January 27, 2013 at 05:59 AM EST
Third Ave.'s revival in Brooklyn gets worrisome
One of Brooklyn's oldest streets in what was once one of its most industrial areas is reluctantly undergoing a renaissance. The northernmost section of Third Avenue—just upland from the Gowanus Canal, along a line believed to follow a Dutch-era wagon trail—is experiencing a boom that has many longtime residents flabbergasted and anxious. For years, the roughly 15-block stretch from the Prospect Expressway up to Union Street was best known for its industrial vibe, not to mention its regular sewage overflow problems and a constant parade of prostitutes. While Park Slope to the east and Carroll Gardens to the west already had seen their transformations, Gowanus' main drag was always thought to be impervious to such changes. Now foodies flock from all over the city to suck oysters at Third Avenue's Littleneck Clam Shack, break bread at Runner and Stone, and brave the spice at Fletcher's Brooklyn Barbecue. Meanwhile, new-age manufacturers, like Twig Terrariums and the Robot Foundry, are doing brisk business. And there's more to come: Two new barbecue joints, a big Whole Foods Market, a two-story Turkish restaurant and a shuffle-board club with a roving cast of food trucks and a stage for live music are all set to open this year. "This is Williamsburg 10 years ago," said Justin Dower, senior vice president of Ideal Properties Group. He notes that retail rents along Third Avenue are now nearly $60 per square foot, up as much as 23% in two years. Still, area residents are hoping that the recent explosion of growth will be slowed by the planned detoxification of the canal—an official Superfund cleanup site that could take a decade to restore—and memories of the flooding along the canal caused by Superstorm Sandy. What's more, they note that current zoning bars residential developments, like those that have sprouted one block west following a big zoning change. "Fourth Avenue has been a disaster," said Ben Schrank, a novelist who lives in the area. Some deep-pocketed developers, however, beg to differ. The Lightstone Group is pressing ahead with plans for a 700-unit, $257 million apartment complex on the Carroll Gardens side of the canal. Veronica Hackett, the developer's chief development director, said a rezoning of Gowanus to allow more residential projects is still on the table.
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