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Judge lifts Gowanus rezoning pause, approves June hybrid public hearing

gowanus rezoning
A sketch of development along the Gowanus if the neighborhood is rezoned.
Department of City Planning

The Gowanus rezoning can once again move ahead after a Brooklyn Supreme Court Judge accepted the city’s plans for a hybrid hearing on the proposal Tuesday, according to officials. 

Justice Katherine Levine on May 11 lifted her five-day pause on the rezoning’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure and gave her thumbs up to the Department of City Planning’s proposal to hold a virtual hearing coupled with a live broadcast in Park Slope on June 3, according to an agency spokesperson.

“The judge lifted the pause on the ULURP clock. We are working to address a couple of remaining court requests as the community boards move forward with their joint hearing in June and we continue ULURP throughout the summer and fall,” said Joe Marvilli in a statement. 

Community Board 6 District Manager Michael Racioppo confirmed to Brooklyn Paper that the civic panel will announce next month’s gathering at its full board meeting Wednesday night. (CB2 did not respond to an email seeking comment.)

The massive rezoning proposal promises to enable the creation of 8,500 new housing units, including some 3,000 below market rate, in the gritty low-slung neighborhood by 2035.

The vast majority of the roughly 82-block rezoning area is in CB6, but a four-block stretch at the north end of Fourth Avenue between Pacific and Warren streets sits within CB2. 

Judge Levine on May 7 halted the rezoning’s 60-day timeframe for the two boards to give their purely advisory recommendation on the large-scale proposal, saying she wanted the agency to provide a detailed plan for how the city and the board will hold the joint meeting.

DCP submitted an outline later that day setting the gathering for June 3, with the in-person section broadcast to a live audience outside the Old Stone House on Third Street, between Fourth and Fifth avenues in Park Slope. The Zoom will allow for 1,000 participants, while DCP will set up at least 75 socially-distant chairs on the Washington Park side of the building. 

Officials will disable the web-conferencing platform’s chat function, arguing that some participants have used the text messaging channel to disrupt recent meetings. 

The hearing will also be live-streamed through DCP’s YouTube channel and on television via BRIC TV. The city will also provide equipment at the park for people to testify for two minutes if they can’t do so with their own device.

The judge’s pause was the latest chapter in the three-month legal battle waged by opponents of the rezoning, who in January sued the city, arguing that virtual ULURP hearings were illegal.

The plaintiff groups — Friends and Residents of Greater Gowanus and Voice of Gowanus — wrote to the judge on May 5 through their lawyer, saying the recent announcements by Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo about the city’s full reopening and lifting of COVID restrictions should also usher in more in-person hearings.

A lawyer for the plaintiffs said they disagreed with Judge Levine’s decision and referenced the ongoing government reopening plans. 

“We disagree with the latest decision, but the lawsuit remains ongoing, and things are still subject to change over the next few weeks,” said Jason Zakai in a statement. “Just the other day, the Governor issued a new Executive Order allowing large in-person gatherings of 250 people indoors and 500 people outdoors. We anticipate even more restrictions will be lifted in the coming days and weeks in accordance with the Governor’s and Mayor’s recent announcements.”

Supporters of the rezoning and the city countered that the two groups were further trying to hold up the rezoning, with the ultimate goal of running out the roughly seven-month ULURP timeline so that it can’t wrap up before de Blasio leaves office at the end of the year and elections shake up most of the City Council. 

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