Pols OK waterfront ‘park’…but Seek to shrink size of towers, apartments

Seek to shrink size of towers, apartments

The Brooklyn Paper
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Local elected officials seemed this week to want to have their cake and eat it, too, when it comes to plans for Brooklyn Bridge Park.

At a press conference at Borough Hall just hours before a public hearing on a study of the park’s impacts, six of the area’s elected officials joined to call for both approval of the plan’s draft environmental statement, and for changes to the plan itself.

The draft environmental impact statement (DEIS), which was released in July, pertains to a revised plan, announced in December, for a waterfront development running from Jay Street to Atlantic Avenue. The plan calls for a dependence on high-rise luxury housing to pay the annual maintenance of the open space and recreational areas in the 1.3-mile development.

And despite their call for scaling back the high-rises, among other changes to the plan, Borough President Marty Markowitz, Councilmen Bill DeBlasio and David Yassky, state Sen. Martin Connor, Assemblywoman Joan Millman and Rep. Nydia Velazquez, all shared one distinctive message: Let there be park!

None of their proposed changes, they said, would have any impact or render invalid the DEIS.

“First, we need to move forward and build the park with all possible speed, then we must listen to community members and fix the plan’s defects,” said DeBlasio, whose district includes Carroll Gardens and Park Slope.

Yassky, whose Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO district borders most of the park, additionally spoke about the need to trim some of the park’s anticipated annual expenses to lessen the reliance on income generation for the park, which is charged with being self-

“We should maximize revenue from existing buildings onsite,” he said after the Borough Hall press conference, and pointed to existing buildings that surround the park as potentially contributing to the park’s expenses.

Among the approaches addressed in a joint press release were the following: provide interim park improvements and access near the southern end of the park; reduce the height of the residential buildings near Pier 6 to 20 stories or less (currently, a 30-story tower is proposed there); preserve the Con Edison site, near the northern end of the park, as green space (currently, a condo high-rise is proposed there); develop residential projects elsewhere in DUMBO or glean funds from existing buildings; provide more indoor and outdoor recreation; develop a middle school for Region 8; and consider using the Purchase Building (an art-deco industrial space underneath the Brooklyn Bridge now slated for demolition) as part of the park.

Other suggestions by the officials included developing a ferry terminal at a “more inviting park entrance” at Atlantic Avenue that would feature ancillary commercial activity; improving access at the northern end of the park in Vinegar Hill; and enhancing pedestrian access to Old Fulton Street, where walkers battle two-way traffic entering and exiting the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.

While some of the elected officials were adamant about moving ahead with the project, such as Connor — who said, “We can’t slow down the process. We need to get the EIS approved and move forward” — others seemed hesitant to offer such unconditional support.

Yassky, who later provided an alternative financing plan that includes cutting the private security, relying instead on police, and expanding the financial burden to existing buildings near the park, said he would favor more exploration in financing, but realized time was precious.

“We have the market conditions for a housing deal now,” Yassky told reporters. “We don’t want to miss the market.”

But Judi Francis, an opponent of the current park plans, who lives on Willow Place, just a block from the proposed construction of new high-rises, likened the move by the elected officials to lip service.

“At the 11th hour they come up with a paltry few crumbs to throw at the community in order to get the earth-moving equipment onto the site,” she said.

“They haven’t heard us. And it’s very disappoint­ing.”

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