BHA lawsuit is a bad idea

My wife, Betsy, and I attended the Brooklyn Heights Association annual meeting on Feb. 28 at which Jane McGroarty, Brooklyn Heights Association president, included in her remarks an explanation of the rationale for the Brooklyn Heights Association lawsuit challenging the proposed use of the Tobacco Warehouse as a new home for the St. Ann’s Warehouse theater. In spite of this eloquent explanation, Betsy and I, most respectfully, remain strongly supportive of the St. Ann’s proposal and in strong disagreement with the Brooklyn Heights Association lawsuit.

McGroarty seemed to say that the Brooklyn Heights Association lawsuit was primarily motivated by objection to the legal process through which St. Ann’s was designated for the site, and not by fundamental disagreement with the St. Ann’s use. In this connection, she described the complex set of facts and legal regulations involved in the process.

Having previously discussed these circumstances with people on both sides of the issue, I continue to believe that lawyers, and indeed judges, could reasonably reach different conclusions. I do not believe there was any “back-room deal,” “conspiracy,” or intentional abuse of process involved. Therefore, I think it a serious mistake to jeopardize this special opportunity on the basis of an alleged technical legal shortcoming, thereby unduly elevating process over substance. The Brooklyn Heights Association can legitimately and effectively make its case for the future, as it has done already, by clearly describing its specific concerns.

On another point, McGroarty implied that the St. Ann’s proposal involved a transfer of the Tobacco Warehouse space from “public” to “private” use, with negative connotations. In this regard, I point out that St. Ann’s is a non-profit group committed to the highest quality of theatrical arts with a mission that, in my opinion, carries a high degree of public interest closely aligned with that of Brooklyn Bridge Park.

I have discussed this issue with many open-minded Brooklyn Heights residents, including lawyers and architects very familiar with the St. Ann’s project, as well as Landmarks considerations. The great majority of these people are in favor of the St. Ann’s proposal. Based on this experience, I believe that the majority of Brooklyn Heights residents, if fully informed, would also be supporters.

Betsy and I have been involved residents in Brooklyn Heights for 45 years. We have both served on the board of the Brooklyn Heights Association, of which we are loyal and enthusiastic members and supporters. In this capacity, and sincerely believing it to be in the best interests of Brooklyn Heights, surrounding communities, and the Brooklyn Bridge Park, we urge the Brooklyn Heights Association to drop its lawsuit, with all its related disruption and conflict, and allow this unique and very special St. Ann’s/Tobacco Warehouse project to move forward.

Robert Rodgers is a resident of Brooklyn Heights for over 40 years and a longtime member of the Brooklyn Heights Association.