Thursday, March 20, 2014

Gowanus Canal Preservation Controversy!

Hello from CORD!

Please read this wonderful response to the Gowanus Canal Preservation Controversy and respond to the mayor  -  and send to your circle of friends and other organizations that will support FROGG and the Historic Designation for Gowanus.
See sample letter (yellow highlights) at the bottom.

March 2014, Volume 11, Number 2 

Property Owners Agitate to Prevent Economic Development in Gowanus
National Packing Box Facotry 543 Union Street 
In an almost unprecedented move, two groups - the Gowanus Alliance and the Gowanus Canal Community Development Corporation - are protesting the proposed listing of the Gowanus Canal Historic District on the New York State and National Register of Historic Places. The community-driven campaign to  place the area on the Register in recognition of its importance to the history and development of New York City, its archaeological resources and its distinctive collection of vernacular commercial and residential architecture. The  Friends and Residents of Greater Gowanus (FROGG) began their campaign to have the area recognized for its historic importance almost ten years ago and, as part of the environmental investigation around the proposed clean-up of the Canal, the NYS Office of Historic Preservation declared the area eligible for National Register listing in 2006. In 2011, HDC chose Gowanus as one of our "Six to Celebrate" and supported their successful application for a $7,500 grant from the Preservation League of New York Stateto help pay for the necessary research for the nomination. The research led to a nomination which was scheduled to be voted upon by the State Review Board on March 13. However, the State Historic Preservation Office was contacted by New York City's Law Department which requested a postponement of the vote for 60 days while city officials evaluated the proposal. Under state law, the City has a right to request this delay, but only has limited authority to modify the details of the proposal. We were alerted to the City's request earlier this week with the rationale that notice of the listing worked its way very slowly to the various city agencies who deal with the area, so they needed additional time - an excuse made somewhat plausible by the change in administration but still disturbing given the outreach and  broad public awareness of this proposal.
Much more disturbing is the push against the listing by the two organizations. As quoted in the Daily News:
"We don't think it's a progressive way of looking at Gowanus," said Paul Basile, the founder of the Gowanus Alliance, who owns several one-story commercial warehouses on Baltic and Seventh Sts. that fall within the proposed district lines. "This would severely limit future development and kill job growth," said Bill Appel of the Gowanus Canal Community Development Corp., which delivered a joint letter to hundreds of area property owners earlier this month urging them to reject the proposal. On the Gowanus Alliance's website, a letter is posted
which states "this proposed district could impose significant costs, complications, and restrictions on development, construction, renovation, maintenance and the operation of our properties". It goes on to state that SHPO approval will be required for permits such as shoreline stabilization permits, NYS Housing financing or HUD funding, which will "inflict costly, undue burdens on the affected property owners".
These comments do not make sense. The area was declared eligible for the National Register in 2006, which means that for the past 8 years, the State Historic Preservation Office has been reviewing and commenting on any permits which involve state or federal government actions or funds. The regulatory "burden" - what little there is - has been in place for 8 years. The sole change that listing the district on the Register would be to make it possible for projects in the district to apply for NY State and Federal tax credits for rehabilitative work. That's it. It is entirely voluntary - listing on the Register does not place private development under any kind of regulation. It encourages investment and economic development with tax incentives. But that is only a by-product of the listing. The real purpose of listing on the National Register is to acknowledge and raise awareness of the importance of a site to the history of our country, to change the conversation from "the notoriously polluted Gowanus" to "the canal which built Brooklyn". It seems that some people are happier with deriding and demeaning the neighborhood than celebrating it. Let's not let their bleak vision triumph. 

Please contact Mayor Bill de Blasio and tell him to let the State Review Board vote on the Gowanus Canal Historic District.

Tell him to:

Please permit the NYS Review Board to vote on the Gowanus Canal Historic District. Listing the area on the National Register of Historic Places will only encourage economic development and investment in the neighborhood. This is a community-driven plan which is business and development friendly, and lifts the community up by acknowledging the Canal's importance in the development of our city. There are no new regulations or requirements which will be triggered by this designation, only the possibility of incentives to development.

(you have a maximum of 300 words)


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........