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Housing in the park continues to look likely

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The plan to build luxury housing inside Brooklyn Bridge Park is like the weather — everyone complains about it, but no one does anything about it.

That was the unmistakable conclusion after sitting through the first meeting of the park’s Committee on Alternatives to Housing — which is charged with, as its name suggests, finding a way to alter the current plan to erect revenue-generating residences on Pier 6 and John Street inside the city-controlled, $350-million park.

That housing plan would erect 20- and 30-story luxury condo towers to raise enough money to fund the “world-class” park’s massive $16-million annual maintenance budget.

At the hearing, on Tuesday at Long Island College Hospital, there was the predicatable hue and cry from housing opponents.

“Parks should be open; they aren’t places for people to live — either in high rises or in tents,” said Jerry Armer, former leader of Community Board 6.

A steady stream of speakers demanded that the committee live up to its name and find money for the park’s big maintenance budget that would obviate Mayor Bloomberg’s housing plan.

Park officials argue that housing would replenish the maintenance budget by charging wealthy tenants payments in lieu of taxes — a controversial fee that doesn’t fluctuate like regular property taxes.

But in a small nod to opponents, park officials created the committee, which has a year to find a new cash stream before Bloomberg’s plan goes forward.

There were plenty of ideas on the table at the “ideas session” — some undoable, some unformulated, some dependent on all the political stars aligning. Here’s a roundup:

• Capture tax revenue after some 30 properties in Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO currently owned by the tax-exempt Jehovah’s Witnesses are converted to residential use and sold by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society as it continues moving operations to upstate Warwick.

“One of the Watchtower properties [at 25 Columbia Heights, adjacent to the Pier 1 portion of the park] should be changed to a hotel — it already looks like one,” said Ben Bankson, president of the Willowtown Association in Brooklyn Heights.

Nice idea, but, as park officials pointed out, purchasing Witnesses buildings could cost millions that the park just doesn’t have.

• Erect a pay-to-play athletics center, like the one on Chelsea Piers in Manhattan. Another interesting idea, except for one thing: No one knows how much money it would generate.

• Charge a one-percent surcharge — or institute a $25 annual Brooklyn Bridge Park maintenance fee — to every homeowner in the borough. That’s another progressive idea, but raising taxes in a recession is about as popular politically as friending Charlie Rangel on Facebook right now.

• Follow state Sen. Daniel Squadron’s plan to capture a portion of the property taxes on properties adjacent to the park (and as far away as Boerum Hill). Property values on lots in the Squadron zone would rise considerably after the park is complete, so a portion of that money should fund the park maintenance, Squadron believes. Many people like Squadron’s idea, but its fate is unknown.

• Build a world-class Governors Island ferry terminal at Pier 6, with year-round concessions, venues, restaurants and bars. This idea appears to be a Brooklyn knock off of the South Street Seaport — and we all know how well that worked.

In the end, the craziest idea of the night was put forward by legendary real estate broker Chris Havens: Doing what is already slated to be done — the housing.

“What negative impacts do you see at Prospect Park with the multi-million-dollar housing around it?” Havens said.

Nice try, Chris, but three people immediately screamed out the obvious: “That housing isn’t in the park!”

Wherever there is a smoke-filled backroom or a smoke-free barroom, The Brooklyn Paper’s Politicrasher will be there, bringing you the inside dope on our next generation of leaders. Got a hot tip for the Politicrasher? E-mail Newsroom@BrooklynPaper.com.
Updated 5:58 pm, December 4, 2010: Story was amended to accurately reflect Sen. Squadron's proposal, which would not hike taxes, but merely capture a portion of increased taxes once property values rise around the finished Brooklyn Bridge Park.
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Reasonable discourse

Anthony from Park Slope says:
The housing thing sounds good but only if the park is not suddenly exclusive to those who will live there. There are many little waterfront parks in Brooklyn and many are off limits to the public and that is not good.
Dec. 4, 2010, 7:58 am
sid from Boerum Hill says:
I guarantee you that the park will NOT be exclusively for those who live in it...
It isn't now and there is 1 BBP....

NO off limits policy. In fact the city's park rules are much more open than the State's would ever have been....
Dec. 4, 2010, 12:31 pm
Omar from Bklyn Hts. says:
You knew something was up when the State bailed out and handed it to Bloomberg. Just more dismantling of the small mom & pop concept of what a neighborhood was and should be. As a child, one could walk with his father from Atlantic Ave. to Fulton St. without any one's permission. Put housing in and see how long that freedon last LOL
Dec. 4, 2010, 4:33 pm
trace from park slope says:
Historically this type of trade, which is exactly what the vest pocket park/building setback ordinances trade-off was in the seventies in Manhattan, results in private little spaces - no-one regulates the public access, and over time the rich guys don't want anyone else to use it..You can see hundreds of examples of this (well, maybe dozens) in Manhattan.
Dec. 5, 2010, 7:08 am
Joseph from brooklyn Heights says:
For this is the one of the reasons that Bloomberg paid so many millions for a third term...to put the finishing touches to his private evil plan for the poor working class in Brooklyn. Go ahead and place high rises in the park and before you know it, policies will change and eventually the park will no longer be public anymore. Cheap real estate is too irrisistable for the developers to ignore and those who decide to live in these buildings will have a lot of money and also a lot of political clout to do what they want with Brooklyn Bridge Park. There are so many ways to finance the maintenance of the park without placing buildings on it.
Dec. 5, 2010, 12:39 pm
chris havens from boerum hill says:
i also said good thing about the housing was it would cause the wealthy to pay for much of the upkeep
Dec. 6, 2010, 8:42 am
Ken from BK Heights says:
How about a combination of several ideas.

Residents can pay a bit more

Concessions can raise funds

Small seasonal harbor for boats

Concert events can raise funds

A small Admission to watch the fireworks could be charged

Trying to find one idea that accomplishes everything is probably always going to be the worst idea.

Dec. 6, 2010, 2:21 pm
Carlo Trigiani from BH says:
I agree with Ken above. Add revenues from residential parking permits. Include in that fees from building owners who take up parking spots.

Get rid of the fat in the budget and problem is solved.
Dec. 6, 2010, 3 pm
Joe Z. from Greenpoint says:
A more pertinent question is how does this elitist clique, the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy, justify $16 million dollars annually to maintain this piece of sod? If BBC was honest in trying to provide more parkland for the masses, any potential construction of "luxury" residential towers (like we don't have enough already) shouldn't even be up for discussion.

If this comes to fruition, the likely consequence of this would be that the park will be turned into a restricted "residents only" oasis. Also, if this was the true intention of BBC (re the towers in the park) in the first place, this is an underhanded method of appropriating the land under the guise of benefitting the people of Brooklyn.
Dec. 6, 2010, 6:45 pm
M from Brooklyn says:
I have a crazy idea:

Pay for the park from the taxes we already pay. The taxes that are used to pay for the police, fire fighters, sanitation and parks department.

Parks are not for profit enterprises. They don't need to be self-sustaining. Don't listen to anyone like Bloomberg who tells you otherwise.
Dec. 7, 2010, 7:50 am
Dodger from Brooklyn Hts. says:
Okay, Joseph. Name one.
Dec. 15, 2010, 4:44 pm

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