Hurricane Sandy Rallying Cry For Anti-Development Crowd in Brooklyn


The Gowanus neighborhood of Brooklyn has been billed as one of the city’s most up and coming areas for the better part of a decade despite the literally toxic nature of its namesake canal.

Now, development-wary locals are viewing the surge of dirty water that Hurricane Sandy brought to the Superfund site as a rallying cry in their restrained fight against Gowanus’ residential and commercial rehabilitation.

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gowanus Hurricane Sandy Rallying Cry For Anti Development Crowd in Brooklyn
The corner of Third Street and Third Avenue, near the Whole Foods site in Gowanus. (Courtesy Flickr user Wojohowitz)

Residents of the 39th District encompassing Gowanus, Carroll Gardens and Park Slope, among other neighborhoods, addressed their concerns in a letter to the Lightstone Group, which is planning a $257-million, 700-unit rental apartment complex between Bond Street and the canal along First Street.

“As you are no doubt aware, the site of your proposed development was under several feet of water during the storm,” wrote City Councilman Brad Lander in a letter urging Lightstone to “reconsider—and, for the time being, withdraw” plans for the site.

But Lightstone, led by David Lichtenstein, dismissed this criticism and said the company, aided by FEMA maps, had already taken potential storm damage into account when it designed the project.

“I think we’ve got a development here that’s going to be fine,” architect David West told The Wall Street Journal. “Maybe we’ll find we want to raise the level a little more, but it will be relatively easy to do that. I don’t foresee there being any serious design changes.”

The battle for rough-hewn Gowanus has also swirled around the construction of a 52,000-square-foot Whole Foods store on Third Avenue at Third Street–catty-corner and just across the canal from Lightstone’s project. The healthful grocery behemoth appeased locals anxious about increased traffic with plans to refurbish The Coignet building, a nearby landmark from 1873 that had fallen into disrepair. In a made-for-in-and-by Brooklyn twist, the retailer also pledged to stock the store’s shelves with products native to locavore-crazed Kings County.

Work on the Whole Foods foundation is slated to begin by the end of the year, with a projected opening in the summer of 2013. Meanwhile, Lightstone is scheduled to seek building permit approval from the city’s Planning Commission this month.