On March 20, 2014, over 100 people filled the Wyckoff Gardens Community Center to participate in the second in a series of Bridging Gowanus community planning meetings.
POSTERS FROM THE MEETING
HYDROLOGY STUDY AND FLOOD MANAGEMENT
After Hurricane Sandy Mayor Bloomberg issued an executive order that waived zoning-based height restrictions (in a limited fashion) so that higher flood standards could be met more easily during the rebuilding process. Property owners can achieve this elevation in a number of ways:
• Elevating a building on stilts
• Creating a higher foundation
• Re-grading a site
Piecemeal re-grading of development sites could negatively affect surrounding properties during future flood events. Floodwater may be pushed to nearby properties and also impede drainage from properties further inland. A Hydrology Study would investigate the potential for adverse impacts on surrounding properties resulting from elevated properties within flood zones.
In the 2013 SIRR (Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency) plan, the City called for the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers to create an implementation and initial design plan for a local storm surge barrier (flood gates). If warranted, Federal funding could pay for such a barrier at the mouth of the Gowanus Canal that would provide significant protection during future major rain events.
High-Level Storm Sewers
This is one strategy for alleviating pressure on the combined sewer system and limiting Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) events. These sewers are designed to capture 50% of rainfall and divert it directly into waterways like the Gowanus Canal through permitted outlets, reducing the volume of flows that pass through sewage treatment plants and the combined sewer system. They also reduce street flooding in problematic areas.
Environmental Infrastructure AND Job Creation
COORDINATED CLEAN-UP WITH GREEN JOBS
Between the Canal’s Superfund designation, the contaminated parcels of land in need of remediation, and the area’s vulnerability to flooding, the Gowanus neighborhood is the subject of several distinct but related environmental and remediation challenges. In order to protect public health and efficiently address these inter-connected challenges,
a coordinated plan for all clean-up activities should be created. A coordinated clean-up plan should also connect to workforce development and include, but not be limited to, the following efforts:
• Superfund Cleanup, including retention tanks
• Manufactured Gas Plants Cleanup (Citizens, Fulton, Metropolitan)
• Flushing Tunnel/Pump Reactivation
• High-Level Storm Sewers (Separated Storm Sewers)
• Green Infrastructure
• Coastal Protections (Storm Surge Barriers, Flood Gates)
Job and Workforce Development
Planned resiliency and remediation initiatives that will soon be implemented in Gowanus present a chance to turn intense environmental challenges into local opportunities for job creation and workforce development. A comprehensive program to train and connect local job-seekers to the types of employment that these initiatives will create will be needed to realize this opportunity for green jobs. Environmental contractors, local workforce development organizations, and the City will have to coordinate efforts to ensure that the new temporary and permanent jobs that come online have a genuine chance of going to local residents.
Open Space and Public Access
An exciting opportunity for the future of the Gowanus neighborhood is a “greenscape” that would enable people to connect to the Canal’s shoreline. People would be able to get around on this network that would interconnect existing open spaces with new ones. These new open spaces would serve several purposes by using green infrastructure – plantings, trees, and natural landscape features – to not only beautify and provide new spaces for people to enjoy but to be a stormwater management mechanism. This means less water runoff during light and heavier rainstorms which leads to less sewage reaching the canal.
This vision could also include other features like additional bike lanes and pedestrian bridges to promote greater connectivity within Gowanus and its adjacent neighborhoods. Also, as many people have already demonstrated in Gowanus, public art programming (visual and performance-based) could be readily implemented in the new open spaces.
BRING BACK THE BUS
In 2010, MTA service cuts included the elimination of the B71 bus line that connected Gowanus to Carroll Gardens and Cobble Hill to the West and Park Slope, Prospect Heights, and Crown Heights to the East. Four years later, community support for reinstating the bus line remains strong among diverse segments of the population.
Social and Cultural Infrastructure
Gowanus faces a serious shortage of public school seats for local students. The School Construction Authority’s Capital Plan for 2014–2019 identified a need for 4,000 seats in District 15, where much of Gowanus is located. At the same time, affordable space for community-oriented programs is also in short supply. New school facilities need to be built to accommodate the neighborhood’s current (and future) population of school children, and this need presents an opportunity to simultaneously meet other community goals.
The concept of a flexible, or “Super,” school space that could accommodate other users from the community during evenings, weekends, and Summers should be explored. Local residents and workers could use classroom and non-classroom spaces like the auditorium, gym, and library for a wide range of uses: adult education, art and cultural performances, athletics, meeting space for community groups, etc.
Social and Cultural Infrastructure
DEDICATED ARTS CENTERS
Gowanus has thriving arts and creative communities, and they should be preserved and strengthened into the future. A key aspect of this goal is securing permanent, affordable space: for people to create/produce art, to exhibit art, and to gather as an artistic community. Incentives for renovating underutilized spaces and historic structures will be critical for realizing the goal of creating dedicated arts centers. Real estate models for developing affordable work/studio spaces (and possibly live-work spaces) could be an important tool for achieving this vision.
Strengthening the Mix of Uses
Gowanus has long had areas that are mixed in use, character, and physical qualities, where light industrial uses and housing are compatible and exist close together, even side-by-side. Many local stakeholders, including business owners and residents, value this mix of uses and want to preserve and expand it where appropriate. Achieving a mix of uses can happen in different physical configurations:
Mixed-Use Buildings – Mixed-use can occur within a single building, whereby a light industrial business occupies the lower floor(s) and residential uses are on the upper ones. New financial and development models are needed to encourage the creation of more mixed-use buildings.
Mixed-Use Blocks & Areas – Within a block or across a neighborhood, a rich mix of uses can occur that varies by site and by size but which responds to existing uses, preservation needs, infrastructure and appropriateness.
Stable Mixed-Use Zoning – A mixed-use requirement could be applied to a building, a block, or across a larger geographic district. The City’s existing mixed-use zoning tool (known as “MX”) allows for residential development and does not adequately maintain a balanced mix of light industrial and residential (and/or commercial) uses over time, so new tools and approaches are needed and should be applied in Gowanus.
GOWANUS SPECIAL MANUFACTURING DISTRICT
Gowanus has a long, deep history of being a center for manufacturing, and it stands to continue this historical trend into the future as it is home to productive, job-providing economic activities that serve local, regional and even broader markets. Several industrial sectors are thriving in Gowanus including but not limited to food, furniture, warehousing, and building materials.
A multi-pronged, place-based approach is needed for enhancing land use and economic development policies for preserving and expanding the neighborhood’s industrial base.
This could include:
Stronger industrial land use protection or areas that are intended to remain manufacturing, including zoning prohibitions on hotels, big-box retail, and self-storage facilities.
Infrastructure investments such as broadband internet, road improvements, and loading zones for trucks.
Financial mechanisms and programmatic initiatives such as Industrial Business Improvement Districts, Tax Increment Financing, and sector-based economic development strategies.
Diverse Residential Community
PRESERVING AND CREATING AFFORDABLE HOUSING
Many Gowanus households, including seniors who have lived here for a long time, are facing an affordability challenge that threatens their long-term ability to continue living in the neighborhood. Others wish to move to Gowanus but cannot afford to. Preserving existing affordable housing and creating additional affordable units are keys to maintaining and expanding a socioeconomically diverse residential community. A multi-faceted approach is needed for meeting this important community goal:
Mandatory inclusionary zoning to ensure that all new housing development over a certain size includes units that are permanently affordable to a range of household income levels
Anti-harassment zoning provisions to help current low and moderate-income households stay in their rent-stabilized units
Cross-subsidy programs to facilitate the acquisition and preservation of existing rent-stabilized housing to prevent the permanent elimination of these units
Investing in NYCHA housing to address needed repairs – especially those related to chronic flooding – and enhance resiliency features
MAPS FROM THE MEETING