Smoke on the Gowanus water

The Bloomberg Administration’s plan to turn the land around the Gowanus Canal into the next residential frontier could be derailed by the local councilman who wants to link the future of that neighborhood with nearby Carroll Gardens, where residents want limits on new development.

Councilman Bill DeBlasio (D–Park Slope) supports the general principles of the city’s plan of dividing the so-called “Gowanus Corridor” into separate sections for housing and light industry, but says he won’t vote for it unless the Department of City Planning also caps building heights in Carroll Gardens.

“They are closely related,” said DeBlasio, adding that the city cannot — and should not — do one without the other. “The community needs a guarantee that Carroll Gardens will be downzoned.”

As the neighborhood’s representative in City Hall, his vote is crucial because councilmembers typically vote with colleagues whose districts are affected by a rezoning.

The Gowanus plan, which will go through a public review next year, calls for tall residential buildings with some below-market rate units near the canal, a public esplanade on the polluted waterway and some manufacturing areas. It includes no provisions for curbing hotel construction. The plan’s overall vision is similar to what Toll Brothers has proposed for a 447-unit mixed-use complex on a two-block lot along the canal (pictured), which is currently undergoing a separate public review.

Residents are worried that DeBlasio and Bloomberg, who locked horns over the recent term limit war, will continue to joust and stall both the Gowanus Corridor plan, which includes affordable housing mandates, and the Carroll Gardens downzoning plan.

Longtime Carroll Gardens activist Buddy Scotto worried that the Gowanus Plan would be “held hostage” if it is linked to a downzoning of his neighborhood. “We desperately need senior housing and affordable housing and the only way to get that is to encourage developers to come in [to the Gowanus].”

But an open-door policy to development in Carroll Gardens sparked an uproar when seven-story condos were proposed for the old Longshoreman’s medical building at the corner of Court and Union streets, and another similarly sized building on Smith Street and Second Place.

The Department of City Planning says it will study Carroll Gardens to consider limiting building heights and densities, but the agency said it would not halt its pursuit of transforming the Gowanus Corridor.

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