Brooklyn Heights

Brooklyn Heights Association: New data from city shows Pier 6 development unnecessary

‘Developments worth more than park estimated’

February 24, 2017 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The Brooklyn Heights Association says that new city figures show that two residential towers planned for Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 6 (above, center and left) are not financially necessary. Rendering courtesy of ODA-RAL Development Services - Oliver's Realty Group

The Brooklyn Heights Association (BHA) says that property valuations released by the city’s Finance Department last month show that two residential towers planned for Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 6 are not financially necessary.

The city’s valuations show that private high-end developments already built in the waterfront park will bring in much more money than the park corporation projected, BHA says — rendering the Pier 6 project unwarranted.

BHA filed a lawsuit to block the Pier 6 development on July 7; the next appearance is scheduled for March 6. UPDATE: The date has been changed to April 12.

The park’s General Project Plan (GPP) requires that any private development within the park’s borders must be necessary to support the annual maintenance and operations of the park. According to the GPP and a longstanding agreement with the community, BHA says, if the development is not necessary to support the park, it should not be built.

Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Interim President David Lowin maintains, however, the Pier 6 towers are necessary to support the park.

“The Pier 6 project will provide the park with funding it needs to serve millions of New Yorkers for decades to come — along with affordable housing and union construction jobs,” he said in a statement on Thursday.

He added, “We have repeatedly made clear the necessity and merits of this project, and look forward to responding to the BHA’s erroneous claims in court.”

BHA and other advocates had earlier commissioned their own study, by Rosin & Associates, that found that developments already in the park would generate a surplus even without Pier 6.

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This study had been contested by the park corporation. Lowin submitted an affidavit to the court in November contending that study’s financial methodology was flawed, and called its income projections “overly aggressive.”

Lowin contended that without the Pier 6 development, the park would run out of money “almost immediately” if it launched a pre-emptive maritime maintenance program. If, however, the park maintains its marine infrastructure on an as-needed basis, he said, the park would run out of money by 2028.

BHA says the city’s newly released figures vindicate their own study, which is even more conservative.

 

Letter to the Judge

In a Feb. 10 letter to Supreme Court Justice Lucy Billings, who is overseeing the lawsuit, BHA attorney Richard Ziegler alerted the judge about the city’s latest valuations and assessments.

The park’s existing private developments include the luxurious Pierhouse hotel/condo complex; the Empire Stores, a historic warehouse turned commercial complex; the One John Street waterfront condos; and One Brooklyn Bridge Park, a former Jehovah’s Witnesses printing factory converted into luxury condos.

The 2017 Finance Department valuations of these developments average about 30 percent higher than the values assumed in the park’s financial model, Ziegler told the judge.

Brooklyn Bridge Park is supported by private developments through payments in lieu of taxes, or PILOTs, which are based on property values.

The city’s latest figures pegged the value of the residential units at Pierhouse, for example, at $230 per square foot — not the $144 per square foot projected by the park corporation. This is roughly 60 percent higher than the park’s projections.

The new valuations mean that annual PILOT-generated revenue to the park could be more than $300 million higher than the amount reflected in the park’s financial model, Ziegler wrote.

The Pier 6 proposal calls for 100 of the 266 units to be affordable. Affordable housing is a priority of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration, and the mayor has been pushing hard for the development through his proxy on the park’s board, Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen.

Local residents, organizations and elected officials, however, including state Sen. Daniel Squadron, Councilmembers Stephen Levin and Brad Lander and Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon, have been pushing back.

In numerous high-spirited meetings, Pier 6 opponents have pointed to considerable changes throughout the area since an environmental review in 2005. These include greater population density, clogged streets and overcrowded schools.

Last year, Sub-district 2’s schools were operating at 108 percent of capacity, and substantial development in the area is expected to drive enrollment to roughly 135 percent capacity, even without Pier 6.

BHA and other members of a community coalition, including the Brooklyn Bridge Park Defense Fund and the People for Green Space Foundation, say the Pier 6 site should be instead turned into much-needed parkland and urge that the “long-promised” Atlantic Avenue entrance to the park be created.

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

The BHA’s petition seeking to block the Pier 6 development will be heard on Monday, March 6 at 9:30 a.m. in New York State Supreme Court. The hearing will take place at 71 Thomas St., Courtroom 204, in Manhattan.

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