Everything You Need To Know About The Brooklyn Bridge Park Controversy

Everything You Need To Know About The Brooklyn Bridge Park Controversy
Image: FXFOWLE Architects

The Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation will meet next month with their community advisory council to review 14 renderings of residential and commercial buildings that will rise on the site of the park’s Pier 6. Usually, this would be just another real estate story, but the continued encroachment of real estate properties into Brooklyn Bridge Park is a major point of contention in the borough, one on-par with the demolition of South Williamsburg’s Domino Sugar Refinery. As always, this story has many different angles and we’re here to thoroughly explain all of them. Below, a breakdown of the so-called “Battle of Brooklyn Bridge Park” and what it means for the borough.

What’s the recent history and make up of Brooklyn Bridge Park
A plan was created in 2005 (following discussions that started in the 1980s) and ground was broken for Brooklyn Bridge Park in 2008 using abandoned piers left over from Brooklyn’s industrial days. The park stretches for 1.3 miles and consists of six piers as well as the Fulton Ferry landing, the Empire-Fulton Ferry Park and the Main Street Park. Its 85 acres run from North DUMBO to the intersection of Atlantic Avenue and Columbia Street.

How is the park funded?
Therein lies the problem. When the creation of Brooklyn Bridge Park was sanctioned in 2002, Mayor Bloomberg and Governor George Pataki signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) requiring the park to be self-sufficient on operating and maintenance costs while the cost to build the park comes from the City and the State. Then, in 2006, a General Project Plan was created and it included the creation years down the road of five development sites including the site of the two new buildings going up on Pier 6. Overall, the public park gets its funding through revenues from residential and commercial development within park limits.

What residential and commercial buildings have been built in the park?
So far, the only completed residential building in the park proper is One Brooklyn Bridge Park, which was converted in 2008 using a building that once operated as a printing plant for Jehovah’s Witnesses. 1BBP consists of a 1,000,000+ square foot condominium and houses 440+ apartments, 80,000-square-feet of retail space and more than 500 parking spots. What’s more, it is a market-rate condominium. At press time, a 1,585 sq. ft. two bedroom/two bathroom was going for $2.3 million. The building is located near the corner of Joralemon Street and Furman Street.

Since the 1BBP conversion, ground has been broken on three new projects, including a new hotel and condominium on Pier 1, a 13-story residential building at John Street and a massive adaptive reuse of the Empire Stores.

Are there plans to continue building?
Yes. Last year, the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corp., the not-for-profit entity charged with caring for the park, announced plans to finally develop the Pier 6 site, which, as previously stated, had been on the chopping blog for nearly a decade. Unlike 1 BPP, these two parcels will feature affordable housing units, following the discovery that the park was bringing in more revenue than predicted and needed less potential residents to pay at market-rate prices. Per a mandate from Mayor de Blasio, 30 percent of the apartments in the two buildings will be affordable.

The two towers will reach a maximum height of 315 feet and 155 feet, respectively, and will share 430 units between them with approximately 300 going at market-rate.

Who is against the new buildings?
A couple of groups. First, there’s the Brooklyn Bridge Park Defense Fund and much newer Save Pier 6, which have fought to prevent any further private development of the park. Then, there are the Brooklyn Heights residents living behind the proposed buildings. For years, some of the residents have had an uninterrupted view of the Manhattan skyline and Brooklyn Bridge. These new buildings could endanger that. Finally, there are a slew of neighborhood associations from Fort Greene to Carroll Gardens and DUMBO who are categorically agains the new buildings.

Who is for the new buildings?
Well, in a way, the residents of 1 Brooklyn Bridge Park, but only in-so-far as some of them would prefer that the two new buildings be completely market-rate. Otherwise, why build them if the park won’t be making the greatest amount of revenue it could? Their stance is—shaky. Then, there’s the Brooklyn Heights Association who weirdly enough is for the park. Association president Alexandra Bowie recently told the Times, “We have always had the position that housing is the best way to support the park.”

What legal steps have been taken against the Park Corp.?
Last month, a group called the People For Green Space Foundation sued the BBP Corp. As a result, there is a temporary restraining order in place until a judge can determine whether the park needs a new supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) to update the environmental impact statement (a less-involved version of the SEIS) last done in 2005. That hearing will take place in September 2014.

UPDATE: Today, we’ve learned that the Corp. has agreed to a new assessment, which will determine the need for an SEIS.

What is the Corporation doing in the meantime?
Next month, the Corp. will meet with its community advisory council to review 14 new renderings from architecture firms hoping to build the two new towers. Some have proposed the inclusion of swimming pools, a school and public bathrooms. Still, there’s no word yet on whether an architect has been chosen.

For now, no ground has been broken and no permits filed, but the entire park controversy puts the issues of what should be private and what should be public sharply into focus and whether this public/private hybrid model can work in park-happy Brooklyn. Check back with Brooklyn Magazine for updates as the story develops.

Follow Nikita Richardson on Twitter @nikitarbk


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