“Bridging Gowanus” Community Planning Framework Details Shared Values and Planning Recommendations for the Future of the Gowanus Canal Area

“Bridging Gowanus” Community Planning Framework Details Shared Values and Planning Recommendations for the Future of the Gowanus Canal Area

“Bridging Gowanus” Community Planning Framework Details Shared Values and Planning Recommendations for the Future of the Gowanus Canal Area

Comprehensive planning framework brings together 300 voices from the Gowanus community. Priorities are investments in sustainable infrastructure, strengthening manufacturing, maintaining the mix of uses, and preserving and creating affordable housing – to be achieved through a pathway for responsible growth, with creative new planning strategies, that makes sure the rules are followed.

BROOKLYN, N.Y. – Elected officials and community leaders today announced the release of “Bridging Gowanus,” a community planning framework for the infrastructure investments and land use regulations needed to insure a sustainable, vibrant, and inclusive future for the area around the Gowanus Canal.

The draft framework was released live on the Bridging Gowanus website (http://bridginggowanus.org/) today and will be presented at a public meeting on Monday, November 24 from 6:30-8:30 p.m at PS 32 (Hoyt and Union Streets). Comments will be collected on the website and at info [at] bridginggowanus [dot] org through the end of the year.

Over the course of the past sixteen months, Bridging Gowanus brought together more than 300 stakeholders – including long-time and newer homeowners, tenants, and NYCHA residents, small business owners, environmental activists, artists, affordable housing advocates, and more. Through three large community meetings (each with more than 150 people) and more than a dozen smaller workshops, working groups, and small group interviews, stakeholders identified broadly-shared goals, discussed diverse viewpoints, and built consensus around a planning framework for the Gowanus area. The process was facilitated by the Pratt Center for Community Development.

The draft framework is organized around five core values:

  • Guaranteed Investments in Sustainable Infrastructure Upfront:

Major infrastructure investments – including canal cleanup, flood mitigation, new parks and green spaces, improvements to public transportation and new school seats – are needed to provide a solid foundation for future growth. Under the framework, these investments will be financed upfront, in part through Superfund resources and existing public investments, as well as a new Gowanus “tax increment financing” (TIF) mechanism that will capture increases in property value, and spend that money on area-wide infrastructure improvements.

  • Making Sure Manufacturing Can Thrive (and residents benefit):

Manufacturing and industrial businesses in Gowanus continue to provide essential jobs and services to New Yorkers, but these uses are under threat of displacement. Bridging Gowanus calls for a new Gowanus Manufacturing Zone that strengthens industrial land use restrictions by restricting hotels, big box retail, self-storage facilities, nightclubs and large footprints offices. As part of the plan, manufacturers outline the need for investments in business infrastructure, including broadband and wireless, and a workforce development program working with residents in nearby public housing.

  • A Genuine Gowanus Mix of Uses:

The draft framework calls for a new “mandatory mixed-use zone” that will require a balance of light industry, artistic and cultural uses, retail and housing in appropriate locations. This is a departure from the City’s existing “MX” zoning, which allows residential development to completely replace manufacturing uses. The framework also calls for preservation of iconic buildings, and the dynamic arts and creative sector, in part through incentives for “steward ownership” that would provide light manufacturing, artists, and not for profit organizations with long-term stability.

  • Preserve and Create Affordable Housing:

While the surrounding neighborhoods are among the most expensive in Brooklyn, Gowanus itself remains diverse, due largely to three NYCHA public housing developments and some remaining rent-stabilized units. Participants in the Bridging Gowanus planning process were unequivocally committed to maintaining that diversity – through overdue investments in the nearby NYCHA developments, protections for existing tenants, “mandatory inclusionary zoning” to require than any new development include affordable housing.

  • A Pathway for Responsible Growth:

Across its many dimensions, the draft framework calls for a path focused on responsible growth. A majority of Bridging Gowanus stakeholders and residents were open to some residential development in taller buildings – but only if they genuinely advance the community’s goals for infrastructure, resiliency, sustainability, a genuine mix of uses, good jobs, and affordability.

The framework represents a step towards the project’s ultimate goal: a community-supported blueprint to inform the de Blasio Administration’s decisions about land use in the area. The release of the draft framework is one of the culminating steps in a more than a yearlong community planning process that brought together residents, environmental leaders, manufacturers, business owners, property owners, artists, tenant leaders and affordable housing advocates.

The framework includes a range of creative planning strategies projects designed to preserve the character of Gowanus. A few examples include:

  • New zoning tools: Bridging Gowanus identifies three new zoning tools needed to achieve the community’s goals: (1) a stronger manufacturing zone, that restricts the hotels, big-box stores, storage facilities, and offices that threaten to overwhelm manufacturing uses; (2) a mandatory mixed-used zone, which would allow some residential development in areas currently zoned industrial, but still require a mix of uses; and (3) mandatory inclusionary zoning to insure that a portion of new housing created is affordable to a range of residents. The manufacturing and mixed-use zoning recommendations building upon the City Council’s recommendations in the “Engines of Opportunity” report released this week.
  • Greenscape of parks, open space, waterfront access: A drastic change from a polluted, toxic, EPA Superfund, the Bridging Gowanus framework imagines a neighborhood with parks, open space, and public canal access. The plan calls for existing public parks in Gowanus to be renovated and improved, and connected via a “Gowanus Greenscape” network that includes access to the canal at public sites, historic interpretation at preserved buildings and key sites, and a public arts program.
  • Powerhouse Arts Workshop: Housed in a former transit power station built in the early 20th century, the Powerhouse Workshop will be a permanent home for arts in the Gowanus community: a creative center where artists work, mentor, educate, exhibit, and perform, integrating their experience into the community. Devoted to making art, sharing skills, giving voice to new ideas, and contributing to the cultural ecology of Brooklyn, the Powerhouse Workshop aspires to become a cultural focal point for Brooklyn and beyond. Bridging Gowanus also includes a range of other programs to strengthen the community’s artistic connections, and promote a flourishing cultural community.
  • Gowanus Green Affordable Housing Development: The Gowanus Green development proposed for the six-acre “Public Place” site along the west side of the Canal between 5th and 7th Streets features 774 units of rental and for-sale housing and 65,000 square feet of community and retail space, in 8 buildings ranging from 5 to 14 stories, as well as community and retail space, and a waterfront park. Seventy percent (70%) or 540 of the units will be affordable to households at a very wide range of incomes, with more than 100 apartments will be affordable rentals for seniors.
  • Neighborhood leaders, representatives from community-based organizations, and other stakeholders who have taken part in the process welcomed the Bridging Gowanus framework:

    “I’m humbled by the unprecedented community involvement in this planning process. Since last summer, hundreds of dedicated stakeholders have grappled with hard, urgent questions about the future of the Gowanus neighborhood,” said New York City Council Member Brad Lander. “By creating space to listen to the hopes, fears, and ideas of our neighbors, Bridging Gowanus has genuinely helped to build bridges, and resulted in a planning framework that is reflective of the diverse community that values and cherishes the Gowanus. I look forward to hearing feedback on the ideas presented in the framework – as we move forward together toward a vibrant, inclusive, sustainable Gowanus future.”

     “As the Superfund process moves forward, the community’s desires for Gowanus’ future must be paramount,” said Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez. ”This will require a plan that promotes a mix of uses in the canal area, supporting local jobs, while being environmentally sustainable.”

     “Thanks to a series of community meetings and months of hard work, Bridging Gowanus sets out a clear vision for the future of our community,” said Council Member Stephen Levin. “Together, we can determine the type of neighborhood we want to live in, and that our shared goals are reached. I want to thank everyone who participated in Bridging Gowanus for creating this vision of a more sustainable, equitable, and livable Gowanus.”

    “The core values of Bridging Gowanus reflect the principles that have guided my time in office, said Council Member Carlos Menchaca. “The intensive community process that has been memorialized in this document represents a commitment to the betterment of this community, and is a model for how interested residents, local organizations, and government can intersect to address a diverse range of needs.  The Gowanus presents a unique set of land use challenges. This framework shows that we can simultaneously improve our environment, support manufacturing jobs, and develop affordable housing.”

    “The organizers of Bridging Gowanus, including City Council Member Brad Lander and Congresswoman Velazquez, have conducted an extraordinary process leading up to presentation of this community planning framework,” said Daniel Kummer, Chair of Brooklyn Community Board 6. “I look forward to reviewing the report at Brooklyn Community Board 6 in the coming weeks.”

    "The Bridging Gowanus draft framework lays out a proactive road map to sustaining our neighborhood’s unique character while addressing its diverse challenges, from climate change to real-estate speculation,” said Andrea Parker, Executive Director of the Gowanus Canal Conservancy." As a community-based process, Bridging Gowanus reflects our values as an organization, as we believe that decisions about the health and future of the neighborhood should be driven from the ground up."

    “The Gowanus Alliance has appreciated this effort to get ahead of the issues affecting Gowanus.  Bridging Gowanus’ work on developing a framework for our city to better address the priorities  needed to secure a future for manufacturers in Gowanus was very productive. Keeping manufacturing productive is critical to our city’s job base,” said Paul Basile, president of the Gowanus Alliance, and owner of a manufacturing business in the area. “We were happy to participate in this process knowing that the tools needed to help our community move forward were well represented and well received by everyone involved. We must be sure that our manufacturing properties are not left behind and that this work will lead to a comprehensive look at Gowanus. The efforts of Bridging Gowanus will lead to a progressive plan that benefits all of Gowanus, and we look forward to continue building that bridge.”

    “As owner of a third generation - family owned business in Gowanus, it is important to us that small businesses and most importantly the employees that work for these businesses, have a voice in their future,” said Stephen Giumenta, owner of Architectural Grille. “Bridging Gowanus has made that possible through a series of meetings and open lines of communication. The efforts of this process have brought to light the fact that people still need a place to work, and that the manufacturing sections of Gowanus can not be wiped out, because in doing so we lose out on current jobs, job creation, and business growth, all of which are keys to getting our economy back on track. “

    “One year into this process, I remain incredibly hopeful.  This framework has genuinely incorporated the many priorities expressed by the community. Gowanus is fortunate to have elected officials who listen to what the people want,” said Abby Subak, Executive Director, Arts Gowanus. “Of course, we aren’t done, and a framework is not yet a set of rules and policies. I still see a lot of anxiety and skepticism in the neighborhood. Yet, the proposed framework is a significant step, and it is heartening to see it reflect the hopes and visions of the existing community.  I look forward to seeing the framework fleshed out. We have a very real opportunity here to create a community that values and protects people and creativity, as well as manufacturing and the environment.”

    “The Gowanus community is an incredibly diverse and unique community that, until recently, has been largely a hidden gem in Brooklyn and home to a broad range of families and businesses including thousands of public housing residents, and hundreds of manufacturing businesses and artists,” said Michelle de la Uz, Executive Director of the Fifth Avenue Committee. “The Bridging Gowanus process has successfully engaged diverse stakeholders to articulate what we value most about this community and what is important to us as we look beyond our soon to be remedied environmental challenges to the community’s future. Fifth Avenue Committee is grateful to our elected officials for their leadership and willingness to engage the community in challenging but vitally important dialogue and debate so that the community’s priorities for the future are clear.”

    “The Bridging Gowanus community meeting series has been a welcoming and enlightening experience,” said Charlene Nimmons, President of the Wyckoff Gardens Tenant Association. “We had the opportunity to work with community stakeholders that surround the Gowanus Canal, and all of us were given equal time to express our concerns and desires for our changing neighborhood.”

    “The Bridging Gowanus report is a good start, with attention paid to the needs of the Gowanus Houses residents,” said Ed Tyre and Theresa Davis, leaders of the Gowanus Houses Tenant Association. “It addresses many pressing issues, like the need to upgrade our buildings and prevent flooding. As these projects move forward, we need to make sure there is accountability to the community. It’s important that the community continues to be involved every step of the way.”

    David Meade, Executive Director of Southwest Brooklyn Industrial Development Corporation said:SBIDC participated in the process from the beginning and experienced firsthand the great efforts to continually and effectively engage a diverse set of stakeholders including small businesses of all types in meaningful discussions throughout the yearlong process. The Bridging Gowanus draft planning framework successfully unites the results of the process incorporating the greater community’s current ideas with those that were generated as a result of previous plans. SBIDC supports the framework’s many tenets, namely the importance of strengthening the small business and manufacturing community. Now near its conclusion, SBIDC is dedicated to the forward momentum of Bridging Gowanus so that both the community-driven process and framework truly stake a claim for the future of the Gowanus.”

    "The Bridging Gowanus draft framework does an excellent job capturing the environmental priorities of the neighborhood, reflecting a clear community consensus that remediation, revitalization and resiliency should be front and center in the planning process," said Ben Jones, Vice Chair of the Gowanus Canal Conservancy.

    "Too often, communities across New York City develop piece meal without thorough and strategic planning and resident input, said Paige Bellenbaum  District Leader for the 52nd Assembly District and member of Brooklyn Community Board 6. “The Bridging Gowanus initiative is a cutting edge approach to community planning that successfully integrates an open and transparent public process and intelligent design and should be adopted as a viable city wide tool moving forward."

    “The Bridging Gowanus framework provides an incredibly important proactive articulation of the community's concerns, priorities and values in light of the changes that are sure to accompany a clean and revitalized canal,” said Josh Skaller, District Leader for the 52nd Assembly District. “I believe that to meet the core values of our community - preserving the essential character and role of Gowanus, safeguarding people from enviromental pollution and rising sea levels, envisioning an inclusive future - this document is an important step in avoiding the poorly planned and often rapacious development typical of our city.”

    “Bridging Gowanus has always been this community's best means of seeing our environmental, infrastructure, middle income and senior housing needs and quality of life concerns melded with our City's program to address its affordable housing crisis while creating and maintaining space for more living wage jobs,” said Mark Shames, member of Brooklyn Community Board 6. “This is a tall order and I thank the group of elected officials who convened Bridging Gowanus for confronting this challenge.  By pressing forward with the Bridging Gowanus process we will be ready to have meaningful discussions with the de Blasio administration as it expedites the implementation of its strategies for production of affordable housing through HPD and City Planning.”

    “The Brooklyn Chamber fully supports the collaborative planning effort known as Bridging Gowanus, said Carlo Scissura, President and CEO of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. Through Bridging Gowanus, important community stakeholders were given a seat at the table in order to shape the future and institute a long-term vision for Gowanus. The proposed community goals strongly reflect the needs of both residents and businesses in the area, and will ensure the sustainable growth of the neighborhood for years to come. We commend the elected officials involved and the various Gowanus community groups involved for leading this important initiative, and look forward to seeing its framework implemented in the near future.”

    “The "community" - those who know, work, live and use the Gowanus have never stopped thinking about its immediate future, and for many, its value as a greater city-wide resource,” said Ariel Krasnow, Member, Brooklyn Community Board 6. “Gowanus has been studied for years but with Bridging Gowanus, the potential to corral a decade of planning initiatives with new ideas into a framework that could actually have impact, now becomes a distinct possibility. The product is somewhat unknowable by intention.  It is not a plan, but a list of issues, concerns and development ideas which I hope will have broad community support and will influence future local development.”

    Ben Margolis of the American Can Factory said: "As a long-time home to creative businesses and individuals, we appreciate this effort to lead and reshape the Gowanus planning conversation. It is encouraging to see a plan that includes the concept of mandatory mixed-use zoning that may include light manufacturing, arts production and affordable artist housing. This approach could provide much needed stability to the industrial and cultural communities in Gowanus, where, we believe, creative working and living can not only coexist, but be mutually reinforcing.”

    Sasha Chavchavadze, Founder and Co-Creative Director of Proteus Gowanus said: “The Bridging Gowanus process is commendable for its inclusive effort to reach out to the Gowanus community. The draft framework's focus on ensuring that the Gowanus arts community is nurtured and protected as the area undergoes profound changes is impressive and heartening.”

    Neil Carlson, co-founder of the Brooklyn Creative League, a shared workspace in Gowanus, said: "Past rezonings have delivered a windfall to speculative investors and big developers at the expense of small businesses, artists, manufacturers, and middle-class residents. By contrast, Bridging Gowanus establishes a framework that would preserve the mix of commercial, artisan, light manufacturing, and residential uses that we've built in Gowanus, while also providing much-needed affordable housing. If the City adheres to the principles outlined in Bridging Gowanus, I'm confident Gowanus will become a model for sustainable and equitable rezoning elsewhere."

    “Bridging Gowanus represents an incredibly important first step toward a new zoning paradigm, one in which industry and the arts can co-exist with new housing over the long haul,” said Paul Parkhill, Executive Director of Spaceworks NYC. “I am excited about the plan's potential not just for Gowanus but for mixed-use neighborhoods throughout New York City.”

    “As a Gowanus-based arts and culture organization, Groundswell was delighted to see a draft framework unveiled that maps out a vision for the future development of Gowanus, rooted in our community’s shared values of livability, equity, resilience and access,” said Amy Sananman, Executive Director of Groundswell. “We look forward to working with our neighbors in the cultural, housing, community development, and government sectors to ensure these values infuse all future developments in Gowanus.”

    “As the director of the Arts & Democracy Project, which engages the power of arts and culture to increase people's ability to participate in community decision-making, and co-director of Naturally Occurring Cultural Districts NY, a citywide coalition working to revitalize NYC from the neighborhood up, I was glad to participate in the proactive Bridging Gowanus planning process,” said Caron Atlas of the Arts & Democracy Project and NOCD-NY. “I very much appreciated how it valued equity, shared knowledge, and recognized how community-based arts and culture are an integral, and interconnected, part of Gowanus.”

    “Crossing Gowanus bridges has often meant looking at stagnation - polluted waters and abandoned landscapes. A healthy dialogue about what should stay and what should go is something the community needed,” said Eymund Diegel, local resident and planner. “I welcomed this opportunity to meet neighbors at this critical turning point, and hear what they had to say, including the point that you can't script democracy. Bridging Gowanus has been an opportunity to bring fresh ideas forward, and to challenge each other on how we can embrace the future without losing our rich industrial and natural heritage.”


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