Non-binding resolution will be considered by park board
By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
At the end of a long and sometimes raucous meeting of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Community Advisory Council (CAC) Tuesday night, held at Congregation Mount Sinai, members of the CAC passed a resolution calling for a halt on construction of two major development projects in the park until a number of thorny issues are resolved.
The CAC is the advisory board representing the local community. The non-binding resolution, passed by a vote of 14 to 3 with the two chairs abstaining, will go before the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation’s (BBPC) board of directors for consideration later this month. [See update here.]
Brooklyn Bridge Park officials have maintained that the residential and commercial developments in the park are necessary in order to fund its operations and maintenance, and say that they have been completely transparent with financials. These arguments were met with a stiff resistance by advocates who said the projects, especially two towers planned for Pier 6, will bring in more money than strictly needed, and that agreements to limit their impact are being ignored.
Presenting at the meeting were Laurian Cristea, representing the local elementary school, P.S. 8; Steven Guterman, founder of the preservationist group Save the View Now; Regina Myer, president of the BBPC; and David Lowin, the BBPC’s vice president for real estate.
Cristea used charts and graphs to show the impact of Brooklyn Bridge Park’s residential development on P.S. 8.
P.S. 8 is currently at 142 percent capacity — up from 66 percent when the park’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was drawn up — and has already had to eliminate pre-K due, in part, to skyrocketing residential development in the school’s zone, Cristea said. More than 3,750 new housing units will be developed in the zone through 2017.
Cristea said that a technical memorandum created by BBPC vastly underestimated the negative effect of all these new students on P.S. 8.
Presentation by Save the View
Guterman, from Save the View Now, received an ovation from the audience after presenting his case that agreements protecting the view of the Brooklyn Bridge from the Heights Promenade have been ignored during the construction of the Pierhouse hotel-condo project at Pier 1.
He presented quotes from the Pierhouse Request For Proposals (RFP), FEIS and Design Guidelines that he said required BBPC and the developer, Tollhouse, to preserve views of the Brooklyn Bridge from the Promenade.
He also illustrated a number of ways where he said construction had gone awry. These include a tall south wall built too close to the Promenade; the “wrong” base plane; and a 30-foot bulkhead placed on top of the allowed 100-foot structure.
“Despite what the BBPC says today, it is undeniably clear” when you read these guidelines “that those views are protected,” Guterman said. He challenged BBPC to answer a number of questions the group has posed.
BBP's Myer: It's a balancing act
BBPC President Myer said the park is now nearly 90 percent complete, and noted that new sections on Pier 6, the Pier 5 uplands and John Street are slated to open in the spring.
“All of this success in building this park, which is now budgeted at approximately $400 million, would not have come unless the community made some very tough choices about a decade ago. Those choices related to the funding of the maintenance and operation of the park and the waterfront infrastructure,” she said.
She told the restless crowd that the park receives no public money for maintenance and operation. “All the custodial services, all the horticultural services you see, all the security at Brooklyn Bridge Park, none of that is paid for by taxes and general revenue of the city of New York. It is all paid for by revenue generated by the park site. This is a real balancing act, as you can well imagine.”
When Myer insisted that the park had conducted extensive and open outreach regarding the Pierhouse development, a hubbub erupted.
“If you did all this, how’d this all get so far out of control?” called out Brooklyn Heights resident Jeff Smith.
“Did you disclose that the view was being cut off?” shouted another spectator.
Later in the meeting, CAC members disagreed with Myer that BBPC had clearly shown the CAC membership the visual impact of the bulkheads atop Pierhouse.
“The CAC asked for the rendering during the 75 percent review, and we did not get it,” said Carolyn Ziegler, the Brooklyn Heights Association’s representative on the CAC.
“Since we’ve released the RFP in 2011, we’ve met with the CAC and its design committee and our board, and had all of the designs on our website,” Myer returned. “At the 75 percent review, the bulkhead was clearly shown.”
“The gist is you made certain commitments in 2005; you dribbled out information to a relatively powerless, uninformed body. We were not involved in the design process,” Ziegler retorted.
Spectators also shouted out during a presentation by Lowin, BBPC’s vice president of real estate. “We’re wasting time. Let’s hear what he has to say,” said CAC co-chair Lucy Koteen.
Co-chair Andrew Lastowecky brought order several times, saying that he, too, needed to hear what Lowin had to say in order to come to a decision.
Lowin discussed the SV-1 (scenic view) zoning regulation, which doesn’t cover Pierhouse’s taller Parcel A but does apply to the shorter Parcel B, to the south of the bouncy Squibb Bridge. Parcel B has also exceeded the agreed-upon height limit.
“We’ve asked DOB to go and review [Parcel B] for compliance with SV-1,” Lowin said. “They’re in the process of doing that. Once that review’s complete, we'd be happy to give everyone the results of that review. At this point in time there’s a partial stop work order … it only pertains to work on the second floor or higher.”
The height restrictions on Parcel A are related to the now-demolished Cold Storage Warehouse, Lowin said. He presented photos and graphics showing the outlines of the Pierhouse related to the Cold Storage building, which in one section jutted out towards the water further than Pierhouse will.
The resolution, proposed by CAC member Judi Francis, requests that the BBPC board halt all construction on the Pierhouse development on Pier 1 and on Pier 6 housing pending full disclosure of park financials. The resolution also requests a new Environmental Impact Study to address issues raised about infrastructure, particularly school overcrowding, population increases, transit impacts and flooding. An updated General Project Plan (GPP) would include BBPC’s commitment to build “no more housing than is needed to fund the park” and honor “promised view planes” for Pierhouse.
Guterman told the Brooklyn Eagle after the meeting, “The CAC resolution calling for a halt to construction continues to add pressure to the BBPC to come clean and start being responsive to the community.”
On Monday, Myer told the Eagle, “We have been very honest in what we think we need to complete the model. We have shown the public we have merely enough money to cover our yearly operating expenses but we are way off from covering our infrastructure needs, and the Pier 6 project is needed in order to complete that portion of the model.”
One CAC member told the Eagle after the meeting that the CAC “has had resolutions all along ignored by BBPC.” A change in CAC leadership, public outrage and a lawsuit over Pier 6 housing may affect the outcome, she speculated.
Eagle photos by Rob Abruzzese. FOR ADDITIONAL PHOTOS OF THE FEB. 3 MEETING of Brooklyn Bridge Park CAC and Save the View, visit BrooklynArchive.com.