Gowanus BOA

The New York State Department of State’s Brownfield Opportunity Area (BOA) Program assists communities with creation of redevelopment strategies for neighborhoods with properties that are unused due to economic decline or environmental contamination.

Friends of Brooklyn Community Board 6 received a grant to complete a Nomination Study for two areas in Gowanus.

Click the below links to view the final report & appendices.
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Gowanus BOA Step II Nomination Study Final Report

Gowanus BOA Step II Nomination Study Appendices

More Information

Interactive Maps

Gowanus BOA Nomination Study: Frequently Asked Questions

Q    Who chose the study area? Why is it in two sections and not continuous?

The study area was selected by Friends of Brooklyn Community Board 6. It includes the areas of Gowanus where the Department of City Planning (DCP) intends to retain the existing manufacturing zoning. In the Gowanus Canal Corridor Framework, introduced in 2007, DCP analyzed on-the-ground land uses and created a planning framework to guide development in Gowanus. The framework, which identified and sought to balance a range of goals for the area, identified five sub-areas in Gowanus based on observed land uses. DCP found sub-areas A and B, roughly bounded by Bond Street, Sackett Street, 4th Avenue, and 3rd Street, to be appropriate for a mix of uses including residential, and recommended rezoning accordingly. Sub-areas C and E were identified as predominantly industrial in nature, and DCP recommended retaining existing zoning to support continued industrial and commercial activity. Recommendations from the Gowanus Canal Corridor Framework were carried forward into the Gowanus Canal Corridor Rezoning Study and subsequent proposal. Because rezoning will create very different conditions for redevelopment and reinvestment in the affected sub-areas, Friends of Brooklyn Community Board 6 chose to limit the scope of this BOA Nomination to those sub-areas intended to retain existing manufacturing zoning.

Q    Why is this project focused on industrial retention and redevelopment?

Sub-areas C and E are slated to retain their current manufacturing zoning, which is M2-1 and M1-2. These zoning classifications encourage light and medium industrial use respectively and disallow new residences. Because rezoning of the areas is not anticipated, and because the areas have historically been home to industrial uses that contribute to the employment base, physical character, and cultural identity of Gowanus, the study plans to focus on redevelopment strategies that work within the existing framework.

Q    Wouldn’t increased industrial presence in the area contribute to increased pollution of the canal?

A business’s contribution to localized pollution depends on its practices. The overwhelming majority of the most persistent and noxious contaminants found in the canal are “legacy contaminants” which resulted from discontinued industrial businesses and processes. New businesses locating in the Gowanus are required to follow current environmental regulations. The study will also be investigating local use and promotion of green best practices among existing businesses.

To further ensure that the Nomination process affords due consideration to the incipient cleanup of the canal, we have invited the EPA’s coordinator for the Superfund site to participate in our stakeholder group. Many of the stakeholders also participate on the Superfund’s Community Advisory Group (CAG), as do members of the consultant team.

Q    If this is a Brownfield Opportunity Area project, why isn’t the focus on environmental remediation?

The goal of the BOA program is to provide resources to New York communities to establish effective revitalization strategies that return dormant and blighted parcels into productive, catalytic properties. The Department of State works in partnership with local communities and organizations to develop and realize a community vision for redevelopment and community revitalization.

As part of the process, the study team will identify properties suspected to be brownfields. This identification will primarily rely on the wealth of information available regarding contamination on both waterside and upland parcels in the sub-areas. Identified brownfield sites that are important to the community’s redevelopment strategy may be determined to be eligible for funding or technical assistance programs to facilitate cleanup in the third stage of the process. More detailed information about the steps of the BOA process can be found at http://www.dos.ny.gov/communitieswaterfronts/brownFieldOpp/boaprogsteps.html

Q    This project claims to be community-based. How was the community involved?

Friends of Brooklyn Community Board 6 has contracted a team of consultants to conduct research and analysis, support the work of the community, and create written recommendations and the final Nomination product, but major decisions will vest with local stakeholders.

The community will be involved in multiple ways:

  • We are conducting a survey of local industrial business owners about company information, locational decisions, company trends, and sustainable business practices, to get a better picture of the way industrial businesses in the area function, and how well they are supported. Due to time constraints, not all businesses will be surveyed, but we are aiming for a sample that represents the variety of businesses in the area.
  • We are interviewing owners of selected non-industrial businesses about similar topics, to better understand their reasons for locating in Gowanus.
  • We are convening a stakeholder group consisting of leaders of non-profit and community organizations whose target area of concern includes the study areas. The list of groups invited to participate in the stakeholder group is here. The stakeholder group will be contributing to the study’s vision and goals, deepening the consultant team’s understanding of the area, and identifying strategic redevelopment sites, priorities, and policies.
  • We held two public presentations, open to all interested individuals, at regularly scheduled committee meetings of Brooklyn Community Board 6’s Economic/Waterfront/Community Development Committee.

Q    Who was on the Steering Committee?

The Steering Committee meets every few months, to guide the project’s progress and weigh in on major questions. It comprises representatives from:

  • NYS Department of State Division of Coastal Resources
  • NYS Department of Environmental Conservation
  • NYC Department of City Planning
  • Mayor’s Office of Environmental Remediation
  • NYC Economic Development Corporation
  • Friends and Residents of Greater Gowanus (FROGG)
  • Gowanus Canal Community Development Corporation (GCCDC)
  • Friends of Brooklyn Community Board 6
  • Brooklyn Community Board 6

Q    Who was in the Stakeholder Group?

The stakeholder group is an invited group of representatives from local community organizations, city agencies, and utilities that own land in the sub-areas. Much of its work will be done in small groups. In order to ensure that no viewpoint is overrepresented and that there is time and space for everyone to be heard, each invited group is limited to two representatives.

The following groups were invited to join the Stakeholder Group prior to its first meeting, in September 2012:

  • Fifth Avenue Committee
  • Friends and Residents of the Greater Gowanus (FROGG)
  • Friends of Douglass/Greene Park
  • Gowanus Alliance
  • Gowanus Canal Community Development Corporation (GCCDC)
  • Gowanus By Design
  • Gowanus Canal Conservancy
  • Gowanus Dredgers Canoe Club
  • Gowanus Houses Tenants’ Association
  • Gowanus Institute
  • South Brooklyn Local Development Corporation (SBLDC)
  • Urban Divers Estuary Conservancy
  • Wyckoff Gardens Houses Tenants’ Association
  • NYC Department of Environmental Protection
  • NYC Department of Parks and Recreation
  • NYC Department of Transportation
  • US Environmental Protection Agency
  • Con Edison (local land owner)
  • National Grid (local land owner)
  • Verizon (local land owner)


Q    Why is the stakeholder group by invitation only?

Development in the Gowanus inspires passionate opinion in many residents of neighboring areas, and we welcome input from interested individuals via phone calls, this website, and public presentations. The stakeholder group is designed to be a working group closely focused on supporting as-of-right redevelopment in the manufacturing-zoned sub-areas. We have identified indigenous groups with clearly articulated interests in the study areas. If you are part of an organization that you feel should be part of the stakeholder group, please contact Craig Hammerman, District Manager of Brooklyn Community Board 6 at (718) 643-3027, extension 205.

Q    Who are the project’s consultants?

The consultant team consists of four organizations.

Starr Whitehouse Landscape Architects and Planners is the lead consultant on the team and manages the overall organization and progress of the project. In addition, Starr Whitehouse will lead the planning work, environmental and urban design analyses, and public outreach. The firm has extensive experience with public outreach and planning in New York City, including managing public outreach for the City’s Long Term Control Plan for Combined Sewage Overflows, coordination of site design and drainage issues for the Gowanus Green project at the Public Place site, and leading NYCEDC’s planning effort for environmental mitigation of the BQE between Atlantic and Hamilton Avenues.

Appleseed, Inc. is the lead economic consultant on the team. The firm’s economic and planning work in the New York region is diverse, and includes work on the Brownfield Opportunity Area project at Newtown Creek.

South Brooklyn Industrial Development Corporation, a nonprofit organization with deep experience studying and supporting industrial business in Gowanus and Red Hook, is leading the business survey and providing valuable connections to the local business community.

The Pratt Center for Community Development has a long history of engaging in community outreach and community-led participatory planning in the area. The Center, which enfolds the New York Industrial Retention Network, has deep knowledge of industrial businesses in the region, and has been instrumental in developing the Brownfield Opportunity Area project at the Brooklyn Navy Yards.

The team’s work is supported by planning fellows at Brooklyn Community Board 6.

Q    The Nomination Study is the second stage of the BOA process; was a Pre-Nomination completed for this area? Are there other stages?

The three stages of the BOA process are as follows:

1)      Pre-Nomination Study: The Pre-Nomination Study consists of a preliminary analysis so communities can gain a basic assessment and understanding about existing conditions, brownfields and the area’s potential for revitalization. This step sets the stage for detailed work.

2)      Nomination Study: The Nomination consists of an in-depth assessment and evaluation of existing conditions, including an economic and market trends analysis, and assets to determine the best reuse potential for strategic sites and other revitalization opportunities.

3)      Implementation Strategy: The Implementation Strategy funds a range of techniques and actions to achieve revitalization objectives by advancing redevelopment on strategic sites, improving supporting infrastructure, and overall neighborhood revitalization through investment, provision for public amenities and improving environmental quality.

The Gowanus BOA did not undergo a formal Pre-Nomination Study. Due to the wealth of information available about the area, the State directed us to proceed directly with a Step 2 – Nomination Study project.

Q    What is the outcome of this process?

The Nomination will result in a report with the following sections:

Section 1 – Description of the Project and Boundary

  • Lead Project Sponsors
  • Project Overview and Description
  • Community Vision, Goals and Objectives
  • Project Boundary Description and Justification

Section 2 – Public Participation Plan and Techniques to Enlist Partners

  • Public Participation Plan
  • Techniques to Enlist Partners

Section 3 – Inventory and Analysis of the Proposed Brownfield Opportunity Area

  • Community and Regional Setting
  • Inventory and Analysis
  • Existing Land Use, Zoning, and Economic Districts/Designations
    • Brownfield Sites
    • Strategic Sites
    • Land Ownership
    • Building Inventory
    • Historic or Archeologically Significant Areas
    • Transportation Systems
    • Infrastructure
    • Natural Resources and Environmental Features
    • Economic and Market Trend Analysis
  • Analysis, Findings and Recommendations of the BOA and Strategic Sites

More detailed information about the BOA process can be found at http://www.dos.ny.gov/communitieswaterfronts/brownFieldOpp/boaprogsteps.html

Q    What happens with the results of this study?

Once complete, the Nomination will be circulated for review and comment by area residents and agencies.

Upon receipt and acceptance of a satisfactory Nomination, the participant (Friends of Brooklyn Community Board 6) may apply to advance to Step 3 and complete an Implementation Strategy and/or Site Assessments. At the conclusion of the Nomination, the participant is encouraged to meet with the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation and State Division of Coastal Resources to discuss the status of strategic sites and to consider which sites would be most competitive for site assessment funding.

More detailed information about the steps of the BOA process can be found at http://www.dos.ny.gov/communitieswaterfronts/brownFieldOpp/boaprogsteps.html

Federal, State and City Incentive Programs for Businesses in Gowanus

Own land or a business in Gowanus? Interested in making improvements? Gowanus BOA Incentives 2013 guide to Federal, State and City incentive programs that can help.

Project Overview

The goal of the Gowanus BOA Nomination is to develop a community-supported strategy to reuse and redevelop under-used properties in the Gowanus area. The State’s BOA program is unique in supporting a cohesive, neighborhood-scale approach to economic redevelopment, with a goal of establishing effective revitalization strategies that turn dormant and blighted parcels into productive, catalytic properties. Completion of the BOA process results in a menu of development options, with community-identified strategic sites, redevelopment priorities, and policy solutions. Partnerships between community representatives and city and state agencies that evolve during the project ensure that the resulting strategies are well understood and supported at different levels of government.

The Nomination produced an in-depth and thorough description and analysis of existing conditions, opportunities, and reuse potential for properties located in the study area (see report links above). Chosen by Friends of Brooklyn Community Board 6 as the study area for this Nomination, the two sub-areas were identified by the Department of City Planning in their Gowanus Canal Corridor Framework and subsequent rezoning proposal as areas intended to retain their existing manufacturing zoning. Accordingly, the Nomination anticipates that these areas will retain their primary function as centers of industrial and commercial activity, and will work to create a compatible strategy for redevelopment.

Within the framework of industrial and commercial use, the BOA Nomination considered a wide range of options that can contribute to the revitalization of the study area. The process begins with data collection and analysis: economic and market conditions, physical conditions, known environmental conditions, utility and transportation infrastructure, etc. Understanding of existing conditions in the sub-areas will be deepened by key information that can only be provided by community members: stakeholders will augment and deepen the study team’s work; a survey of industrial businesses will collect information about company trends, locational decisions, supportiveness of the neighborhood for business, and green business practices; additional interviews with non-industrial businesses will explore Gowanus’s suitability for a range of enterprises.

The Gowanus Canal is both a potential amenity for local businesses and a sensitive environmental feature whose incipient cleanup is the focus of local, state, and federal attention. Work on the Nomination will be coordinated with the EPA’s efforts, to ensure that strategies for the area’s revitalization do not conflict with ongoing cleanup plans.

The BOA program is intended to forge consensus among community members regarding as-of-right redevelopment. While Friends of Brooklyn Community Board 6 has contracted a team of consultants to conduct research and analysis, support the work of the community, and create written recommendations and the final Nomination report, major decisions will vestwith stakeholders. A stakeholder group representing established community groups that focus on Gowanus, public utilities that own land in the sub-areas, and relevant government agencies will set the vision and goals for the study, contribute knowledge and expertise to the consultant team’s understanding of the area, and ultimately help determine strategic sites and redevelopment priorities.