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.