CB6 Says Yes to Lightstone’s Gowanus Development


Despite Community Board Six’s land use committee recommending a new environmental impact study be performed before evaluating a new development planned for the Gowanus Canal, not to mention lots of community opposition to the development, the full board voted to approve Lightstone’s plans last night. Pardon Me For Asking reports: “Last night’s monthly meeting of Community Board Six was a bizarre, badly organized affair that left many Gowanus and Carroll Gardens residents scratching their heads and wondering about the board’s integrity.” The full board voted against the motion by the land use committee, which asked that development be put on hold until a new impact study was conducted, that 30 percent of the units be affordable, that the building height be reduced to eight stories from 12, and that Community Board Responsible Contractor Conditions be followed. A second motion, to neither approve nor disapprove, but require the impact study, also did not pass. According to PMFA, this is the motion that finally passed: “The Community Board conditionally approves the minor modifications provided that the developer follows CB6′s Responsible Contractor policy and that city planning starts a full scale study involving the rezoning of the Gowanus Corridor.” PMFA states, “It was less than a stellar moment for CB6.”
Less Than a Stellar Moment for Community Board Six… [PMFA]
Rendering via Gowanus Your Face Off

33 Comment

  • It is going to take at last a decade probably more to ever get the canal somewhat clean, if it ever can. I know they are supposed to be doing the super fund thing, but has it started?
    I know down by DeGraw / Columbia the flushing tunnel is being worked on.

    Who in their right mind would rent an apartment only feet from a feted body of water????

    Can there really be people that are that dumb?

    I think the best thing they should have done back in the day to prevent the canal from getting so polluted was just continue the canal from Butler Street to the Buttermilk channel, even it were only 3 foot wide stream, at least there would have been a constant water flow, thus removing the polluted waters out to sea, instead of the canal just ending stagnant at Butler.

    the basins to me should just be filled in, because they are just so stagnant, and nothing can ever move the water from them.

  • I’ve said it before, but I agree with stargazer here – the Gowanus just needs to be filled in and capped. It’s not scenic, it’s horribly polluted, it will never be the “Venetian Canals of Brooklyn” that some dream of it being someday.

    As for this project, I also can’t imagine anyone in their right mind agreeing to live next to the Gowanus Canal. I get nervous when I jog across the thing.

    • I live in CG and walk across the canal on occassion. I actually think it is quite scenic. I do recognize that it’s horribly polluted and something needs to be done, but it would be sad to me to see it capped. That said, I have no idea what kind of effort or cost is needed to actually clean this thing (if it’s even possible), but clearly the cost is very high.

      All of this said, nothing could be better for addressing these issues than putting up a large residential unit right on the bank of the canal. Would I live there? No. But people will, especially if it’s priced right. And, more to the point, having a development like this in place will speed the cleaning of the canal and increase the resources available to do so.

      Those opposed to this project are, in my opinion, short-sighted.

    • I live in CG and walk across the canal on occassion. I actually think it is quite scenic. I do recognize that it’s horribly polluted and something needs to be done, but it would be sad to me to see it capped. That said, I have no idea what kind of effort or cost is needed to actually clean this thing (if it’s even possible), but clearly the cost is very high.

      All of this said, nothing could be better for addressing these issues than putting up a large residential unit right on the bank of the canal. Would I live there? No. But people will, especially if it’s priced right. And, more to the point, having a development like this in place will speed the cleaning of the canal and increase the resources available to do so.

      Those opposed to this project are, in my opinion, short-sighted.

  • I agree that some tweaking of this project could have been accommodated and would have resulted in a somewhat mitigated impact on the area. But the demands listed: new EIR, reduced height, 30 percent affordable, and Contractor conditions, make this project a non-starter and because they are so onerous smacks of obstructionism rather than a collaborative process. The land use committee zealots won the battle but ultimately lost the war. Do they want better development or none at all? I would prefer that Gowanus stays much as it is currently. I like the gritty workshop and warehouse scale of the area, but effectively this particular ship has sailed.
    My biggest concern is a new City Planning study of the Gowanus corridor.Going forward, I think a downzoning is necessary to slow or eliminate the incentive for demolishing the existing fabric (we’re talking mostly 3 or 4 story buildings between Hoyt St and 3rd Ave) and replacing with large scale multi-family buildings. City Planning under Bloomie seems to be in the developers pockets and uniformly advocated profitable large scale development. This neighborhood does not need large scale development. A slower, more organic smaller fabric REdevelopment is underway along 3rd Ave and needs to be supported (Whole Foods notwithstanding). Look at all that is going on between Union and Ninth (and even further south).
    The real problem to solve are the environmental issues. Site clean up is very expensive, and therefore larger developments can bear the costs. How do we give smaller scale development a fighting chance?
    Sorry about the rant.

    • homegirl

      hdlbklyn, I agree with all that you’ve said, but there was never an invitation for a “collaborative process.”

      And also, why call the land use committee “zealots”? Why such a negative view? There were lots of people at the public hearing that said they wanted better development (not no development). I believe that land use was trying to steer the “ship that had sailed” in exactly that direction.

      • In any negotiation, when one party sets conditions too high they risk their ideas being dismissed as extremist. Affect what is possible or risk affecting nothing. I agree with many of their points going forward but with respect to Lightstone, a deal that was in place with Toll (love it or hate it) was being rendered unfeasible because of relatively minor modifications. For instance there are other solutions to waste discharge due to the increased number of units that could have been advocated, like on site filtration and centrifuges to preprocess the effluent as well as increased on site storm water retention/management. This would likely have come at a cost that Lightstone could bear. But instead of advocating reasonable solutions they effectively demanded a “square one” restart with the uncertainty of a new EIR process.

        The real focus of the land use committee’s efforts should be a scale appropriate downzoning of the entire neighborhood going forward. City planning needs to be made aware of redevelopment under way so that they no longer view Gowanus as a tabula rasa wasteland but a vibrant community of homeowners, artists and small businesses. Because of their industrial history the development sites are very large, but they dont have to beget large buildings. There are models of more reasonable scaled development from Boston to Baltimore. This area needs to be reconsidered in its entirety not one site at a time.

      • In any negotiation, when one party sets conditions too high they risk their ideas being dismissed as extremist. Affect what is possible or risk affecting nothing. I agree with many of their points going forward but with respect to Lightstone, a deal that was in place with Toll (love it or hate it) was being rendered unfeasible because of relatively minor modifications. For instance there are other solutions to waste discharge due to the increased number of units that could have been advocated, like on site filtration and centrifuges to preprocess the effluent as well as increased on site storm water retention/management. This would likely have come at a cost that Lightstone could bear. But instead of advocating reasonable solutions they effectively demanded a “square one” restart with the uncertainty of a new EIR process.

        The real focus of the land use committee’s efforts should be a scale appropriate downzoning of the entire neighborhood going forward. City planning needs to be made aware of redevelopment under way so that they no longer view Gowanus as a tabula rasa wasteland but a vibrant community of homeowners, artists and small businesses. Because of their industrial history the development sites are very large, but they dont have to beget large buildings. There are models of more reasonable scaled development from Boston to Baltimore. This area needs to be reconsidered in its entirety not one site at a time.

  • “Who in their right mind would rent an apartment only feet from a feted body of water????”

    That’s what they are hoping for…rich and ignorant new buyers who don’t know the back story…or don’t look for it. Happens all the time.

  • The issue isnt who would buy here (for a price people will live anywhere), the question is what moronic bank is going to finance this project and then which banks will ridiculously lend on the units.
    This whole thing is a plaintiff lawyers wet dream.

  • no-permits

    no one ever expected nyc to clean up in the 60′s, 70′s and part of 80′s and now look at it.

  • PLEASE ALLOW ME TO INTRODUCE MYSELF…..

  • CB6 has been compromised. Everyone just bends over for local politicians’ loaded behind the scenes requests. This Community Board used to have some teeth, but now it might as will be a civic association. The lack of knowledge and procedural awareness at the front of the room sets the tone for each meeting being a waste of everyone’s time.

  • East New York

    “And, more to the point, having a development like this in place will speed the cleaning of the canal and increase the resources available to do so.”

    What evidence can you offer to back that incredibly optimistic statement?

  • East New York

    “And, more to the point, having a development like this in place will speed the cleaning of the canal and increase the resources available to do so.”

    What evidence can you offer to back that incredibly optimistic statement?

    • “‘And, more to the point, having a development like this in place will speed the cleaning of the canal and increase the resources available to do so.’

      What evidence can you offer to back that incredibly optimistic statement?”

      Basic logic and common sense. Answer the following questions:

      People would rather live near a clean canal than a fetid one. YES/NO?

      There is demand for housing in CG/Gowanus/South Slope. YES/NO?

      A developer is willing to build a development near a fetid canal. YES/NO?

      People will buy or rent units in said development due to demand for the area. YES/NO?

      The developer can get more money for the units if the canal is cleaner. YES/NO?

      The apartments people buy in this development will see higher resale values if the canal is cleaned during their tenure there. YES/NO?

      Did I miss anything? The real question you should be asking yourself is not what evidence there is to support what is a basic common sense statement, but rather why anyone would think that people living next to the canal and who therefore have a vested economic interest in the area WOULD NOT want to see the canal cleaned. Anyone who owns in the area now (or will own before the canal is cleaned) stands to make a fortune if they can ever successfully clean the thing.

      • The clean up will take at least a decade and as of this date the feasibility study has not been released. It is a bureaucratic process, a decade might be a tad optimistic but for arguments sake even if the canal were cleaned in ten years it would remain on the national register for many more years during which time the EPA will monitor it.

        One of he reasons that Toll backed out was that buyers would not be able to obtain mortgages. As for people bringing more resources, well the polluters such as National Grid and Chemtura will be paying for the clean up.

  • “And, more to the point, having a development like this in place will speed the cleaning of the canal and increase the resources available to do so.”

    seriously doubt it.

  • I live about a block and a half from the canal and it’s great – but I wouldn’t want to live right next to it. However, the fact that you or I wouldn’t want to live in this development is a strange reason for opposing it. More foot traffic and attention for the area is an unqualified good thing for people who live here already, unless you just have a fetish for empty lots and a lack of customers for local businesses. As for canal itself, no, it’s not going to mean the cleanup will suddenly happen overnight, but I certainly don’t see how it could HURT. What’s everyone complaining about?

  • Donald Brennan

    First thing that came to mind when I first saw this particular rendering was – Battery Park City, which allows, and I believe rightfully so, for a higher density than this area due to the edge condition on the Hudson and the lack of any pre-existing lower density housing nearby. The Gowanus of course is a completely different. While this is an edge condition of sorts, I view it as more of an undeveloped extension of the low density and limited height districts (where designated) of Gowanus (residential portion), Carroll Gardens, Boerum Hilll and Park Slope. Additional and continuous development at this density/bulk/height along the canal will certainly negatively impact whatever value the canal would have had as a public amenity. A more dark and dreary waterway cast forever in shadow will not make for a very appealing destination. When they re-zoned the parts of Chelsea adjacent to the High Line it was very controlled, specific and sensitive to existing conditions. That same level of thoughtful planning seams to be absent here. Why is that?

    • Eleven stories. Definitely dark and dreary. Totally comparable to the 30+ story buildings in Battery Park City. Definitely not comparable at all to the apartment buildings on Prospect Park West, which are eleven stories, give or take a few, and airy and light and an excellent addition to the neighborhood.

      Oh, wait. This isn’t about rational thought. It’s about fear and loathing of change.

      • Donald Brennan

        No fear and loathing here, I am not against development. I think the Gowanus Canal area is a great candidate for residential redevelopment and repurposing with more public accces to the water way (if that is what you call it) and more outdoor land based recreation space. The point I was trying to make is that the density and massing of this project and all that will follow, if this turns out to be the model/precedent, is out of scale with adjacent neighborhoods on three sides. Battery Park and Prospect Park West abut substantial open space, a 2 mile wide river and about a mile of parkland, respectively. The canal is less than 100 ft wide. More care and consideration should have been applied to the master plan. I don’t see that it has. That’s all.

      • Donald Brennan

        No fear and loathing here, I am not against development. I think the Gowanus Canal area is a great candidate for residential redevelopment and repurposing with more public accces to the water way (if that is what you call it) and more outdoor land based recreation space. The point I was trying to make is that the density and massing of this project and all that will follow, if this turns out to be the model/precedent, is out of scale with adjacent neighborhoods on three sides. Battery Park and Prospect Park West abut substantial open space, a 2 mile wide river and about a mile of parkland, respectively. The canal is less than 100 ft wide. More care and consideration should have been applied to the master plan. I don’t see that it has. That’s all.

  • East New York

    “Basic logic and common sense.”

    Are you kidding or something? You’re saying it will happen because it SHOULD happen?

    Coulda, woulda, shoulda…..

  • homegirl

    donald, unfortunately I’m afraid your question can be answered in two words: greedy bastards. Because I’m all with you; i’m not against development there, but this kind of out of scale crap that is filling our borough is just craptastic. and ejr2, you are overlooking the fact taht these apartments are RENTALS NOT CONDOS. Now, ask your same questions again.
    “The developer can get more money for the units if the canal is cleaner. YES/NO?”
    you know what? in my experience, landlords usually don’t give a damn about improving anything as long as their unit is rented.

  • East New York

    “I’m saying it will happen because economic forces will drive it to happen if there is development in the area.”

    That isn’t evidence. That’s simply your opinion. It could happen and just as easily could not.

  • East New York

    “I’m saying it will happen because economic forces will drive it to happen if there is development in the area.”

    That isn’t evidence. That’s simply your opinion. It could happen and just as easily could not.

  • homegirl

    There’s something rotten in the state of CB6, that’s for sure.

    First, we have a huge “public hearing” where the Land Use committee OVERWHELMINGLY votes to recommend tabling this development. Then a few weeks later we have a full CB6 meeting, where we are told at the beginning, “Nobody who isn’t on CB6 will have a chance to speak tonite; most of the work is done in committee.” Okay, great–that work was done by the Land Use committee, and they board voted to TABLE. And we all know that, usually, cb6 relies on the decisions of their subcommittees. But not last nite.

    First up, the chair of the land-use subcommittee, who surprisingly enough had voted to TABLE (even though his tone in dealing with the public that night was just dripping with condescension), presents the development to CB6 in such glowing terms you would think he was employed by Lightstone.

    While he is doing that, one of the other chairs of CB6 is constantly interjecting other things no one is asking him about that also portray the development as though it were excreted from the lord’s anus itself. Next up? Another Land-use committee member who voted to table but, “now that i’ve had some time to think about it…i think i ‘ve changed my mind.” And then another commitee member says practically the same thing. And where were the rest of the committee members who voted to table? Well, guess what? They’ve been kicked off CB6 for not being “pro-development” enough. So they don’t get to speak at all. In fact, it seamed that the vast majority of the room didn’t know much about the project so they had to rely on what they were being told last nite–by mostly pro-Lightstone CB6 members. And to cap it all off, the vote itself was balls-out confusing, with people being asked to vote “Nay” if they were FOR the project, and “AYE” if there were against it.

    And all the while, Lightstone’s hired lobbyists stood in the room, briefcases in hand, silently watching.

    Yup, there’s something rotten in the state of CB6.

  • homegirl

    There’s something rotten in the state of CB6, that’s for sure.

    First, we have a huge “public hearing” where the Land Use committee OVERWHELMINGLY votes to recommend tabling this development. Then a few weeks later we have a full CB6 meeting, where we are told at the beginning, “Nobody who isn’t on CB6 will have a chance to speak tonite; most of the work is done in committee.” Okay, great–that work was done by the Land Use committee, and they board voted to TABLE. And we all know that, usually, cb6 relies on the decisions of their subcommittees. But not last nite.

    First up, the chair of the land-use subcommittee, who surprisingly enough had voted to TABLE (even though his tone in dealing with the public that night was just dripping with condescension), presents the development to CB6 in such glowing terms you would think he was employed by Lightstone.

    While he is doing that, one of the other chairs of CB6 is constantly interjecting other things no one is asking him about that also portray the development as though it were excreted from the lord’s anus itself. Next up? Another Land-use committee member who voted to table but, “now that i’ve had some time to think about it…i think i ‘ve changed my mind.” And then another commitee member says practically the same thing. And where were the rest of the committee members who voted to table? Well, guess what? They’ve been kicked off CB6 for not being “pro-development” enough. So they don’t get to speak at all. In fact, it seamed that the vast majority of the room didn’t know much about the project so they had to rely on what they were being told last nite–by mostly pro-Lightstone CB6 members. And to cap it all off, the vote itself was balls-out confusing, with people being asked to vote “Nay” if they were FOR the project, and “AYE” if there were against it.

    And all the while, Lightstone’s hired lobbyists stood in the room, briefcases in hand, silently watching.

    Yup, there’s something rotten in the state of CB6.

  • Yay! What a pleasant surprise! We live across the street from this site and we are thrilled that instead of blight we will soon have neighbors, clean and light streets, and a reduction in crime (the two square blocks are now mostly used by prostitutes for car sex and for nightly hard drug trade and use.) It was wise of Lighstone to change this to a rental property. And I really don’t understand all those people who think it’s crazy to live by the canal; there’s no airborne contamination specific to the canal area and all contaminated soil, if there’s any, is removed prior to construction. The canal is not a health hazard, unless you decide to swim in it. Yes, it occasionally smells, but this has been a fairly rare occurrence in the last decade or so. This is great news for our neighborhood!

  • Yay! What a pleasant surprise! We live across the street from this site and we are thrilled that instead of blight we will soon have neighbors, clean and light streets, and a reduction in crime (the two square blocks are now mostly used by prostitutes for car sex and for nightly hard drug trade and use.) It was wise of Lighstone to change this to a rental property. And I really don’t understand all those people who think it’s crazy to live by the canal; there’s no airborne contamination specific to the canal area and all contaminated soil, if there’s any, is removed prior to construction. The canal is not a health hazard, unless you decide to swim in it. Yes, it occasionally smells, but this has been a fairly rare occurrence in the last decade or so. This is great news for our neighborhood!