Swedish furniture giant IKEA may soon find that assembling a new store in Red Hook is about as easy as assembling one of their chairs.
The Municipal Arts Society has sued the Army Corps of Engineers to stop it from allowing IKEA to destroy a Civil War-era ship-repair facility slated to become a parking lot.
The facility — also known as a “graving dock” — is “a virtually irreplaceable piece of maritime infrastructure,” the MAS argued in its suit, filed last Friday in Brooklyn federal court.
Not to mention that there’s plenty of land available to accommodate IKEA, said Art Society spokesman Brian Connolly.
“Bruce Ratner wants to build 16 skyscrapers, a park and a sports arena in the same amount of space as IKEA [will use] for a store and a parking lot,” he said. “They should be able to do it without the dock.”
The Army Corps of Engineers, which did not return calls, has argued in the past that the dock is no longer needed. The MAS suit names the Army Corps of Engineers and not IKEA because the Corps largely controls waterfront resources.
Until it closed last year to make way for IKEA, the dock was one of two repair facilities in the city that could accommodate large ships.
Now boats — even city Department of Sanitation barges —must go out of state for repairs, said Connolly, who called the dock “a necessary part of Red Hook’s economy.”
“IKEA’s actions have resulted in the loss of high-skilled, high-paying jobs on Brooklyn’s waterfront,” he said. “But there were good jobs” at the graving dock.
IKEA spokesman Joseph Roth disputed that, calling the lawsuit “an unfortunate attempt to delay a project that will create hundreds of new, high-quality jobs for Brooklyn residents.”
It’s not the first time that the historic pier has been seen as a silver bullet to kill the IKEA project.
In 2005, community activists sued, arguing that the dock was a vital part of Red Hook’s working waterfront. But that suit was dismissed — in part because the judge found that the graving dock was “underused.”
But Connolly disagreed.
“There was a backlog of work” at the graving dock. And beyond that, it’s a link to Brooklyn’s glorious nautical past.
“It dates back to the Lincoln administration,” he said.
©2006 Community News Group
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