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It’s that time of year when Brooklynites can decide how their tax dollars will be spent by attending participatory budgeting meetings on transit, parks, arts and education. Councilmember Brad Lander’s office has organized five meetings between now and the end of the month, to which anyone can come and suggest projects that deserve funding in the 39th Council District. (Here’s a map of the district, which encompasses Columbia Street Waterfront, Park Slope, Cobble Hill, Gowanus, Park Slope, Kensington, Ditmas Park, Carroll Gardens, Prospect Park, Windsor Terrace and Borough Park.)

Projects funded by the last round of budgeting included laptop carts for elementary school students, street safety improvements on 4th Avenue, a green roof at the Windsor Terrace Library (pictured) and an outdoor plaza at the John Jay Educational Campus in Park Slope. Click through to see the schedule and how to RSVP. (more…)

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A larger than anticipated crowd of over 200 people showed up to discuss their concerns and wishes and help plan the future of Gowanus development Monday night at The Children’s School on Carroll Street. The meeting was the first of a series of public planning forums called Bridging Gowanus convened by local politicians about the ongoing development of and cleanup plan for Gowanus. The Pratt Center for Community Development moderated and presented findings from previous invitation-only meetings held over the summer.

City Council Member Brad Lander remarked that with the EPA’s Record of Decision for the Gowanus Canal Superfund Site and the impending transition at City Hall, it’s an important moment for the community to come together and establish a shared vision for the infrastructure of the low-lying and industrially polluted Gowanus area before planning begins. The consensus of the crowd was that every effort should be made to preserve the area’s socioeconomic diversity and keep it affordable for the mixed uses (manufacturing, residential, commercial, artistic) that currently exist. A number of local artists in attendance expressed fears of gentrification and said they felt threatened by the diminishing affordability of studio space. In brief, locals called for a rezoning to preserve affordability and Gowanus’ eclectic identity as a community with vibrant street life and activity.

Other issues raised included the need for a permanent protection plan against coastal disasters; it was noted that the current recovery infrastructure is insufficient to handle even regular rain. The group also said another priority is more schools and suitable health care facilities to accommodate the area’s growing residential population. They would also like the canal to be opened up as a recreational public waterway.

A series of followup meetings will be held early in 2014. In the meantime, anyone interested in joining a working group can contact info@BridgingGowanus.org.

Gowanus Residents Meeting to Create Development Plan [Brownstoner]

We spotted a construction fence up at 291 Metropolitan Avenue in Williamsburg, where a garage was demolished in June. DOB records show the owners are planning a five-story apartment building with 27 units. They’ve been approved to build 19,196 square feet of residential space with a little bit of commercial space on the 7,251-square-foot lot. The permits haven’t been issued yet.

Williamsburg Garage to Be Demolished [Brownstoner] GMAP

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A study of the participatory budgeting process that took place in Brooklyn’s District 39 this year revealed that it attracts traditionally disengaged or disadvantaged citizens, reported DNAinfo. “Through about 7,300 city-wide surveys and 82 exit interviews, the Community Development Project at the Urban Justice Center found that participatory budgeting, where community members can decide how to spend $1 million in taxpayer money on neighborhood improvements, attracts low-income, minority and women voters, as well as those disillusioned with the government,” the story said. More specifically, more than 60 percent of participants were women, a third were people of color and almost a quarter reported incomes below $35,000. More than half said they disapprove of how the City conducts business and a third said they rarely vote. The process also provides a way for the disenfranchized to participate in politics. About 600 of the participants are not allowed to vote, either because of age, citizenship or arrests. District 39 is repped by Council Member Brad Lander and includes Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Columbia Waterfront, Gowanus, Park Slope, Windsor Terrace, Kensington, and Borough Park.
Participatory Budgeting Brings in Women and Minority Voters [DNAinfo]
Photo by South Slope News

Turns out not everybody’s happy about the decision to go ahead and build apartments on the north end of Brooklyn Bridge Park on an empty lot at John Street. Local politicians and community members are concerned about flooding in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, reported The New York Daily News. The location and much of the park was submerged under four feet of water during the storm, according to the News. However, the 13-story building will be designed with flood protection in mind, including a raised ground level and mechanicals on a top floor, said park officials. Retail and 110 parking spaces are planned for the ground level. “We now know what a big bad storm can do to Dumbo, and it ain’t pretty,” the Daily News quoted Council Member Steve Levin of Greenpoint as saying. “We need to re-evaluate how we build along the water and this would be a great place to start.” Revenue from building fees and taxes will help go toward park costs. Condo plans for another park location have been criticized as private giveaways of public park resources. Meanwhile, the New York City Council has proposed legislation to require anti-flooding designs in new and renovated buildings.
Local Pols Question Plan to Build Lux Condo in BBP Flood Zone [NY Daily News]
In Sandy’s Wake, City Council Proposes Anti-Flooding Regulations [TRD]
Brooklyn Bridge Park Seeks a Residential Developer [Brownstoner]
Image via BBP

Students in Columbia’s fall Architecture and Urban Design studio picked 12 areas in Brooklyn to explore how the borough can become a “learning city,” adaptable to change, Curbed reported. Spots included Bay Ridge, Atlantic Avenue, East New York and Gowanus. The course asked “Does a city/region learn to better manage its resources? Can a city learn how and where to grow? What are the ways in which a city or region can acquire learning skills, as opposed to reaching a static condition of being ‘smart’ or ‘sustainable’?” A site analysis of Atlantic Avenue from Barclays Center to Broadway Junction found it was on the decline and under-used, with low real estate values and high rates of poverty and childhood obesity and other problems. Recommendations included adaptive reuse and mixed income programming in East New York, with investment there equal in size to the investment made at its city-core counterpart at the other end of Atlantic Avenue: Barclays Center and Atlantic Yards. Click here to see the 12 proposals.
Image from presentation “Spatial Mixology”


Welcome to the Hot Seat, where we interview folks involved in Brooklyn real estate, architecture, development and the like. Introducing Sam Holleran and Clara Amenyo, both involved with the Center for Urban Pedagogy, better known as CUP. Amenyo is a program manager; Holleran is communications coordinator. CUP is a Brooklyn-based nonprofit that uses design and art to improve civic engagement in New York. 
Brownstoner: What neighborhood do you live in, and how’d you end up there?
CUP: CUP lives in the Old American Can Factory right next to the Gowanus Canal — we were, very thankfully, spared any Sandy-related flooding. We were lucky to get a space here, among other individuals and organizations working in different areas of cultural production.

BS: Can you explain how CUP was founded and what its mission is now?
CUP: We’re a nonprofit organization that uses design and art to increase meaningful civic engagement, particularly for historically under-represented communities. CUP projects demystify the urban policy and planning issues that impact our communities, so that more individuals can better participate in shaping them. We believe that increasing understanding of how these systems work is the first step to better and more diverse community participation.

CUP projects are collaborations of art and design professionals, community-based advocates and policymakers, and our staff. Together we take on complex issues—from the juvenile justice system to zoning law to food access—and break them down into simple, accessible, visual explanations. The tools we create are used by organizers and educators all over New York City and beyond to help their constituents better advocate for their own community needs.

After the jump, how CUP picks its initiatives, its work with students, and what they’re doing in Brooklyn right now… (more…)

Last night the Fulton Area Business Alliance, along with the architects at Mapos and AB Architekten, unveiled the Fulton Street Vision Plan. Basically it’s a wide-ranging, large scale proposal for Fort Greene and Clinton Hill based on previous community input meetings. As Phillip Kellog of FAB explained, “We want to focus on the overall vision to inspire ideas of what’s possible on Fulton.” The architects had gathered that residents desired to keep a “clear identity” on separate areas of Fulton Street — the area around BAM should remain denser, more “urban,” while areas around Clinton Hill should still feel residential. There was also concern over the streetscape as well as tying together the Fulton Street “triangles.” On a small scale, proposals included planters, benches, bioswales, public artwork and bike racks. Large-scale proposals included building up empty lots with developments or community gardens, additional street paving, and reworking the parks to make them more accessible. The architects proposed adding an open space with sitting areas and kiosks to the BAM Triangle Park, as well as taking down the barriers on the sidewalk around Cuyler Gore Park and opening it up to the nearby subway entrance. They also proposed a dog run around Adelphi Street, increased greenery at the Putnam Triangle, and a possible community garden near the Greene Hill Food Co-Op. There were tons of ideas to consider, and FAB will be accepting more community input to see what sticks. The proposals will be made available online, and you can see see them in person and speak with the architects this Saturday at Fowler Square from 11 am to 3 pm and Sunday at the Putnam Triangle from noon to 4 pm. Click through for a few more images from the evening.
Closing Bell: Fulton Street Vision Plan [Brownstoner] (more…)


The Brooklyn Tech Triangle Coalition is creating a master plan to make Brooklyn as welcoming as possible to tech companies. First order of business: The coalition picked WXY Architecture + Urban Design to direct the team of architecture, construction, engineering and policy firms that will design the master plan, the coalition announced yesterday. Technology employment in Brooklyn is expected to nearly double in the next three years, according to a story in The Real Deal. Right now, the Brooklyn Tech Triangle, which covers Downtown Brooklyn, Dumbo and the Navy Yard, employs about 9,600 people in tech and produces $3.1 billion, according to a study by the coalition. The master plan will look at how to make real estate, transportation and other necessities more appealing to technology tenants. Above, WXY’s design for Greenpoint’s Transmitter Park.
Brooklyn’s Tech Triangle Group Chooses WXY to Spearhead Infrastructure Plan [TRD]
Photo by Inhabitat

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz yesterday called for a rule change that would decrease car parking requirements for market-rate buildings downtown while increasing bicycle parking. At the same time, he also recommended more affordable housing in the area as well as a study to encourage developers to build for seniors.
More Details on Downtown Parking Revisions [Brownstoner]
Parking Minimums May Be Cut Downtown  [Brownstoner]


The first public hearing about the first residential building at Atlantic Yards (known as B2) was sparsely attended earlier this week, with not a single board member in attendance. And judging from the post on Atlantic Yards Report yesterday, there are still more unknowns than knowns about the project. As you may recall, Forest City Ratner is on the hook to build 363 apartments in the 32-story tower, 50 percent of them subsidized across five income levels. What we still don’t know is how big the units will be or what they will rent for; nor do we know much about the financing or subsidies. Watchers from City Councilwoman Tish James to the Atlantic Yards Report note the plans ignore the city’s pressing need for units for large low-income families, skewing heavily toward studios and one bedrooms instead. Given that pricing is based on median income in the area (which is rising) some of the units may end up not being that affordable after all. As for size, Atlantic Yards Report speculates based on the New York City Housing Development Corporation’s standards that they’ll be small — 400 square feet for studios, 575 square feet for one bedrooms, and 775 square feet for two bedrooms. So much for closet space. As usual, Atlantic Yards Report has exhaustive coverage, so check it out for more info.
A Confounding Hearing on First Atlantic Yards Tower [AYR]