Heights Association: Sorry, we didn’t act fast enough to stop view-blocking park building

Parks and declarations: Judge gives Pier 1 condos and hotel the all-clear
Photo by Jason Speakman

An influential Brooklyn Heights civic group didn’t come out swinging to stop view-blocking development in Brooklyn Bridge Park, its leader confessed at a town hall meeting about park development on Wednesday night, admitting it should have sued immediately instead of trying to pursue friendly negotiations.

“We were a bit naive and a bit determined to follow the process and that turned out to be a mistake to some extent,” said Brooklyn Heights Association president Patrick Killackey. “We made a tactical error and we apologize for that.”

He said the civic group reached out to the city and developer Toll Brothers in 2014 about the builder’s plans to tack on extra altitude to the 10-story Pierhouse hotel and condo complex, which critics say juts into sacred views of the titular bridge from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, trusting that the parties could come up with a resolution by the book.

But that never happened, and when local activist group Save the View Now did sue, a judge ruled that it hadn’t filed its complaint in time, and gave the developer a green light to build bulkheads on the luxury development.

Killackey said the group is now trying to make amends for its past misjudgment by joining a new suit with Save the View Now alleging that the Pierhouse architect used sketchy measurements to obscure the fact that it is building into the view, which is protected by a 42-year-old city law.

“We’re trying through our tremendous efforts to make up for that now,” he said. “We are really working hard now to do the right thing and we are hopefully a lot less naive moving forward.”

The Brooklyn Heights Association and activists made their case in February and are waiting to hear back from the judge on whether he will move forward with the suit.

If he does, and rules in favor of restoring the view, Toll Brothers would be forced to knock down part of its penthouse to make way for the preserved vista of the Brooklyn Bridge, said Save the View Now president Steve Guterman.

But some residents said they couldn’t wait, and want to take their gripes with the rapidly rising development out of the courtroom and onto the streets, suggesting that locals march outside the building to make their case.

“We can picket it, we can put signs right up there,” said one woman. “Every time I pass by there I want to deface it.”

The rabble rousers said they will keep locals updated on any plans to stage protests, but will likely stick to fighting their battles in front of a judge.

And a local pol supporting the activists said he would also prefer to leave the view’s fate up to the judge.

“I’m hopeful that ultimately the truth will prevail here,” said Councilman Steve Levin (D–Brooklyn Heights). “There’s no way that building ought to encroach on what by city law is a protected view.”

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at lgill@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill

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