High-rise drama: Rising Pier 6 towers rile critics awaiting judge’s verdict

Going up: The 15-story high-rise at Pier 6 in Brooklyn Bridge Park is nearly 10 floors high after about six months of construction, which followed a judge’s July decision allowing contractors to build as long as their work could be “undone.”
Community News Group / Julianne Cuba

The proof is in the building.

The developers of two polarizing towers at Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 6 are so sure they’ve won their court battle over the legality of the yet-to-be-approved high-rises at the foot of Atlantic Avenue that they’ve already dug deep into their pockets to construct nearly 10 stories of a 15-story building, critics said.

“If you were in their shoes, would you be spending millions if you thought you weren’t going to win?” said Peter Bray, head of the Brooklyn Heights Association, which sued the park’s honchos in July 2016 after developers RAL Development Services and Oliver’s Realty Group filed plans for the 15 and 28-story buildings, claiming the towers — one of which would contain 100 units of so-called affordable housing — violate Brooklyn Bridge Park’s governing document, the 2006 General Project Plan, which permits development within the green space only to generate revenue needed by the park.

But meadow attorneys repeatedly denied that charge before the benches of Justice Carmen Victoria St. George and her predecessor Justice Lucy Billings, arguing the high-rises will bring in money the cash-strapped park needs to fix the timber piles that support Pier 6, which is being devoured by wood-eating crustaceans.

In July, the developers filed paperwork to begin construction amid the ongoing legal battle, and Billings ruled that month that work on the high-rises could proceed as long as whatever went up could be “undone,” before being removed from the case in August after four months of arguments in order to oversee asbestos litigation, she said at the time.

And not long after workers broke ground on the site this summer, some locals complained to this newspaper that noise from the job scared youngsters who frequent a nearby playground.

Now, six months after construction began and nearly two months after St. George heard litigants’ final arguments, the 15-story tower that contains the below-market-rate units is nearly 10-floors high, and contractors are putting the finishing touches on its 28-story neighbor’s basement, workers at the site told this reporter on Tuesday.

One hard-hat said that the framework of the shorter high-rise containing the so-called affordable units — a major point of contention that St. George even suggested developers scrap in an attempt to broker a compromise — would be completed in about two weeks, and that the skeleton of the 28-story building would be finished sometime this spring.

But Brooklyn Bridge Park won’t lose any cash from its allegedly measly coffers if St. George decides the towers must face the wrecking ball, according to a meadow spokesman, who said that only the developers will forfeit funds used toward construction if the judge rules against the project.

A rep for the builders said they are merely following Billings’ July decision.

“We are acting in good faith under the terms of the ground lease and the merits of the arguments previously made in court, and will continue to act accordingly as we progress toward providing the much-needed affordable-housing component and revenue-producing housing for the park and city,” said Eric Waters, spokesman for RAL Development Services.

Another critic slammed the developers for acting so brazenly while St. George continues to deliberate over her verdict, which some activists claim could lay the path for more private development in public parks across the United States if it allows the towers’ construction.

“It is disturbing how much they have put into the ground and into the air, despite the fact that the judge has not come through with her decision,” said Judi Francis, the president of advocacy group the Brooklyn Bridge Park Defense Fund.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.
Starting at the bottom: Workers just finished the basement of the taller, 28-story tower, according to a hard-hat at the site.
Community News Group / Julianne Cuba

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