Lightstone Group’s Gowanus Plan faces CB 6 vote tonight

As the final vote by Community Board 6’s full board nears — the meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. tonight, Wednesday, Oct. 10, in Park Slope — a petition against the Lightstone Group’s proposed housing development along the Gowanus Canal is gathering signatures from area residents.
As reported Monday on Carroll Gardens Patch, members of FROGG (Friends and Residents of Greater Gowanus) have created a website to collect the signatures. A check on Tuesday revealed there are approximately 330 to date. These will be sent to CB 6 to let it know that their objections “have widespread community support.”
As the Eagle has reported, the Lightstone Group is proposing a 700-unit, multi-building (of varying heights) rental apartment complex at 363-365 Bond St., between Carroll and Second streets.
Also, as the Eagle has reported, the city Planning Department is not requiring a full ULURP (Uniform Land Use Review Process) effort after determining that the developer is only asking for “minor modifications” from the earlier approved Toll Brothers plan for the site, which went through ULURP and won a rezoning in 2009.
The minor modifications are for the reconfiguration of the buildings and a change in the number of units from 447 condos to 700 rentals.
The Land Use Committee voted on Sept. 27 to ask the Department of City Planning to table approval of the proposed modifications until certain conditions are met, according to District Manager Craig Hammerman, who described the conditions as follows:
• Require a supplemental Environmental Impact Statement “because so much in the neighborhood has changed” since the Toll Brothers project was approved;
• Reduce the maximum height of the buildings from 12 stories to eight; and 
• Increase the amount of affordable housing from 20 to 30 percent.
Tonight, the CB 6 full board must decide whether to approve its committee’s recommendations.
The committee meeting was extremely well attended and many people spoke, according to Hammerman, who was present.
“Most of the things we heard were identical to what we heard when the Toll Brothers project was reviewed,” he said, adding that there were people against any kind of development at all; there were those who were specifically concerned with environmental and quality of life issues; and many were very much in favor of the project because it would bring more affordable housing to the area and will spur more environmental cleanup.
“I think we had the best of all worlds at that meeting,” Hammerman said. “I think the committee heard some very thoughtful comments.’
FROGG members believe this is a premature development “given the challenges in the Gowanus Canal area.” Those adding their signatures, agree to the following statement: “We, the undersigned, support the Land Use Committee’s recommendations to urge the Department of City Planning to table the Lightstone Group’s proposal.”
The Lightstone Group, however, believes it has the support of city planning as well as the various environmental agencies involved with the canal — the EPA, the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the city Department of Environmental Protection.
“The Lightstone Group is keeping entirely within the precise envelope that was previously approved and is making very minor changes,” said Ethan Geto, a spokesperson. He understands the committee members’ frustration that this is a completely different project. But it isn’t. “In the judgment of city planning, conditions have not changed.”
And in the case of some areas of concern, Geto said the firm believes it is offering “above and beyond” what is asked.
As far as the amount of affordable housing, for example, the Lightstone Group  will be providing 140 units, whereas the Toll plan only included 130 units.
Additionally, Toll’s units were to be smaller and segregated in two lesser quality buildings, according to Geto. 
“Ours will be fully integrated with the market-rate units and will be the same sizes and have the same amenities as the market rate units,” he said. “Also we have contracted with the Fifth Avenue Committee, a highly respected advocate for affordable housing, who will handle the application process in an objective and fair way.”
According to Geto, the city, state and EPA are happy with the Lighthouse Group’s plan to clean up the land and replace the existing and deteriorated bulkhead with a steel sheet pile bulkhead (“the absolute best at preventing contamination both ways”) and they are happy with the millions the developer will spend on environmental infrastructure, like an improved storm sewer system (“we’re building brand new storm sewers and catch basins”) and a new system to clean rainwater before it goes in the canal.
“In fact, the EPA told us we’re doing it right, we will advance the cleanup,” he said. “And these efforts will save the EPA and taxpayers millions of  dollars.”
Tonight’s meeting, which is not a public hearing, will take place at Prospect Park Residence, 1 Prospect Park West, corner of Union Street.