Save the Gowanus Rezoning!
The Gowanus Rezoning offers our city the opportunity to build thousands of units of affordable housing, promote equity and integration, and make critical investments in environmental resiliency. After years of planning and input from thousands of residents, recent reports suggest that our City leaders may let the Gowanus Rezoning process fall apart. And now cynical NIMBYs who have always opposed adding residents to the neighborhood are making the ridiculous claim that the City should abandon efforts to add new housing because of COVID-19.
Send a letter telling City leaders that the chance to build affordable housing in Gowanus is too important to let slip away. After providing your information on this page, you'll find a sample letter (see text below) and an easy tool for sending it to key government contacts. Remember: if you have time, personalizing your letter makes it more likely to get noticed!
Your letter will go to Council Member Brad Lander, Community Board 6, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, Speaker Corey Johnson, and City Hall letting them know that allowing the Gowanus rezoning to fail now will confirm the worst suspicions about our City’s leadership: that for all its talk about racial, economic, and environmental justice, it has no interest in giving working New Yorkers a chance to live in affluent neighborhoods.
I write to urge you to move forward with the Gowanus Neighborhood Rezoning process. Gowanus offers our city the opportunity to build thousands of units of affordable housing, promote equity and integration, and make critical investments in environmental resiliency. After years of planning, hundreds of hours of community meetings, and input from thousands of residents, allowing the Gowanus process to fall apart now would be a tragic mistake.
This winter, the City released its draft report on segregation and housing, Where We Live NYC. The report notes that to address the unconscionable racial and economic segregation in our city—one of the most segregated in the country—we must build more housing, especially affordable housing, in neighborhoods with good schools, jobs, and transit that have become inaccessible to working people. And it specifically calls out zoning rules in affluent neighborhoods as one of the chief barriers to integration.
Unfortunately, the City’s actions on housing have not lived up to its words. Instead of using the rezoning process to break down barriers to integration in high-income neighborhoods, all of the neighborhoods that Mayor de Blasio has rezoned to promote affordable housing construction have been low-income communities of color. In fact, Gowanus is the only neighborhood whose residents aren’t predominantly low-income people of color that the de Blasio Administration has even considered rezoning for affordable housing.
Gowanus is, in many ways, an encapsulation of our city’s sorry legacy of segregation and environmental neglect. Decades of environmental degradation were ignored by government leaders when the neighborhood was predominantly working class and people of color. Then, after waves of gentrification displaced those communities, the political will to address these environmental horrors suddenly materialized. Investing substantial public resources into remediating Gowanus and protecting the neighborhood from the dangers of climate change, without also ensuring that working people will have a place in Gowanus’ future, would be galling.
Earlier this year, the City indicated that it was poised to finally unveil its proposal for the Gowanus Neighborhood Rezoning and formally begin the process for public review. Recent news reports suggest, however, that the crisis has placed that proposal on hold, and that unless the formal process begins soon, the political will to rezone Gowanus will dissolve.
Make no mistake: there is no reason why the pandemic should prevent the City from completing the process to rezone Gowanus before this Administration ends. The sad truth is that we will have a housing crisis, and profoundly troubling residential housing patterns, long after this crisis is over. Any attempt to use the pandemic as a cover to shirk the City’s responsibility is cravenly opportunistic.
There are critically important questions about the proposal that still need to be answered—about affordability levels, environmental investments, public housing, and more. But the City cannot meaningfully address any of these issues if it allows bad-faith arguments about COVID-19 to derail the process. After years of work on Gowanus—and after decades of inaction to address segregation and our housing crisis—the City must not let this opportunity go to waste.
Walking away from the Gowanus process now will confirm the worst suspicions about our City’s leadership: that for all its talk about racial, economic, and environmental justice, it has no interest in giving working New Yorkers a chance to live in affluent neighborhoods.