Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Community's "Take Back Gowanus" vs. Councilman Lander's "Bridging Gowanus"

Hello from CORD!
The Take Back Gowanus meeting held last week on Wednesday, July 9th, 2014 at 7pm at the Green Building, 452 Union Street/Bond exuded passion, concern, knowledge, timely issues, and optimism.

Over 100 people attended this first meeting held at the Green Room and put together by a consortium of neighborhood groups including:  Friends And Residents Of Greater GowanusVoice Of GowanusCarroll Gardens Coalition for Respectful Development, and Save Kentile,

Take Back Gowanus (now called the Gowanus Preservation Society) was created as an alternative to the sterile, scripted, and manipulative "Bridging Gowanus" meetings organized by Councilman Brad Lander in which the constituents of Councilman Lander have been feeling shut out of any meaningful decision making or planning for the future of Gowanus.  Instead the community has been feeling rather coddled by a Councilman who clearly has his own agenda with the Gowanus Canal re-development plan.

“The year-long process was touted as a real chance for community stakeholders to jointly shape a vision for the future of the neighborhood.  In reality, the "Bridging Gowanus" community meetings have been highly curated affairs, seemingly designed to divide stakeholders at small group tables, making a more inclusionary discussion impossible. Facilitators at each table stuck to rigid scripts that seemed expressly designed to get specific comments and a pre-determined outcome.”  (PMFA Link)

On the other hand Take Back Gowanus strove to
“allow the community to engage in a real, honest conversation and to demand a real collaboration between our community and the City of New York.” (PMFA Link)

The result was a Take Back Gowanus meeting that was participatory and thus lively, thought provoking, and even messy at times, as any truly democratic process always is.

We at CORD hope this first meeting is just the beginning of what will be an organized and concerted effort on the part of the community to become a part of the Gowanus decision making process.  In the very near future Councilman Lander will present the community with a plan for the Gowanus that looks unlikely to warm the hearts of many current residents, business owners, and constituents in the Gowanus Area.  The plan for a corridor of high rise residential buildings (likely to be rental units) along the Gowanus looks like a real possibility unless the community can mobilize to stop it.

Among other things the Take Back Gowanus community favors: 
  • maintaining and allowing expansion of manufacturing and business
  • repurposing/reusing current structures 
  • human scale development
  • contextual development to truly BRIDGE the Carroll Gardens and Park Slope neighborhoods 
  • no high rises or topographical changes on the banks of the Gowanus which is also in the flood Zone A and must be evacuated in emergencies.
The only way to prevent such a plan (by Councilam Lander) from occurring is with a concerted and coordinated community effort to stem the tide.  This means real footwork such as demanding a combined hydrological study/ infrastructure analysis be conducted by the proper authorities so that we can assess our current needs and our situation.  

We call  on our electeds to demand a comprehensive study analyzing what it is we are lacking now in the present moment.

  • For example, why is sewage rising in our neighbors' sinks? 
  • What improvements are needed to meet our current situation? 
  • What improvements will be necessary in order to grow? 
  • Only once equipped with this vital information should we move forward. 

A thoughtful analysis of these questions is in order and hopefully the attendees at the meeting last week are up to this task and are ready to dive in to getting some answers!


LINKS to Other "Take Back Gowanus" Stories

The Brian Lehrer Show:  Taking Back the Gowanus Canal
WNYC story about Gowanus that aired recently 

Gowanus Residents Debate Future of Area

Disparate Factions Unite to Take Back Gowanus From Overdevelopment

Take Back Gowanus Challenges Brad Lander's "Shared Values"


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........