Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Brad Lander's "Bridging Gowanus:" Semantics or Some Antics??

As many of you already know, Brad Lander's office has recently sent out via a wide email net, the "next step" in the reshaping of our neighborhood.

OUR neighborhood?? This is a Bridging Gowanus survey!--as many of you may cry....What does this have to do with us??

The answer is simple....EVERYTHING.

Realtors and developers may have discovered  some time ago that renaming places and branding certain streets within an area as one thing or another---or even calling them different names, was a great marketing tool. 

Truthfully, some of us liked it too. Suddenly there we were on "Cool in Your Code" or maybe our street or  business featured on that show that takes place on a stoop. Suddenly, it was very important to define EXACTLY what "area" our street was part of.... what absolute and utter nonsense.

Let's take a human  look at what a community really is. Communities are made up of people, businesses and homes that share things in common. Gowanus, Carroll Gardens, BoCoco, Cobble Hill are all just names. WE are the ones that are sharing common spaces, common places, common experiences.

If you have any doubts about this, just take a look around you. Carroll Gardens and Gownaus, especially, share all of the following spaces, services and facilities---transportation, education, sanitation, recreation, religious observation, shopping and the very streets we walk on each and every day.

We are all affected when the train and bus service is inadequate.
We are all affected when there is not enough room in our schools for our children and grandchildren.
We are all affected when our streets are perpetually littered with large household refuse because of poorly considered sanitation protocol.
We are all entitled to a generous amount of green, open, recreational spaces that offer the opportunity for year round diversity of activities----including  educational programs--and we all suffer together when these needs are unmet.
And when our streets flood and our friends and neighbors basements and/or homes are imperiled, or our quality of life is endangered--we are all in trouble, together.

So let's get back to the "Survey". The Bridging Gowanus site has a little button on top labeled, 'WEIGH IN"---this is not an accident since your opportunity to weigh in can hardly be called a survey at all. In fact, the definition of the word, "survey", is to examine or look at comprehensively; to inspect carefully, to scrutinize.

Indeed, this is NO SURVEY. Instead you are expected to respond to a series of suggestions with either a + or - response. Unfortunately, you are only allowed three (3) plusses (+) and one (1) minus (-) and you cannot enter a minus (-) anywhere unless you also enter at least one (1) plus (+) somewhere. Did I mention that there are many categories and pages and ideas lumped together and  that you are restricted to use only your pre-determined (by them) amount of plusses and minuses?

Are you confused yet? That's  too bad because before you even can begin you must click on the 'UNDERSTOOD" button, which explains the rules before you even see the entire format. To be fair, you are able to go back and forth and re-read the instructions, etc and there are reminders as you proceed that you are either plus or minus deficient/excessive.

We didn't know we would need such deep boots to wade through this and we quickly got  stuck in the muck.  And frankly, given the limited choices and the deliberately constrictive mode of responding, we were wary of submitting anything at all. So, we didn't.

Did we mention that it must be submitted by Sept 15th?? Wouldn't it allow for a broader response if its circulation and expiration dates were during the time of the year when most people are actually here to weigh in? Labor Day is the 5th. Neighbors returning from summer holidays are often very busy the first few weeks of September when so many things are beginning again once the summer is over. Sure, you can argue that an online survey allows you to participate no matter where you are, but is it really fair to distribute an exercise as convoluted, confusing and time consuming as this and expect people who are on vacation to respond?

What is the reason that the cut off date cannot be extended till the end of October, November or even December? This is so important--what's the rush?

Why wouldn't Brad, OUR Representative, want the most thoughtfully considered responses possible? 

Brad--you are either including the community in this process---or you are not. You do not get to have it both ways....

We have some questions and comments for you regarding these so-called "overreaching goals"-- below is just a small sampling:

Why is it necessary to build multi-story housing along the banks of the Canal when the Canal is the epicenter of the flood zone? 

Why are there no suggestions regarding a broader area of manufacturing/work/living spaces? 
The "weigh-in" talks about "strengthening"  manufacturing but does not talk about including, indeed, expanding more manufacturing and artist living space along with it.

Haven't we learned that people who live and work in the same place have a deeper investment in the area and enrich the fabric of the entire community?

Why are we stacking people up vertically to live cheek by jowl ahead of the necessary and thoughtful improvements to infrastructure when we know that it will not reap the best result? 

We have a chance here to try something genuinely unique, practical and exciting; Not to mention less taxing on our current infrastructure which we all know darn well will never catch up with Brad's plan!

Why is it necessary to add more and more stories to residential buildings in order for the CIty of New York to provide adequate transportation, education, sanitation, and recreational facilities to the people that are already here?

How does increasing an already densely populated area accomplish what cannot be accomplished now? The City of New York is not going to do any better---the only thing besides the population that will expand will be the inadequacies.

Why is it necessary for developers who are in the business of making money on the development that they create-- to receive tax abatements? Most times, they do not live here. They do not ultimately deal with the effects of their developments on the community. As a friend of ours in the construction business once told us, "...the cellar, the first floor and roof are your real costs--every single story you add to that is more and more gravy...".Yet whether their product(s) impact the neighborhood positively or negatively--they are given extended relief from paying property taxes.

Where is OUR relief? We are, after all, the ones who put up with the noise, the dirt the grime the inconveniences of their construction phases. And quite often, there are negative effects on the neighboring homes and businesses once their projects are complete. In spite of this--- good, bad or indifferent, our property taxes go up every year.

There is something wrong with that. Rising home values and our rising property taxes in our community tell me that we are more than helping to support NYC. The "some is good, more is better" attitude is sometimes true--and when it comes to money, let's be honest--its real.. But the "more and more" should not  have to come from us alone---those who wish to make money here should be willing to pay what it takes- or there is no deal. 

You would think someone who is supposed to represent US would be the most interested in US......It appears however, as though it's Brad's Plan's Way or the Highway-

We have provided a link here to the "survey/weigh-in":  LINK  No matter what you call it or how you frame it---whether you punch in plusses and minuses with whole hearted fervor or mild amusement---understand that this "exercise", just like the earlier phase of the Bridging Gowanus process, is skewed to obtain a desired result and it is  going to be used to justify that result.

We suggest that you put your hip boots on--you might want to bring along a shovel too.

CG CORD/Carroll Gardens Coalition for Respectful Development.
Write to us at

For More Info SEE:

Proposal for Taller Buildings in Gowanus Gets Mixed Reaction From Locals

Brad Lander and His "Trade Off" Urban Planning for Gowanus

Take Back Gowanus Challenges Brad Lander's Shared Values

The Brian Lehrer Show:  Taking Back the Gowanus Canal
WNYC story about Gowanus that aired recently 
Of Councilman Brad Lander, Pratt Center for Community Development, and the Final Bridging Gowanus Meeting Next Monday

Gowanus Residents Debate Future of Area

Disparate Factions Unite to Take Back Gowanus From Overdevelopment


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........