Despite floods from storms like Hurricane Sandy spilling raw sewage into the streets along the 1.8-mile canal, developers like the Lightstone Group and Toll Brothers, which is developing a 477-unit luxury apartment building, are still eager to move in.
“The up-and-coming Gowanus section of the Carroll Gardens neighborhood boasts one of Brooklyn’s most vibrant artistic communities and cultural scenes with a remarkable mix of retail, art, industry and residences,” said Mitchell Hochberg, president of the Lightstone Group.
The Lightstone Group project, a 700-unit all-rental residential complex at 363-365 Bond Street along the shores of the Gowanus Canal, was approved by a vote of 27-4 at Community Board 6 with an agreement of providing 140 units of affordable housing.
“We are proud to be in a position to jumpstart the transformation of the largely abandoned or under-utilized borders of the canal to productive use,” Hochberg added.
Last week, dozens of residents and activists met at the Carroll Street Bridge in Carroll Gardens to ensure environmental awareness in future developments along the canal.
Warren Cohen of Save Gowanus and Marlene Donnely from the Friends and Residents of the Greater Gowanus (FROGG Friends) invited mayoral candidate Bill Thompson to the rally.
“This is not the type of water you want to see in your yard and this is the type of water you did see in your yard after Hurricane Sandy,” Cohen said. “It would be great to forge ahead and develop every single spot of land, but we should only do development when it does no harm to the residents.”
Thompson joined many of the residents to promote a thoughtful approach to future development.
“This isn’t a community saying don’t build, this is a community saying let’s do this intelligently and let's do this the right way,” Thompson said. “Let’s not just rush things, let’s move forward, let’s talk about ideas and let’s see what’s in the best interest of the community.”
Linda Mariano, co-founder of FROGG, disputed assurances that Lightstone was building with the environmental integrity of the community in mind.
She accused Lightstone of attempting to “piggyback on the illegal spot rezoning of Toll Brothers,” without renewing their Environmental Impact Statement.
“The main focus is we want environmental justice here,” she said. “By building higher and changing the hydrology of the land, it is going to make it worse with more flooding and worse flooding.”
Dozens of residents agreed there are problems with the project, however development is inevitable.
Like Thompson, Bill Appel, executive director of the Gowanus Canal Community Development Corporation and longtime Carroll Gardens resident, said he is pro-development under the premise that it is done the right way.
“Unless, like what a lot of the old timers around here do and own their own homes, they could not afford to rent here,” Appel said.
With fast-moving developments and plans for future projects, Appel said his main concern is staying true to the environmental awareness along the canal.
“Nothing is being done on the canal until all of a sudden somebody wanted to develop, and that was Toll Brothers, and then all of a sudden it got designated as a Superfund site,” he explained.
“Some people will argue until they’re blue in the face that there should be no development, but I will just say,’ you know, we’re not on the Mississippi Delta,’” Appel added.