Brooklyn Heights

Details & choice of developer for Brooklyn Bridge Park brings out critics, questions about surplus cash

July 2, 2015 Staff reporters Brooklyn Daily Eagle
David J. Wine, managing partner of Oliver's Realty Group, describes the proposal at a press conference on Tuesday at Brooklyn Bridge Park. Eagle photo by Cody Brooks
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The public announcement by Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation earlier this week, naming the developer to build two new towers at the park entrance in front of Pier 6, brought forth a number of comments from local residents and elected officials who question the scale of the project.

In many of these comments, community groups opposing the development said they were disappointed that the park board moved ahead in choosing a developer before the promised public hearing and comments — following the settlement of a lawsuit with People for Green Space Foundation – have even taken place.

One issue remaining in the shadows is the fear that, recognizing a cash cow, city departments involved in development have pushed hard for completion of a project that will produce surplus cash that could be used for other purposes in the future, should the park not need the reserves immediately.

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But Brooklyn Heights and Cobble Hill residents who oppose what they call “over-development” of that site would argue that unnecessary adverse conditions are produced by overbuilding the site now. Pressed for details, one resident pondered and said, “I’m not sure. I guess there’s already one monster building there (referring to 360 Furman). Must we now have something almost 30 stories high?”

A study [the “Technical Memo”] commissioned by Brooklyn Bridge Park Corp. and led by Empire State Development Corp. (ESD) last summer found no adverse effects of the project. At a meeting last week, however, ESD left the door open to consideration of a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement.

A 75-seat pre-K planned for the project will help to offset the pre-K seats eliminated from P.S. 8, which is 140 percent over capacity, but will do nothing to mitigate overcrowding at the grade-school level.

Robert Levine, president and CEO of RAL Development Services, pointing. Behind him stands David Wine, managing partner of Oliver's Realty Group. Regina Myer, president of BBP, stands to the right. Photo by Mary FrostAddressing a different issue, one person from Brooklyn Heights is worried more about the mass of the hi-rise, seemingly caused by inclusion of subsidized housing in the whole project. (In the latest plan, BBP says, the subsidized housing will be contained completely in the low-rise building.) “Though the subsidized housing was moved out of the cash cow hi-rise,” said the critic,” it was inclusion of subsidized housing trade-off that gave the developer leeway to build a tower.”

 “We don’t oppose the staff who run the park or the programs run by the Conservancy,” said the long-time Heights resident, who contributes to the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy. “We object to the city’s aggressive use of over-development and political opportunism, like the inclusion of subsidized housing, to ride on the back of a pro bono publico project whose funding should, frankly, stand in a brighter light of public examination.” 

“Walling off the park entrance and the Brooklyn waterfront with condos is a tragic mistake, especially now that the park’s real estate windfall provides better options,” said Henry Richmond, a director of the People for Green Space Foundation (PFGSF).

Richmond , who lives at neighboring 360 Furman Street, also known as 1 Brooklyn Bridge Park, has been criticized by development supporters for not making clear in all of his statements that his building contains units whose views will be blocked by the proposed hi-rise.

In a letter PFGSF wrote to Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation (BBPC) on Tuesday, the group criticized the latest financial projections from BBPC.

David Lowin, a BBP spokesperson for park finances and projections, said simply that figures used by PFGSF differed dramatically from those calculated by the city on behalf of the park.

BBP President Regina Myer said in a statement on Thursday, “As the Pier 6 discussion continues, it’s essential that the public has as much information as possible about what’s being proposed: more parkland, affordable housing, universal pre-k and community facilities. We released 50-year financial projections earlier in June to further inform this process, and, as we noted Tuesday, released our developer recommendation in that spirit.”

In an update, BBP announced that they would again be presenting their financial model to the public on Thursday, July 9, 6:30 p.m. at 334 Furman St. An independent financial analysis will be released in later this month, date to be announced.

See below for more comments from involved organizations.

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Comments from Community Groups

About BBP’s Announcement of a Pier 6 Developer

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Brooklyn Heights Association

 The Brooklyn Heights Association is troubled by the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation’s announcement on Tuesday that it has chosen a recommended developer and plan for Pier 6. Moving forward on the award of this contract with so many open questions and in the midst of public hearings on the very same subject, makes it clear that the BBPC has every intention to build in violation of prior commitments and without consideration of the impact of its decisions on our community.

The public discussion begun just last week raised significant issues that BBPC has been unable to address in a satisfactory way. Public school overcrowding will be exacerbated by the additional development. PS 8 is already operating at more than 140 percent capacity and turning away local kindergarteners for this Fall.

Inadequate park access already has generated burdensome car and pedestrian traffic in the streets approaching the Park. These two large residential buildings will only add to this traffic.

Abandonment of the fundamental public agreement behind the Park—to limit development to only what is necessary to support it financially—leaves the community’s faith in fair process in tatters. Ironically, the BBPC has not yet even released the results of a financial review it has commissioned. After months and months of requests for full transparency from all local community groups and elected officials, the BBPC’s financial status remains opaque.

Despite today’s announcement, the BHA will continue its engagement in the public review process that must still run its course before this project is finalized. And we will continue to expect the members of the BBPC Board, the Brooklyn Park Development Corporation Board and the Empire State Development Board to live up to the commitments they have made in the past and to consider the needs of our community.   We will also continue to expect the Mayor to recognize that however laudable several of his present policy objectives for our City might be, promises made should be kept. “

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Steve Cohen, chair of Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corp.

As I understand it, the staff’s recommendation is just that: a recommendation. In due course, the Board will consider what is in the Parks best interest. Meanwhile, the proposal must await a public meeting and then a determination by both the Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation Board and the Empire State Development Corp on whether to accept or reject a park plan modification, put forth as part of the Pier 6 litigation settlement.

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State Sen. Daniel Squadron

Along with the community, I remain opposed to luxury condos in Brooklyn Bridge Park. The community was promised a public process on Pier 6 planning, but hasn’t even had a public hearing yet. Any attempt to undermine that agreed-upon public process, including presenting today’s recommendation as a done deal, is unproductive. I’ll continue to work with colleagues and community members to push for the community’s needs.

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Henry Richmond, a director of the People for Green Space Foundation

Walling off the park entrance and the Brooklyn waterfront with condos is a tragic mistake, especially now that the park’s real estate windfall provides better options. We believe that truth, sunlight and fresh air will win out in the upcoming public input process.

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Linda DeRosa, president of the Willowtown Association

The Willowtown Association had hoped that the BBPDC would be committed to the mutually agreed upon public hearing process before making a decision of this magnitude. We are extremely disappointed that the City and State have so far refused to study the seismic impact this development will have on our community.

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