The Real Estate Board of New York to The Department of City Planning Concerning N 210178 ZRK and C 210177 ZMK (CEQR No. 19DCP158K) - Gowanus Neighborhood Plan

Basha Gerhards

Senior Vice President of Planning

July 28, 2021

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The proposal offer significant benefits to both the neighborhood and the City at large, in the forms of much needed affordable housing, environmental remediation of the Gowanus Canal, and job opportunities that will aid in the City’s economic recovery, among other benefits.

From 2009 to 2019, New York City has produced .28 housing units for every job.[i] This historic deficit has skewed our housing ecosystem with resulting implications on affordability that render the City financially inviable for many middle and lower income individuals and families. The Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for this proposal expects the result of the rezoning to include a net increase of approximately 8,500 dwelling units, including approximately 2,000 permanently affordable dwelling units on privately-owned sites and approximately 1,000 affordable units on City-owned sites by 2035. This means that 4% of the 200,000 needed housing units needed by 2040 would be constructed in the approximately 81-block rezoning area; a small, but valuable contribution to our City’s growing needs. The addition of new dwelling units, both market-rate and affordable, will help the Commission fulfill its obligation to support the distribution of the City’s population, while also aiding the integration of a historically homogeneous neighborhood.[ii] These new residents would be the beneficiaries of local transit, with access to local job centers throughout Brooklyn. Research shows us that access to housing, in particular affordable housing, and housing with good access to transit, has positive impacts on individuals’ health and welfare[iii] [iv], which is in direct support of the duties of this Commission.

Increased density would incentivize the remediation of contaminated areas of the neighborhood, a long-standing desire of community residents. The Gowanus Canal is one of the nation’s most seriously contaminated bodies of water[v], according to the EPA, and it is the duty of this board to ensure residents positive health outcomes through planning actions. The public space made possible by remediation will also contribute to the area’s resiliency, which promotes the recreation, health, and welfare aspects of the Commission’s mission. This would provide more equitable access to the impending sustainable open-space and other public amenities to a broad array of New Yorkers.

New York is making a slow but steady economic recovery, which would be bolstered by the proposed action being heard today. As stated in then DEIS, the rezoning of Gowanus would result in a net increase of approximately 3,500 commercial, community development, and industrial workers. These jobs are not just an asset to our economy, they support the City’s goal of job and housing growth in close proximity to public transit.

The City Planning Commission is tasked with the planning and orderly growth and development of the City. It is clear that the proposed action has innumerable benefits consistent with this mission and the framework put forward in the proposed changes to the zoning map and in the related text amendment will ensure forward progress of the Gowanus Neighborhood Plan. The Commission should approve these actions. Thank you for the consideration of these comments.