Thursday, October 11, 2012

Less Than A Stellar Moment For Community Board 6 As Members Reject Own Land Use Committee's Recommendations And Votes To Conditionally Approve Lightstone Gowanus Project

Less Than A Stellar Moment For Community Board 6 As Members Reject Own Land Use Committee's Recommendations And Votes To Conditionally Approve Lightstone Gowanus Project

IMG_9815Community Board 6 Board  October Meeting at Prospect Park Residence in Park SlopeIMG_9811Board Chairman Daniel KumerIMG_9818The Lightstone Group suitsIMG_9820Chairman of CB6's Land Use CommitteeIMG_9825Board Member Lou SonesIMG_9838Board members Debbie Scotto (with hand raised) and Judy Thompson
Last night's monthly meeting of Community Board 6 was a bizarre, badly organized affair that left many Gowanus/ Carroll Gardens residents scratching their heads and wondering about the board's integrity.

First, CB6 should have known that their monthly general meeting would be well attended. After all, on the agenda for the night was the Lightstone Group's  application for "minor modifications" to the previously approved land use actions at 363-365 Bond Street in Gowanus.
When the issue was discussed at CB6's Landmark/ Land Use Committee's public hearing on September 28th, 2012, the community had come out in force, filling an entire school auditorium and overwhelmingly spoke against it.

Yet, no provisions were made to accommodate a larger crowd. Before the meeting even started, the room set aside for the night at the Prospect Park Residence in Park Slope was filled to capacity and members of the community were stuck in the lobby, unable to go upstairs to attend.
(Perhaps if someone had asked some of the 10+ representatives of Lightstone to leave, there would have been room? Just saying...)

Board Chairperson Daniel Kumer was quick to tell everyone that no comments would be taken from the audience. He stated that there had been plenty of opportunity for the community to speak out at the Landmark/ Land Use Committee on September 28th and at a previous meeting in August.
"Most of the real work happens in the committees" he stated.

True enough. After listening to much opposition to the Lightstone project, the Committtee had passed a motion requested that New York City Planning Commission not move ahead with the Lightstone project and that it be tabled until a supplemental Environmental Impact Study (EIS) is performed.
In addition, the motion requested
*that the developer commit to the following:
* that 30 percent of the units be affordable
*that the over-all height of the building be reduced to eight stories as opposed to 12 stories.
*and that the Community Board Responsible Contractor Conditions (which include union labor) be followed.
The motion passed 14 to 3.

The same committee's motion was now in front of the full board.  It is customary for the board to follow  the  committee's recommendation, but after discussion, the motion failed to pass with 27 members voting against.  (Strangely, some members, like Lou Sones, who had voted for the motion a week before, now voted against it.  What was up with that?)

A second motion was made by board member Debbie Scotto. It stated:
Community Board 6 was to neither approve, nor disapprove the application, but to ask City Planning to renew its commitment to a rezoning study and a full EIS for the entire Gowanus Corridor.  In addition, the Board insists that any developer agree to CB6's Responsible Contractor Policy.
It failed 19 to 18.

The following motion was then made by Bob Levine and voted on by the Board:
The Community Board conditionally approves the minor modifications provided that the developer follows CB6's Responsible Contractor Policy and that City Planning starts a full scale study involving the rezoning of the Gowanus Corridor.

The non-binding recommendation passed with 27 yes votes.
 (There were 4 abstentions and 4 no votes.

It was less than a stellar moment for CB6.  Local Gowanus residents who had taken the time to understand the issue,  to attend two prior CB6 meetings on the matter and had  testified in front of the Landmark/Landuse committee were disgusted by the board's refusal to consider the recommendation of its own committee.
"What a shameful performance," someone mentioned on the way out of the meeting.

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