It’s Grow-anus: City unveils new details for neighborhood’s rezoning scheme

Rising from the sludge: City releases rezoning plan for huge swath of Gowanus
Department of City Planning

The city dropped more details about its scheme to rezone a chunk of Gowanus, ahead of a Feb. 6 meeting officials set to discuss the proposed changes, which would dramatically alter the built character of the historically industrial neighborhood if enacted.

The refinements to the so-called “framework for a sustainable, inclusive, mixed-use” Gowanus, which the city first revealed last summer, reflect the latest changes to a plan officials finessed for years, in order to provide the most benefits to affected locals, businesses, and other area stakeholders as possible, according to a local pol.

“Gowanus is one of the most vital and diverse neighborhoods in the city with a long and rich history,” said Councilman Stephen Levin (D–Gowanus). “We want to continue to work towards using this opportunity to strengthen our public housing, provide economic opportunity, create new open spaces, and honor the historical character of the neighborhood. We need to continue to engage all in the community to ensure that everyone benefits from this ambitious rezoning.”

The scheme still proposes several site-specific rezonings within a swath of land generally bounded by Bond Street, Baltic Street, Fourth Avenue, and Huntington, Third, Seventh, and 15th streets, in order to pack more residents into bigger buildings.

But the latest proposal released on Wednesday further breaks down the rezoning recommendations into seven categories that incorporate specific blocks within the larger area above, which include: “Canal Corridor and Flood Resiliency,” “Industrial and Commercial,” “Mixed-Used,” “Fourth Avenue Corridor,” “Residential Areas,” “Waterfront Access Plan,” and a “Special Gowanus Mixed-Use District.”

The new proposal, for instance, recommends rezoning plots along the fetid Gowanus Canal that fall within the Canal Corridor and Flood Resiliency category to allow for buildings that could rise as high as 22 stories. And it proposes upzoning a lot at the corner of Huntington and Smith streets, which also falls with that category and abuts the waterway still being scrubbed by the Feds, to allow for a structure as tall as 30 stories.

Land along the Fourth Avenue Corridor, which includes the avenue between Pacific and 15th Streets, would be rezoned to allow buildings as high as 17 stories in exchange for their developers participating in the city’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing program, which would require a percentage of units in those buildings be so-called affordable. The proposal also recommends changing parking requirements along Fourth Avenue in order to improve safety on the busy thoroughfare.

A chunk of land surrounding Thomas Greene Park — where utility company National Grid, under federal supervision, must purge the soil of toxins left behind by a former gas plant on the site now home to the beloved Double-D pool — included in the “Mixed-Used” category would be zoned for projects including below-market-rate developments and commercial, artist, civic, and cultural spaces.

And the proposal’s “Residential Areas” include the First Street parking lot for Gowanus senior home Mary Star of the Sea, where the city recommends erecting even more permanently affordable housing, some of which would be set aside for low-income elders.

But other plots between Third and Fourth avenues, and near the intersection of Fourth and Hoyt streets, that fall within the “Industrial and Commercial” category would be strictly reserved for industrial, commercial, and community use, including as work spaces for artists, with any new buildings capped at 12-stories tall, according to the proposal.

The updated rezoning proposal does not include the Southwest Brooklyn Industrial Zone the city in 2006 created along the southern end of the Gowanus Canal, despite the requests of some local leaders, who argued the enclave should be included in the scheme in order to strengthen and protect its commercial operations.

“We want to see the IBZ included, for manufacturers to find some growth in this rezoning,” Paul Basile, who heads community group the Gowanus Alliance, told this newspaper last month. “We will continue to advocate for the creation of more jobs along with this rezoning.”

Locals will get the chance to weigh in on the latest plans at next week’s meeting, after which the city intends to present the scheme to Community Board 6 to kick off its lengthy, required journey through the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure.

Presentation of draft zoning proposal and framework updates at PS 32 (317 Hoyt St. at Union Street in Gowanus) on Feb. 6 from 6 pm to 8 pm.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@schnepsmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.