There must be no housing inside Brooklyn Bridge Park — and the entirety of the 85-acre open space and condo development should be protected by being formally zoned as parkland, a coalition of community leaders said on Tuesday.
The group, led by state Senate candidate Daniel Squadron, renewed a longstanding demand that state officials create a “real” Brooklyn Bridge Park — one that would not be a luxury condo development with an open space component.
Squadron, a well-financed newcomer, embraced the community demand in his campaign against 30-year state Sen. Marty Connor (D–Brooklyn Heights), who has supported the current condos-in-the-park proposal.
That Connor-backed scheme displayed fresh shakiness just last week, when Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation officials admitted that the loudly touted first permanent piece of the park — a public piazza and skating rink under the Brooklyn Bridge — would be delayed at least five years.
Squadron saw that delay as evidence that the project needed to be reimagined as a real park, not a state-run development project.
“We are talking about the possibility of creating a great, real, world-class park here on the waterfront,” Squadron said in a campaign stop at the foot of Atlantic Avenue, which is slated to be the southern entrance to the development.
“We have enormous activity and potential on our waterfront in New York today [and] we have the chance to build a great 21st-century public work,” he added.
Longtime Carroll Gardens resident Lisa Pines was one of about a dozen people who joined Squadron’s call for a real park — one that would be more than a backyard for luxury buildings, and one that would actually be built before her son, now 10, is too old to enjoy it.
“This needs to not be a playground for rich people, but a full park for the neighborhood,” Pines said, with her son, Graham, at her side.
In the decades since community activists and local officials started planning Brooklyn Bridge Park, the proposal has changed from a sprawling public greenspace that would be part of the city’s regular park system to a state-built and -operated development whose open-space component would be maintained through fees charged to residents of luxury condos within the park’s footprint.
That financing scheme became part of the plan when state development officials required in 2004 that the project be self-financing. But not all community leaders endorsed this idea; some believe that homeowners whose fees maintain the park will likely seek to exercize control over the open space.
Currently, up to 1,400 units of luxury housing are slated to be built inside the park.
Despite his opposition to housing in the park site, Squadron said he supports another part of the project’s revenue-raising scheme — a planned hotel.
“Housing must not be on the table,” he said. “Hotels draw people in. Housing requires a private, quiet neighborhood.”
And because hotel guests are transients, they would have little influence over the operation of the park.
Incumbent Connor told The Brooklyn Paper that he does not favor housing in the park, but said state officials have “made it very plain” that the housing is essential to supporting the park.
“I’m not in favor of housing in the park, but I’m not willing to risk the park not being built by opposing the housing,” Connor said on Tuesday. “The housing does, in fact, take up a much smaller footprint than anything anyone else was trying to think of.”
But critics have long pointed out that unless the entire 85 acres are rezoned as parkland — something that is not in the current plan — housing and commercial development could bite into more of the open space if revenues from the initial condos fall off and the park maintenance budget rises.
Supporters of the current development plan questioned the latest call to eliminate housing.
“The whole way to get the city and state to pay for the park was by agreeing it would be a self-sustaining park,” said Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy President Marianna Koval.
“I would like to have Mr. Squadron tell us now, before the election, how he would intend to make up the revenue.”
But City Council candidate Ken Diamondstone — himself a former Connor opponent — said he “wholeheartedly supports” the latest effort to create a real Brooklyn Bridge Park.
“I would repeat my call to the [Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation] to release the economic data so that we can, as a community, work together to make decisions about the park,” Diamondstone said.
©2008 Community News Group
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