If the city is to get growing again post-pandemic, major building projects need to be part of the picture. But the built-in favoritism for anti-development forces is so strong that even a project backed by a lefty like City Councilman Brad Lander can stall out — as is the case with the plan to build on parcels near the Gowanus Canal that now hold little but decrepit warehouses.
Lander and others bargained for the project to include tons of affordable housing and also cash to help repair nearby public housing. But the site needs to go through rezoning hearings before the rest of the long approval process can be completed — and Brooklyn Judge Katherine Levine has stalled the rezoning for seven weeks simply because a few locals demand in-person public meetings in the middle of a pandemic instead of virtual ones.
An executive order by Gov. Andrew Cuomo allowed virtual meetings nearly a year ago, and they’ve routinely attracted more participants than pre-COVID in-person ones. And Mayor Bill de Blasio more recently added his own order to OK the concession to pandemic reality. But Judge Levine has indicated her ruling will make everyone unhappy, which suggests more delays.
With key backers Lander and de Blasio leaving office, even another month’s delay could kill the project — and other naysayers across the city could use the same bogus gripe to derail other rezonings. This, even though a host of similar anti-development rulings by other trial judges have been tossed on appeal in recent months.
Here’s hoping Levine tosses this suit entirely at the next hearing on April 9 (which will be virtual itself!) and so helps the whole city get back to looking forward to the future.