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No-tel! City shows off big park plans, but is tight-lipped on Bridge Park development

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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 kbriquelet@cnglocal.com or by calling her at (718) 260-2511.

Updated 2:20 pm, November 23, 2011: Updated with more on the developers.
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Reader Feedback

Tom from Brooklyn Heights says:
This is outrageous! They won't release the names of the panel, they won't put a community member on it, they won't extend the comment period...because THEY have worked too hard????!!!

The community has to get behind the elected officials and force THEM to remember THEY work for US!
Nov. 23, 2011, 10:24 am
ty from pps says:
“Is there anyone here who now doubts that this development turns the park into a mall?”

You mean a lovely park adjacent to retail and other commercial spaces? Hmm... Bryant Park, Madison Sq Park, Chicago's Millennium Park (park of Grant Park), etc.

Did anyone think that a park on the East River waterfront in one of the denser parts of the city would be rolling hills for as far as the eye can see?
Nov. 23, 2011, 10:47 am
Roy from Cobble Hill says:
No Ty-- we mean a a hotel, condos and mall INSIDE a lovely park. No one has any problem with commercial development ADJACENT to a lovely park.

I am sure that the Mayor and Parks Commissioner Benepe will be glad to know that you, at least, will be OK with putting the same kind of massive commercial/ residential development INSIDE Prospect Park.

Who needs those rolling hills anyway.
Nov. 23, 2011, 1 pm
Bay Ridger from Bay Ridge says:
Wasn't this "park" a bunch of rotting piers until last year? Would you rather have that than part park/part commericial development to pay for it?

As an aside, what costs $16M a year to maintain?? The weeds in Bay Ridge parks get cut no more than once every three months during "growing season". The Parks Dept does nothing else.
Nov. 23, 2011, 1:08 pm
ty from pps says:
Roy -- So, the park that is there will be dug up and replaced with a hotel. Sorry, that's just not the case. This is an expansion of the development near the edge of the park by the entrance at Furman and Old Fulton.
Nov. 23, 2011, 1:16 pm
Mike says:
Looks pretty good to me.
Nov. 23, 2011, 1:20 pm
Roy from Cobble Hill says:
Ty-- If you like development inside of parks, that's your right. But facts are facts and the fact that the hotel is INSIDE the park is beyond dispute. It is not "near the edge of the park", but right inside. Transferring the land to ESDC was the mechanism used by the city to evade ULURP.
Nov. 23, 2011, 2:10 pm
ty from pps says:
Inside the original park footprint vs. Inside the exisitng, open-for-business park

There's a MAJOR difference here.
Nov. 23, 2011, 2:40 pm
No from bh says:
Roy, yes facts are facts. And the fact is that the location where this hotel/residential is proposed to be built is not now nor has never been a park. This entire site was an industrial wasteland until very recently. The project plan called for a portion of that land to be turned into a park and some of that land to be used for development. Roy - please stop lying. No one is buying it.
Nov. 23, 2011, 3:04 pm
Roy from Cobble Hill says:
Answer this-- If the proposed hotel/condo development is not inside the "park"-- how did the development corporation avoid the ULURP procedure that would have been required if it was not part of the "Brooklyn Bridge Park" footprint?
Nov. 23, 2011, 3:22 pm
ty from pps says:
Roy... there was ALWAYS GOING TO BE various types of buildings within the footprint. That was the whole point of the project. A park plus residential plus commercial. It was all IN there all along. All of it. The land and rebuilt piers were NEVER going to be only parks. Period.
Nov. 23, 2011, 3:33 pm
Roy from Cobble Hill says:
Thanks Ty-- at least we now have agreement that the commercial/residential development is, in fact, INSIDE the park. The point we disagree on now is your contention that was there ALWAYS going to be residential development in the park? The answer is NO. Residential development did not rear its ugly head until December, 2004. The BBPLDC plan approved by the community boards, all local civic associations (including my own) along with both the Mayor and the Governor did NOT include residential development. I personally favor commercial development in the park that provides amenities and recreational opportunities that the public can use. I do not now and have never been in favor of private residential uses in BBP. It is OK if you do, but that is where we disagree.
Nov. 23, 2011, 3:48 pm
ty from pps says:
Roy -- What? So you're trying to relive (hold onto) something that dates back 7 years?! And an overall development process that, overall, dates back well over a decade. Oh man. You probably thought the Watchtower aspect of the project was real too, right?
Nov. 23, 2011, 4:32 pm
buddy from Brooklyn Heights says:
Are you nuts, Ty? The community, yes for 30 years, has been fighting for a park. An honest to goodness park. And the community plan - the one that got funded - found dollars from publically accessible sources to maintain it, without need of any housing whatsoever. So, yes, 7 years or 30 years - makes no difference. It was a community driven process - led in part by the very guy you are chastizing! The community's plan was good, it was supported by all including Bloomberg at the time but who now wants housing inside the park. You should kiss Roy's feet for getting this park conceived and funded in the first place. And for being there 30 years ago, and 7 years ago, and today.
Nov. 23, 2011, 4:48 pm
Aris says:
Roy, let's turn your question around with another question. If the development is in the park, how come the proposed development did not have to go before the state legislature as an alienation of parkland? Oh, that's right, you made that argument in court and lost. We can conclude, therefore, that the development sites are not in the park.
Nov. 23, 2011, 4:58 pm
Roy from Cobble Hill says:
Ty-- Enough about me. My position is clear-- I have been opposed to private housing in Brooklyn Bridge Park for 7 years and expect to be opposed to housing inside parks forever (at least I am consistent)! But what about you? Do you think that housing should be in parks?

Aris-- I did not make any arguments in court-- that was the Brooklyn Bridge Park Defense Fund. I did support the lawsuit and am sorry that they did not win, but the only way that the state won was by admitting that BBP was not a park, but rather a "large scale civic project". I have been fighting for a park-- not a "large scale civic project". So, what about you? It is hard to understand why you seem to prefer a "large scale civic project" over a real park?
Nov. 23, 2011, 5:24 pm
Greg from Brooklyn Heights says:
The argument that the condo development is preferable to the "rotting piers" is nonsense. False dichotomy. Those are not the only two choices.
Nov. 23, 2011, 6:02 pm
no from bh says:
Actually greg that's exactly the choice. Without the funding stream to maintain there is no park. It's really that simple. And roy, i don't know why you can't wrap your head around the fact that BBP is a project that includes a "park" compenent and a "development" component. That does not mean that the development is in the park. It does mean that they are complementary parts of the same project. I don't know what kind of kind of rhetorical point you're trying to make , but you make no argument about why a "large scale civic project" s a bad thing. Sounds pretty good to me. I would much prefer a large scale civic project that results in 60 acres of park that has a self sustaining funding stream then a fictional park that would never get built and would just result in these piers fall into the water while fanatics sit in their community board meetings and argue. Finally, "buddy" the park was never funded until housing was included. Roy was championing a fictional park. The actual real funded project that was going to happen did not exist until housing was included.
Nov. 23, 2011, 7:51 pm
tired eyes from cranium says:
Good lord, is BP paying by the word now?
Nov. 24, 2011, 1:34 am
Dennis sinneD from Williamsburg says:
No, but there is a "Welfare for the Stupid" program going on right now--the more complaints you can muster about how much more rigorous, laborious and intelligent everyone else is gives you a credit you don't deserve in future argumentation.
Nov. 24, 2011, 9:31 am
Richard Young from DUMBO says:
Not true that housing was needed to pay for the park. Not true that the park was never funded until housing was included. The plan that got funded in 2001, with its first ribbon cutting in November 2001, was funded by Pataki and Bloomberg. They committed $150 million to build the community's park plan. And that plan included $10 million in annual maintenance funding from parking fees, concessions, conference center, and a recreational center among other funding sources. No housing needed or warranted. The current $16 million maintenance budget is wildly inflated to justify housing - giving away public lands that were to be dedicated to a park, to real estate developers. And even when the community worked for another 7 years to find even more ways to pay for the private guards, toyota's, and other such nonsense in the inflated budget, the mayor and his minions still refused to give the park back to residents as a park. It remains a development project for luxury housing. Brooklyn deserved better. And still does. This new hotel "mall" is an abomination and the electorate is not fooled. Sorry ty/no - you are misinformed. Perhaps you work for Regina and are protecting your duplicative salary?
Nov. 24, 2011, 10:07 am
Joe from Brooklyn Heights says:
To build a 170- to 225-room hotel, a 150- to 180-unit residential building sounds like no small matter and no small buildings inside the park. To place commercial retail space including restarants sounds like a lot of people are expected to come from outside the neighborhood. With seven developers quickly jockying to get a piece of the action the park will look like all comercial and hardly any public space left for the park itself. Pretty soon they will say that the construction will not be enough and they will continue to take over the rest of the park bit by bit.
Nov. 25, 2011, 12:26 am
judahSpechal from bed-stuy says:
I am far from an anti-Developer, but one has to take pause when considering the incredible double premium, that the Developers, & Condo buyers with gain from taxpayers.

The 1% wins again, because the majority of common folks (taxpayers) will be priced out of this market.
Obscene!

Score another one for Bloomberg.
Nov. 25, 2011, 11:09 am
judahSpechal from bed-stuy says:
& homies!
Nov. 25, 2011, 11:09 am
Dan from Park Slope says:
I like the idea of a mixed use project including development and parkland. The residential and hotel uses will make the surrounding park area a little less isolated and scary at night. Brooklyn Heights is already privileged to enjoy Cadman Plaza, the Promenade, and the Brooklyn Bridge. It makes sense that a new park that will be most easily accessible to the Heights, and which will enhance Brooklyn Heights property values, would include revenue generating uses to prevent residents of other park-starved neighborhoods from paying for upkeep of Brooklyn Bridge Park while their own children have no place to play. Besides, the BQE is loud and ugly. Any buildings located along Furman that obscure the view and sound of the BQE from the park area would be a welcome addition to the area. There will still be plenty of beautiful new park, even with some other uses underneath Brooklyn Heights. Can't the development opponents just be happy that this park is finally happening?
Nov. 26, 2011, 3:24 am
Sid from Boerum Hill says:
The fact is the park was always supposed to be self funded for its maintenance. parking and other "concessions" never would generate the money needed and if they would it would have to be a mall with thousands of people passing through it everyday. In fact housing and Hotels will bring in much less people than a purely commercial venture would be and generate much more money. Don't believe me? Look across the river at the mostly empty south street seaport and even then the vast crowds in Manhattan have not made that a profitable enterprise. 360 Furman Street has been unable/unwilling(?)to fill its commercial space. The new Freedom tower is being built without a restaurant on top because no one was willing to spend the money necessary. One of the commercial enterprises in the Brooklyn Bridge Park-on one of the piers- drew zero responses. Even the expert brought in by the no housing on pier 6 people have agreed to this and in fact the new montra is to use HOUSING in the space that the Watchtower will vacate to provide some of the funding for maintenance and reduce only somewhat the housing in the park- but that meant additional development space and cash flow that the city gave up for the Prak money that would otherwise be used for fire, police and schools
etc...
Its been shown over and over again that residential development with pilots and ground lease payments(something you won't get from outside the park) brings in the most money....
and 150 million would never have finished the park even it if had been spent better....
Nov. 26, 2011, 5:02 pm
Ken from Brooklyn Heights says:
Please stop trying to ruin the best thing that has ever happened to this neighborhood~!

Why not convert the watchtower into a hotel and NOT put up another building in the space designated for parkland??
Nov. 29, 2011, 1:39 pm
chris from brooklyn heights says:
I agree with Dan from park slope. There has been ample park space provided (and more to come) where before there was nothing. A reasonable commercial development that includes a medium size hotel, condos and additional retail is perfectly acceptable in the current vacant space behind pier 1. improvements on Furman street will need to be made, but congestion will be minimized due to the proximity of the BQE ramps. Having all that park and its associated amenities without off setting commercial revenue generation is a pipe dream. I for one look forward to going to the new restaurants there.
Dec. 22, 2011, 2:43 pm

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