Lightstone Group's Plans And Drawings For Gowanus Project Approved By City Planning, But Developer Still Needs Waterfront Certificate

NYC Department Of City Planning Hearing for Lightstone Group's Gowanus development  
Commissioner Betty Chen, Commissioner Michelle De La Uz, and Amanda Burden,  Chair of the NYC Department Of City Planning
Commissioner Michelle De La Uz and City Planning Chair Amanda Burden
(De La Uz is the executive director of the 5th Ave. Committee. During the Lightstone discussion, she recused herself, since the developer has contracted with the 5th Avenue Committee to manage the affordable units included in the project.)
 Amanda Burden,  Chair of the City Planning Commission
Purnima Kapur, City Planning Brooklyn Director
Aline Fader, representing NYC DCP Brooklyn Office, presents Lightstone's newest plan
Aline Fader and colleague present Lightstone Groups's as-of-right project

Just a few days ago, it was announced that Lightstone Group is proceeding with its 500,000 square feet mixed-use housing development on the shores of the Gowanus Canal at 363-365 Bond Street as an as-of-right development and has abandoned the minor modification which it had previously requested of NYC's Department of City Planning (DCP).

During DCP's review session on Monday afternoon, representatives of the Brooklyn DCP office explained that Lightstone, apparently wanting to avoid the risk of legal action,  has withdrawn its minor modification application and has decided to pursue the as-of-right development under zoning granted in 2009.
This project had come in front of the commission once before in September 2012 as a 'minor modification' of the original 2009 special permit project previously granted to Toll Brothers.

This as-of-right development is nevertheless subject to City Planning Commission approval because the 2009 special permit project was made subject to a restrictive declaration that was attached to the plans and drawings.

One of the purposes of the restrictive process was to help insure that the key urban design principals of the special permit project, which ensures that the taller portions of the development should be on the canal side and the lower portions should be along Bond Street, would be respected.

The second restriction has to do with Waterfront Zoning Regulations, which did not apply to the Gowanus Canal at the time of the original approval in early 2009.  However, later the same year, the City Council made the canal subject to the zoning regulations and water front open space will now be required in connection with the as-of-right project under those provisions.

The original 2009 project provide public open space along the canal that was designed "in the spirit of" the Waterfront Regulations. It did not strictly adhere to them.  Lightstone has modified the drawings to allow the requited waterfront public access area to be included, resulting "in a net increase of open space on the Southern block, where the building is being pushed back by approximately 20 feet."

To address FEMA's recently released Advisory Base Flood Elevations and  changes to the Building Code,  the site will be raised by 2 feet at First Street. Lightstone will elevate the ground floor of the building approximately 1.1 foot and make the street level parking garage a "bath tub structure".

At yesterday's DCP session, Lightstone sought approval for the plans and drawings for the as-of right project.
The Planning Commission votes unanimously to grant the approval.

However, at a later date, the applicant will need to seek a Waterfront Certificate from Chair Amanda Burden in regards to the design of the waterfront open space. The certificate will specify the design of the open space and certify that it meets the zoning requirements. The applicant is expected to file the application later this year.

"And at that point, and only at that point, will the developer be able to begin construction. So it's really a two-step process" a representative of the Brooklyn DCP office was quick to point out during the presentation.