Brooklyn Heights

Brooklyn’s Pier 6 developer says financing could fall through if state doesn’t OK plan

March 22, 2016 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
RAL Development says financing for two controversial Pier 6 towers, shown center and left, could fall through if the state doesn’t approve the project by April 30. Rendering courtesy of ODA-RAL Development Services -- Oliver's Realty Group
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RAL Development, the developer behind two controversial residential towers at Pier 6 in Brooklyn Bridge Park, has warned state and city officials that the project’s financing will be lost if the state doesn’t move the delayed project ahead by April 30.

The letter by RAL President Robert Levine was first reported by POLITICO New York on Tuesday.

Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation (BBPC) has asked Empire State Development Corp. (ESD) to approve a modification of the park’s General Project Plan to allow affordable housing, a priority of Mayor Bill de Blasio and his appointee to the BBPC board, Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen.

The park is mandated to be self-supporting, but the city had originally promised that only development absolutely financially necessary would be built. After de Blasio took office, however, 117 units of affordable housing were added to the project. (Other changes include the addition of retail, a community facility, a 75-seat pre-K space and the elimination of a road looping around the parcels.)

The most controversial modification to the General Project Plan (GPP) would allow the park to build the Pier 6 towers regardless of financial need, contrary to the city’s prior commitment.

ESD is holding off on deciding whether to modify the GPP, however, in light of a firestorm of opposition by residents and local officials to the 339-unit development.

The proposed project has been opposed by all of the area’s elected officials, 19 community organizations and many residents of Brooklyn Heights and neighboring communities. Concerns have also been raised by the City Comptroller, Public Advocate, Community Board 2 and Community Board 6.

Opponents say that 315- and 155-foot towers will only add to already overcrowded schools, streets and infrastructure, and are not financially necessary. They are calling for a new environmental study, in light of numerous other developments going up in the area.

“I’ve long opposed any luxury housing plan for Pier 6, along with my colleagues and every neighborhood civic association in the area. I appreciate that ESDC is considering these concerns seriously,” state Sen. Daniel Squadron told the Brooklyn Eagle on Tuesday.

Doubts the city and state’s ‘ability to execute’

In his letter to ESD CEO Howard Zemsky, Levine writes, “We have reached a critical juncture for our development proposed for Pier 6 of Brooklyn Bridge Park. Our financial partners have informed me that unless substantial progress in approving changes to Brooklyn Bridge Park’s General Project Plan is achieved by April 30, 2016, financing for the project will be jeopardized. I’m writing to enlist your support in moving the project forward towards construction.”

Levine adds that a settlement reached in May 2015 stipulated that ESD and BBPC would “hold a public process that provides for the public’s written and verbal comments when considering proposed modifications.”

“That process ended on August 31. It should come as no surprise, then, that our financial partners have come to doubt the city and state’s ability to execute the project,” he wrote.

De Blasio spokesperson Austin Finan reiterated the city’s support for the development.

“Dropping the ball on this project would result in forfeited park funding for one of the city’s treasured open spaces and a squandered opportunity for sorely needed affordable housing and pre-K space. The ESD should see that the project is moved forward,” he told the Eagle.

An ESD official told the Eagle on Tuesday, “We stand ready to assist in the development of Pier 6 once the city presents a plan that has community support, and we’re hopeful they will reach a resolution soon, so that this project can move forward.”

BBPC President Regina Myer maintains that the income from the Pier 6 development is necessary to maintain the park.

“The proposed project for Pier 6 would provide essential park funding along with more parkland, affordable housing, pre-K space and union jobs — plus, reduced height and density from the plan permitted in 2005,” she told the Eagle on Tuesday. “We look forward to a vote from ESD.”

Community groups say the park will have plenty of income from numerous other developments already in the pipeline, including the Pierhouse hotel/residential complex at Pier 1 and the Empire Stores shops and restaurants.

A coalition of Brooklyn community organizations released two commissioned reports last month that they say point to a massive surplus from the existing development projects.

The coalition, made up of the Brooklyn Heights Association (BHA), Brooklyn Bridge Park Defense Fund and the People for Green Space Foundation (PFGSF), says that BBPC appears to be “making up numbers” to justify putting additional housing in the park.

In one of the reports, appraiser Rosin & Associates examined BBPC’s revenue projections. According to the study, the park’s financial model dramatically underestimates its revenue.

There’s no need to rush Pier 6, said Henry “Ren” Richmond, financial analyst and board member of PFGSF.

All the park properties will be assessed by January of next year, providing the community with concrete numbers on how much income they will bring to the park, he said at a press conference on Feb. 29.

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Updated on March 23 with a quote by De Blasio spokesperson Austin Finan.


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