Next Monday: It’s a draft of Gowanus’s future

Bridging Gowanus: The Carroll Street bridge is one of the most important landmarks in Gowanus, activists say.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

A Gowanus pol who spent a good chunk of the year soliciting ideas for the neighborhood’s future will present the highlights on Nov. 24.

The big reveal will start a new chapter in the Bridging Gowanus process announced by Councilman Brad Lander (D–Gowanus) last year. Lander says the brainstorming sessions, and the resulting document he is creating, are supposed to help neighbors come up with a list of demands for a rezoning before city bean counters up and do it themselves.

“In the past, the city would propose a rezoning and a neighborhood would react by asking for things in exchange,” Lander said. “The idea here is to work together to put together a comprehensive plan that instead begins with the community’s needs.”

The process began with a secret meeting between pols and activists in the summer of 2013. The idea is to come up with a list of demands to govern any future large-scale development, Lander said. One of the main priorities that has come out of the meetings has been the protection of manufacturing in the area, possibly by mandating that new residential projects preserve or create industrial space, according to the pol. Other items include improving transportation and environmental infrastructure, he said.

The Nov. 24 is another step in a long process, Lander said, and though the presentation will condense all of the past year’s meetings, it is not the final prescription.

“This is a framework, not a plan,” he said. “An important challenge here is that there are so many actors. The city, state, and federal government all have central roles to play, and we have to take them together and coordinate, especially on infrastructure.”

When Lander comes up with a final set of recommendations, the next step is to get city agencies such as the Department of Environmental Protection, the Department of Transportation, and the Department of City Planning on board.

Lander has described Bridging Gowanus as a way to avoid the rapid-fire construction of apartment buildings like what has happened along Fourth Avenue, but anti-development activists aren’t all satisfied. Protesters disrupted the final Bridging Gowanus meeting in June, charging that Lander is trying to push his agenda while making a show of gathering community input. They said they would hold their own series of Gowanus planning meetings but it fizzled out after the first one in July.

One rabble-rouser said Bridging Gowanus looks good on paper but isn’t in practice.

“It’s a noble effort, but there are people with viable ideas who are not being listened to,” said Joseph Alexiou, a writer who has a studio in Gowanus and organized the protest. “We’ve seen that they know what they wanted to talk about before the community dialogue even started.”

Residents who cannot attend the Nov. 24 meeting have until the end of the year to make comments on the Bridging Gowanus website.

The city solicited neighborhood input for a possible rezoning over the course of three years starting in 2007, but pressed pause when the federal government declared the Gowanus Canal a Superfund site by the federal government in 2010, beginning an environmental cleanup process that is set to take at least until 2024.

Bridging Gowanus, PS 32 (317 Hoyt St. between President and Union streets in Gowanus, bridg‌inggo‌wanus.com.) Nov. 24 at 6:30 pm.

Reach reporter Noah Hurowitz at nhuro‌witz@‌cnglo‌cal.com or by calling (718) 260–4505. Follow him on Twitter @noahhurowitz
Brad Lander

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