For years, cleaning up the Gowanus Canal has been a top priority for our community. With the imminent release of EPA’s Record of Decision for the Superfund process, we are moving genuinely closer to a cleaner canal.
This is an important moment for Gowanus — and one we need to build upon. The Superfund process is a major step to a cleaner community, but there is much more that needs to be done.
Now is therefore the time to move forward, with everyone at the table, to develop a comprehensive plan for the infrastructure and land use regulations needed for a safe, vibrant, and sustainable Gowanus.
The goals of Bridging Gowanus are:
- Bring community stakeholders together to build as much consensus as we can around a long-term vision for the Gowanus Canal area
- Identify broadly-shared community goals
- Create a space for honest conversation about different viewpoints
- Develop the outlines of a comprehensive, community-based infrastructure & land-use plan for a safe, vibrant, and sustainable Gowanus area
- Shape the next NYC mayoral administration’s thinking about the Gowanus Canal
ABOUT THE PROCESS
For years, cleaning up the Gowanus Canal has been a top priority for our community. With the imminent release of EPA’s Record of Decision for the Superfund process, we are moving genuinely closer to a cleaner canal. So many leaders in our community have worked tirelessly – along with elected and appointed officials and community groups – to get to this point.
This is an important moment for Gowanus — and one we need to build upon. The Superfund process is a major step to a cleaner community, but there is much more that needs to be done. As made painfully clear during Hurricane Sandy, we need to make hard decisions about public investment in sustainable infrastructure and flood mitigation measures to protect our neighborhoods. We need to support manufacturing uses that have historically anchored Gowanus, as well as newer arts-oriented businesses in the neighborhood. Additionally, as demonstrated by the project put forth by the Lightstone Group, there is mounting development pressure.
In the absence of a more unified community vision, we could easily face a “zoning-only” agenda, one that does not preserve and strengthen what we value about the neighborhood, or include the infrastructure, planning, and amenities necessary for a sustainable future. However, we believe that the upcoming transition at City Hall – with a new Mayor and City Planning Commission – presents an opportunity for a better outcome.
Now is the time to move forward, with everyone at the table, to develop a comprehensive plan for the infrastructure and land use regulations needed for a safe, vibrant, and sustainable Canal area. We are eager to take this chance to develop and put forth a united vision that could serve as an innovative model for sustainable, low-lying, vibrant, mixed-use urban areas on a warming planet. Community stakeholders – with diverse views – must shape that vision together.
We recognize that reaching consensus around a comprehensive plan that balances a range of environmental, economic, and community needs will not be easy. Stakeholders have many different ideas for what they want to see along and around the Canal. We will need to work through many open questions, including but not limited to:
- What sort of flood protection investments and regulations are needed?
- How can we build on the Canal cleanup to make the Gowanus area a model of sustainability?
- What mix of uses should be allowed? What mechanisms are needed to ensure a stable mix?
- What infrastructure and regulation is needed to preserve and strengthen manufacturing, industrial, and artisan uses?
- Are there areas where residential development should be allowed? If so, at what scale? With what provisions for design, sustainability, and open space? What level of affordability should be required?
- What infrastructure and amenities are necessary for the long-term vitality of the community?
A comprehensive plan for Gowanus must include the infrastructure and amenities necessary for the area to thrive, and outline how they will be paid for. We will need continued investments to further improve water quality and reduce CSO discharges. Questions remain about the height and design of bulkheads, and opportunities for soft shorelines. Beyond the cleanup, we know that both the schools & sewers are already over-capacity. The Gowanus future that many want will cost real money (beyond the estimated $500 million to be paid by responsible parties under the Proposed Superfund Plan). We need a planning process that identifies, prioritizes, and secures the resources needed for a sustainable future.