The first large, mixed-income housing project on the banks of the polluted Gowanus Canal scored a key first victory last Thursday night in the lengthy public approval process for the controversial development.
Toll Brothers, a major suburban home builder that has made recent inroads in Brooklyn, won approval from a Community Board 6 committee for its proposal to rezone two canal-side blocks currently restricted to manufacturing use so it can build 447 units of mixed-income housing, community and commercial space and a swath of open space.
The Land Use and Landmark Committee voted 12 to 1 in favor of Toll’s project, with two abstentions.
Those in favor said that the residential development, which has set aside 30 percent of its units as below-market rate, will spur the cleanup of the fetid canal.
“The canal will get cleaned up faster if there’s some [residents] in the neighborhood,” said Jeff Strabone.
Toll is in contract to buy land bounded by Carroll, Second, and Bond streets and the canal, part of a larger area that the Bloomberg Administration has tabbed to become the next housing frontier.
The committee vote now goes to the full community board, then the borough president, Department of City Planning and City Council — all steps in the eight-month rezoning process.
If the city eventually grants Toll the green light, it could ignite the transformation of the rundown, industrial head of the canal into a residential bridge with 12-story towers jutting up between Carroll Gardens and Park Slope.
Opponents say the luxe builder’s project is too large for a piecemeal rezoning and should be delayed until the city reviews the larger neighborhood plan for pockets of housing, commercial and industrial use in the canal zone.
That issue reared its head again at the Oct. 23 land-use committee meeting in PS 32 on Hoyt Street in Carroll Gardens.
“It’s a huge project for our neighborhood,” said Katia Kelly, a resident and local blogger.
But the Department of City Planning said Toll’s project is compatible with its vision for the neighborhood.
“The application submitted by Toll Brothers is broadly consistent with the [rezoning] parameters,” the department said in a letter to CB6.
And the builders most known for its suburban McMansions doesn’t want to wait for the slow-turning wheels of municipal government to finalize its Gowanus framework.
“We’ve been working on this project for four years,” said David Von Spreckelsen, vice president of Toll Brothers. “And frankly, we don’t know what will come out of the [city’s] framework.”
The Department of City Planning has said it will finish its Gowanus rezoning by the end of next year. By then, Toll Brothers expects to have its rezoning and will have begun construction.
Community Board 6 will vote on Toll Brothers’ proposition at its Nov. 12 meeting at 6:30 pm. The site is to be determined. Call (718) 643-3027 for info.