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CB6 Votes Against Lightstone Gowanus Project

After reviewing the developer's plans for 363-365 Bond St. on Thursday night, CB6 requested the Dept. of City Planning table their minor-modifications approval until various conditions are met.


It was a tale of two development projects at the Community Board 6 Landmarks and Land Use meeting Thursday, where proponents and detractors of the Lightstone Group's 700-unit, block-wide rental verbally sparred over how it will impact Gowanus. This chapter of the story ended with CB6 voting against the project, requesting that the Department of City Planning (DCP) enforce certain stipulations before moving forward. 

Despite an expansive public esplanade, 1,000 square feet designated to the Gowanus Dredgers and the claim that it would have a neutral impact on canal CSOs after installing a new bulkhead and centrifuge, the project did not meet the satisfaction of Boardmembers. Instead, CB6 requested a new Environmental Impact Statement be performed before DCP move forward with 'minor modifications' approval. Further, "that the developer commit to 30% affordable housing [it is currently at 20%], that the overall height of the buildings be reduced to eight stories down from 12, and that the Community Board's responsible contracting conditions be followed and agreed to by Lightstone."

The vote was met with thunderous applause from attending neighbors who decried the project for reasons that ranged from "not conforming to the scale and aesthetic of the neighborhood," to hiring non-union workers to an increased number of residents that could potentially stress the sewer, nearby schools, and surrounding infrastructure.

"Where are you gonna put all of this crap?" asked President St. resident Barrin Bonet, bluntly referring to the high CSO levels existing in the canal. "None of you ride the subway; you already cannot physically get on the F train in the morning. And if you love our brownstones, why don’t you build brownstones?" 

Marlene Donnelly, a representative of the CAG, echoed that sentiment and wasn't buying the CSO-neutral claim. "There’s nothing in this system that says we have the capacity to support additional toilets for a project of this size," she said. "Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) are dealt with in isolation and no one is looking at cumulative effects."

Others pointed out that the EIS was made before the canal had been designated a Superfund site and before the completion of the nearby Barclays Center.

Lightstone representatives, for their part, appeared unfazed. Their calm can be attributed to being grandfathered into special permits for land use. The site at 363-365 Bond St. was initially rezoned in 2009 for a housing development proposed by the Toll Brothers. As such, the new project requires only 'minor modifications' approval from the DCP as it is 100% within the zoning envelope and has the same square footage as approved in the Toll Brothers’ ULURP. 

Several locals spoke out in support of Lightstone's vision.

"[The area along the canal] is a blighted wasteland…," said resident Saul Davison. "Anyone who says that they’re going to put in an esplanade, I say hurrah."

Ray Howell, of the Gowanus Dredgers, was also in favor, stating "Lightstone will allow us to continue our programs, teach more people and educate children on the Gowanus."

Lillian Bowser, a resident of the neighborhood for 15 years who attended with her husband and baby, came to support the prospect of a new home. "We are losing our apartment," she told the room. "We can’t find any affordable housing and now I'm going to have to leave my community. So, I’m here and pro 100%."

Lightstone is devoting the same square footage as what Toll was offering for affordable housing, but units will be larger with the same amenities as market-rate properties, as they are integrating the units throughout the development rather than relegating affordabale housing to its own building. Affordable units will range from $800 to $1200 and remain at that rate permanently, developers said.

But when asked whether they would consider CB6's request for increasing the percentage of those units, representatives were resolute: "No, the project is extremely economically fragile. It won't work," said Kasra Sanandaji, Vice President of Investments at Lightstone. 

And unless DCP heeds CB6's wishes, he won't be forced to make it work.

Stay with Patch for updates.

spqrxxi September 28, 2012 at 01:24 PM
The fact that people with no relevant expertise and such strong ideological biases might have an impact on such a project is silly. Best of luck to Lighthouse to bring the project forward. As to CAG, they should be a bit more business minded if they want to have a chance at being relevant.
Gowanus Rez September 28, 2012 at 02:17 PM
Please don't ruin the character of this blighted, toxic wasteland by building new apartments and a tree-lined esplanade!
rick sanchez September 28, 2012 at 02:42 PM
agreed. the sooner they start building, the better. that area is a wasteland right now. literally.
Carole G. September 28, 2012 at 03:10 PM
A comprehensive zoning plan for the Gowanus Canal is desperately needed FIRST before the community approves such large-scale and high impact projects. In addition this particular Lighthouse Group project has had minimal review whatsoever making it suspect, rushed, and ill thought-out. Most importantly of all the Gowanus Canal needs to be cleaned first then developed. Putting people in harm's way, especially those who need affordable housing such as seniors is morally unconscionable. The dredging has not even begun and the sediment of this canal is highly toxic, not to mention the CSO's which are also very harmful. Greed must not rule every development decision even if the Lighthouse Group is a major NYC lobbyist, which it is.
Jason B. September 28, 2012 at 07:13 PM
Lightstone should not be allowed to build until the Superfund process is complete. If the project proceeds, the canal will never get the clean-up it needs. Developer greed will trump every other consideration. Lightstone doesn't care about the local environment. A clean canal should be the top priority.
Andrew September 28, 2012 at 08:17 PM
Bravo! Having attended the CB6 meeting, I felt the intentions for development were good but there was an air of smoke and mirrors. I am not anti-development but certain issues need to be addressed before ground is allowed to be broken. How will the F Line accommodate such a large influx to the neighborhood? Where will children go to school if all of the local schools already have waiting lists? Will the sewage system that Lightstone has planned work as well as they claim and who will repair it when it malfunctions? Will seniors and displaced local families have priority over artists and other "low-income" residents? What about parking? And who will police the "waterfront" esplanade and keep it safe? One person who spoke last night described the surreal beauty he sees when he takes a canoe out on the Gowanus. Funny, when I walk my dog over the Union Street and Carroll Street bridges, I see sickly green water, slime, garbage and feces. Surreal indeed.
Jon September 29, 2012 at 04:24 AM
As it stands now the canal is an open sewer with hundreds of years worth of pollution. The very idea that there should be residential development prior to cleanup is pure developer greed. The Army Corp of Engineers can not eve reliably estimate the amount of toxic waste that need to be removed. The only people who see this as an opportunity are those who stand to profit or new residents with fantasies that romanticize this toxic blight. Fill it in seal it off and be done with it.
Lee Bee September 29, 2012 at 07:00 PM
I don't understand how development will prevent cleanup of the canal. It seems backwards. The more the area is developed the more likely that the canal will have to be cleaned up. There is always opposition to new development but anything would be better than what's there now. Or worse a monster high-rise.
Ethan October 01, 2012 at 03:27 AM
What you apparently don't know iks that the EPA itself is supportive of Lightstone's remediation and environmental infrastructure plan, which the EPA has determined will BOLSTER its efforts and accelerate the cleanup of the Canal. Lightstone is building new storm sewers that will prevent Combined Sewer Overflows and building a new multi-million dollar steel sheet pile bulkhead at the request of the EPA that will prevent contaminants from flowing into the Canal. Please check your facts before assuming the proposed residential project -- featuring 140 units of quality affordable housing -- will not be a benefit to the community. Ethan Geto, public affairs consultant to The Lightstone Group.
Anthony October 01, 2012 at 02:16 PM
I like your comment, Andrew. You're a realist.
3312 October 01, 2012 at 06:17 PM
I believe something can be built that both makes the developer money and be well integrated into the neighborhood. First concern is the number of units. 700 is far to high. that would be 1400 +- people going up 1st street to the Carol stop. I am also concerned about the school demand. unless the developer is into building schools. I must say the renderings are deceiving and out of scale (typical trick). they show the buildings at 1st and bond out of scale to the ones across the street. The existing building is a 3 story building that will be across from the new 5 + story building. the section also doesn't show the existing adjacent building heights. I wonder also how you can adjust a building that has a set FAR (building size) and increase the number of units to 700. Unless you are getting another variance, or making smaller units. I think the BOD needs to review the area calculations and plans to ensure they are being calculated correctly. Regardless simple adjustments and scale issues could be addressed quickly and make a great project. As for the city's input on traffic issues, and subway issues... i have yet to hear much on that.

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