Here’s what your neighbors are saying about Gowanus. What about you?

Here’s what your neighbors are saying about Gowanus. What about you?

“The historic landmark bridge is fantastic – one of my favorite parts of the neighborhood.”

 “A volunteer-run emerging office complex with gallery & studio space, plus woodworking, printmaking & metal shops for artists and fabricators. Cool stuff happens here.”

 “This affordable laundromat is essential to current residents of this neighborhood. It is at risk of being lost along with other local affordable small businesses, if care is not taken in the rezoning plan to protect the needs of long term, low income residents and businesses that already exist in Gowanus.”

 “I know people think it's ugly but I like the Lowe's esplanade: it's crappy enough that it doesn't draw attention to itself and provides a nice spot to sit and watch the recycling sorting across the canal.”

Those are a few of the comments your neighbors have posted on the Department of City Planning’s Plan Gowanus website.

I hope you’ll take the time to check out Plan Gowanus, get an update on the planning process, give your ideas as well. It’s important, easy, and maybe even fun.

We’ve been talking about the future of Gowanus for a long time. I know it’s easy to get “planning fatigue.” But shaping the future of our community -- especially given the challenges of escalating real-estate values, climate change, and political uncertainty -- is no easy feat. So we’re taking our time to hear as many voices as we can.   

Toward that end, I wanted to give you an update on the planning process, and encourage you to add your voice.

Launched last summer by the NYC Department of City Planning, the Gowanus neighborhood planning study builds on the goals of Bridging Gowanus (a community-based planning process, convened by local elected officials in 2013), to proactively shape the future of the area. Our goals include:

  • 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

The PLACES study will result in a planning and land-use framework, which will guide future infrastructure investments and rezoning proposals. Since last summer, the City has held a series of community meetings – to collaborate with long-time and newer homeowners, tenants, NYCHA residents, business owners, artists, environmental activists, affordable housing advocates, and more.

  • In October, a kick-off meeting introduced the PLACES study and introduce us to the many different City agencies involved.

  • In December, a public presentation focused on grounding the PLACES study in the critical issues of resiliency and sustainability, including the EPA’s Superfund cleanup, the challenges of flooding, and the long-term risk of sea-level rise.

  • In March, the first land use & urban design workshop, gave participants a chance to balance different uses and express urban design preferences.

  • Starting in January and running through this summer, five working groups are meeting monthly to formulate recommendations on (1) arts & culture, (2) industry & economic development, (3) housing, (4) public realm, and (5) resiliency & sustainability.

There will be more opportunities to weigh in at community meetings in the fall, where we’ll hear from the working groups, continue the conversations on land use and urban design, and discuss topics like public schools and transportation.

I believe we have reason to be optimistic about the future of Gowanus. Despite severe threats to the EPA from Washington, plans for the Superfund cleanup are moving forward. Major investments in sewer infrastructure are underway to improve water quality in the canal and lessen street flooding. The City is taking steps toward protecting the industrial business zone (IBZ) by restricting self-storage facilities and hotels. Even amidst displacement pressure, new affordable artists studios have opened. New school construction projects are getting underway.

But we have much more work to do – to keep the Superfund cleanup on track, make overdue investments in NYCHA, stem the outflow of artists from the area, strengthen the manufacturing sector and mixed-use character of Gowanus, and contend with climate change and sea-level rise. And, yes, balance those goals with new residential development, both market-rate and affordable.

So I hope that you will continue to take part in developing solutions that bring our diverse community closer to a future that is sustainable, livable, and inclusive.  

For today, take 10 minutes to post a comment or two on City Planning’s Plan Gowanus site.

Where else are you going to find “a nice spot to sit and watch the recycling sorting across the canal.” 


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