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Gowanus activists to pol: You’re not listening!

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Development in Gowanus is a bridge too far for some residents.

A crew of activists disrupted a community planning meeting held by Councilman Brad Lander (D–Gowanus) last Wednesday, saying that the pol is glossing over local anger about luxury residential building projects while trying to cultivate an image of resident support for whatever he has planned. As Lander opened the so-called “Bridging Gowanus” meeting, someone banged a gong and 11 rabble-rousers hopped to their feet and took turns shouting, echoing each other Occupy-Wall-Street-style.

“Never once have we discussed The Lightstone project and all of our objections!” author and Gowanus history buff Joseph Alexiou shouted, referring to the ongoing residential development at 356 Bond St., on the Carroll Gardens side of the fetid inlet. “The actual process and agenda of Bridging Gowanus has remained opaque and undemocrat­ic!”

Lander shouted back, demanding the agitators calm down.

“This is obnoxious!” he yelled.

Facilitators from the Pratt Center for Community Development attempted to get the meeting back on track, but it wasn’t long before another disaffected citizen took the floor out of turn, this one piping up for public housing.

“You talk about NYCHA, well we’re NYCHA,” said Joeann Brown, interrupting the facilitator’s slideshow. Brown said she lives in the Wyckoff Gardens, where the meeting took place, and demanded that any plan for Gowanus take into consideration the public housing projects that lie within the neighborhood’s borders.

The public meeting was the third and final in a series that Lander announced last summer in a secret gathering of pols and activists. Neighborhood property values have been on the rise despite the noxious channel that gives the area its name and the federal Superfund cleanup that has just begun and is slated to take as long as a decade.

Lander invited residents to weigh in on how the neighborhood should balance industry and housing as it grows, but participants in the Thursday session said he is ignoring the very opinions he is supposed to be taking into account. A Sackett Street resident compared Lander to Robert Moses, the infamous urban planning kingpin who used the city as his personal Lego set for decades.

“Brad’s job is just to deliver Gowanus to the developers,” Marlene Donnelly said.

But not everyone was so upset at the meeting or its organizers. As he was leaving the meeting, Carroll Gardens resident Howard Gottlieb said he was surprised how contentious it got.

“Something needs to happen in Gowanus, and we need to plan responsibly for it,” Gottlieb said. “They’re doing the best they can. But what’s a compromise [mean]? No one’s happy.”

Updated 5:34 pm, July 1, 2014: Incorrect reference to Pratt Institute fixed.
Reach reporter Noah Hurowitz at nhurowitz@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow him on Twitter @noahhurowitz
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Reader Feedback

Mike from Williamsburg says:
I wonder if these types consider themselves liberals or if they are honest with themselves about how selfish and shortsighted they are.
June 26, 2014, 12:02 pm
Joe from Gowanus says:
Lightsone has 140 affordable apartments, that replaced a truck parking lot. Whole Foods replaced a waste facility, employs NYCHA residents and attracts thousands to Gowanus, who "discover" things to purchase from our small manufacturers.

Bridging Gowanus attempts to set the groundwork for FUTURE project. Both of the above are lacking but let's work together to avoid a repeat of their mistakes? Claiming to represent us because you can shout at public meetings is not helpful.
June 26, 2014, 12:47 pm
Me from Gowanus says:
Lightstone did not replace a truck parking lot (it replaced one story manufacturing buildings that had businesses and Gowanus Grove) and there was no waste facility at the Whole Foods site.
June 26, 2014, 1:04 pm
Larry from Carroll Gardens says:
The "something that needs to happen in Gowanus" is the environmental cleanup. The city is delaying the Superfund work.

How can the city be entertaining putting peoples homes next to the canal while delaying and dragging out the environmental work.

The city is fast tracking the rezoning while stalling the cleanup!

Do they really want people living next to the canal as the Superfund dredging is taking place? What kind of planning is Pratt pushing here?

Seems to me the developers who want to make money at the expense of the health of others are the selfish parties here.
June 26, 2014, 4:08 pm
Jim from Cobble Hill says:
Hipsters pretending they're "from" Brooklyn. I have no problem with gouging them, but the area can't take more housing while the the R train in atrophy at Dekalb and the F is already over capacity.

It's high time the GG was brought back and a tunnel built so that it goes into Manhattan at 23rd st crosstown style just like the L train (sorry Court Sq... but you're Queens so who gives a shiit), all the way to the High Line. That would be true progress.
June 27, 2014, 2:07 am
Mike from Williamsburg says:
Having an atrophied R train is a technique to keep housing prices down.
June 27, 2014, 6:57 am
Tenant on2nd Street from Gowanus says:
I live across the street from this development - they cut safety corners at every opportunity and have since day one. Remember, this site is poisonous -- We complain; they ignore. We complain 6 more times. Someone comes and checks from the EPA or the city, and guess what? They are breaking rules and not complying with safety or other agreements they promised at the outset.

Creating community means nurturing safety, health, honesty AND housing. The only thing that seems to matter here is $$$$ and the careers of aspirational politicians - why would ANYONE approve build homes at a superfund site before cleaning it up? It's horrifying. And while the building is happening, the noise, toxic fumes and hazardous dust make this area even more problematic.
June 27, 2014, 6:59 am
Scott from Park Slope says:
Brad Lander is trying to start a conversation about the future of the area that nobody else has been interested in having, as far as I'm aware. So we ought to recognize that. Are developers having an outsized influence on the process? If they are, it's not surprising because they usually do in this city. But let's also acknowledge that their interest in developing the area is the only reason the process is even happening at all. Before they came along the Gowanus lay derelict and polluted for years. It was a dirty, scary place.

The Gowanus ought to be re-zoned for mixed use. It could be an awesome, vibrant area of residential, light industrial, commercial, and creative production. It's well on its way toward being that already. But making sure it retains that, that it doesn't devolve into a monoculture, will take a lot of negotiation and work.

I personally hope the city makes provision to keep and support the artist colony there. It's fantastic. But few people know it exists if they're never gone on one of the open house tours like AGAST does every Fall.
June 27, 2014, 10:16 am
Marsha Rimler from Heights says:
Brad Lander needs to have his wings cut.
He thinks he will be the next Mayor
He is a phony progressive that has earned himself a strong opponent and a defeat
June 27, 2014, 11:05 am
me from Gowanus says:
City Planning completed a framework for the Gowanus rezoning which was tabled when the canal was placed on the National Priorities List. There was public input during that process. I doubt whatever the Pratt students come up with will differ significantly.

Information on City Planning's plan is readily available online.
June 27, 2014, 11:10 am
Mike from Williamsburg says:
Marsha, if you want to find phony progressives, look no further than the people agitating against anything changing, against housing replacing parking (at the Park Slope Food Co-Op), and about housing replacing a gas station (Cobble Hill).

Look for the people demanding affordable housing in buildings built in Tribeca, where the income restrictions prevent anyone making less than about $80k from living, instead of letting that money be used to "segregate" the housing in affordable areas.

You'll never find people as interested in preserving the privileges for the well-off as some of New York's self-described progressives.
June 27, 2014, 12:10 pm
BondStreet from Gowanus says:
I went to these meetings expecting a "democratic and transparent" process. The only thing transparent at this final meeting was that these meetings are letting us know to expect tall buildings if we want any infrastructure. They gave us papers where we had to make choices about what we "wanted' for the Gowanus. If we wanted a park "add 2 stories", if you wanted a school "add 2 stories" etc and at the bottom you had to tally how many stories your building was!! How can we do this when we haven't even dealt with the problems that we have face and are dealing with now which they REFUSE TO ACKNOWLEDGE or deal with! The developers and the pols seem not to care that most of the development are on untreated brownfields in Zone A flood zones and that our sewage system is taxed beyond! They are putting the cart before the horse and treating us like we these things are insignificant if they acknowledge at all.
June 27, 2014, 12:30 pm
Rene from the trenches says:
Don't know what Mike from Williamsburg is talking about here, but in looking beyond Gowanus. Did you see the deal for affordable housing with Ratner? 600 units and the city is pitching in 11.75 million for each of 4 buildings (about 50 million). And that is on land Ratner got for under a dollar! The arena project already has huge tax brakes for then next 30 years. How does anyone see development as good for city revenues?

To qualify for these affordable units at the middle income level you need to earn over 100k. Seems the middle keeps paying for everything and the developers are taking it all.

The progressive representatives have only changed the game by claiming to control the rates families will pay to live in the units; but the affordable rates don't seem any different that what has been going on without the extra give-a-ways. And what might those progressive democrats be getting back form developer's profits to further their careers?
June 27, 2014, 12:51 pm
Cobbler says:
After seeing what DeBlasio allowed to happen to LICH after promising to stop hospital closures, I'll never again trust any politician who takes campaign donations from real estate developers.
June 28, 2014, 12:32 pm
Corrector from Brooklyn says:
It is the "Pratt Center for Community Development." Pratt Institute is different.
July 1, 2014, 5:04 pm
bbnnm from nmkkl says:
who care about what you people want, you can't even clean up the crime in your own project who the hell wants to waist money on you guys
Aug. 10, 2014, 9:19 pm

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