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

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

They want Gowanus to grow up already!

The city wants to make way for bigger buildings on Gowanus’s busiest thoroughfare that can pack even more residents inside than current law allows, according to a new proposal to rezone part of the neighborhood that pols released on Monday.

The “Framework for a sustainable, inclusive, mixed-use” Gowanus follows two years of discussions about the rezoning scheme, which Mayor DeBlasio first pitched in 2016, striking fear into some Gowanusaurs who worried that more residential developments there could spell the end of the area’s blue-collar businesses.

But the local councilmen who shared the report prepared by officials in the Department of City Planning — which calls for building up a stretch of Fourth Avenue, among other recommendations — said its proposals are merely a jumping off point for ongoing discussions with residents about the area’s future.

“We are not naive — issues of growth and development in New York City are complex. Not everyone will agree, and we know there is much hard work still to come,” said Gowanus Councilman Brad Lander in a joint statement with his colleague Stephen Levin, who also represents the neighborhood. “But we believe this framework gets the balance right for thoughtful growth with truly shared benefits. We look forward to continuing the conversation.”

The rezoning proposal incorporates Fourth Avenue between Pacific and 15th streets, where it recommends requiring any newly built residential buildings on the stretch to participate in the city’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing program, which requires developers to set aside a portion of units at below-market-rate rents.

In exchange, the city would rezone those blocks to make way for structures larger than those currently allowed to rise — which could climb as high as 17 stories in some parts, according to the report, which noted the city rezoned that part of Fourth Avenue in 2003 to allow for buildings up to 12 stories tall on certain lots.

And as part of the plan, officials want to revive the under-utilized open space beneath the F and G station on 10th Street between Third and Fourth avenues into a new public hangout and home for the letters from the old Kentile Floors sign that hung above Gowanus until it was ripped from the sky in 2014, the framework states.

The proposal also includes an asymmetric swath of land roughly bounded by Fourth Avenue and Baltic, Bond, and Third streets that bifurcates at Third Street, to include a parcel bounded by that road, Seventh Street, and Third and Fourth avenues, and another section bounded by Third Street, the Gowanus Canal, Huntington Street, and Smith Street.

That area — which includes Gowanus’s Thomas Greene Park along with a hodgepodge of residential, manufacturing, and other commercial buildings — would be broken up into several smaller sections comprised of a handful of blocks apiece, where officials called for implementing site-specific zoning to keep some industrial lots and create new mixed-use properties that offer community and other spaces to bring new life to local streets.

The city’s study excluded the already in place Southwest Brooklyn Industrial Zone along the southern end of the canal — an area designated in 2006 to protect Gowanus’s blue-collar roots and stimulate economic growth, which local business advocates hope will stay in tact even as residential developers such as Dumbo-based Two Trees continue to scoop up prime parcels within it.

The proposal’s release is just the first step in the lengthy rezoning process, which will require approval via the city’s Universal Land Use Review Procedure before any new regulations can be implemented. But before that, officials are inviting locals to public meetings where they can offer feedback on the scheme before a second draft is released this winter.

Gowanus rezoning open house at PS 32 (317 Hoyt St. between Union and President streets in Gowanus) on June 27 from 5 to 8:30 pm.

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