The board says its support for the project, which would upzone a large swath of Gowanus, hinges on the city funding nearly $300 million in repairs at the nearby Gowanus and Wyckoff Gardens Houses, while meeting various other conditions.
Brooklyn’s Community Board 6 voted Wednesday in favor of a plan to upzone a large swath of Gowanus, though said that support hinges on the city funding nearly $300 million in repairs at two local public housing complexes while meeting various other conditions.
CB6 voted 28 to 6 to back the city’s proposal to rezone 82 blocks of the low-rise neighborhood to allow for taller residential buildings and the addition of about 8,200 new apartments by 2035. About 3,000 of those units would be reserved for people who earn less than the Area Median Income (AMI), according to the application. The bulk of the proposed rezoning is located within Community District 6 and the community board recommendation marks a first major milestone in the land use review process for a neighborhood overhaul decades in the making.
The board outlined its conditional approval in a 14-page document, explaining that members decided to recommend the project “after years of consideration—through workshops, working groups, public meetings, and formal resolutions—and after careful review of both the proposal and public testimony.”
The Department of City Planning began laying the groundwork for its specific land use application in 2016, six years after scrapping a previous plan and three years after local residents began planning a development framework called “Bridging Gowanus.” Prior efforts to change local zoning for the first time since the 1960s failed to get off the ground.
While the board outlined dozens of conditions, one aspect stood out: funding needed repairs at the Gowanus and Wyckoff Gardens Houses, two public housing campuses affected by decades of disinvestment.
“The Board has long made clear that the Rezoning must be accompanied by a substantial investment in public housing in our community,” the resolution states, adding that the city must also establish a timeframe for completion.
Residents have advocated for any rezoning to include NYCHA fixes at least as far back as 2013, when the “Bridging Gowanus” planning began.
The city’s land use proposal includes three different NYCHA capital plans: A $52 million fund to repair bathrooms in Gowanus Houses without completing work at the Wyckoff Houses; a $40 million project to replace windows in the Gowanus Houses and replace windows and fix the heat at Wyckoff Gardens; and a $40 million initiative to upgrade electricity at both sites, while repairing elevators at the Gowanus Houses.
Councilmember Brad Lander, neighboring Councilmember Stephen Levin and local tenant leaders say the plan must include all of those projects, not just one.
Lander, a proponent of the rezoning, said earlier this month that he will not vote for the final plan without at least $132 million in NYCHA funding—the combined amount of all three city proposals.
“While some issues remain to be addressed, there is a lot of good reason to believe that the Gowanus Neighborhood Rezoning could lead to a more integrated, equitable, and resilient community that retains the creative character we love,” Lander said at a rally earlier this month. “But it cannot achieve this goal if it does not include these crucial improvements to the homes of our neighbors in public housing.”
At a public hearing earlier this month, many residents said they did not support the plan without full funding for the NYCHA repairs, echoing the board’s condition.
Following that hearing, City Hall Spokesperson Mitch Schwartz said the city would fund “priority capital improvements” at the Wyckoff and Gowanus Houses but did not specify the amount of money it would provide.
“We’re absolutely committed to shaping this rezoning to the public’s benefit. That includes working throughout the ULURP process to incorporate priority capital improvements to the NYCHA buildings in the area,” Schwartz said. “We know that’s a critical part of making this neighborhood plan successful.”
In addition to the NYCHA funding, the board Wednesday demanded that the city create a task force to oversee municipal and developer commitments; initiate an independent racial impact study of the effects of the potential rezoning; and create deeply affordable housing through the Mandatory Inclusionary Housing policy’s “Option 3” which forces developers to reserve 20 percent of units for people earning less than 40 percent of AMI — $47,720 for a family of four.
Other conditions include forcing developers to reserve space in new buildings for a mix of arts, cultural and industrial uses, a policy known as the “Gowanus Mix;” assisting an estimated 45 businesses and 600 workers set to be displaced by development; completing rigorous environmental remediation of the region, particularly the Public Place site where the highest of concentration affordable units will rise; and adhering to a review by the federal Environmental Protection Agency — an analysis requested by residents and local lawmakers.
In a tweet Wednesday night, Lander said he considers the conditions “marching orders” from the community as the application approaches a vote in the City Council. First, however, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams will make his advisory recommendation as part of the Universal Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). Adams has 30 days to outline his support or opposition.
In a statement, Department of City Planning spokesperson Joe Marvilli praised the board’s “hard work and constructive engagement.”
“We will review and work to address their conditions and look forward to continuing to advance this plan for a more affordable, green and resilient Gowanus,” he added.
Not everyone is on board with the rezoning, however.
A group of local residents known as Voice of Gowanus has steadfastly opposed the plan, which they say will permanently alter the character of the neighborhood without creating enough truly affordable housing or adequately cleaning up the toxic soil and the polluted canal that courses through the community.
“Community board members are being asked to make a huge decision to transform Gowanus in a way that will make it unrecognizable in a few years,” said Voice of Gowanus member Debbie Stoller at a public hearing on the plan earlier this month. “Hudson Yards is 28 acres. The Gowanus rezone encompasses 110 acres … We will end up as one of the neighborhoods that’s the tallest and densest in the borough.”
Brooklyn’s Community Board 2, which represents a sliver of the area included in the city’s rezoning application, opposed the project in a vote earlier this month.
“I feel like the people who need housing can’t get it but we keep talking about ‘affordable.’ ‘Affordable.’ It is not affordable. Now you’re building something on a contaminated canal. It’s not right,” said Land Use Committee Member Esther Blount during a committee meeting ahead of CB2’s vote.