Brooklyn Heights

Brooklyn Bridge Park advisory group calls on park to rescind vote approving Pier 6 towers

November 4, 2016 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Henry “Ren” Richmond presents his financial analysis to the Brooklyn Bridge Park Community Advisory Council (CAC) on Thursday. The CAC passed a resolution calling upon the park board to rescind its June 7 vote to approve Pier 6 towers. Photo by Mary Frost

Asserting that newly disclosed figures showed that Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation (BBPC) has drastically underestimated the amount of projected income from developments in the park, the park’s Community Advisory Council passed a resolution Thursday night calling upon the BBPC board to rescind its June 7 vote to approve two additional residential towers to be located on Pier 6.

As part of its resolution, the CAC asked the park “to review the full, accurate financial information with the CAC in order to come to a united determination as to any need for housing on this pier whatsoever.”

The updated figures were released by the park as part of a lawsuit filed by the Brooklyn Heights Association (BHA) opposing the Pier 6 development. The CAC says it asked for this financial model two years ago but never received it.

Henry “Ren” Richmond, a financial analyst speaking on his own behalf, told the CAC that the numbers show the park underestimated future income by at least $300 million over a 49 year period.

A March 2016 Department of Finance (DOF) assessment of the John Street development, for example, indicated a more than a 40 percent increase in PILOT (Payments In Lieu of Taxes) revenue. The much higher John Street assessment is “strong evidence” that the park’s tax estimates for apartments in Pierhouse and the planned Pier 6 development are also far too low, Richmond said.

An unquantified “data error” noted by the park in court papers also likely ups the actual revenue, Richmond said.

Richmond described a number of additional alleged flaws in the park’s financial model. These include the assumption of a high vacancy rate at the Empire Stores (a rate not supported by DOF) and a $42 million “phantom” expense for a non-existent viewing platform on Pier 6.

He asked if the oversights in the financial model were “totally inept, or intentional?”

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“The fact that the park went before its board with a year-old model instead of using the actual data that was then available is insane,” Richmond said. “And to miss the John Street assessment, which was mailed to the park and available online in March … is outrageous. For that to be the justification for Pier 6 is stunning.”

CAC member Charlie O’Donnell, co-founder of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Boathouse, said he was offended by the tone of the discussion “on behalf of the professionals who work in the park.”

“You say they used phantom numbers? …. That it was inept or intentional? That’s very loaded language,” O’Donnell said.

On Friday, BBPC rebutted the CAC’s financial analysis.

“The CAC’s conclusions about the financial need for the Pier 6 project are based on flawed analyses,” BBPC VP Belinda Cape told the Brooklyn Eagle. She added, “We have repeatedly and exhaustively shown that the planned Pier 6 development is critical to the park’s long-term financial stability, and look forward to a quick resolution of this issue in the courts.”

Obligated to limit development to what is financially necessary

 Brooklyn Bridge Park is obligated to be financially self-sufficient, but is bound by a longstanding community agreement to allow only the amount of development necessary to support the park.

A coalition of groups opposed to the Pier 6 project, including BHA, says this commitment to minimize park development was thrown out the window after Mayor Bill de Blasio came into office. Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen heads the BBPC board.

The Pier 6 development would include affordable housing, a major priority of the de Blasio administration.

“This accusation is a thinly veiled attack on affordable housing,” BBPC’s Cape said. “We are proud to have a project that contributes financially to the park and addresses a citywide housing crisis.”

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Updated Friday evening with a second comment from park spokesperson Belinda Cape regarding affordable housing.

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