Letter to the Editor: Judge proposes best resolution for decade-old Pier 6 conflict
The letter is in reply to the article “Brooklyn Heights Pier 6 fight now in judge’s hands for decision” by Mary Frost that appeared Nov. 15. The legal arguments between community groups supported by the Brooklyn Heights Association (BHA) and the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation (BBPC) have now gone on for seven months with four heated hearings. What is most striking is that the newly appointed state Supreme Court Judge Carmen St. George has proposed a resolution that is far superior to any thing that has been proposed thus far for the resolution of a decade-old conflict. Judge St. George’s suggestion makes sense from both environmental and financial viewpoints.
Instead of having two structures on Pier 6, which would occupy valuable parkland at its entrance on Atlantic Avenue, there should be only one taller structure that would be the combined height of the two buildings, a 28-story structure on parcel A with luxury condos and a 14-story structure on parcel B with middle-income affordable housing. Aside from the obvious advantage of integrating two economic groups and creating diversity, there are several key advantages that have not been adequately considered provided the new structure is placed on parcel B, a site which would have minimal environmental impact.
First, parcel B borders on Furman Street, the same as the neighboring building One Brooklyn Bridge Park (OBBP) whose front entrance is on Furman Street. This entrance does not interfere at all with the heavy pedestrian traffic that enters the park at its Atlantic entrance. Second, the long side of the building on parcel B faces the water and could accommodate many more luxury apartments than the structure on parcel A, where only the short end of the building faces the water. Obviously, except for the lowest floors, the view of lower Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty would be nearly identical. Furthermore, parcel A is 150 feet closer to the water and is in greater danger of flooding as was clearly observed during Sandy. The long east side of the building on parcel B faces into Brooklyn and looks over the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. This side could accommodate the affordable housing with smaller apartments and thus allow for greater integration of the building on a floor-by-floor basis.
The major flaws in the design of the 28-story building on parcel A are that it both interferes with the loop road that allows easy exit of car and bus traffic from the park and also blocks nearly all the sunlight on the south side of OBBP. The absence of the loop road is a safety hazard since many school children are dropped off at the evermore popular playground at this entrance and vehicular traffic has to circle the entire south end of the park to exit at Joralemon Street. It is also extraordinary that the Department of Buildings allowed a 28-story structure to be built so close to OBBP in the first place, since the road between the buildings is just two lanes, less than half the width of the road separating the buildings in Manhattan on West End Ave. One also has to question why one would want to buy a luxury condo where one would be looking into the bedrooms of an adjacent building a little over 50 feet away along its entire northern exposure.
It is strikingly negligent that a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) was not demanded in view of the huge changes that have occurred since the park was first started a decade ago. The use of the park is dramatically different at it north and south ends. The north end is largely frequented by tourists from all over the world, whereas the south end has become a major attraction for residents from all over Brooklyn. The very idea that the south end of the park should be mutilated by two structures at its entrance should never have been allowed. In the words of Judge St. George, has the BBPC “ever considered one big tower and the use of other spaces for non-remunerative uses?”
When the 28-story tower on parcel A was first proposed, I was alarmed that BBPC would be willing to put up such a tower on ground so close to the water’s edge in sandy soil with bedrock close to 100 feet below the surface. The initial plans of the developer and BBPC and their initial soil report were so inadequate that I sent Deputy Commissioner for Buildings Thomas Fiorello a detailed letter comparing the soil report for parcel A and the soil report for the two comparable towers on the Williamsburg waterfront. The DOB judged their initial foundation plans inadequate and requested major changes that required that 291 steel piles be sunk to bedrock to provide a firm foundation that would prevent the building from leaning like the highly publicized Millenium Tower in San Francisco.
CUNY Distinguished Professor, Emeritus
Elected member NAS, NAE and NAM
The author is a prominent scientist, and the only resident of New York state who is a member of all three U.S. National Academies: science, engineering and medicine. He has considerable knowledge of the environmental impact of two such closely spaced structures on what may be best described as tidal wetlands.
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