A good development

The Brooklyn Paper
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For the past few years, it has become all too easy for Brooklynites to reject out of hand new real-estate development. There’s a good reason: some projects in Brooklyn are so massive, ugly and misplaced that they have made many residents cynical about the entire notion of building in the borough.

Yet build we must, because Brooklyn is where people want to live and work. After all, the alternative, experienced during a period of urban decline in the 1960s and ’70s, is far worse for everyone.

The good news is that not all development is improperly located or otherwise misguided. As our Ariella Cohen reports in this issue, a developer has bought the Jewish Press building, an eyesore along Third Avenue, with hopes of turning it and adjacent properties he already owns into a village of mid-sized buildings and an esplanade along the still-filthy Gowanus Canal.

This is actually an area where residential development should be encouraged. One block to the east is Fourth Avenue — the celebrated gateway to Park Slope — which is being transformed from a row of ugly car-repair shops and taxi parking lots into a real neighborhood.

“Gowanus Village” development should be applauded if only because it will jumpstart long-failed city efforts to clean up the putrid corpse of water. Community activists and environmentalists will, in the future, fight City Hall with a powerful ally alongside them: the developer and the people who have invested in his apartments.

This is not to say that the developer, Shaya Boymelgreen, should be given a free pass. The Brooklyn Papers has certainly quibbled with Boymelgreen before, and he will need to answer plenty of hard questions before being awarded a zoning variance to build housing on his newly acquired properties. But with proper public review, his vision of a canal zone that bridges Park Slope and Carroll Gardens could be a good one.

The downside of the kind of frenetic real estate activity we’ve been witnessing is that people who have formed the texture of our communities are sometimes priced out. Creative efforts, including subsidies for affordable housing, must be made so that Park Slope’s prized diversity, even quirkiness, is maintained. If Boymelgreen participates in this effort, his Gowanus Village will be a project Brooklyn can cheer.

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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