Brooklyn Heights

With CB2’s withdrawal, questions about role of Brooklyn Bridge Park advisory council

March 9, 2015 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Community Board 2’s decision to pull its representative from Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Community Advisory Council (CAC) has caused a stir and raised questions about the role of the community forum. Shown above - The CAC discussed the issue at their March 3 meeting. Photo by Mary Frost
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Community Board 2’s decision to pull its representative from Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Community Advisory Council (CAC) has caused a stir and raised questions about the role of the community forum.

The CAC is the primary forum through which the community can provide feedback and comments to the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation (BBPC), which operates the 85-acre park on the Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO waterfront.

Chairwoman Shirley McRae withdrew CB2’s appointee, Adam Lastowecky, saying that the CAC has become “adversarial” to BBPC.

“I do not mean to suggest that the council should be a sycophantic rubber stamp for the development corporation. There is certainly the possibility for a difference of opinion,” McRae wrote in her Feb. 24 letter to BBPC President Regina Myer. “However, when the two entities are continually of such disparate perspective and opinion, it creates a dysfunctional dynamic that I no longer want the community board to be a party to.”

Since their withdrawal, CB2 has been “taking a beating in the blogosphere,” CB2’s District Manager Robert Perris told the Brooklyn Eagle.

Online, some commenters dissed CB2’s decision, while others complained that BBPC pays no attention to the requests and resolutions of the CAC anyway.

On Friday, Perris further explained CB2’s position.

“The bottom line is this relationship isn’t working,” Perris said.

“With issues like Pier 6 and Pierhouse taking a bigger and bigger place on the agenda, over time it seems like the CAC has become more oppositional to the Development Corp.  The dynamics are strange, and somewhat adversarial,” he said.

Brooklyn Bridge Park declined to comment.

CAC stance leaves CB2 in ‘difficult position’

Local advocacy groups are opposing several aspects of the park’s development plans. People for Green Space Foundation has obtained a temporary restraining order that prevents the park from moving ahead with two residential towers planned for Pier 6.

On Monday, Save Pier 6 told the Eagle that the Pier 6 court hearing, scheduled for March 11, has been postponed for two months in order to discuss the “possibility of resolving the litigation.”

According to Lori Schomp, founder of Save Pier 6, “The Park Corporation has asked for this long adjournment to engage in meaningful discussions regarding the future of Brooklyn Bridge Park.” (Check back soon for more on this.)

Another group, Save the View Now, is fighting to lower the height of the Pierhouse development on Pier 1 which partially blocks the view of the Brooklyn Bridge from the Promenade.

The CAC has voted to support both of these groups, contrary to CB2’s stance.

“We’re in a difficult position,” Perris explained. “We have voted as a body to be in support of the General Park Plan (GPP) and GPP modifications,” he said. “When the CAC says it opposes certain provisions of the GPP, that leaves Adam working contrary to the votes of the full board.”

Lucy Koteen, co-chair of the CAC, issued a personal statement on Friday expressing regret over CB2’s withdrawal. [Note: Due to a miscommunication, this statement was originally mistakenly attributed to the entire CAC.]

“It came as a great surprise to the CAC members that the Chair of CB2 would remove their representative. We hope that the Chair of CB2 will reconsider her position as we value the participation of the local community board and that of their representative, ” her statement reads in part.

The CAC has asked for a new Environmental Impact Study (EIS), a new GPP and full financial transparency.

Can relationship be mended?

At their March 3 meeting, the CAC discussed the schism.

“Without CB2 coming to us and discussing what their objections are, it is hard to draw any conclusions or make any inferences,” said Brooklyn Heights Association representative Carolyn Ziegler.

“One thing that’s clear is that it’s appropriate for us to initiate, in response to this letter, a dialog with Community Board 2 and try to suss out what the problem is, and what can be done to resolve it and move forward,” said member-at-large Tony Manheim.

Perris says he doesn’t know if the relationship can be mended.

“If it’s going to be fixed, the Development Corp., and all parties, including elected officials, will have to come to an agreement about what is its purpose,” he said.

“We of course left open the possibility of another appointee in the future,” he said. “At this time, however, the relationship is too polarized.”

At a Feb. 26 BBPC board meeting, the park board refused to hear a resolution passed by the CAC to halt the construction projects at Piers 1 and 6 pending a reissued Environmental Impact Study (EIS) — a stance that many of CAC members found troubling.

Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen told Sen. Daniel Squadron’s appointee to the board, Zeeshan Ott, that “the chair decides the agenda” for board meetings, and there was “no mechanism” for adding the CAC’s concerns to the agenda.

CAC members include representatives from nearby neighborhood, tenant and business associations, such as the Carroll Gardens Neighborhood Association, Atlantic Avenue Betterment Association and Brooklyn Heights Association.

CB2 represents Downtown Brooklyn, Brooklyn Heights, DUMBO and other neighborhoods. According to the CAC bylaws, CB2’s representative always serves as a co-chair of the Council. (The other co-chair is elected.) Their participation is not mandatory, however.

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