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City Council Approves Gowanus Rezoning In 47-1 Vote

Brooklyn's skyline from Gowanus

In a nearly unanimous vote, the New York City Council approved the Gowanus rezoning after years of deliberation and controversy. 

Under the rezoning, approved in a 47-1 vote, an expected 8,000 new apartments — including 3,000 permanently affordable units — could be built in the area. The new measure also includes $174M for new sewer infrastructure in the neighborhood, $200M to renovate existing public housing, $10M for new street and sidewalk improvements, as well as other investment in public buildings, new public space and increased tenant support. 

“I know that a lot of people are hesitant about new development. It can be hard to watch the neighborhood we love change, especially when it feels like someone else is profiting while the rest of us just have to live with change, construction, and uncertainty,” local Council Member Brad Lander, and the city's comptroller-elect, said in a letter to his constituents earlier this month. “But this neighborhood is already changing, in ways that do not necessarily bring the resources we need for a thriving neighborhood.” 

In particular, Lander emphasized what he sees as a need for more housing and investment in infrastructure in the growing and evolving community. 

“The bars, hotels, shelters, and storage buildings that proliferated in Gowanus in recent years do not help our city solve our housing crisis and they certainly don’t bring investments in parks, schools, transit accessibility or sewer infrastructure,” he wrote. 

Quinlan Development Group, the Vorea Group, Orange Management, Tavros Capital and Charney Cos. have all filed plans to build new, dense housing in the area, Crain’s New York Business reported

Council Member Carlos Mechanca, whose vocal opposition to the Industry City rezoning in his district of Sunset Park contributed to developers’ withdrawal of the proposal, was the single vote against the proposal. Menchaca’s office didn't respond to Bisnow’s request for comment. 

The city’s rezoning process, which has long been criticized for displacing people of color from their communities, came under increased scrutiny last year as the coronavirus pandemic hit the city's diverse neighborhoods harder. A new law requiring the city to conduct a racial impact study in areas it seeks to rezone came into effect this year. 

The Gowanus Neighborhood Plan was the first city rezoning to undergo a racial impact assessment. The results of the assessment, which came out in August, found that while the plan would likely decrease housing segregation and increase the racial diversity of those who live there, it would also displace jobs predominantly held by people of color while increasing jobs typically held by White people.

Related Topics: Brad Lander, Gowanus rezoning