Zoned Out! editor, Tom Angotti, and contributor, Philip DePaolo, rallied with Gowanus residents last Wednesday arguing “that the cleanup of the toxic Gowanus Canal should take precedence over a rezoning.” More from Brooklyn Daily Eagle, article and photo by Scott Enman.
In 2008, Angotti “The Race to Develop a Toxic Waterway” (Gotham Gazette).
The Gowanus Canal in south Brooklyn at the center of a formerly active industrial area once bustled with ocean-going ships. Today, it bustles with real estate investors who are pressing to convert industrial properties to condos and reinvent the canal as a miniature Venice.
At a recent public meeting with the city's water experts many Gowanus residents did not exactly break out the sparkling to celebrate. Some remembered that when the flushing tunnel, which first opened in 1911, failed in 1961, it took the city almost 40 years to repair it. Over the years, the city has taken major action on water pollution -- building sewage treatment plants, stopping ocean dumping and addressing sewage overflows - only when the courts have forced it to.
Bloomberg’s rezoning of Coney Island included new opportunities for condos and commercial development near the waterfront. He has been outspoken in his support for new condos in Gowanus and Newtown Creek, both located in the floodplains of Brooklyn and saturated with toxic waste. He ignored calls from community activists to clean up Gowanus before promoting new residential development, and the administration even opposed a federally funded Superfund cleanup. The mayor argues that the best hope for cleaning up the toxic land and water lies in private real estate development, which would improve each site as it develops. However, this would only shift the problem from one property to another and still expose new and older residents and workers to toxic waste.
In perhaps the most dramatic rezoning, the City overcame substantial opposition by neighborhood groups and in 2005 rezoned the waterfront in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg and Greenpoint neighborhoods. This unleashed a frenzy of luxury condo development on the waterfront, resulted in the displacement of thousands of industrial jobs and virtually wiped out one of the last remaining city neighborhoods to combine industry and housing.
See Philip De Paolo’s analysis of the effects of Bloomberg’s rezoning of Brooklyn’s Williamsburg and Greenpoint neighborhoods in Zoned Out: Race, Displacement, and City Planning in New York City.
Editor’s note: In one of the final written statements about urban planning, the legendary Jane Jacobs (1916-2006) commented on the future of the Williamsburg-Greenpoint waterfront:
April 15, 2005
Mayor Michael Bloomberg and all members of the City Council
c/o City Council President Gifford Miller
Dear Mayor Bloomberg,
My name is Jane Jacobs. I am a student of cities, interested in learning why some cities persist in prospering while others persistently decline; why some provide social environments that fulfill the dreams and hopes of ambitious and hardworking immigrants, but others cruelly disappoint the hopes of immigrant parents that they have found an improved life for their children. I am not a resident of New York although most of what I know about cities I learned in New York during the almost half-century of my life here after I arrived as an immigrant from an impoverished Pennsylvania coal mining town in 1934.
… More via Brooklyn Rail.