Development in Gowanus is a bridge too far for some residents.
A crew of activists disrupted a community planning meeting held by Councilman Brad Lander (D–Gowanus) last Wednesday, saying that the pol is glossing over local anger about luxury residential building projects while trying to cultivate an image of resident support for whatever he has planned. As Lander opened the so-called “Bridging Gowanus” meeting, someone banged a gong and 11 rabble-rousers hopped to their feet and took turns shouting, echoing each other Occupy-Wall-Street-style.
“Never once have we discussed The Lightstone project and all of our objections!” author and Gowanus history buff Joseph Alexiou shouted, referring to the ongoing residential development at 356 Bond St., on the Carroll Gardens side of the fetid inlet. “The actual process and agenda of Bridging Gowanus has remained opaque and undemocratic!”
Lander shouted back, demanding the agitators calm down.
“This is obnoxious!” he yelled.
Facilitators from the Pratt Center for Community Development attempted to get the meeting back on track, but it wasn’t long before another disaffected citizen took the floor out of turn, this one piping up for public housing.
“You talk about NYCHA, well we’re NYCHA,” said Joeann Brown, interrupting the facilitator’s slideshow. Brown said she lives in the Wyckoff Gardens, where the meeting took place, and demanded that any plan for Gowanus take into consideration the public housing projects that lie within the neighborhood’s borders.
The public meeting was the third and final in a series that Lander announced last summer in a secret gathering of pols and activists. Neighborhood property values have been on the rise despite the noxious channel that gives the area its name and the federal Superfund cleanup that has just begun and is slated to take as long as a decade.
Lander invited residents to weigh in on how the neighborhood should balance industry and housing as it grows, but participants in the Thursday session said he is ignoring the very opinions he is supposed to be taking into account. A Sackett Street resident compared Lander to Robert Moses, the infamous urban planning kingpin who used the city as his personal Lego set for decades.
“Brad’s job is just to deliver Gowanus to the developers,” Marlene Donnelly said.
But not everyone was so upset at the meeting or its organizers. As he was leaving the meeting, Carroll Gardens resident Howard Gottlieb said he was surprised how contentious it got.
“Something needs to happen in Gowanus, and we need to plan responsibly for it,” Gottlieb said. “They’re doing the best they can. But what’s a compromise [mean]? No one’s happy.”