City blocks Whole Foods until (get this) the grocer proves it won’t mess up the Gowanus

UPDATED: Whole Foods is coming!
Courtesy of Whole Foods

A city panel has denied Whole Foods permission to build on the banks of the Gowanus Canal, and demanded that the green grocer return with more evidence that its mega-store would not harm the environment.

The Board of Standards and Appeals on Dec. 13 refused to grant Whole Foods the zoning variance it needs to build its 56,000-square-foot store at Third Avenue and Third Street after critics argued that the superstore would bring 5,880 cars to the neighborhood each Saturday and interfere with an ongoing federal Superfund clean-up of the fetid waterway.

“[A Whole Foods store] must be compatible with the Superfund clean-up process,” opponents testified in a letter. “Failure [to do so] could prolong the impact of the clean-up on existing businesses and neighbors.”

Other opponents focused on all those cars.

“It’s a concern,” said Eric McClure, the president of Park Slope Neighbors.

The latest design for the store does feature a 250-space parking lot designed to absorb storm water that would otherwise wind up in the fetid waterway. And the current proposal is smaller than the original 68,000-square-foot plan with a 420-car lot.

That plan was delayed because the company needed to first remove the site’s contaminated soil.

Supporters blamed the city for stalling the project, which they say would benefit the surrounding neighborhoods of Carroll Gardens and Park Slope.

“The Whole Foods is going to be a plus,” said Buddy Scotto. “Now the city is holding it back.”

Board of Standards and Appeals attorney Becca Kelly said that Whole Foods would return on Jan. 24 to present more information. Approval may be granted at that time.

As such, company spokesman Michael Sinatra downplayed the board’s delay, claiming that multiple hearings are normal for large developments.

“The first hearing is the start of a process,” Sinatra said. “We’re keeping the environment in mind and we’re obviously very aware of the canal we’re building next to.”

Sinatra said Whole Foods still plans to open the store in early 2013.

More from Around New York