Residents and local pols are demanding that the city give them more time to digest designs for a controversial hotel, retail, and luxury condos project inside Brooklyn Bridge Park before it moves ahead with the massive project, but the city shot them down, saying it plans to move quickly, and will have a committee of unnamed officials choose a developer behind closed doors before spring.
On Tuesday night at Borough Hall, park officials revealed the proposals for a mixed-use complex to rise on Pier 1 along Furman Street near Old Fulton Street — prime space inside the park that, they say, must be developed to generate revenue for the park’s $16-million annual maintenance budget.
But community members were fuming over a short public comment period, which ends on Dec. 22, claiming they need at least another 30 days to determine the best plan. Residents also slammed the Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation for refusing to reveal who will make the final decision.
“These parcels are at the very center of the park,” said Tony Manheim, a member of the park’s powerless community advisory council. “To turn it over to private development without full and adequate consideration is a foolhardy maneuver.”
Councilman Steve Levin (D–Brooklyn Heights), state Sen. Daniel Squadron (D–Brooklyn Heights), and Assemblywoman Joan Millman (D–Cobble Hill) also requested the city extend the deadline for public review, but park officials denied their request, claiming they’ve worked too hard to slow the process down.
“We’ve been working long hours and expect to … move this as fast as we can,” said David Lowin of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation, the quasi-government agency that is overseeing the park. “We need to move this project forward so that it benefits the public and the park.”
Residents and pols also demanded to know who was going to choose the developer.
“Who is on the selection committee? And why is a community member not going to be appointed?” Levin asked.
But tight-lipped park officials wouldn’t budge, claiming that the secret panelists would come from many city agencies.
“We’re not releasing their names,” said Regina Myer, president of the park corporation.
Some residents were also frustrated when park officials didn’t address concerns over increased traffic and the actual dimensions of the proposed buildings.
“It’s very difficult to respond responsibly to these schemes without having more information,” said Katrin Adam, a member of the Fulton Ferry Landing Association.
Park officials also wouldn’t say whether a new traffic study would be conducted after claims that Fulton Ferry has become more congested since Furman Street became a two way thoroughfare this past summer, and refused to consider allowing the public to see actual models some architects prepared.
Such acts of secrecy concerned residents, some of whom came up with their own ideas regarding what will ultimately be built.
“Is there anyone here who now doubts that this development turns the park into a mall?” said Roy Sloane, member of the park’s community advisory council.
Seven big-time developers including Toll Brothers, RAL Companies, and Two Trees Management are vying to build luxury hotel and residential complex along Furman Street, just south of a park entrance at the foot of Old Fulton Street.
Developers would build a 170- to 225-room hotel, a 150- to 180-unit residential building, a restaurant, and at least 300 parking spaces, according to city’s plan. The developer would receive a 98-year lease with the city for the use of the park land and construction could begin in 2013.
The city first announced it was seeking developers for the two-parcel site last August.
The land once contained the Cold Storage Warehouses, a set of 19th-century buildings that the city demolished last year in anticipation of development.
The Pier 1 development is one of the controversial elements of the park’s unique funding arrangement — which stems from a 2002 agreement that requires the $350-million green space and development to raise its own maintenance budget so it would not become a drain on city and state coffers.
As part of that funding plan, the city will collect ground rent and property taxes earmarked for the 85-acre green space from Pier 1 and future high-rises at John Street in DUMBO and the southern leg of the park at Pier 6.
The seven developers for Pier 1 include:
• The Dermot Company, a Manhattan-based firm that’s behind Downtown’s One Hanson Place, the former Williamsburgh Savings Bank that was turned into a luxury condo; and another proposed high-rise on Flatbush Avenue near Fulton Street.
The firm wants to build a cantilevered Hyatt hotel and residential building made of aluminum panels — and left one lot open for St. Ann’s Warehouse, a theater that’s being booted from its DUMBO home next year.
• Extell Development, the Manhattan company that built the flashy W Hotel Times Square and a Park Hyatt hotel and luxury residences in Midtown.
Extell’s plan calls for a Westin hotel and three other residential buildings in a glass, zinc, wood and terra cotta building with rooftop green spaces. One of the residences wraps around a four-story parking garage.
• RAL Companies, owned by developer Robert A. Levine, the man behind One Brooklyn Bridge Park — the other condo inside the park at Pier 6 (though that building was a refurb, not new construction). He’s also developed boutique hotels and high-rises in Manhattan.
Levine wants to build a glass and concrete Le Meridien hotel with lower-level retail space and a highly reflective glass residential complex to capture the Manhattan skyline.
• SDS Procida, a Brooklyn firm helmed by Mario Procida, half of the development team that build Richard Meier’s On Prospect Park, a glassy monolith overlooking the park; and the be@Schermerhorn, a 25-story residential building in Downtown.
SDS would create another futuristic all-glass building with a hotel on the top floors. Residential units below would wrap around a glass atrium with a 70-foot-high escalator to the hotel, gym, swimming pool and green space.
• Starwood Capital Group, a global investment firm based in Connecticut with a portfolio of major hotels including the Carlyle overlooking Central Park.
Starwood’s two buildings would have copper fins lining the facades that move with the wind to create a kinetic sculpture. A hotel would be in the lower floors of a larger building with apartments above it.
• Toll Brothers, a national real-estate group behind the Williamsburg waterfront luxury condos Northside Piers.
Toll Brothers is proposing a glass, limestone and mahogany tiered complex that would include a Dream Hotel by Hampshire Hotels, condos and ground-floor retail.
• Two Trees Management, owned by DUMBO real-estate titan David Walentas, who owns most of the neighborhood and is currently building a boutique hotel in Williamsburg.
The magnate’s futuristic, curvilinear building creates pockets of park space, giant windows and green, living patches of facade. The firm didn’t announce a hotel partner.Reach Kate Briquelet at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling her at (718) 260-2511.
©2011 Community News Group
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