Letter from Lander: Gowanus meeting wasn’t ‘secret’

for The Brooklyn Paper
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To the editor,

In your story about the Lightstone Development, you mentioned a meeting convened by local elected officials to start organizing an inclusive community planning process for the Gowanus Canal area that will launch this fall. That meeting was not “secret,” as you called it, but was simply closed to the press. About 40 people attended, including representative from almost every group actively involved in working on the canal.

We plan to launch the process this fall. As we have tried to open up the budget process through “participat­ory budgeting,” this will be an effort to open up the planning process so that community residents, business people, and community groups can work together to shape a vision for the area around the Gowanus Canal rather than have decisions made by developers, the city, or by elected officials. We will have public meetings, as well as other opportunities for input online and in small groups. Everyone will be invited to participate. This early-stage meeting was to start organizing for that process so that we can make it as inclusive and effective as possible.

With the Environmental Protection Agency’s plan to clean up the canal due out in final form this fall, with the knowledge that we have about the very real dangers of flooding from Hurricane Sandy, and with the change in administration at City Hall, this is an important time for community members to come together and do our best to shape a consensus vision for the future of the Gowanus Canal area.

We believe that residents overwhelmingly want a vibrant, genuinely mixed-use, sustainable future for Gowanus that builds on what’s best about out neighborhoods. That won’t be easy, of course, as people have very different ideas about exactly what that looks like. But it is worth trying.

Anyone interested in being involved should reach out to my office and we’ll make sure you are on the list for an invitation as the process gets started this fall. And yes, we’ll even invite the press.

Brad Lander, Park Slope

The writer is a councilman representing Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Gowanus, Park Slope, Windsor Terrace, Kensington, and Boro Park.

Updated 10:14 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Charles from Bklyn says:
Lets us be honest here, does any one really think developers will not dictate the terms of development for the area? And of course, the middle class surrounding this area will ultimately bear the burden in tax money, greater density and community resources for these developments. What has changed in NYC to believe politicians will look out for anyone but the developers. Sorry to be cynical, but the truth is self evident from years of the same story told over and over again.
Aug. 20, 2013, 8:10 am
de la from ooze says:
why would it be closed to the press? that hardly seems inclusionary. be nice if Lander, the former head of the Fifth Avenue Committee, would explain why the press was not invited.
Aug. 20, 2013, 8:34 am
ty from pps says:
Seriously, de la? A meeting to *plan* how the public hearing process will proceed should be open to the press? Have you noticed how ethical the press in New York is? These sorts of planning meetings can be messy affairs where "allies" might (from an outsider) look like they are at odds with each other.... THIS is what would be reported and misconstrued by the sensationalist Murdock machine. Just like how this closed meeting was called "secret."

All organizations and committees have closed "executive" meetings before, during and after more public meetings. That's how it works. This is a good thing. Not everything has to be available for public consumption.
Aug. 20, 2013, 8:49 am
Resident from Gowanus says:
Interesting. I know one person who was out of town and tried to send a substitute to the meeting and was told "no" by Brad's office. This is someone who has been involved. They really jumped through hoops to limit participation and people who live/work in Gowanus were told they could not attend even if they were involved in the community. How does Brad know what the residents "overwhelmingly" want when he denies the opportunity to attend his meeting?
Aug. 20, 2013, 9:56 am
Resident from Gowanus says:

This wasn't an executive meeting of a commission or organization. What is troubling is that our other electeds were also on the invitation and this meeting was held in a public school but constituents were told they could not attend. So, it wasn't just the press who wasn't invited.
Aug. 20, 2013, 10:02 am
misnomer from my mind says:
I heard about the meeting and inquired about attending and was told as a resident and business owner not affiliated with any organization I could not attend, this was a gathering of the non-profit sector community in the area, nothing wrong with that, but clearly a misnomer in my mind since public implies a meeting open to ALL.
Aug. 20, 2013, 10:09 am
ty from pps says:
No, resident. It wasn't the executive committee of an organization, but the meeting serves the same purpose. Closed (non-press, limited invite) meetings allow the participants to speak more freely.
Aug. 20, 2013, 10:37 am
Resident from Gowanus says:
The Brooklyn Paper should try to find out what not -for-profits were invited. That seems to be secret too. There was also a meeting before this that Brad Lander had with select members of the community board. It sounds like that may have been a meeting to plan for this meeting.

If the intention was to allow people to speak more freely then that implies they have something to hide. Trust me, we are not a shy bunch and from what I heard the meeting was mostly the usual suspects who can not purport to represent or know what the newest influx of residents (constituents) want.
Aug. 20, 2013, 11:14 am
ty from pps says:
Yes, Resident. I forgot. Everything is a conspiracy intended on screwing you and your ilk. My apologies.
Aug. 20, 2013, 3:07 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
I take it that Lightstone Development learned from Forest City Ratner how to get their way just by having secret meetings. Either way, what's so good about having community input when the real decisions will just be made in a backroom? Think about how so many mega projects in this city got around despite all the questions and concerns. In reality, all a developer needs is friends in high places, and they can do whatever they want without having to worry about the consequences.
Aug. 20, 2013, 5:54 pm
ty from pps says:
In "this city"? Wow, Tal, I didn't know Pleasantville was such a corrupt place!! You really should get involved with that... Man, right there in your own town?!
Aug. 20, 2013, 6:05 pm
Ghost of Donald Manes from Gowanus says:
You're a fraud Brad and an insufferable gladhander, even by the rotten standards of Brooklyn politics.

Question: Why don't you tell us about the 'famous' writers you have met with, maybe they were far far from impressed?
Aug. 20, 2013, 6:25 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Ty, in all honesty, why should Lighthouse Development be allowed to have secret meetings? Are you okay with secret meetings just as long as you get what you want? Does the end justify the means? Do you happen to have relationships with this firm, which is probably why you are probably defending it so much? I expect you to actually answer these questions rather than trying to dodge them. On a side note, it doesn't take a special insider to know about backroom deals no matter where they occur.
Aug. 20, 2013, 7:53 pm
Linda Mariano from Gowanus says:
Brad Lander's meeting was a "closed door meeting," because the agenda was exclusively Brad Lander's. I believe Lander, the Pratt people, and a small minority of local developers are afraid of the majority of the Gowanus residents. The majority of the Gowanus residents really do not want a zoning change. Lander is mixed up. It is really not in the best interests of most of the Gowanus residents to have any new plans for re-designing the Gowanus. The people invited were hand picked!!!! The majority of real people who reside here are satisfied with the present Gowanus zoning! I believe Lander is trying to legitimize the use of the old Toll brothers "spot rezoning" by going ahead with this false process. I repeat: most of the residents of Gowanus do not want a change in zoning. Having attended hundreds of meetings about the Gowanus, since 1974, it is clear to me that the majority of Gowanus residents do not have mixed feelings or different ideas for the future. It is government and people like Lander who think they know better than the residents who live here. Most of the people who fight for their community rights in Gowanus are constantly defending and fighting for sustaining the industrial zoning we already have! There are literally hundreds of light industries in the Gowanus, who employ local craftsmen, artisans, and other industrial workers - many of who were booted out of other industrial communities due to irresponsible and greedy over development. Gowanus is vibrant! Brad Lander just does not get it. People did reach out to Lander's office wanting to be part of his "exclusive meeting" and were turned down!!! Afraid of the press? An open meeting welcomes community residents and the press. As long as the true democratic process has been taken out of democracy, the developers and the government will do as they please. The politicans and the council members have not evolved in real time. We will not be steamrolled by the political machinery! It must also be stressed that the Gowanus is sacred land: the biggest and arguably most important battle in the American Revolution was fought on Gowanus soil.
Aug. 20, 2013, 8:42 pm
jay from nyc says:
If its closed to the press, that means by definition it closed to the public. I don't know that it means that is the same thing as secret, but if not, then its only by a matter of degree, and this is like Bill Clinton and his it depends on what the definition of is is moment.
This is the same kind of b.s. lack of transparency nonsense that goes on in Albany, so I guess that is maybe where Mr. Lander wants to go next?
Linda makes two very good points (actually more than that, but two really stood out) one is that allegedly Lander turned down people from attending the meeting. No one who is serious about representing their district does that, at least not for very long before getting voted out of office.
Second, this area IS sacred ground, it is literally the foundation of the United States. In the Battle of Brooklyn, which took place in this exact area, The Maryland 400 refused to break from their line, and allowed Washington's defeated forces to retreat in fighting order and not be captured, thus saving the revolution from collapse.
If Washington and his forces been captured on that day, there very likely would not be a United States today. .
Nealy all of the Maryland 400 lost their lives in the Gowanus area. They literally fought almost to the last man, in what was the largest battle in the entire Revolutionary War. They are among the finest heros ever produced. To this day, their final resting place has not been determined.
That is not only a disgrace at the local Brooklyn level, but also a national disgrace as well.
I would much rather see that issue resolved and due credit be given to those who gave all, with an established monument that is appropriate, rather than an elected official holding closed meetings to yet again bulldoze over the graves of U.S. war veterans.
I guess Mr. Lander does not think that the sacrifice made by people in our military is worth very much. This is just SHAMEFUL.
This is also dumb from a financial point of view. People go to visit historical battle fields, and this was the largest battle in the war for our very founding. The commercial possibilities that could be created from that would far out weigh any apartment complex built in a flood zone that is on the banks a superfund site.
In addition, given that things like Sandy seem likely to happen more often, why in the world are you going to advocate for putting in more property to get flooded while the rest of the city and for that matter state are trying to figure out where NOT to build in the future?
Aug. 20, 2013, 9:18 pm
ty from pps says:
Please... what is all of this crap about sacred ground?! Seriously? Are you guys suggesting this area should be restored to what it was in the 18th Century?! Any other use would be a desecration... umm... like all of the uses the area has had over the last 200 years.

Just weird.

The land is unrecognizable -- the land itself, not just the buildings -- to what it was in the late-1700s. You all know this commemoration of the battle is what the Old Stone House is for, right? Ever been there?

As for private meetings and being bent out of shape because not everyone and their cousin could participate... suck on it. You should have elected someone else. The idea that every meeting about everything needs to be some sort of massive direct-democracy gathering where every Tal Barzilai in the world "gets a say" is just stupid.
Aug. 20, 2013, 9:35 pm
Margaret from Gowanus says:
Ty from pps
"Suck on you"is a very derogatory tone and disrespectful attitude to take and put out towards people who are part of the community and have worked in earnest to approach this issue with intelligence, and who really are part of the community - more so than Brad Lander, who is a politician doing the bidding of big business/developers regardless of people's voice.
Aug. 21, 2013, 3:25 am
Jay from Nyc says:
No ty its not weird and you calling people names does not make it so either. Where did you see anything in my post about reverting land back to the way it was? No where. You invented it.
Aug. 21, 2013, 6:24 am
de la from ooze says:
At the 5th Avenue Committee, Brad loved inviting the press to ribbon cuttings.
Aug. 21, 2013, 7:31 am
LM from Brooklyn says:
The letter reveals the problem with the meeting and it's process, that Lander " believe(s) that residents overwhelmingly want a vibrant, genuinely mixed-use". By self selecting the planning process and the participants Lander is attempting to per-determine the planning outcome to insure it reflects his own point of view. An open community planning process should not begin with such a per determined outcome. And a planning process set on "mix use" is blind to all the factors that point to some uses are inappropriate solution for the Gowanus lowland, and land locked urban drainage area.
Aug. 21, 2013, 8:26 am
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Personally, I find it a bad idea to place a major development on a land that is a possible flood zone. Also, who would want to live in area where the brown fields have a certain level of toxicity? It really makes me feel what Landers was thinking when going with this idea. My guess is that they plan to endorse him on his next political, so by agreeing to their bidding, he can return the favor. Once again, politicians have shown how crooked they are with their backroom deals. Overall, this does remind of me of how Forest City Ratner got their with the Atlantic Yards complex.
Aug. 21, 2013, 5:18 pm
ty from pps says:
Again, Thanks Tal!
Aug. 21, 2013, 6:12 pm

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