Opponents say the luxury builders are running roughshod over regulations with the help of the City Planning Commission

Lightstone development will be disaster for Gowanus, activists say

Mobilizing: Activist Marlene Donnelly is one of dozens who attended a Thursday rally on the Carroll Street Bridge. Her group, Save Gowanus, plans to sue the development company Lightstone Group and possibly the City Planning Commission, claiming the retail company ran roughshod over regulations with the commission’s help.
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The massive luxury housing complex headed for the banks of the Gowanus Canal breaks laws and will flood neighborhood streets with putrid canal water, opponents of the project said at a protest last Thursday.

Dozens rallied that night to protest the Lightstone Group development, which is slated to rise on a canal-front property bounded by Bond, Carroll, and Second streets. Neighbors gathered on the Carroll Street Bridge, which spans the fetid waterway, just steps from where the real estate firm is preparing to build the 700-unit rental project. The Lightstone Group expects to break ground on the site early next year and finish work by 2015.

“The project’s design is ill-suited for the community,” said First Street resident Warren Cohen of Save Gowanus, the group behind the rally.

Lightstone opponents have blasted the development since the beginning, complaining that new residents will crowd neighborhood schools and subways, cause traffic jams, and stress already over-taxed sewers.

The complex will be raised by two feet to comply with post-Sandy flood regulations, a fact protesters railed against, saying that the high ground will channel rainwater into the canal and make flooding worse if another major storm hits.

“It’s going to aggravate the flooding region-wide,” said Gowanus activist Marlene Donnelly.

The Lightstone Group shows no signs of slowing down and says that it is the activists who are aggravating. The rally organizers are spreading “not just misinformation, but disinforma­tion” about the residential complex, company spokesman Ethan Geto said. The company claims it has received every government go-ahead it needs and that it has filed a complete environmental review, which shows that any increase in flooding would be dispersed throughout the canal and the New York Harbor, and into the ocean. The company points to the support of Gowanus’s Community Board 6 as evidence of how aboveboard the process has been.

“The rally organizers simply do not have the facts on their side,” Geto said.

But members of Save Gowanus claim that the development firm is illegally moving forward without state and federal reviews and that the City Planning Commission broke the law when it rubber-stamped the development in March. The activists say they plan to sue Lightstone Group and probably the planning commission.

The canal-side apartments have drawn ire from the start, when the luxury builders Toll Brothers won a hard-fought rezoning to allow housing on the Gowanus. Toll Brothers bailed after the Environmental Protection Agency named the fetid channel a Superfund site, setting in motion a costly federal cleanup that is scheduled to take until the year 2020.

The rally followed a secret meeting last Monday in Gowanus, held by local officials to discuss a “comprehens­ive plan” for the area, according to an invitation. The meeting, which was closed to the public and to members of the press, was organized by Councilman Brad Lander (D–Park Slope) along with Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez (D–New York), Assemblywoman Joan Millman (D–Carroll Gardens), State Sen. Velmanette Montgomery (D–Fort Greene), and Councilman Stephen Levin (D–Greenpoint), according to the invitation. Only a select group of activists were invited to the meeting.

Reach reporter Natalie Musumeci at or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow her at
Updated 10:13 pm, July 9, 2018: This story has been updated to include additional context about the Lightstone Group's environmental review and support for the project from Community Board 6.
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Reasonable discourse

Ethan "Ghetto" Pettit from Park Slope says:
Oi gevalt! Any comments anyone?
Aug. 9, 2013, 2:57 pm
Bike Man from 4th Ave says:
Only *we* get to live on a Superfund site. Not you!
Aug. 9, 2013, 4:14 pm
Taksa from Gowanus says:
Bunch of useless noisemakers! We live directly across from the site and we, as well as most of our nearby neighbors, are looking forward to the new promenade and a clean and safe apartment development replacing the two trashed, mostly abandoned lots populated by rats and junkies. I am sooooo sick of these mad NIMBYs. Go away please, we want an improved neighborhood.
Aug. 9, 2013, 5:05 pm
Ethan Pettit from Park Slope says:
Taksa, what do you envision for your community. Do you see the canal as being residential, commercial, or both?
Aug. 9, 2013, 6 pm
Neighbor from Gowanus says:
I think the secret and invite only meeting held by local officials in a public school is an interesting story. Who was invited and what was the criteria used for determining who Lander permitted to attend. I am a constituent and couldn't get any answers from Lander's office. Not very participatory is it?

There was also another "per-per-planning meeting that Lander arranged with some Community Board 6 members.
Aug. 9, 2013, 6:29 pm
Neighbor from Gowanus says:
That should be "pre-pre planning" meeting. Hope your paper can follow up or at least find out why our other reps support the secrecy.
Aug. 9, 2013, 6:33 pm
Big Marie Trabbiano from Red Hook says:
Lander is a creep and a crook; that he gladhands as otherwise only exacerbates his venality. He's also a little star-effer, funny some of THOSE meetings are not made public... Hint 1 why: the erstwhile stars are not impressed!!
Aug. 9, 2013, 6:47 pm
Jim from Cobble Hill says:
Unchecked development with zero additions to supporting infrastructure is another example of how this city has long been turned into a money-making tool for the rich, while the actual residents are thought of as nothing more than ants in the Bloomberg ant-farm. This is going to get built, and there is nothing any of the plebeians can do about it.
Aug. 9, 2013, 10:01 pm
Pat I from 70'sBrooklyn says:
Jim - You nailed it. In South Jersey during the late nineties, companies like Toll Bros, Orleans, etc would sweet talk the local townships into letting them by huge swaths of farmland to build cardboard condos and McMansions.

they promised new roads, expanded infrastructure, money to expand schools.

Know what we got? Butkus.

It used to take me 30 minutes to get home from work. Now it takes me 70 minutes - 30 minutes gets me within two miles of my home. The additional 40 is the traffic thanks to the lack of infrastructure. everything is still 2 lane country roads.
Aug. 10, 2013, 4:12 pm
Scott from Park Slope says:
Opposing development in favor of the status quo in Gowanus defies imagination. Gowanus could be amazing, full of residents, parks, artists, stores, and light manufacturing. Those things aren't mutually exclusive. In fact the NYC property database has 27 classes of mixed-manufacturing and residential zoning codes. Gowanus itself is zoned MX-11, which means mixed-use.

Now, if it's a case of artists afraid of losing their studio space, that's where the city ought to take steps. They can create a special purpose district for the artists to remain. The city does that sort of thing all the time--Coney Island has one, Little Italy has one, lots of places around the city do.

But that's a much different and much more productive conversation to have than the nonsensical, "Nothing must ever be built here, ever" line.
Aug. 11, 2013, 8:43 am
Nate from Newark says:
Allow me to translate. Community: "let me get this straight, we just spent 10 years driving all of the poor & working class minorities out of this neighborhood, now you want to let them back in & ruin our white people fun? I don't think so."
Aug. 11, 2013, 3:36 pm
bunko from junko says:
go go go Marlene and FROGG!!!!
Aug. 11, 2013, 6:35 pm
Lois from Brooklyn says:
The area is a flood district that will soon be overtaken with raising seas, on a permanent basis; so why would anyone think it a good idea to pack every use, from manufacturing to large residential uses, into such a district.
The area should be cleaned and developer in a way that would welcome the raising sea with the least amount of disruption to the area.

The pro-housing folks need to turn their focus to the higher dryer lands for their exploitation.
Aug. 12, 2013, 12:59 pm
Charles from Bklyn says:
You know when the Gowanus Canal is being given to politically connected developers for luxury housing that sanity has all but left government and the real estate market in New York City. When I say "given," I mean government giving the right for people to live on a canal detrimental to humans and lethal other animals. Really? How would they get a certificate of occupancy? Who would insure such a building? I guess this confirms what we knew to be true: money trumps the Constitution, the law, good policy and government. So what's next? Maybe Prospect Park can be sold for luxury development as well. I mean, hey! If Gowanus is on the table, the sky is the limit.
Aug. 12, 2013, 1:33 pm
signe from wburg says:
You nailed it Charles! And it seems they are planning the same thing in Greenpoint, building along the Newtown Creek and all along zone A. Wait for the cancer reports! Wburg is already ruined. The people are disgusted. (except for the ones who come here for two years and think they are on reality tv shows, until their trust funds have gone dry). How about fixing the streets mayor! Ever drive in Crown Heights? It's a joke. Nothing for the poor.
Aug. 12, 2013, 3:39 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Once again, developers are able to get their way thanks to having friends in high places. Just hearing about the secret meeting alone makes me mad about it. Just because the area may not look good doesn't mean that it's bad. Some sites just can't be built on because of the toxicity of the land there. Also, I don't see how anyone can build something against the zoning laws when the infrastructure already can't keep up with it, which is why the Atlantic Yards was met with so much opposition. Overall, nobody is against development in this area, they just want something goes with the neighborhood rather than against it. If you really think about it, would anyone really want to build luxury housing in a possible flood zone?
Aug. 12, 2013, 5 pm
Just left from Carroll Gardens says:
Super fund is for lining certain officials pocket - that's is the only reason it exists!
Aug. 26, 2013, 10:56 pm
Luxury builders Worcestershire from Mechanical design Newcastle says:
The rally followed a secret meeting last Monday in Gowanus, held by local officials to discuss a “comprehensive plan” for the area, according to an invitation. The meeting, which was closed to the public.
Luxury builders Worcestershire
Nov. 5, 2013, 6:59 am

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