Park letter calms pols

The Brooklyn Paper
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A letter issued last week by the director of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation has seemingly eased tensions with local elected officials, who had planned to push the state authority for a more open and public process in redesigning plans for the 1.3-mile waterfront project.

The letter, written by BBPDC President Wendy Leventer on Feb. 7, was sent to Rep. Nydia Velazquez, state Sen. Martin Connor, Assemblywoman Joan Millman, Borough President Marty Markowitz, and councilmen David Yassky and Bill DeBlasio, among others.

Disagreements over the park’s most recent incarnation, which was released in December to small groups of neighborhood residents who were invited to view the model at lead planner Michael Van Valkenburgh’s Manhattan office, became evident when the presidents of 10 neighborhood associations criticized the planning process for excluding them. Signatories of the Jan. 14 letter, sent to Leventer and those same elected officials, included leaders form Brooklyn Heights, Fulton Ferry Landing, DUMBO, Vinegar Hill, Cobble Hill, Columbia Street, Fulton Ferry Landing and Atlantic Avenue.

The letter urged Leventer to hold public meetings for open discussion of the plans, as well as two planning sessions with neighborhood representatives to consider alternative revenue sources and designs, revise the scope of a looming environmental impact statement (EIS) and commit to completing the EIS with community involvement.

The first meeting open to the public — this Tuesday, Feb. 22 — was scheduled after Leventer received the letter from the neighborhood groups.

[A Feb. 11 meeting to address revenue sources for the park included select invited neighborhood representatives, but no materials were circulated for redistribution to their neighbors, and the meeting was closed to the press and the public.]

Meetings held among elected officials over the past several weeks to develop a united stance on the park plan were preempted after they received Leventer’s Feb. 7 letter, which in non-specific terms promised more public informational meetings, but remained vague as to the role, if any, of public input.

Besides the Feb. 22 public meeting at Polytechnic University in Metrotech, the BBPDC will hold another in March, Leventer wrote, start facilitating Community Advisory Committee meetings every six weeks, hold roving presentations around the various neighborhoods near the park, and create a central Web site that will be maintained throughout the EIS process. The Community Advisory Committee, which was mandated to garner public input into the park plan under the agreement that created the BBPDC, has not met since last May. In the ensuing months, the park plan was almost completely changed, with many of the revenue generating proposals replaced by market-rate housing in four high-rises. That group has yet to hold a meeting to discuss the revisions.

The Leventer letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Brooklyn Papers, was not distributed publicly, however, and the BBPDC gave instructions to Van Valkenburgh’s public relations firm, the Marino Organization, not to distribute it to the press.

“It’s really not meant for the press,” said the Marino Organization’s David Stearns.

On Feb. 16, Millman issued a copy of the letter along with a response jointly signed by all of the elected officials.

“We received a letter from Wendy Leventer committing to ensure the public’s confidence in a more comprehensive and transparent process to produce Brooklyn Bridge Park,” the politicians’ letter reads. “We strongly believe that an inclusive process with meaningful and extensive public participation is essential to producing the best possible park plan.”

Reached separately, their comments weren’t much different.

“The coalition of groups wrote [Leventer] to do a meeting on the financials,” said Velazquez spokesman Dan Wiley.

“It’s showing they’re listening,” said Wiley. “They’re responding. At least they’ve had one [finance meeting] with the coalition of groups that was asking for it.”

Millman wrote via e-mail that Leventer’s letter was a response to concerns that her office had raised about “ensuring the public’s confidence in an open and transparent process to produce Brooklyn Bridge Park.”

Yassky spokesman Evan Thies said, “Our office felt adrift, and we’re glad to see that they have a comprehensive plan here, but there’s a lot left to be done. The next step is to follow through on those promises, and we’ll make sure they stick to it.

“We’re just at the beginning of the real development stages,” he noted. “This is a crucial time for the community to be involved, and I’m sure [the BBPDC] takes that responsibility seriously.”

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