It's been on their site for a long time. I don't know what the fuss is about.
November 14, 2004
The Banks of the Gowanus Put the Gleam in a Builder's Eye
By JAKE MOONEY
There is a strange beauty to sunset on the Gowanus Canal, when the blue film on the surface of the notorious waterway catches the sunlight streaming past the elevated trains at just the right angle. For a second, an optimistic visitor can ignore the pungent aroma and the odd plastic bag floating by - after all, the waterway is much cleaner than it was a few years ago - and begin to imagine staying awhile.
Such a visitor might enjoy living in Gowanus Village, a collection of loft buildings and townhouses on the east bank of the canal that, at the moment, exists only in a few developers' imaginations. But to the chagrin of opponents, and one of the developers, the proposal recently slipped into view.
A few weeks ago, e-mail messages began directing interested parties to the Web site of Africa Israel Investments Ltd., an Israeli-based firm that was touting 350 condominiums and apartments on three acres between Carroll and Third Streets. The approximate completion date, according to the Web site, was 2007.
That came as a surprise to people in the neighborhood, where opinions about the canal's future are strongly held.
"We really don't have any information about it," said Jeanne DiLascio, director of the Gowanus Canal Community Development Corporation, a nonprofit group. "That is being done by a group that we're not aware of."
As it turned out, the idea originated close to home. The property, at 430 Carroll Street and 153 Second Street, belongs to Leviev Boymelgreen, a Brooklyn development company that has been working with Africa Israel on preliminary plans. And those plans, people at Boymelgreen stress, are very preliminary.
"Information released by our partners relative to Gowanus Village is a reflection of their excitement about the potentiality of the project," said Sara Mirski, development director at Boymelgreen. "This information is in no way indicative of what will ultimately be developed on the site."
Ms. Mirski said any residential construction would require a zoning change, which would be the subject of public discussion as part of the city's land use review process. She called the release of the plans "disconcerting," and said she had asked Africa Israel to take the Web page down. On Friday, the Web site said the Gowanus Village entry "will be updated shortly.''
Still, the wheels of change are in motion: The developers have applied to the state Department of Environmental Conservation's brownfield cleanup program, which offers tax breaks for developments on polluted sites.
Meanwhile, Jean Herold, a Verizon worker who was standing near the site and waiting for a ride home, was skeptical that Gowanus Village, if it happens, would succeed.
"This is an industrial area," he said, as traffic roared in the background. "I don't see it."
Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company
It's been on their site for a long time. I don't know what the fuss is about.
Posted by Stern
March 20, 2005
Ah, the Gowanus! Where You Can Walk on Water
By JAKE MOONEY
SOMETIME in 2000, a Brooklyn businessman named Alex Figliolia Sr. called his local community board to ask about the procedure for buying the strip of land behind his plumbing company, on the east bank of the Gowanus Canal.
Craig Hammerman, the Community Board 6 district manager who took the call, consulted his map and returned to the phone with puzzling news. "I said: 'What land in the back of your building? There's supposed to be a body of water there,' " Mr. Hammerman recalled last week. "And he said, 'There's only land here.' "
So began the latest chapter in the strange history of the First Street Basin, a blocklong stretch of canal that one day somehow ceased to be canal. The waterway, which was originally used so boats traveling on the canal's main section could turn around, was filled in at some point, as anyone who has seen it can agree. But who filled it, or, perhaps more important, what they filled it with, remains a mystery.
The question took on more relevance recently, when Mr. Figliolia's property and an adjacent parcel - that is, all the land surrounding the basin - were bought by the development firm Leviev Boymelgreen, which hopes to build a residential complex called Gowanus Village. The company is seeking state money to evaluate and clean up its property, but not the basin, which it says the city owns.
Even the basin's ownership is a little hard to determine exactly. When Mr. Hammerman inquired into the matter, he was referred to the city's Department of Citywide Administrative Services, which oversaw a cleanup of the land in 2003. But Marlene Donnelly, a canal neighbor who belongs to Friends and Residents of Greater Gowanus, says the basin should be considered part of the larger canal, and thus state property.
Mr. Hammerman, for his part, believes that the basin's condition is a symptom of its nebulous ownership. "This is a crack that things are falling between," he said, adding that he planned to contact the federal government to help sort things out.
Meanwhile, several of the involved parties are eyeing one another warily. Ms. Donnelly said she and other residents wanted the basin dredged, cleaned and reopened as a waterway. Mark Daly, the spokesman for the administrative services department, said there were no plans to do that, but noted that the developers had approached his office about using the land. Sara Mirski, the Boymelgreen staff member handling the project, told a community board subcommittee the basin was the city's responsibility, but did not return calls seeking comment.
All the while, the First Street Basin Canal remains a dusty patch of land, one of the oddest sections of a waterway with a notoriously checkered past. Some say the basin got to its present state when part of a nearby building was demolished and buried there; others say the fill is from the digging of the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel. Some say the water became land in the 1970's and 80's; others say it was decades earlier.
At the very least, Mr. Hammerman said, whoever owns the stretch should find out what is in it and how it will affect the neighbors. And they should change the maps.
Last edited by Derek2k3; March 21st, 2005 at 08:44 PM.
This would be amazing, and just what the Gowanus needs. Venice anyone?
Good idea, but the architecture is too piecy and timed for me. The design will not age well.
I hate to out a wet blanket on this design, but the "industrial" part of the eastside on the Gowanus only penetrates one block. Then, it is row houses (and Monte's restaurant). This design is totally, totally, inconsistent, out of context and insensitive to the its surroundings. This is fine for the barren new development areas of South Williamsburg, but it is not a good design for the site they are talking about. For crying out loud, there's an historic wood plank bridge right across the canal there on Carroll Street. This is just all wrong.
New architcture helps us better appreciate the old architecture. Typical Park Slope contextual crap would be horrible along the Gowanus. I like the progressive, modernist design. It reminds me of some of the newer developments along canals in Amsterdam.Originally Posted by BrooklynRider
Originally Posted by ASchwarz
Ehhh, i don't think that the designs are that good. Im not a big fan of boxy buildings and ugly window patterns
It reminds me of Safdie's Habitat. I AM A HUGE HUGE HUGE fan of chaos if its designed to the city context because a city itself is very chaotic. However if its Chaos for the sake of chaos and it acts against the city, the results can be devistating such as Roosevelt Island or Waterside. I think that a chaotic design development would be in tune with the industry and infastructure that characterize the Gowanus Canal.Originally Posted by Kolbster
November 28, 2005
From Open Sewer to Open for Gentrification
Daniel Barry for The New York Times
The Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn, seen from the Union Street Bridge
By JOSEPH BERGER
The Gowanus Canal often stinks and is almost always spotted with slicks of oil.
The streets alongside it are practically deserted, the silence broken by the rumble of concrete mixers and oil tankers or the screech of buzz saws. Graffiti abounds, and no one would use the word harmonious for the landscape, where ramshackle wood-frame and brick row houses are tucked higgledy-piggledy among factories, warehouses and two housing projects.
Yet many of the 14,500 people whose homes flank the canal love the neighborhood's jagged, anarchic feel and do not want to see its industrial character nibbled away. At a time when neighborhoods like Dumbo, Long Island City and the Far West Side of Manhattan have largely been welcoming the conversion of factories into lofts for artists and, eventually, movers and shakers, these residents want to preserve a vanishing urban way of life where lunch-bucket workers lived among their
"To me, it's comfortable. It's not phony, it's not pristine," said Linda Mariano, 61, who has lived in a brick row house in Gowanus with her husband since 1974. "It's a mishmash, and I like the variety. You take two steps and you're someplace else."
But in recent years, residents of this slender neighborhood squeezed amid brownstone Brooklyn have faced a number of proposals, some of them successful, to convert Gowanus factories and warehouses into residential spaces. As the inky waters of the mile-long canal have gotten cleaner, drawing striped bass and canoeists alike, landlords sniffing the winds of change - and the higher prices they can command for dwellings - are holding industrial properties off the market or offering their tenants the briefest of leases. Rents and home prices have soared, particularly as available industrial space has been eaten away.
So the working-class residents who do not want a neighborhood of oil depots, brass factories and workers' homes transformed by apartments with Sub-Zero refrigerators and Viking ranges have formed impromptu groups like Friends and Residents of Greater Gowanus, or Frogg, to which Ms. Mariano belongs. They have been joined in opposing new conversions by sympathizers elsewhere like Celia Cacace, a resident of neighboring Carroll Gardens who is proud of her family's blue-collar stripes.
"My sister Linda worked in Bush Terminal making envelopes," said Ms. Cacace, who is 69 and a member of Community Planning Board 6, the local board that makes recommendations on granting zoning variances in Gowanus. "My brother Ralphie worked cleaning septic tanks in ships. Tony, he's the one born before me, he got a job in Long Island City for a sheet metal factory. My sister Esther, she passed away, she worked for American Can Company."
She wants the hundreds of factories in Gowanus and nearby Red Hook to be able to provide jobs for a new generation of immigrants, and for the housing that is there to remain within the workers' reach. "They call it gentrification, I call it genocide," she said. "They're killing neighborhoods."
So far, the opponents have successfully blocked requests for variances to convert a four-story warehouse at 255 Butler Street into a 6-story building with 53 apartments, replace a graffiti-scarred plant at 450 Union Street with a 7-story condo building, and convert an export-import company at 130 Third Street to apartments.
Their biggest battle may be yet to come. They are gearing up to fight one of the city's more well-heeled development firms, a venture of the billionaire diamond entrepreneur Lev Leviev and the builder Shaya Boymelgreen. In preliminary proposals, the developers plan to tear down a factory and dig out a contaminated brownfield to create Gowanus Village, an apartment complex made up of loft buildings and town houses. The plan would require zoning changes.
Frogg and its allies are defying powerful trends that view Gowanus as a reinvigorated residential bridge from Park Slope on the east to Carroll Gardens on the west and Boerum Hill on the northwest. Already, a 100-room Comfort Inn is rising on the edge of Gowanus, and Whole Foods has cleared a nearly square-block space at Third Street for a Brooklyn market. Gowanus is also less than a half-mile away from the Atlantic railyards, where the developer Bruce C. Ratner has proposed building a basketball arena for the Nets and 16 buildings with 7,300 apartments.
"The basic law of economics is to seek maximum return on investment, and typically that means residential development," said Craig Hammerman, the district manager of Community Board 6, which covers Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Park Slope, Gowanus and Red Hook.
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced a new policy last January for safeguarding manufacturing that designated 15 Industrial Business Zones in neighborhoods like Long Island City and Hunts Point. These areas would be protected from rezoning, and companies relocating there would receive tax credits of $1,000 for each employee. Southwest Brooklyn was one of the 15 designees.
But the maps being drafted so far include only southern Gowanus, not the blocks north of Third Street where residential conversions have been proposed.
Carl Hum, director of the Mayor's Office of Industrial and Manufacturing Businesses, said that with the city's population growing, officials must strike a balance between places to live and places to work.
Not everybody in the Gowanus area opposes more housing. Sandra Mineo, a longtime homeowner, thinks forlorn properties should be gussied up - even if that means making them residential. "I'd rather see something done with it than nothing done with it," she said.
Buddy Scotto, founder of Gowanus Canal Community Development Corporation, a nonprofit group subsidized by the state and city, has been pressing for converting buildings into housing for the elderly and moderate-income families. He and others argue that manufacturers today shun Gowanus, preferring tall, one-story spaces without columns that block pallet-bearing forklifts.
"These industrial buildings are obsolete," he said. "Nobody wants to load elevators anymore."
As Gowanus becomes residential, he envisions the canal, which he says is scarcely used for shipping, being turned into Brooklyn's version of the Riverwalk in San Antonio. Already, new benches are dotting its banks, striped bass and jellyfish swim there and cormorants perch alongside.
But Phaedra Thomas and Rachel Dubin of the Southwest Brooklyn Industrial Development Corporation, which helps manufacturers seek tax abatements, argue that Gowanus industry is still vibrant. The group's survey last April counted 500 industrial firms, a 25 percent rise since 1997, and 3,000 employees. They found that only 3 percent of industrial spaces were vacant.
Citywide, manufacturing continues to decline. The State Department of Labor counted only 120,492 industrial employees in the second quarter of 2004, and noted that 98,300 jobs had been lost since 1995. What remains are mostly light-industry companies, with fewer than 50 employees, that depend on designers, publishers and other professionals in Manhattan, said Adam Friedman, executive director of the New York Industrial Retention Network. Neighborhoods like Gowanus could provide the rentable spaces and highway access these smaller concerns desire. But they have difficulty finding long-term leases there.
Even without variances, landlords are finding illegal tenants to live in their lofts or seeking out artists and artisans to work in the lofts, trends that often presage eventual conversion to residences. Two years ago, a group of artists bought a box factory at 543 Union Street for $3.1 million and legally converted it into 16 studios. Twelve artists live in a former factory building at 280 Nevins Street that was legally converted in 1986.
One of those is Margaret Maugenest, who moved from SoHo in 1984. Now that she is in Gowanus, she wants to make sure the neighborhood stays the way it is.
"SoHo was an interesting neighborhood," she said. "You had the trucks and the rag industry. You had the artists, who are workers also because that's what we are. Now you have a neighborhood that doesn't have much character."
There are so many artists in Gowanus now that in October, 115 of them took part in the annual Gowanus Artists Studio Tour.
The drift to upscale housing is clear to people who have seen it all before. Jozef Koppelman, a cabinetmaker in a former garage on Baltic Street, has had his small firm pushed successively out of SoHo, Hell's Kitchen, Williamsburg, Chelsea and Dumbo, and now worries about being pressured out of Gowanus.
"I'm a textbook example," he said. "I think about how many buildings I've worked in that now have a doorman."
I call that word assassination."They call it gentrification, I call it genocide," she said. "They're killing neighborhoods."
It's a tough call. The canal bulkheads are in such poor condition and access to the water is rather limited. It would be great to see a compromise. But, it is heartening to see people speak up and state that they LIKE they mish-mash and low-brow feel. It is an interesting place to visit, but development is encroaching.
Ahhhh the Gowanus canal took many a boyhood trip down the Brooklyn version of the Delaware water gap.
I just happen to grow up in that area, lived on Carroll Street between Hoyt and smith also lived on Hoyt between president and carol not to mention President Street between Hoyt and smith
Neighborhood was good then people worked in the area, my father and uncles worked for American can co on 2nd ave for their whole lives, my grandfather worked the docks in red hook the whole damn family was blue collar and never went more than 5 miles to work and my summers were spent in the red hook pool.
That neighborhood now is a yuppie paradise; the ethnic flavor has long gone for bohemian food, star bucks and trendy little bars. long gone is Columbia street vendors who used to hawk anything and everything imaginable. Carroll Park necking with your girlfriend long gone is the ILA
As for buddy Scotto, know him well and I take anything he says with a big grain of salt, the elderly in that area haven’t a chance to stay with their friends who for many is the only family they have no matter what he says.
My family has been in that neighborhood for generations and they still live there, rents are outrageous for anyone including the yuppies that live there, I see Ryder and u haul trucks there every weekend moving out and moving in.
The main pastime is reserving spots on alternate side of the street parking; my friend’s father who still lives there considers it a retirement job.
The neighborhood is beautiful the carol street bridge old as it may be is the oldest around and I kissed many a girl on that bridge.
Being an industrial designer myself the renderings of the buildings this company has presented as preliminary is an insult to esthetic taste. A salt box if anything.
More fitting would be something in brownstone townhouses then what they propose to build there. I could tell you tons about that neighborhood I have many many fond memories living there it’s a shame that people who are trying to line their own pockets are trying to sell a real crappy idea.
Oh one more thing, they may call it carol gardens but to me and many like me its still has one name Gowanus…I lived in Gowanus
They need to clean up the canal, bring residential, restaurants, shops, galleries, parks, and make it beautiful. The canal area could be a modern treasure instead of a poisonous eyesore visited only by neighborhood nostalgics and a few photographers.
The industrial buildings are obsolete for their original use. Plain and simple. Make them live again with another use, and intersperse them with cutting edge architecture.
Those neighborhood people, so proud of the projects they've already blocked, are living in a fantasyland if they think they can block the coming changes. Development will happen along the canal, I am sure of it.
I can't wait to enjoy a meal there, on a flowered-terrace cafe along the canal.
There is a pumping system inside the canal - that has been broken for years - and has been fixed. This recent development will help clean-up the water.Originally Posted by MidtownGuy
I used to vistit a friend who lived in a small building at the very end of the canal (see skyview). It was near some housing projects called "Gowans Houses". This is many years ago - I recall this area as being somewhat bleak looking.
There are great possibilites for this area once the water is cleaned-up. http://www.southbrooklyn.net/gowanus/gc02a.htm
Last edited by infoshare; March 2nd, 2006 at 06:06 PM. Reason: pics