Brooklyn Heights

Brooklyn Bridge Park seeks to move Pier 6 lawsuit from Manhattan to Brooklyn court

July 29, 2016 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Construction of residential towers on Pier 6 in Brooklyn Bridge Park won’t begin until at least December 1, as a court mulls a request by the park to move a lawsuit seeking to block the development from a Manhattan court to Brooklyn. Shown: The two towers can be seen above, center and left.  Rendering courtesy of ODA-RAL Development Services - Oliver's Realty Group

Construction of two controversial residential towers on Pier 6 in Brooklyn Bridge Park won’t begin until at least Dec. 1 as a court mulls a request by the park to change the venue of a lawsuit seeking to block the development.

On Thursday, attorneys from the Corporation Counsel of the City of New York, representing BBPC, filed papers to move the case, filed by the Brooklyn Heights Association (BHA), from New York County, Commercial Division, to Kings County.

The case is currently in the court of Justice Lucy Billings in Manhattan. If transferred to Brooklyn, the city will seek to have the case heard by state Supreme Court Justice Lawrence Knipel, who has overseen several prior actions related to the park.

“This is the seventh litigation challenging development at the park or the environmental review of the park and all six previous cases were brought in Brooklyn,” park spokesperson Belinda Cape told the Brooklyn Eagle on Friday. She added, “All the significant actions the BHA is now challenging occurred in Brooklyn. The Pier 6 development; the park; and the park board vote approving the development – are all in Brooklyn.”

BHA attorney Richard Ziegler, however, told the Brooklyn Eagle on Friday that BHA will oppose the park’s attempt to change the judge who has been assigned to hear the case. BHA’s responding papers will be filed on the Aug. 8 due date, he said.

In September 2015, Justice Knipel dismissed a case against the Pierhouse hotel/condo development at Pier 1 in the park, disappointing advocates from the group Save the View Now (STVN) who claimed the park misled the public about the height of the project.

Knipel also dismissed, on July 27, a lawsuit brought by STVN and BHA regarding Toll Brothers’ alleged violation of the Brooklyn Promenade Scenic View District at the Pierhouse.

BHA’s lawsuit

BHA filed its lawsuit on July 7 against Empire State Development Corporation (ESD) and its subsidiary, the Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation. Also named are two real estate developers selected to build on Pier 6, RAL Development Services and Oliver’s Real Estate Group.

The lawsuit asks the NYS Supreme Court to annul the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation’s (BBPC) June 7 decision to build the towers.

BHA says the park’s approval of the Pier 6 project violates the law that governs development at the Park — the park’s General Project Plan (GPP, or, since it had been previously modified, MGPP for Modified General Project Plan).

The GPP requires that any development must be necessary to support annual maintenance and operations of the park. ESD is responsible for ensuring the park complies with the GPP.

The park has presented figures that purport to show that such financial need exists. BHA and other advocates commissioned their own study that contends that the park’s figures are inaccurate, and that developments already in the park will generate a surplus even without Pier 6. BBPC counters that the coalition’s financial methodology is flawed.

BHA also wants ESD to require an updated environmental review due to the considerable changes throughout the area since an earlier review in 2005. These include greater population density and overcrowded schools.

The project would include affordable housing, a priority of Mayor Bill de Blasio. Deputy Mayor Alica Glen chairs BBPC’s board.

Since affordable housing would not contribute to the maintenance of the park, the park requested last year that ESD approve a modification to the GPP which would allow development that was not financially necessary.

After ESD did not affirm that modification, Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, who chairs the BBPC board, said that the city intended to move ahead with the project “with or without the state.”

A letter later released by ESD Chair Howard Zemsky appeared to give ESD’s blessing to the project. The letter concluded that “the current MGPP does authorize residential buildings and does not prohibit the inclusion of affordable residential units. Certainly, as a matter of policy, the state supports affordable housing, particularly in communities where it is in such demand.”

The letter, however, sidestepped the legality of moving forward with the project without the modification of the GPP to allow development that is financially unnecessary.

BHA also says that the park violated its own procedures when it selected the developers (RAL and Oliver’s) for the Pier 6 project when they had not registered with the City’s Doing Business database, as required by BBPC’s Request for Proposals (RFP) and the city.

Individuals listed in the Doing Business Database are subject to lower limits on campaign contributions to city officials.

In between the park’s selection of RAL and Oliver’s in March 2015 and the public announcement three months later of their selection, BHA says, “RAL and its lobbyist each contributed $10,000 to Campaign for One New York, a controversial fundraising vehicle that supports the political agenda of Mayor de Blasio and that is now under state investigation.”

 

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