Bridge Park: Activists’ math is wack — we need cash now! • Brooklyn Paper

Bridge Park: Activists’ math is wack — we need cash now!

The two towers planned for Pier 6 in Brooklyn Bridge Park.
ODA Architecture

They’re calling it a calculated move — with bad calculations!

Brooklyn Bridge Park honchos slammed local activists who claim the waterfront paradise is flush with cash and doesn’t need any more development to fund its maintenance, accusing them of using bad math to mislead the public.

The bigwigs fired the accusations at the Brooklyn Heights Association’s recent claims that the green space is undervaluing its long-term real-estate revenue by millions — the crux of an forthcoming court battle between the two over planned luxury housing towers at Pier 6 — and advised the civic group to drop its crusade and fall into line.

“The latest BHA submission follows the pattern of all previous attempts to dispute the need for the Pier 6 development: basic arithmetic errors, cherry-picked data, misleading conclusions, and wrong assumptions,” the park’s brass wrote on its site. “Now is the moment for the BHA to return to its roots as a respectable civic leader that similar organizations across the city can emulate.”

The Heights Association used new Department of Finance valuations on developments in the greensward to estimate a $300-million disparity between what the park has projected it will reap in taxes on park properties over the next 50 years and how much it actually stands to make — for example, the park valued its ritzy Pierhouse condo project at $147 per square foot, when the association estimated it was more like $230.

The park responded that not only is the civic group wrong — a letter from the agency clarifies that it is actually valuing the under-construction building at $178 per square foot for 2018 — but that its argument is moot, because the meadow needs $95 million from the Pier 6 project right now to bug-proof the timber piles that hold up the park over the East River from wood-eating crustaceans.

“DOF’s recent valuations have no bearing on the need for the Pier 6 development to fund the preventative maintenance of Brooklyn Bridge Park’s marine infrastructure,” the park’s lawyers wrote in a submission to the court.

But the locals are standing by their argument — and their arithmetic.

The park’s board members still haven’t approved the payment for the preventative work, argues the civic’s lawyer, but even if they do, he’s not convinced all the cash from the towers is needed right now — the work could be done over several years, or the park could borrow against future revenues to cover the cost, he said.

“The board has never actually made that judgement — much less relied on it to justify its vote to approve the Pier 6 towers,” said attorney Richard Ziegler.

He acknowledged the civic group’s calculations on the Pierhouse’s per-foot value don’t match those provided by the Finance Department — but claims that it is just a “sideshow.” The total value of the building is the only number that matters in the end, and the agency currently puts it at $376 million — compared with the park’s projection of $289 million, he said.

The park’s head honcho also acknowledged its forecasts were under, but argued that is a good thing — claiming it is always his goal to make conservative estimates so the park doesn’t run out of money.

“The reason this model was adopted to make sure we have funds to maintain this park, so we always wind up coming in slightly under what the Department of Finance,” said interim president David Lowin.

The park argues the $376 million figure is the irrelevant one, because there isn’t always a direct correlation between market value and tax — caps on increases, abatements, and other factors play in — and you can’t predict the future on a single year’s valuation of an under-construction building alone.

Ultimately, a judge will unravel this wonky debate and decide which party is correct. The two sides are set to face off in court on March 22.

Reach deputy editor Ruth Brown at rbrown@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–8309. Follow her at twitter.com/rbbrown.

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