The massive Gowanus rezoning, which Borough President Eric Adams approved with 38 conditions when he sent it to the City Planning Commission, is facing more criticism in the wake of Hurricane Ida.
The Gowanus Canal and a sewage treatment facility experienced intense overflow during the storm, causing flooding throughout the area.
Ida also claimed the life of Red Hook resident Michael Robinson, who was found dead in the Canal’s waters on Thursday morning. Robinson was on his way home the night before, and was still wearing his headphones and baseball cap when he was found floating in the canal.
“Right now, families across the city are trying to collect lost belongings, are on the phone with insurance agents, or are staying with grandma because their homes are no longer livable,” said Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez at a rally last week. “Climate change is here, and it’s only going to get worse unless we use this as a wake up call.”
These new tragedies have renewed old criticisms about the proposed 80-block rezoning of the neighborhood.
Specifically, critics argue that the city’s environmental impact statement uses old data that neglects climate change, rising sea levels, and the increasing frequency of deadly storms like Ida.
“It [the environmental impact statement] is fraught with inconsistency and contradictions,” Velázquez explained. “Most importantly, it does not appropriately take into consideration the impact of massive rain storms that affect the area and the cleanup required afterwards. We cannot afford projects that fall short of protecting human health and the environment.”
Velázquez and Assemblywoman Jo Anne Simon wrote a letter to Marisa Lago, director of the the Department of City Planning, demanding the agency reconduct their environmental assessment.
“Every time a developer comes along, I explain that we have a sewer system that is working as it was designed to work 100 years ago, when we did not have the same population, the same number of toilets flushing, and the same amount of rainfall,” said Simon last week.
“So we have to change our infrastructure,” the assemblywoman added. “It’s not sexy, it’s not fun, it doesn’t look pretty in pictures, but we are all going to drown and our health and safety is going to be irreparably compromised if we don’t do that work now.”
Adams’ support for the Gowanus rezoning included caveats that funding be provided for NYCHA developments within the area.
“Eric Adams is coming in as mayor, and he has already said that we have screwed up the planet,” Simon said. “I don’t know whether his opinion would change with regard to this rezoning, but he is very aware of climate change and has been talking about that forcefully.”