“Bridging Gowanus” Community Planning Process Moves Into Next Phase

“Bridging Gowanus” Community Planning Process Moves Into Next Phase

New website at BridgingGowanus.com, online survey, open houses invite residents to update and prioritize recommendations for a sustainable, livable, inclusive future for the Gowanus area

NYC Department of City Planning to begin working with community on planning and land use framework this Fall

Brooklyn, NY –The next phase in the Bridging Gowanus community planning process launched today, providing new ways for community members to prioritize recommendations that were developed over 20 public meetings (including ideas for public investments, land use regulations, zoning designations, and programs). First convened in August 2013, Bridging Gowanus is a community planning process to shape a sustainable, livable, and inclusive future for the Gowanus neighborhood – in the face of ongoing change, the Superfund cleanup, and real estate pressure. 

The recommendations were developed between 2013 and 2015, during which time 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) convened across a series of large- and small-groups meetings to identify broadly-shared goals, discuss diverse viewpoints, and build consensus around a planning framework for the area around the Gowanus Canal. The framework and recommendations were adopted by Brooklyn Community Board 6 in August 2015. Those recommendations are organized into six categories:

  • A Sustainable, Resilient, Environmentally Healthy Community  
  • Invest in Our Parks, Schools, Transit, and Waterfront 
  • Strengthen the Manufacturing Sector and Create Good Jobs
  • Keep Gowanus Creative and Mixed-Use
  • Preserve and Create Affordable Housing for an Inclusive Community
  • Secure a Pathway for Responsible Growth

Through a new website at BridgingGowanus.org, an online survey, and several open houses this summer, residents are invited to review, prioritize, and update the Bridging Gowanus recommendations.  

Starting in the fall, the community will begin working with the NYC Department of City Planning and other government agencies to develop a planning and land-use framework for the Gowanus neighborhood. The process will be one of City Planning’s “PLACES” (Planning for Livability, Affordability, Community, Economy Opportunity, and Stability) studies.

“It’s not easy for a community to plan for the future amidst change. But the need and the opportunity are clear. That’s why hundreds of people took part in the first phases of Bridging Gowanus, and why we look forward to even more involvement now. By creating space to listen to our neighbors’ ideas, 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,” said Council Member Brad Lander. “Getting Gowanus right will take a different way of doing things. So I appreciate that the de Blasio Administration is committed to working with our community from the beginning – and has already set in motion new industrial policy, investments in school seats and infrastructure, and mandatory inclusionary housing which lay a foundation for more inclusive growth. I encourage everyone in the Gowanus community to meet us at our open houses this summer, take the online survey to understand and prioritize the recommendations, and to join us in this important conversation. Working together, we can insure a sustainable, mixed-use, creative, and inclusive future for Gowanus.”

“We look forward to building upon the important work undertaken by the community in Bridging Gowanus and thank Councilmembers Lander and Levin for their leadership in promoting an inclusive and open planning process. We are enthusiastic about working with them and the community to create a thriving neighborhood where an appropriate mix of uses supports an economically diverse population, offering cultural and economic opportunities for all,” said Carl Weisbrod, Director of the Department of City Planning.

Online survey: The new website, BridgingGowanus.org, encourages community members to complete an online survey to help prioritize recommendations. The survey is seven pages long, with each page focused on one of the overarching goals identified in the initial phase of the Bridging Gowanus process. 

Open houses: Community members will have an opportunity to further engage with the Bridging Gowanus recommendations at a series of open house events this summer, or visit on their own during drop-in hours. Below is a list of dates and times.   

  • Open House: Tuesday August 9th, from 5:00 to 8:00 pm, The Bell House (149 7th Street, must be age 21+)
  • Drop-In Hours: Thursday August 18th through Friday August 19th, noon to 6:00 pm, Fifth Avenue Committee (621 Degraw Street)
  • Open House: Friday August 19th, from 5:00 to 8:00 pm, Fifth Avenue Committee’s Annual Summer Party (621 Degraw Street)
  • Open House: Monday August 22nd, from 5:00 to 8:00 pm, Coworkrs Gowanus (68 3rd Street)
  • Drop-In Hours: Tuesday August 23rd  through Friday August 26th, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, Coworkrs Gowanus (68 3rd Street)
  • Open House: Thursday September 8th, from 6:30 to 8:30 pm, The Hall of the Gowanus (543 Union Street, down the alley on Nevins Street)
  • Drop-In Hours: Tuesday September 6th through Friday September 9th, noon to 6:00 pm, The Hall of the Gowanus (543 Union Street, down the alley on Nevins Street)

The complete Bridging Gowanus report is available at www.report.BridgingGowanus.org.

Materials from the public meetings are available at www.archive.BridgingGowanus.org. The new website was created with support from the Neighborhoods First Fund and Hester Street Collaborative.

Since it was adopted by Brooklyn Community Board 6 in 2015, several of the recommendations of “Bridging Gowanus” have already moved forward:

  • Significant progress has been made toward the Canal’s Superfund clean-up (through the ongoing work of the EPA), land and water quality improvements, green infrastructure construction, and construction of high level storm sewers.
  • Bridging Gowanus called for stronger protections for the Gowanus Industrial Business Zone (IBZ), to prevent it from being overwhelmed by hotels, self-storage, and other uses that can out-price manufacturing. As part of NYC’s Industrial Action Plan, the City is moving forward with a ULURP action that will limit right hotels and mini-storage facilities in IBZs.
  • The City’s new Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) policy requires the inclusion of affordable units where zoning is changed to allow additional residential development. 
  • The NYC School Construction Authority has begun work on more than 600 new school seats in the Gowanus area, including a 436-seat annex at PS 32 (located at Hoyt Street and Union Street), and a new 180-seat pre-K center on 9th Street, between 3rd and 4th Avenues.   

Elected officials, community organizations, and local leaders throughout Gowanus are committed to work for the implementation of these and the many other Bridging Gowanus recommendations, and expressed support for the Bridging Gowanus process, and the next phase of community input: 

“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 has already participated in Bridging Gowanus for creating this vision of a more sustainable, equitable, and livable Gowanus, and I look forward to continuing to work together.” 

“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 resulted in the Bridging Gowanus recommendations demonstrates 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. Bridging Gowanus shows that we can simultaneously improve our environment, support manufacturing jobs, and develop affordable housing.”

“I appreciate the efforts Councilman Lander has put forward in making sure the residents of the Gowanus area can have a voice in helping shape the future of their neighborhood, said State Senator Velmanette Montgomery. “I am also grateful to those who have participated in the planning process and shared their input to help preserve the quality of life in the community they are proud to call home.”

“When it comes to Gowanus, the best thing we can do is to plan, and plan together so that we have the neighborhoods we want, the jobs we need, and can bring that together in a cohesive, balanced and sustainable way that is respectful of our neighborhoods and supports our local businesses,” said Assembly Member Jo Anne Simon. 

"Brooklyn Community Board 6 is so pleased to see the roll-out of the next phase of Bridging Gowanus," said Sayar Lonial, Chair of Brooklyn Community Board 6. “This community driven process led by New York City Council Member Brad Lander and Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez is a prime example of how community and government can work together to build stronger neighborhoods and communities." 

“Bridging Gowanus built a strong set of shared community priorities about Gowanus use, character, access and infrastructure, that have helped energize and coordinate the conversations between the diverse organizations and agencies at work in our neighborhood,” 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. Gowanus Canal Conservancy has been able to build on the Gowanus Greenscape recommendations with a community-based design visioning for this emerging network of public spaces.”

“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 local business-owner. “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.”

“I feel incredibly lucky that here in Gowanus we have elected officials working side-by-side with residents to wrestle with these big questions about the future of Gowanus,” said Abby Subak, Executive Director of Arts Gowanus. “This Bridging Gowanus process has made me hopeful that we, as the current community, can help shape what we want our community to become. Many of us love it the way it is, and wish it wouldn't change at all, but that is not the way New York City works. Here, we want to engage these questions and proactively create a community that will continue to be a vibrant creative community, even as it evolves.”

“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. "Thanks to the leadership of our local elected officials, local residents and businesses, the Bridging Gowanus process successfully engaged a number of 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 that there is additional opportunity to reach out, refine and build upon the Bridging Gowanus community priorities to inform public policy recommendations that will soon be turned into action.”

"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 cannot 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. As a small business owner, I look forward to continuing this work, and putting the Bridging Gowanus goals into action.”

"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 business of all types in meaningful discussions throughout the process, said David Meade, Executive Director of Southwest Brooklyn Industrial Development Corporation. "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. 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. We look forward to continuing this work going forward, and putting the Bridging Gowanus work into action.” 

"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, Democratic 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 environmental 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." 

"We have an urgent need for an expansive, strong and green economy, as well as more truly affordable housing. Bridging Gowanus allows us to work as a community to reach those goals in the best, and most democratic way, possible. I am excited to be part of the process,” said Mike Racioppo, Vice Chair of Brooklyn Community Board 6 and Executive Director of the Gowanus Canal Community Development Corporation.

"I am proud to again join with my neighbors in an ongoing Bridging Gowanus discussion that provides a vital local prospective on how best to grow our City within the framework of our desire for an affordable, and livable community with access to good jobs. Bridging Gowanus remains this community’s most effective means of seeing these concerns together with our environmental, and infrastructure needs melded with our City’s programs to address its affordable housing crisis,” said Mark Shames, Chair of Brooklyn Community Board 6 Environmental Protection Committee and its representative to the EPA Gowanus Community Advisory Group (CAG).

“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 plans potential not just for Gowanus but for mixed-use neighborhoods throughout New York City.”

"The Brooklyn Chamber has been fully supportive of the collaborative planning effort known as Bridging Gowanus," said Carlo A. 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 of 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 - particularly Council Member Brad Lander - for involving the various Gowanus community groups in leading this important initiative, and look forward to having the Bridging Gowanus framework put into action."

"Bridging Gowanus continues to be a critically important planning initiative to engage all constituents in the Gowanus community. The challenges are extensive: polluted sites that are legacies of 19th and 20th century industry, development pressures, rising sea levels, and a long term clean up of the canal. Remarkably, the community has embraced these as opportunities to create a vibrant and diverse neighborhood. Building consensus, respecting other viewpoints, and working collaboratively are not always easy, but they are the hallmarks of Bridging Gowanus and will help us realize a sustainable model for 21st century urban centers,” said David Briggs, Executive Director of Gowanus by Design.

“Gowanus is one of New York’s last neighborhoods to still maintain a balanced mix of residential, small manufacturing, artists, musicians, and small business owners—both new and old—respectfully working and living together as one community,” said Ute Zimmermann and Joel Beck, co-founders of Gowanus Souvenir Shop. “This fragile ecosystem is in the process of being destroyed by large scale development, which has little interest in preserving the area’s original charm and diverse substance. But Gowanus is fortunate to consist of an exceptionally resilient, outspoken and dedicated community willing to put up a fight. This includes our progressive city officials who are working with the community side by side. The Bridging Gowanus Framework is proof, and we all are ready to make the Framework come to life and take action to stop Gowanus from becoming yet another overpriced, charmless neighborhood of uniformity and conventionality. Gowanus is at a crossroads: It can either become a city- and nationwide model of fighting back against irresponsible large scale development and continue to thrive; or it can become the latest casualty of New York City's inability to define itself as a city with values and citizens worth defending.”

"It's been exciting to see Bridging Gowanus take shape and engage the community. I'm looking forward to the next few months, as the process gains momentum and more voices are heard. It's great to be part of actively building a neighborhood vision that includes all of us—neighbors, artists, small businesses. We all love our neighborhood, and Bridging Gowanus is giving us a way to put that love to good use,” said Esther Robinson, Gowanus Resident, Artist, and Co-Executive Director of ArtBuilt NYC/ArtHome.

“Gowanus has historically been a community of makers – both industrialists and artists. Bridging Gowanus is an essential means of engaging the community to ensure that the elements that have made Gowanus such a compelling neighborhood continue to exist,” said Kim Maier, Executive Director of the Old Stone House.

“As 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, Director 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.”

Sasha Chavchavdze, local artist 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 community is nurtured and protected as the area undergoes profound changes is impressive and heartening.I hope the city will listen closely and respectfully to the needs and voices expressed through Bridging Gowanus as they make changes that will impact our community."

“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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