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Working Group 02



Download the meeting handout for Social and Cultural Infrastructure PDF (318 KB)

Ongoing Challenges

  • Limited number of school seats, especially for primary grades
  • Inadequate open, accessible green space
  • Lack of affordable indoor community spaces
  • Lack of transit and connectivity

List of Ideas

Many of the challenges discussed and their potential solutions are interconnected:

  • New school space could alleviate existing overcrowding and become a community asset
  • New school space could also provide workforce development opportunities through partnerships with local businesses
  • Parks could also serve as venues for community gatherings, art installations, and performances

Preserve and improve access to existing open spaces, including the canal and its wetlands; explore creating a Conservation District or Gowanus Canal Land Trust.

Create new open spaces that are vibrant and usable, using design guidelines that ensure community needs are met; require active streetscapes and do not permit on the ground floor.

Preserve the neighborhood’s character by:

  • Providing incentives to preserve historically significant buildings, as well as their use
  • Creating preservation regulations that accommodate reactivating historic buildings, in addition to incorporating flood mitigations
  • Preserving the low-scale nature of the neighborhood and access to the open sky

Require that developers of new housing provide need infrastructure first.

Improve access to information technology, especially high-speed internet and cell phone service

Restore bus routes that crossed the canal

A number of ideas were proposed for the Public Place site:

  • Cultural, performing arts, and educational spaces for the community
  • A new comprehensive high school
  • Baseball fields, wetlands, and other open space instead of housing


  1. Katia Kelly
    January 24, 2014

    The notes for this committee leave out the specific proposal made to return Public Place at Smith Street between 5th Street and Huntington to the community as park land instead of building a 770 unit housing development. Please correct the oversight.

    • Catherine Zinnel
      January 24, 2014

      Hi Katia: I will ask our web manager to add “instead of housing” to the last bullet about Public Place.

  2. Louis Kleinman
    January 24, 2014

    Mass transit should include integration of ferry service for economic, recreational, and emergency reasons.

  3. Owen Foote
    January 24, 2014

    Katia suggest that housing be removed from Public Place but I don’t think there was discussion or consensus as there was another working group to discuss housing needs. In addition, one or two people in the groups thought the neighborhood should not be redeveloped at all and the Gowanus neighborhood should be returned to a marshland but the group felt it worthwhile to discuss plans in anticipation of redevelopment and to focus on Social & Cultural concerns. Louis, thanks for ferry plug but until Gowanus becomes a tourist destination, our taxes probably can’t finance a ferry.

    Please add the repeated request from the Gowanus Dredgers that new development include landing opportunities. If a canoeist were to break a finger while canoeing from Red Hook’s Valentino Pier to Gowanus, he/she may need to paddle over 3 miles before finding a safe exit at 2nd St. and as a result of that time, the injury may worsen so now surgery may be required. Safe exits should be afforded every 200 feet – especially considering the poor water quality. Boathouse or boat building use would also be an excellent social & cultural use (see below).

    A potential miss in the notes is that I thought there was consensus around a demand for vibrant, active ground floor uses. Whole Foods was discussed as a case study and while some felt the faux brick style, welcoming storefront, canal-side restaurant and environmentally sustainable initiatives are a welcome addition, the street level presence (from the sidewalk – not their parking lot) could have added to our Gowanus community.

    The group felt that the parking at grade could have been avoided and that future developments could be prohibited (limited) from locating parking or storage at sidewalk or esplanade level. The group also felt that one entry/exit from and interior parking lot was poor urban design and disappointing store frontage along 3rd and 3rd is detrimental to that critical intersection.

    It was suggested that since residential is prohibited within the flood zone (sidewalk and esplanade) level, and if new planning limits parking and storage in that space [Greenpoint waterfront zoning was noted as an example], such a restriction could present an unique opportunity for manufacturers, social, recreational and cultural uses to potentially partner with developers to occupy such frontage and ensure a vibrant active street front and shoreline. There seemed to be consensus that walking by a “makers collective” of galleries, stores or manufacturers to get to the new esplanade would have been more welcoming than walking through a sea of parking.

    I think the group had a strong suggestion to build a new pre-K through 8th grade school to accommodate current need and anticipated population growth and to reduce overcrowding of current schools. So long as such facilities are flood resilient, they could be an appropriate use within the flood zone.


  4. Paul Tainsh
    January 24, 2014

    Given scarcity of public funding, school could be created using community school model, co-locating social and cultural services in the same building and keeping the building open evenings and weekends. Also, other multi-agency buildings could be renovated providing shared facilites for many different non-profit organizations.

    While park space is sorely needed, green ways might provide green space, limited recreation space, but also enhance connectivity across the canal and with surrounding neighborhoods. They could possibly accommodate bike paths as well as nched recreation areas. Current businesses that have provided some access to the canal should get incentives to green and connect areas. Small informal gathering places, if located and designed well, are just as important social spaces as big green spaces for recreation.