bay Ridge!
Sept. 28, 2012, 4:50 pm
Larry from local says:
Affordable Housing they say?
So people with less means get to wallow sewage, their own sewage and everyone else' s !

And can't we find a better place for "seniors" than putting them into an storm evacuation zone? Those cots they use in evacuation centers just don't work for most seniors.
Sept. 28, 2012, 5:10 pm
PB from GOWANUS says:
Wrong PLACE, WRONG REASONS, WRONG PROMISES, WRONG WRONG WRONG......PROFIT BEFORE PEOPLE, IF YOU BUILD IT THEY WILL GET SICK! CLEAN GOWANUS THEN BUILD GOWANUS.
Sept. 28, 2012, 6:17 pm
SwampYankee from ruined Brooklyn says:
Or from Yellow Hook
"Jay, when you "clean it up" where do you put the stuff you cleaned up?"

Easy. Ohio. Brooklyn got It's cancerous toxic sludge from Ohio, least we could do is give something in return.
Sept. 28, 2012, 9:10 pm
Scott from Park Slope says:
If it were cleaned up and re-developed, Gowanus could become the Venice of Brooklyn. Back in pre-Revolution times they pulled oysters as big as dinner plates out of the Gowanus creek and exported them to Europe. So it has been, and could be again, quite lovely.
Sept. 29, 2012, 12:54 am
Or from Yellow Hook says:
Good luck with that Scott - oysters are filter feeders, and are often used as the last stage of water filtration in purification plants.

If oysters grew that size today in the Gowanus, question why.
Sept. 29, 2012, 8:30 am
Bob from Carroll Gardens says:
Ty, you obviously don't know anything about the people in this neighborhood! They are incredibly well informed, articulate, and determined, unlike some serial posters on this board...ahem!

1400 is the middle estimate the DEVELOPER is using for a population projection. The DEVELOPER, Ty, the DEVELOPER. Get it??? Or are you just going to spout off again?
Sept. 29, 2012, 9:54 am
Or from Yellow Hook says:
When Ty was growing up, no one ever told him "no".

And if they did, they misunderstood the question.
Sept. 29, 2012, 11:03 am
ty from pps says:
Yes, Bob. I don't care if the developer said 200 or 6000... the developer. I don't think the "well informed, articulate and determined" neighbors understand the sewage system.

Oh, and I'm sure Marlene Donnelly is approaching this topic in a completely unbiased way.... ya know, since she is a developer herself.
Sept. 29, 2012, 7:13 pm
ty from pps says:
Or -- I think your comment is very cute. What did people say to you growing up to make you into such a douche?
Sept. 29, 2012, 7:33 pm
Or from Yellow Hook says:
Ah! Ty speaks French as well! Bon!
Sept. 29, 2012, 7:49 pm
Scott from Park Slope says:
Just as a superfluous mini poll, has anyone ever witnessed Or or SwampYankee saying anything positive about anything or anyone? Or can we confirm that they are indeed shrewish old nancy boys who positively, absolutely cannot ever untwist their knickers? Is there some kind of East Coast Italian rite for ritually removing their heavy gold chains and rending their feminine, so-called "wife beaters?" If they ever had any pretense to masculinity, surely they have forfeited it by now. Good Lord I have never heard half the whining from octogenarian women that I have heard from these characters!
Sept. 30, 2012, 4:35 am
John from Flatbush says:
1400 people living on the canal won't overwhelm the F train, get real. First, a lot of them won't take the F at rush hour, they'll walk to work/school, walk the other way to the R, take a bus, or take the F at off-peak hours. (And OMG yes, a few will drive to work!) The ones that do take the F at rush hour won't all go at once. In any event, more F train ridership will pressure the MTA to run more F trains and to put another car or two on the G...this is a good thing.
Oct. 1, 2012, 9:25 am
Ian from 11211 says:
Anyone who thinks limiting development on the canal, close by to office centers in downtown Brooklyn and Manhattan doesn't really understand demand for housing. If its not built on the canal, it will be built in south slope or anywhere else along the F line. At least building closer to the city center means shorter trips in overcrowded trains. It means the trains won't show up already full. Its not like the 1,400 to 2,000 residents in this development won't end up living in NYC if you simply don't build the housing. They will come. Prices will rise, population will get denser in existing units, and they will still fill up the train. Winter is coming.
Oct. 1, 2012, 10:52 am
Joe from Gowanus says:
I can't wait to say hello to these new 2,000 residents in my neighborhood!

The proposed change in zoning is to allow mostly studios and tiny 1BR apartments. The studios may appeal to LIU and Pratt teachers, in town only part-time so they count as less than 1 person per apartment! The anti-developer activist are distributing the false propeganda that 1400 people are moving here.

All that's certain is 140 low income families can move in permanently and that's great!

Welcome!
Oct. 1, 2012, 11:20 am
celinahex from 11l231 says:
Right, Joe! 140 low-income "families" will be overjoyed to be crammed into "mostly studios and tiny 1 BR apartments!"

Wait-- exactly how many "families" are we talking about again?
Oct. 29, 2012, 9:43 am

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