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Next Steps at the Brooklyn Navy Yard

BWRC hosted its first Breakfast Talk of 2019 on March 15th. Last fall, the Brooklyn Navy Yard publicly released an ambitious Masterplan for the future development and growth of its 200 acre-plus campus. Adam Lubinsky, AICP and Managing Principal of WXY Studios, introduced the community to the civic and physical infrastructure that are included in the Masterplan. Once the largest employer in the five boroughs, the Navy Yard was decommissioned in the 1966 by the federal government as an active defense industry site. Although the city maintained the property and leased some low-cost production space to tenants in the following decades, the ramifications of losing nearly 70,000 jobs had a tremendous impact on the surrounding communities. Since taking over management of the Navy Yard in 1981, the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation (BNYDC) has put great efforts into revitalizing manufacturing and creative industries in Brooklyn by leasing production and office space at below-market rates to a variety of tenants.

Competition is already fierce for available space on the campus, and the limited availability also limits the growth, and thus employment, potential of the industries operating there. Currently, about 8,000 jobs are held at Navy Yard firms. All pre-existing buildings have now been rehabilitated and filled, which leaves BNYDC with only one option: to build more. BNYDC and WXY Studios project that with the new buildings, the Navy Yard could host nearly 30,000 jobs. Lubinsky walked the audience through a birds-eye view of the future, highlighting critical design elements like “vertical manufacturing” buildings, pedestrian, ferry, and bike connectivity to the surrounding community, and the integration of social infrastructure like day care, public programming, and educational facilities.

The opening of the Brooklyn STEAM Center (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) in Building 77 earlier this winter marked a watershed moment for innovative public education and career training in New York City. The morning’s second speaker, Katie Beck-Sutler, Vice President of Workforce Development at BNYDC, presented the structure and guiding ethos of the STEAM Center within the Navy Yard. The STEAM Center is managed and run by the Department of Education and pulls junior and senior high school students from eight Brooklyn schools. Students spend a half day taking courses at their base high school, and then spend a half day at the STEAM Center, working closely with industry experts and entrepreneurs in fields like coding, digital design, culinary arts, construction, and media arts. Students receive on-the-job training, industry-recognized credentials, and leave with a portfolio of work that can jump-start their next step after graduation. More importantly, noted Beck-Sutler, students are immersed in a professional environment. In addition to the technical skills they learn in the classroom, students are exposed to the subtle “soft” skills that are critical to career advancement. Working directly with entrepreneurs and firms in the Navy Yard is a huge advantage because it develops a pipeline of talent aligned with industry needs that will benefit both student and employer, encouraging company growth and economic development in Brooklyn.

We’d also like to remind you that on April 12th, BWRC will be hosting its annual conference at CUNY City Tech. “Living in Brooklyn: Housing along the Brooklyn Waterfront” will feature panels discussing affordable housing policy and financing, various development strategies, the role of organizing and tenant’s rights in preserving affordability, and what the future may hold for residents along the waterfront as sea levels and storm surges continue to threaten the viability of housing.

 

Gowanus in Flux: Planning for Neighborhood Resiliency

           On Friday, November 16th, BWRC hosted a lively discussion on the the future of the Gowanus waterfront. Michelle de la Uz, Fifth Avenue Committee Executive Director, was the first speaker and she outlined the major demographic shifts underway in Gowanus. Most importantly she noted, between 2000 and 2015 much of the neighborhood underwent a major exodus of Latino/a residents in certain Gowanus census tracts; certain census tracts saw a flip from a Latino/a supermajority in 2000 to a majority white tract by 2015. As economic pressures have led to this decrease in the  Latino/a population, de la Uz said, the median household income in Gowanus has spiked nearly 300 percent, rising from around $35,000 per year in 2000 and landing near $90,000 a year in 2015. These massive transformations have ushered in a new set of challenges throughout a neighborhood that is is already home to immense environmental contamination; currently, the highly contaminated Gowanus Canal is also home to the EPA’s federally-mandated Superfund remediation project that seeks to reduce heavy contamination throughout the Gowanus watershed.

              In 2016, after Mayor de Blasio announced plans to rezone Gowanus, land values began to increase, years before the actual rezoning has been unveiled. De la Uz walked audience through one of FAC’s key proposals for the upcoming rezoning — the creation of the city’s first EcoDistrict. The FAC’s proposed EcoDistrict would prioritize equity, resilience, and climate readiness throughout the entire Gowanus community. While the city has never implemented an Eco District, there are strong and successful examples from other cities across the country that New York City could use as a blueprint.

              De la Uz was followed by Andrea Parker, Executive Director of the Gowanus Canal Conservancy (GCC), who walked us through her non-profit’s vision for increasing open space and green infrastructure throughout the Gowanus canal watershed. Critically, Parker outlined the current issues with Combined Sewage Overflow throughout the Gowanus watershed, which leads to repeated canal contamination. While the city’s re-zoning moves forward alongside the Superfund remediation project, Parker reminded the audience that setting mandatory standards for green and blue infrastructure remain critical to any efforts which seek to build a climate-resilient, ecologically sound neighborhood. Parker suggested that the city’s rezoning could mandate a comprehensive set of standards for green infrastructure, alongside resilient design for newly created open space. Altogether, these opportunities for ecologically sound design could help Gowanus’ long-term residential communities thrive — and remain — in their neighborhood.

                Both FAC and the Gowanus Canal Conservancy play a critical role in the Gowanus Neighborhood Coalition for Justice (GNCJ), which is a grassroots coalition of stakeholders that are leading the rezoning process and outcomes. Key to their framework is the advancement of racial and economic justice, the preservation and expansion of affordable housing, and the promotion of environmental justice. In the coming months, both organizations will help steer the community’s response to de Blasio’s rezoning proposal and aim to secure equitable outcomes, green design standards, and more for Gowanus’ long-term residents.

Visions for Newtown Creek

BWRC hosted its first Breakfast Talk of the semester, “Visions for Newtown Creek,” on October 12th, 2018. Speakers representing the Newtown Creek Alliance and Riverkeeper outlined their comprehensive, community-driven Vision Plan for the remediation of Newtown Creek.

Lisa Bloodgood, Director of Advocacy and Education at the Newtown Creek Alliance and Chrissy Remein, the Community Project manager at Riverkeeper, presented this ambitious plan starting with a brief history of the challenges inherent to environmental restoration in a densely-populated urban industrial environment. Among the most pressing concerns for residents in the area is the chronic issue of combined sewage overflow (CSO), which occurs when sewer systems are overloaded with rainwater run-off, diverting a mixture of sewage and stormwater to the nearest water body–in this case, the Newtown Creek. Watch this video by the Center for Urban Pedagogy to learn more about CSO.

Although it was designated as a Superfund site by the EPA in 2010, the formal environmental remediation process in Newtown Creek has yet to begin. While the EPA continued its research and feasibility studies, community and environmental advocacy organizations formed the Superfund Community Advisory Group (CAG) with local residents, businesses, and environmental advocacy groups to develop a long-term planning strategy, culminating in the 85-part Vision Plan.

At the heart of the Vision Plan is a commitment to protect and support Newtown Creek as a site of industry and employment in the community. The various strategies outlined by the report intend to strike an appropriate balance of uses between recreation and industry by reimagining what these public spaces can achieve for future generations.

Brooklyn’s Urban Farms: Production and Education. Breakfast Talk on Friday, Feb. 19th

Although the current urban farming movement predates its arrival in Brooklyn, some of the most innovative and dynamic urban farming is being done in that borough. While urban farms address issues of sustainability, nutrition, and “food deserts,” they have always had an educational component to them.

BWRC’s first breakfast event of the new semester will be a panel discussion on urban farms along the Brooklyn waterfront. The panelists will include urban farmers and educators: Ben Flanner of the Brooklyn Grange, Mara Gittleman of KCC Urban Farm, and Mark Hellerman and Diana Mincyte of City Tech.

The event is Free and Open to the Public. However, reservations are strongly encouraged.

RSVP Here

When:
February 19th 2016 – 8:30am

Where:
New York City College of Technology
Atrium 632
300 Jay St, Brooklyn NY

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