Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Toll Brothers Testimony at the City Planning Hearing

The following testimony was presented last week at the City Planning Hearing for Toll Brothers (see our earlier post below)

More testimony to come in the days ahead....


Good Morning. My name is Rita Miller. I am a third generation, lifelong Carroll Gardens resident and a co-founder of CORD, the Carroll Gardens Coalition for Respectful Development.

Just months ago, many people, who are here today, including myself were present for the Toll Brothers scoping hearing. Then, there was talk of a huge population increase over the next decade or two— construction was booming, neighborhoods were being irrevocably changed—. Practically everyone you met was a developer or looking to become one.

This project, seeking a rezoning green light ahead of the much larger Gowanus rezoning, presented varied, legitimate concerns to its potential neighbors.

Allowing this project to move ahead of the overall rezoning seemed premature, and inherently, unfair.

The overall scale of the project prompted the creative alternate plan presented by architects John Hatheway and Chris McVoy.

This area, an environmentally, geographically complex, unique and sensitive location, led some to question the wisdom of a rezoning request to accomodate a plan which required the engineering and construction of a hill in a flood plain, just so that towers could be built on top of it.

Was this plan really the best way to utilize this wetland area?

Was looking at this as an isolated project truly the optimum method for City Planning to serve both the current and future residents of the Gowanus and the surrounding impacted communities?

During the months that followed that scoping hearing, we residents, were repeatedly told that this project was the only way the canal was finally going to be cleaned. The mere presence of the potential residents of this project was somehow going to accomplish something that had completely eluded our neighborhood for my and my father’s entire lifetime, and as a bonus, the comparatively small amount of re- routed rainwater falling upon the Toll property would significantly ease the burden on the cso’s .Wow!

Some of my Gowanus neighbors expressed an expectation of more frequent basement flooding instead.

Then, the world changed. Just yesterday, a Metro NY article addressed the fact that there may not actually be so many people coming to New York City after all. With history’s statistics as our teacher and a failing economy as our companion, population growth and housing needs will not reach previously expected predictions.

Today, construction is down, credit is tough to get, many projects are halted. Some though completed, are sitting there empty.

CORD asks you to look at this situation as an opportunity to incorporate the Toll project into the larger Gowanus picture…to reassess this rezoning proposal and the overall plan within that context.

When it is looked at as one component of the larger rezoning, does permitting the altering of the lay of the land to accommodate this one development really seem like the wisest, most responsible use of this particular piece of property?

Please use this time to look at what we have, what we really need, examine the feasibility of what is desired and consider what we can and cannot reasonably expect.

Thank you.

Rita Miller


With the "Protect Our Homes" petition, CORD was formed in May, 2007. This petition arose as an overwhelmingly negative response to the coming of the over-sized 360 Smith Street Development at the corner of Smith Street and Second Place (Aka Oliver House; aka 131 Second Place). This petition, which had well over three thousand signatures, led to a new zoning text amendment in summer of 2008.

To: Our Elected Officials, Community Leaders, The MTA:
(MAY, 2007)

We the undersigned Carroll Gardens homeowners and residents, are appalled by the "as of right" ruling which allows owners and developers to erect buildings in our neighborhood with no regard to the impact they will present to our quality of life and the value of our homes........