WATCH: David Von Spreckelsen on the problem with ultra-luxury, early Gowanus woes and where Toll is headed next

In 2009, executives from Toll Brothers City Living gathered to celebrate a hard-fought rezoning in Gowanus — the culmination of a five-year push that would finally pave way for a planned 500-unit development. In the middle of the festivities, however, they got word the canal was being declared a Superfund site, recalled David Von Spreckelsen, president of City Living’s New York division.

The party turned into a wake, he said, and soon after the luxury homebuilder abandoned plans for the project.

“I started reading up on it, and I saw that other waterways that had this kind of a designation where you had multiple property owners along the water, and it was complicated, that it could take 20 years before the clean up was even commenced,” Spreckelsen said during a recent studio interview with The Real Deal’s E.B. Solomont. “So, it’s ten years. And the cleanup is just starting.”

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Despite the early road bump, the publicly-traded homebuilder — which has a market cap of $5.6 billion — currently has eight active projects with a total of 750 condos in New York City.

In recent years, as competitors have flocked toward ultra-luxury projects in Manhattan, Toll has gone in the opposite direction to target the so-called affordable luxury category, said Von Spreckelsn, who joined the company in 2004 to lead its push into New York.

During the second quarter, the City Living division inked 65 contracts valued at $97.1 million, or an average of $1.49 million per unit. Current projects include 77 Charlton Street, a 161-unit with a projected sellout of $323.5 million, as well as 91 Leonard, with 111 units and a sellout of $322.8 million.

Video produced by Jhila Farzaneh