#KeepGowanusCreative

#KeepGowanusCreative

For the many artists and friends of the arts in Gowanus, this is a month of both celebration and protest.

The celebration: This weekend will be the biggest-ever Gowanus Open Studios (produced by Arts Gowanus), with over 300 participating artists, special events, and tours. It has become one of the premier community arts events in NYC, and a real celebration of creativity and community. I hope to see you there.  

The protest: Many artists in the complex at 9th Street and 2nd Avenue (a haven of painters, musicians, graphic novelists, woodworkers, and much more) will be participating in Gowanus Open Studios for the last time, as they are being kicked out of their studios by landlords who care more about their profit than about creativity or community.  

This eviction of artists is not the first Gowanus (or Brooklyn, or NYC) has seen, of course, nor will it be the last. Artists are so often the harbingers of gentrification and displacement, especially in industrial areas. But if we want to hold onto the creativity, energy, diversity, and local jobs that make Gowanus a great place, there are real steps we can take.

To start, I encourage you to sign this petition calling on the developer to let these artists stay.

There will also be a rally in support of the artists tomorrow morning:

#KeepGowanusCreative Rally
Saturday, Oct 17 
10:30 AM
94 9th Street, Gowanus, (between 2nd Ave and the Canal)

Even if you can’t make it, stop by their studios over the weekend as part of Gowanus Open Studios and learn more. Let’s not watch them be kicked out without a fight.  

Beyond this building – with relentlessly rising rents, along with with hotels, big-box stores, and residential development – we need new land-use rules if we want to #KeepGowanusCreative, mixed-use, economically productive, and diverse.

The Bridging Gowanus community planning framework calls for just that. The framework features new rules to balance light industry, artists and cultural uses, retail, and housing in appropriate locations:

  • Strengthening the “Industrial Business Zone:” The buildings at 9th Street & 2nd Avenue are in the Gowanus’ Industrial Business Zone (IBZ). But right now, IBZ’s allow big-box stores, hotels, self-storage facilities, big offices, and nightclubs “as-of-right.” All of these uses pay more than manufacturing, so they drive up the rent. We don’t know for sure, but the owners there are probably planning one of these uses. Bridging Gowanus calls for restricting those uses – making it easier for manufacturing, arts, and artisan businesses to compete and afford the rent.  
  • A “mandatory mixed-use zone:” Outside the IBZ (which covers the area south of 3rd Street), Bridging Gowanus envisions a new “mandatory mixed use” zone, which would allow residential development (a mix of market-rate and affordable) but also require that developers create or preserve space for “maker uses” – ensuring that the neighborhood has space for everything from light manufacturing, to the kind of art/artisan work space that’s being threatened right now, to space for nonprofit organizations.   
  • Securing space through “steward” and not-for-profit ownership: Bridging Gowanus also calls for incentives to help not-for-profit groups and artists’ cooperatives acquire space to act as stewards for artists and small manufacturers. We are working with Arts GowanusSpaceworks, and Powerhouse Workshop on plans that would insure long-term space for production and exhibition.

(You can read more about these new zoning tools, how they fit into an Arts and Culture Plan for Gowanus, in the Bridging Gowanus Executive summary). 

We are lucky to have an incredibly vibrant arts community in Gowanus, with hundreds of individual artists, a growing portfolio or public art, and a tremendous set of community -based arts and nonprofit groups, including Arts Gowanus, Gowanus Girls/Curious Jane, Gowanus Studio Space, Groundswell Community Mural Project, Interference Archive, Morbid Anatomy Museum, Old Stone House, Powerhouse Arts Center, ReelWorks, Spaceworks, the Textile Arts Center, and more.

These artists and arts groups create jobs, generate economic activity, build community, and educate our kids (and adults too). More than that: their creativity and energy fire our imaginations, nourish our souls, make us think, highlight values beyond the bottom-line, and provide the spark that makes Gowanus (and, at its best, Brooklyn more broadly) a genuinely compelling place.

Help #KeepGowanusCreative:

  1. Sign the petition to prevent the mass-eviction of artists on 9th Street.
  2. Join us at the rally Saturday morning at 94 9th Street.
  3. Attend Gowanus Open Studios this weekend.
  4. Stay in touch with us as we work to make the vision of Bridging Gowanus real.      

-Brad

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I’ll be writing every few weeks to update you on issues facing Gowanus, describing the work that’s been done to make progress, and outline the work that remains. In addition to preserving the mix of of uses, Bridging Gowanus focuses on sustainable infrastructure, environmental cleanup, open space, and affordable housing. All of this information will be reposted on my website: bradlander.nyc/neighborhoods/gowanus. And you can see the full Bridging Gowanus community planning framework at bridginggowanus.org

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