Affordable units planned for Brooklyn Bridge Park, but opposition remains

Local Officials Say Plan Doesn’t Meet Area’s ‘Diverse Needs’

May 16, 2014 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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Two luxury residential towers planned for Pier 6 in Brooklyn Bridge Park (BBP) will include a substantial percentage of affordable housing, according to BBP’s Request for Proposals (RFP), issued on Tuesday.

In synch with Mayor Bill de Blasio’s ten-year plan to build or preserve 200,000 affordable units, BBP said the development would incorporate approximately 130,000 square feet of housing affordable to middle- and moderate-income residents.

This means roughly 30 percent of the waterfront apartments would be set aside for the kind of middle-class workers getting priced out of Cobble Hill and Brooklyn Heights – a category that includes firefighters, teachers and cops, a source said.

At a press conference on Wednesday, Mayor de Blasio told reporters that the park is going to have “a transcendent impact on people’s lives, and a really wonderful contribution to New York City. But it’s a costly endeavor by definition, and it has to be maintained. And we know, in an atmosphere of fiscal discipline, that we have to make sure that these parks are self-sustaining whenever possible. So, here’s a chance to do that.”

He added that the affordable housing “allows us to make sure that that neighborhood has economic diversity, which is something I value across the board in this city.”

The announcement didn’t sit well, however, with those opposed to the idea of tall buildings going up in a public park.

Local elected officials said they were disappointed that the administration was pushing ahead with the park development without considering the bigger picture.

“We have long urged alternatives to the Bloomberg Administration plan for housing at Pier 6, and are working to save healthcare services for the entire borough, create a first-rate park with great public access, address severe overcrowding at our neighborhood schools, and build or preserve a diverse mix of housing,” Congressmember Nydia Velazquez, State Senator Daniel Squadron, Assemblymember Joan Millman, and City Councilmembers Brad Lander and Steve Levin said in a release.

“We are open to growth, but this proposal does not meet the neighborhood’s diverse needs.”

The officials said that they are in the middle of a fight to save Long Island College Hospital (LICH), not a stone’s throw away from BBP.

The city must “plan more thoughtfully for the future of the neighborhood,” the pols said.

The proposed towers — one to rise roughly 15 stories and the other roughly 30 — would be just south of the existing One Brooklyn Bridge Park condos, next to the Pier 6 playgrounds and visible from Atlantic Avenue

BBP called the new development “critical to the park’s long-term sustainability,” and said it would ultimately provide 60 percent of the funding necessary to maintain BBP’s piers, where much of the active recreation is situated.

When Brooklyn Bridge Park was created, the agreement required that the park’s operation must be “entirely financially self-sustaining.” Property taxes from BBP’s residential and commercial developments are diverted to pay the park’s upkeep.

The agreement did not specify that buildings must be developed inside the 87-acre park, however.

Besides the 14-story One Brooklyn Bridge Park, converted from a 20’s-era warehouse, the Pierhouse, a condo and hotel complex, is rising at the north end of BBP, and another development is planned for John Street. The old Empire Stores warehouses are being developed for commercial uses.

The offering’s RFP describes the sites in glowing terms, boasting “unparalleled views of the New York Harbor, Governors Island, Statue of Liberty, and Downtown Manhattan.”

According to the RFP, the affordable housing will be open to households with incomes between 80–165 percent of citywide AMI (area median income). This could range from $65,000 to $138,000 for a family of four, an administration source said.

“We want neighborhoods that reflect the diversity of this borough and meet the needs of its working people,” said Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development Alicia Glen in a release. “This is a unique opportunity to see this world-class park built and sustained for decades to come, while at the same time providing opportunities for middle-income workers who increasingly cannot afford to live in Brooklyn. It’s a win-win for the community and the borough.”

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