A tall ‘Toll’ on the Gowanus • Brooklyn Paper

A tall ‘Toll’ on the Gowanus

Toll Brothers, best known for building suburban McMansions, wants the city to rezone this industrial land along the Gowanus Canal — seen from the Carroll Street Bridge — so it can build one or more 12-story buildings.
The Brooklyn Paper / Julie Rosenberg

Community activists were treated to a glimpse of the Gowanus Canal’s high-rise future when the Toll Brothers development company, which owns property on the western bank of the canal, unveiled preliminary plans for affordable housing, co-op and rental units, and public access to a 40-foot swath of greenery along the canal.

The Tuesday meeting was not open to the public or press, but attendees said representatives from Toll Brothers unveiled plans for a mixed-use project featuring several 12-story buildings that would rise on a two-block canal-front piece of land bounded by Bond, Carroll and Second streets, and the Gowanus Canal (see map).

The units proposed for the Bond Street side of the project would rise only five stories, said a person who attended the meeting, but at least one apartment tower along the canal would be 12 stories. A publicly accessible greenway is also part of the plan, which was a crowd-pleasing feature at the meeting.

“From our point of view, open space adjoining the canal would be a very good thing,” said one person who was at the briefing.

Developers have been clamoring to remake the former manufacturing hub and current toxic wasteland, but the Toll Brothers presentation, albeit private, was one of the first accounts of what a property owner might actually do with his land if it is rezoned for residential development.

The company would not discuss specifics with The Brooklyn Paper, but Toll spokesman Ethan Geto said, “Building heights are consistent with Department of City Planning’s framework for the canal.”

The Department of City Planning will shape development on both banks of the Gowanus. The city is considering a major rezoning of the area from manufacturing to residential, though the likely result will be a mixture of the two.

Geto gave few specifics, but did say that the company, best known for building suburban McMansions, would set aside 20 percent of the project as city-subsidized, below–market-rate housing, which also is in keeping with the Planning Department guidelines.

It might be enough for the city, but one source thinks that Gowanus residents will not consider 20 percent an adequate exchange for the high-rise buildings.

“I’m sure the community would like that percentage to be higher,” said a person who was at the briefing.

Building affordable housing in a heavily polluted urban area would be new territory for Toll Brothers, one of the largest luxury homebuilders in the U.S.

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