Gowanus rezoning agreement paves way for 8K new homes

NYCHA funding deal clears path for final approval

From left: Council member Brad Lander, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Council member Stephen Levin (Getty)
From left: Council member Brad Lander, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Council member Stephen Levin (Getty)

UPDATED Nov. 10, 2021, 11:48 a.m.: The city reached a deal late Tuesday night to fund repairs at two public housing complexes as part of a major rezoning of Gowanus, removing the last major obstacle for a proposal expected to generate about 8,500 new homes.

Brooklyn Council members Brad Lander and Stephen Levin, who controlled the outcome because they represent the neighborhood, had said they would only support the rezoning if the de Blasio administration committed at least $132 million for Gowanus Houses and Wyckoff Gardens. They ended up with about $200 million.

City Hall had initially offered up a fraction of that sum to cover the cost of certain repairs. But the rezoning was a major policy goal of the administration, all but guaranteeing it would bend to the local members’ demands. It didn’t hurt that the city is now flush with tax revenue and federal aid.

The rezoning affects an 82-block area largely zoned for industrial and commercial use, allowing higher density, mixed-use development in the neighborhood. Officials estimate that a little more than 8,500 apartments will be built, 3,000 of which would be set aside for low- and moderate-income New Yorkers.

The city is also committing $174 million to sewer upgrades and will require new development to adhere to new stormwater rules aimed at stemming sewage overflows into the canal.

The agreement was announced Wednesday morning by Lander and Levin. Formal votes by the City Council are imminent.

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Opponents of the rezoning have warned that the scale of new development would overwhelm local infrastructure and that a more rigorous environmental impact study is needed. Voice of Gowanus, a group whose lawsuit held up the rezoning for a few months, argues that the expected influx of new luxury projects would pollute the Gowanus Canal and that the city is not doing enough to clean up the canal and surrounding area.

But Lander has been working on the rezoning for several years and was not about to see the opportunity pass; he leaves office Dec. 31 and will become city comptroller. Levin and de Blasio are likewise term-limited.

All three argue that because affordability is mandated in projects in upzoned areas, Gowanus, a largely white and upper-income area, will become more racially and economically diverse with the new developments. Opponents claimed it would gentrify.

Had the proposal not passed, a new process would have had to be started from scratch by the Adams administration, and Lander’s successor, Shahana Hanif, might well have blocked it. She opposed the rezoning during her campaign.

Plans for several projects have already been filed in anticipation of the rezoning. Quinlan Development Group submitted paperwork last month to build 197 apartments at 374 Fourth Avenue. Domain Companies and the Vorea Group plan 628 units at two sites.

Another newly filed project calls for 344 homes at 267 Bond Street, a site Kevin Maloney’s Property Management Group bought in March for $9 million.