Gowanus rezoning gets green light

Judge rules de Blasio administration can start the public review

New York /
Apr.April 19, 2021 01:23 PM
City Planning Commissioner Chair Marisa Lago (Getty, Dept. of City Planning)

City Planning Commission Chair Marisa Lago (Getty, Dept. of City Planning)

UPDATED, April 19, 2021, 4:30 p.m.: The Gowanus rezoning is a go.

Judge Katherine Levine on Monday agreed to lift a temporary restraining order, allowing the proposal to enter the city’s seven-month approval process.

The City Planning Commission certified the neighborhood rezoning application Monday afternoon, officially kicking off the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure. City Planning Chair Marisa Lago called the move a “giant step closer” to building a more “inclusive” and “green future” for the neighborhood.

“The Gowanus plan is an antidote to the status quo, a status quo that has long put wealthy, amenity-rich neighborhoods under glass and out-of-reach for too many New Yorkers,” she said.

The move comes three months after the state judge halted the rezoning in response to a lawsuit by community groups. Their complaint accused City Planning of not properly notifying the public of its intention to start the rezoning process and claimed that Ulurp hearings must be in-person under city law.

As a condition of the rezoning moving forward, Brooklyn Community Boards 6 and 2 have agreed to a joint hearing, with one outdoor location held simultaneously with virtual proceedings, according to an attorney on the case.

“The effort to prevent public participation in the guise of increasing public participation has failed,” declared Ken Fisher, who represents a community that intervened in support of the rezoning moving forward.

“The judge properly concluded that she could not block a virtual hearing and that she couldn’t hold the process up any longer,” the attorney said. “She will order the city to have an in-person location in addition for people who don’t have Internet service, but they are well on their way to figuring out the logistics.”

The Department of City Planning had announced Friday that Levine might lift the restraining order as soon as Monday. That angered Voice of Gowanus, one of the groups fighting the rezoning, which said the administration “shamefully opted to divulge details of confidential settlement discussions.”

In a statement on Monday, an attorney for the group noted that the judge’s order is “provisional and is contingent upon the city meeting certain requirements.”

“The court proceeding continues, and Voice of Gowanus will not waver in its fight on behalf of the community to ensure there is increased public participation, access and transparency at any Ulurp public hearings on the controversial Gowanus rezoning plan,” said Jason Zakai, an attorney for the group.

To be sure, Voice of Gowanus is also trying to stop the rezoning itself, which it calls “enormous, socially irresponsible, extremely expensive, unjust and developer-led.”

The 80-block rezoning would allow for the construction of 8,000 new apartments, of which 3,000 would be set aside as affordable. The administration has not yet committed funding for upgrades to public housing complexes in the neighborhood, which local City Council members have indicated are necessary for them to approve the new zoning.

Because the review process takes seven months, any further delay could push its conclusion beyond the end of the de Blasio administration and the tenure of the two City Council members, Brad Lander and Steve Levin, who collectively control its fate.

The lifting of the restraining order means the rezoning review can proceed while the lawsuit plays out. Whatever the trial-court judge decides is likely to be appealed, but supporters of the rezoning saw the delay as the main threat to it.





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