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No ‘Toll’ on Gowanus

The Brooklyn Paper
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The builder that gave the ’burbs a shine with its trademark McMansion isn’t ready to get its tools dirty along Brooklyn’s Lavender Lake.

Toll Brothers has withdrawn an application for a state-supervised cleanup of a two-block stretch of Bond Street along the Gowanus Canal because an expected residential rezoning of the area hasn’t happened yet, a company spokesman told The Brooklyn Paper this week.

“In the end, we applied for the cleanup too early, said spokesman David Von Spreckelsen.

The reason stems from a Catch-22 on the waterfront. Toll Brothers won’t buy the site, including its historic, stark cement building, until the city rezones the land for residential use. But the state can’t approve a taxpayer-subsidized cleanup until the developer buys the site, which runs along Bond Street from First through Carroll streets.

Von Spreckelsen said the sale would be completed soon and that the company will develop the industrial site into a canal-front village of mixed-income apartments and townhouses.

The almost-acquisition is the latest in a string of sales to residential builders expected to transform the grimy Gowanus into an annex of posh Park Slope, just across Fourth Avenue.

The rezoning that Toll Brothers needs can’t move forward without approval from the Department of City Planning — which itself won’t move forward until after a series of public hearings that are sure to get heated in Brooklyn’s famously stinky armpit.

News of the Toll’s delayed progress pleased neighborhood residents who fear that the canal zone will lose its history to the McMansion builder.

In recent weeks, that fear has coalesced around a mysterious affection for one of the buildings on the Toll site: a concrete warehouse used in the late 19th- and early 20th century to store building materials.

Because the ghost-colored warehouse has been deemed eligible for the National Register of Historic Buildings, some believed that it should be spared the wrecking ball.

“It’s part of the landscape,” said Linda Mariano, a member of Friends and Residents of Greater Gowanus.

“It is archeologically sensitive, and we should keep it here.”

Community Board 6 will hold a public meeting with the Department of City Planning about the rezoning of the Gowanus Canal area on Jan. 25 at 6 pm. The meeting will be at St. Mary’s Residence (41 First St., at Bond Street). Call (718) 643-3027 for information.

Updated 4:26 pm, July 9, 2018
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