1.Rezone the current Industrial Ombudsman area to a new, “Mandatory Mixed-use” zoning district that can foster a stable, balanced mix of light industry, artists and cultural uses, and housing in appropriate locations.
A Genuine Mix of Uses > Recommendations
The new zoning should include the following elements:
A requirement for creating or preserving industrial, or “maker,” space
All new development in the district must provide new space or preserve existing space for productive/”maker” work space either on-site or elsewhere in the district. Creating a Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) district would facilitate a balance of uses over time by allowing individual landowners within the district to sell or purchase otherwise unused development rights in order to meet a requirement to maintain a fixed ratio of “maker” space to other uses throughout the district. Maker space could include light manufacturing, art/artisan space, or nonprofit organization work space.
A new Mandatory Mixed-use land use policy will have to pay particular attention to preserving existing commercial tenants, makers, and manufacturers (and the spaces where they work) and ensuring that their past contributions to the local culture and economy are not punished by direct displacement from new development. A balanced mixed-use district will only be achieved over time with a thoughtful combination of requirements and incentives for preserving or creating space for production.
Creation of a mission-driven nonprofit organization to own and manage “maker” spaces
One way to facilitate operations of a TDR district would be the creation or designation of a mission-driven nonprofit organization to serve as the steward of the “maker” buildings and spaces within the district. A nonprofit organization dedicated to creating space for production and the growth of “maker” spaces could play variety of roles in Gowanus: It could act as a developer and owner of industrial space tenanted by small businesses, which is similar to the operations of the Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center. Their space development costs could be partially underwritten by payments from property owners who are seeking to undertake residential but not industrial development, and in that way preserve a balance of uses. It could also manage privately-owned industrial space to ensure compliance with mixed-use requirements, a function which might be funded through the Industrial BID, discussed below. It could also manage arts spaces, a là Spaceworks, a nonprofit cultural community development organization dedicated to expanding the supply of long-term, affordable rehearsal and studio spaces for artists working in New York City.
Finally, the organization could work directly with property owners to help them access local and state incentives and other forms of assistance that would make such an undertaking possible. The Southwest Brooklyn Industrial Development Corporation (SBIDC) helps companies and property owners obtain assistance and could play this stewardship role.
Allowing certain uses as-of right, where appropriate
In addition to a range of light industrial and “maker” uses in mixed-use zones, other uses could be accommodated in appropriate parts of this district, including neighborhood-serving retail. Housing could be built in appropriate areas, and in addition to the requirement for “maker” space, there should be mandates for preserving and creating affordable residential units. (See the affordable housing section of this planning framework for more on this.)
Restricting certain uses
Local stakeholders have voiced opposition to uses that out-price “maker” space. Businesses such as nightclubs/entertainment venues, hotels, self-storage facilities, and depots for buses and trucks should only be allowed by special permit in this balanced mixed-use zone.
Ensuring compatibility between different uses
Various regulatory tools, including performance standards and genuine enforcement mechanisms, will be needed in order to promote and maintain the harmonious co-existence of industrial with residential and other land uses. Other useful mechanisms could include design guidelines for noise proofing, buffers to separate heavy industry in the Gowanus Manufacturing Zone from the mixed-use zone, and a commercial traffic plan to guide trucks onto particular streets during specified times of day.