By Raanan Geberer
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Just a week after opening the soccer fields at Pier 5, Brooklyn Bridge Park has now turned its attention to the northern end of the park -– specifically, the John Street site in DUMBO.
The park on Monday released a request for proposals for the long-awaited “John Street project,” meaning residential development, up to 130 units, on 9,600 square feet within a vacant lot just northeast of the Manhattan Bridge.
The RFP specifies that the new building can rise to a maximum height of 130 feet, with as many as 100 parking spaces and ground-floor retail. The general plan also would include pedestrian bridges over a tidal salt march, tree-lined pathways, and a 13,000-square-foot lawn.
Although housing on the site has been part of the park plan since the early 2000s, the site is currently owned by Con Edison. According to the RFP, “It will be acquired by the Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corp., who will then transfer control of the site of the BBP [Brooklyn Bridge Park].”
The Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation was established in 2002 to develop the park. Most of its functions were assumed in 2010 by the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation, also known as Brooklyn Bridge Park, when the park passed from state to city control.
The John Street site was one of several sites earmarked for housing as a means of raising revenues for the self-sustaining park’s operation.
Writing in this newspaper on Dec. 1, 2010, the late Eagle columnist Dennis Holt opined, “The first residential development will be in the DUMBO part of the park, the so-called John Street site.” However, requests for proposals for another housing site, on the uplands of Pier 1 near Fulton Ferry Landing, were issued first, in 2011. That site also is slated to include a hotel.
The original plan for John Street called for 17 stories and 140,000 square feet. However, last year, state Sen. Dan Squadron and Assemblywoman Joan Millman negotiated a reduction in the development’s size with the city.
Almost as soon as the plan for housing at the edges of the park appeared, community opposition broke out and eventually centered around a group known as the Brooklyn Bridge Park Defense Fund. In part because of this public pressure, the park itself formed a “Committee on Alternatives to Housing.” This committee in 2011 concluded that alternative sources wouldn’t be enough to fund the park and housing was still needed, although many opponents were still not satisfied.
There will be an information session and site tour for developers at the John Street site on Jan. 23. The deadline for plan submissions will be March 11.