Gowanus is one of the trendiest neighborhoods in Brooklyn, but will its upcoming rezoning make the neighborhood way too hot?
Gowanus — an area already subject to a poor air and water quality, heavy traffic and lack of parks and open space — could suffer the effects of a phenomenon known as the urban heat island effect as higher density buildings are developed, according to the nonprofit Urban Land Institute New York (ULI NY).
In the urban heat island effect, buildings, cement and asphalt paving cause cities to be hotter than surrounding, less developed areas, especially at night. While daytime temperatures can be as much as 5 degrees Fahrenheit hotter, evening temperatures can be as much as 22 degrees hotter than neighboring areas.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, increased heat from the urban heat island effect has been linked to respiratory difficulties, heat cramps, heat stroke and deaths.
Gowanus is one of several neighborhoods facing rezoning as part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s affordable housing push.
ULI NY was invited to look into the issue by the nonprofit community development corporation Fifth Avenue Committee. Together, they convened a Technical Assistance Panel in April to study the potential rezoning and offer recommendations to ameliorate drawbacks. ULI NY issued a report on Monday.
Some of the recommendations in ULI NY’s report include more trees and plantings, green roofs and breezeways, “paths of respite” along windy corridors, better public transit, and turning the Con Edison lot between Baltic and Butler streets into a temporary park while the area’s only public park, Thomas Greene Park, is closed as part of an area Superfund cleanup.
Land values in the area north of Third Street are expected to explode following rezoning, according to the panel.
“What if you could capture some of the value of the real estate and use it for public benefit?” James Lima, chair of the Technical Assistance Panel and president of James Lima Planning + Development, told the Brooklyn Eagle on Monday. Lima said requirements and incentives aimed at addressing urban heat island effect could be incorporated into the rezoning.
The effect would be to “leverage” the planned rezoning for the benefit of the community, Lima said. While building requirements for developers into rezoning plans is not unique, Lima said, Gowanus has “extraordinary existing conditions,” such as very little tree canopy.
Although the exact details of the rezoning are not yet known, maximum building height and Floor Area Ratio (FAR) are likely to increase in portions of the district, resulting in an overall increase in height and bulk. Tall buildings prevent surrounding streets from releasing their heat at night.