Ensuring Diversity and Preventing Displacement in Gowanus: Let's Require a Racial Impact Study Before the Proposed Gowanus Rezoning

The events of the first half of 2020 have made it clear that racial justice must be a prominent factor in all decisions that affect the future of New York City. From the horrific effects of the pandemic on low income and BIPOC communities to the Black Lives Matter protests, it is clear that inclusion, justice, and diversity are fundamental concerns to all New Yorkers.

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams' legislation 1572-2019 is a visionary resolution that calls for a mandated racial impact study to be undertaken for any land-use actions that require an Environmental Impact Study (EIS). We, the undersigned, are concerned about the impacts of the proposed Gowanus rezoning and support this legislation. We call for the study envisioned in this legislation to be applied prior to any decision being made on the Gowanus rezoning.

Introduced in May 2019, PA Williams' legislation would require that “all draft and final environmental impact statements prepared in connection with applications subject to review by the City Planning Commission, shall include an analysis of potential direct and indirect racial and ethnic residential impacts of the proposed action and whether the proposed action would affirmatively further fair housing within the meaning of the Fair Housing Act.”

While it has not yet passed, this legislation is co-sponsored by Councilmembers Brad Lander and Stephen Levin, whose own districts will be the most significantly impacted by the planned Gowanus rezone. We agree with their assessment of the necessity of this legislation, and call on them to have an independent body perform a Racial Impact Study to understand the effect of this enormous rezoning plan on the neighborhood’s current and future diversity.

The Gowanus rezoning, which will be the largest rezoning undertaken under the de Blasio administration, is the perfect opportunity to show the value and importance of such a study to ensure that social justice—racial, environmental, and economic—is at the center of NYC’s development.

Let us envision greater Gowanus as a truly diverse New York City Neighborhood where generations to come can thrive.

We ask Public Advocate Williams and Councilmembers Lander and Levin to ensure that the Department of City Planning conducts a racial impact study prior to the certification of the proposed Gowanus rezoning.


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