Brooklyn Heights

Opponents of Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 6 highrises: ‘Build only to support park!’

At ESD meeting, call for new EIS, minimal development

June 23, 2015 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Opponents of the Pier 6 towers made their case at a meeting of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation (BBPDC) at the Empire State Development on Monday. Shown: One of 14 proposals for the Pier 6 development. Rendering by Asymptote Architecture

The Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation (BBPDC) began the public process to change the park’s General Park Plan (GPP) at a board meeting held at the Empire State Development Corp. (ESD) on Monday.

The park hopes to change the GPP to allow affordable housing in two high-rise towers planned for Pier 6, and shift the number of residential units between the towers.

Opponents of the Pier 6 towers used the comment period to make their case against the Pier 6 development, and to remind the board that it had committed to building only the amount of housing absolutely necessary to support the park.

Park officials maintain that the the Pier 6 development is necessary to fund the park. At a meeting earlier this month, the Board of Trustees of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation (BBPC) presented updated financial figures to bolster this contention.

Opponents also called for a new Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), in light of the exploding development in the area since the original EIS was issued 10 years ago.

Park officials point out, however, that a technical memorandum issued last November by the ESD concludes a new EIS is not warranted.

Under BBPDC’s proposed modifications to the GPP, the towers would retain their current height limits of up to 315 feet and 155 feet, inclusive of permanent roof structures and equipment. Instead of a set number of units in each building, however, the park seeks to be able to shift the number of units around, as long as the total number does not exceed 430. The GPP currently specifies a maximum of 140 units on Parcel B.

The board specifically wants the authority to determine the number and placement of the affordable units.

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Monday’s meeting came about as a result of a recent settlement between the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation (BBPC) and People for Green Space Foundation, a neighborhood group fighting the Pier 6 development.

 Note: The next ESDC Board meeting concerning Pier 6 development at #Brooklyn Bridge Pk takes place Thursday, June 25 at 9 a.m. Persons and organization who wish to participate must RSVP by 5 p.m. Monday at 212-803-3772.

Public comments

Zeeshan Ott, state Sen. Daniel Squadron’s appointee to the BBPC board, told the board that the senator was calling for a new EIS in the context of local school overcrowding, heightened storm risks, the proposed development of the former Long Island College Hospital (LICH), and exploding park use since the decades-old EIS was released. He also urged the park to consider alternatives to the proposed development.

Judy Francis, President of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Defense Fund, spoke about the many changes in the area since the old EIS was issued, including 12,500 new apartments in the pipeline not studied by the EIS, and the lack of transit, sewage plants and other infrastructure.

“Next month an RFP [Request for Proposals] will be issued for the BQE reconstruction,” she added. “Where will the 182,000 cars per day be redirected? … Almost every road in this area is technically at or over capacity.”

Henry Richmond, director for People for Green Space, said the proposed modification is inconsistent with the Modified General Park Plan (MGPP) and should be rejected.

“If the BBP can forgo millions of dollars in revenue by including affordable housing in the Pier 6 development, the scope of the development can and should be reduced,” he said.

The BBPDC has long committed to minimize park development, Richmond said.

“In her June 2006 affidavit in the BBP Defense Fund Case, then-president Wendy Levinger promised the court, ‘As explicitly stated in the GPP, BBPDC has committed to building the minimum development necessary to cover the parks maintenance and operations needs. . . . If after Requests for Proposals are issued for proposed developments it becomes clear that market conditions will allow for less development to support the park’s needs, the development program will be reduced accordingly,’” he quoted.

Park real estate prices have escalated from about $750 per square foot in the 2005 FEIS (Final EIS) to about $2,000 per square foot today, he added, warranting a supplemental EIS.

Richmond also asked why there was no financial analysis and study of reduced-density alternatives in the November Technical Memorandum. “The authoring firm, AKRF, previously argued in court about the importance of this financial analysis in environmental reviews for this park.”

Judy Stanton, outgoing executive director of the Brooklyn Heights Association, requested that the BBPC board refrain from taking any action on the modifications.

“We do not believe you have sufficient information now to act on this recommendation,” she said.

She asked the board to determine if the two towers “conform to the decades-long commitment to build only the amount of housing absolutely necessary to support this park . . . Later public hearings cannot erase your obligation to conduct that inquiry before action.”

Lucy Koteen, chair of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Community Advisory Council (CAC), said circumstances have changed profoundly since the 2005 FEIS. The CAC sees the 2014 Technical Memo as “highly inadequate, as it dismissed every major change and anticipated change that has occurred in the area,” she said. “It made use of outdated information. It appeared to be a masquerade. How can you ignore the explosion of population without any upgrading of sewers, electrical grids, public transportation, roadways . . . and neighborhood schools?”

She added that the police precinct was overwhelmed by the unexpectedly high usage of the park and the population explosion in the area, and pointed out that there is no longer a hospital in the area to serve the large population.

Steve Guterman, of the advocacy group Save the View Now, said it would be irresponsible to not fully analyze the situation in a new EIS.

The park could easily raise money in the municipal bond market to cover a short-term revenue shortfall, he added.

 

Business groups support the development

Not everyone spoke out against the Pier 6 development, however. Chris Martin, speaking on behalf of the DUMBO Business Improvement District (BID), supported the modifications to the GPP, citing the “spectacular successes of Brooklyn Bridge Park.”

The park changed a “derelict, inaccessible waterfront” to a “thriving, open space,” he said. “The Pier 6 project is not only essential to the future of park, but will provide affordable housing and public amenities for our community.”

Bethany Bowyer, Deputy Director of Real Estate and Planning at the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, said the organization supported the plan. She said the park the importance of the park to the Downtown Brooklyn community and its economy “cannot be overstated.”

She said a seminar held by the Partnership about the application process for the affordable housing component of the project attracted more than a thousand residents.

The GPP modification process includes holding a public meeting and soliciting and collecting public comments that will be considered by the BBPDC board and the ESD directors. A notice will be published 30 days before the public meeting, and written comment can be submitted.

 

Check back for updates to this story. Web casting of the meeting is available at http://www.esd.ny.gov/webcasts.

Updated 6/24 to reflect BBPC’s disagreement with advocate’s contention that the Pier 6 development is not financially necessary, and that a November Technical Memo prepared by the ESD concludes a new EIS is not warranted.

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