Brooklyn Heights

Are Pier 6 towers inevitable? City says yes

Brooklyn Bridge Park to vote on tweaked plan on Tuesday

June 2, 2016 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation (BBPC) says it will vote next Tuesday on a revised plan to develop two residential towers in the park at Pier 6. Shown: The two controversial Pier 6 towers can be seen above, center and left. Rendering courtesy of ODA-RAL Development Services - Oliver's Realty Group
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Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation (BBPC) says it will vote this Tuesday on a revised plan to develop two residential towers in the park at Pier 6.

The city released the tweaked plan on Wednesday. It lowers the number of affordable rental units (from 117 to 100), decreases the number of market-rate condos (from 131 to 126), and increases the number of market-rate rental units (from 30 to 40).

The city’s announcement that it will proceed with its Pier 6 push comes despite the May 18 decision by the state-controlled Empire State Development Corp. (ESD) to not approve — for now — Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to allow affordable housing at the site.

A 2015 lawsuit by the People for Green Space Foundation was settled with a commitment by the park to seek permission from the ESD to modify the park’s General Park Plan (GPP) to allow for the affordable housing.

The city believes, however, that ESD’s permission is not necessary. Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, who chairs BBPC, said after the ESD’s denial that the city intended to move ahead with the project “with or without the state.” An ESD spokesman did not respond to requests for comment by press time.

The city’s stance angers a coalition of local groups fighting the Pier 6 towers. These include the Brooklyn Heights Association, Brooklyn Bridge Park Defense Fund and People for Green Space Foundation (PFGSF). The coalition has been trying to block the development on the grounds that its revenue is not necessary to support the park.

Martin Hale, chair of PFGSF, said in a statement on Wednesday, “The ESD made clear that it expected the city to work with the community and its elected officials prior to allowing any development to proceed. This never happened. The city never reached out to us, or our local elected officials, something that the ESD knew well. We hope the state will now intervene to stop this city action.”

The city says the project is vital to the park, however. De Blasio spokesperson Austin Finan said in a statement on Wednesday, “Whether it’s vital funding for the park, pre-K space for our youngest students, securing good union jobs or building affordable housing, it’s not every day that a project can deliver this much for a community. We intend to seize this opportunity.”

Coalition suggests alternate plan

In settlement discussions, the community coalition would discuss an alternative plan, which offers “a more doable affordable plan” that could “provide for more affordable units, immediately, than the city’s plan,” and allows for luxury housing at a later date if necessary.

Carolyn Ziegler, chair of the Brooklyn Heights Association’s BBP Park Committee, said in a statement that the coalition has requested a meeting with Glen to “ensure that she understands our position,” and to offer the alternative solution.

Judi Francis, president of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Defense Fund (BBPDF), told the Eagle, “The community along with our local elected officials will do everything in our power to work out reasonable solutions that secure needed parklands and address the mayor’s citywide policy goals on affordable housing, too.”

Finan, however, said that the need to fund the park and bring affordable housing to the neighborhood was urgent. “This has been scrutinized and debated for more than a year. It’s time to act,” he told the Eagle.

More details on the tweaks to the plan

 In the revised plan, 126 market-rate condos will go into the taller, 28-story building. Next door, 40 market-rate rental units and 100 affordable rentals will occupy the 14-15-story mixed use building.

A pre-K that was planned for the project will be located nearby instead, and public restrooms will be located in one of the towers.

ESD’s decision came after fallout from ‘pay-to-play’ allegations

The ESD’s May decision came after it reviewed a web of connections between real estate developers, a connected lobbyist and the mayor’s now-shuttered Campaign for One New York, the subjects of ongoing investigations involving the mayor.

Developer Robert Levine / RAL was chosen by the city to develop the Pier 6 towers only a month after donating to de Blasio’s Campaign for One New York fund.

An ESD official told the Eagle in May, “ESD’s role is to determine whether a GPP change should be permitted. As we came closer to making a decision on the matter, we became increasingly concerned by reports of conflicts of interest. It is difficult to understand any objections to making sure the community is heard and that any and all potential conflicts are vetted.”

BBPDF’s Francis said in the coalition statement that the deal “appears to reward a developer around whom suspicions have been raised in the current investigations of the Mayor, and not to today’s need for more parklands in an era of unprecedented residential growth in the immediate area.”

The BBPC vote will take place on June 7 at 9 a.m. in NYU Dibner Pfizer Auditorium at 5 MetroTech Center.


Updated June 2 to reflect that the number of market-rate condos is down in the revised plan, from 131 to 126.

Updated June 2 to clarify that the community coalition would discuss an alternative plan in setlement discussions with the city. Details of this plan have not been released.

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