• Briget Rein

Gowanus Rezoning Testimony

This is the testimony I submitted and read aloud (before being cut off due to time limits) at the joint Community Boards 2 and 6 hearing on the Gowanus rezoning.

Thank you Chairs Singletary and Fleming and District Manager Racioppo for setting up this meeting.

Since I know this is going to be a long day and we have a lot of speakers so I am going to try to keep my remarks brief.

I want to support this plan. I really do. But there is something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

I said for over a year now that I did not want this plan to move forward until this pandemic was over and we could all meet in person. I even wrote about this for Bklyner. However, Hizzoner had different plans.

For me to give my vote of approval for this rezoning, I told myself that I would need assurances on two things: 1) proof that the Gowanus Canal cleanup would be done before any resident moved in and 2) proof that the existing infrastructure could handle it.

As I looked over the various documents and web pages in preparation for this testimony, there is one thing I could not easily find: a timeline of the work. I can find timelines for where we are within the rezoning process but nothing that shows side-by-side when the canal will be fully cleaned up, the new sewage tanks will be installed, and when the move-in date for new residents will be.

Maybe I didn’t look in the right places. But all I saw were pages upon pages of jargon that the average person would not understand. The Executive Summary of the Environmental Impact Statement alone is 102 pages! Not all of us are architects and engineers - I myself am a teacher. Community Boards are supposed to represent a cross-section of people from the community who would be impacted by rezonings. But when the average person like myself cannot understand what is being written, it gives the impression that someone is burying the lede.

If I could just be told right here and right now by the Mayor’s Office and the developers that the canal will be fully cleaned up and the sewage tanks will be in place to handle the influx of people before any new residents move in, I would emphatically vote “aye” this evening. But, that isn’t happening.

Why are those two issues so vital to my yes vote? Because I do not want Gowanus to become another Environmental Justice Neighborhood. I love how this plan has affordable housing and, frankly, I would like more of it. But, and I won’t mince words here, that means that it will mean people in minority populations would be moving here. We saw what Robert Moses did to Harlem and the South Bronx half of a century ago - there is no question why rates of asthma are so high there. I, for one, could not live with myself if I voted yes and, down the line, one child gets asthma from breathing in some toxic fumes or someone drinks some contaminated water or one toilet backs up because the sewage lines couldn’t handle it.

I want my friends over at the Carpenters’ Union and 32BJ to have good-paying jobs from this project. I want us to start to fix our city’s housing crisis. I want there to be more parks and green space.

And if someone from the Mayor’s Office will say under oath tonight that no one will move in until the EPA says that the Gowanus is clean and human waste won’t flood into the water, I will gladly vote aye. But, until then, I vote nay. Thank you.