It’s a ‘Squibb’ kick in Brooklyn Heights

Bridge to Pier 1 is approved
The Brooklyn Paper / Kate Emerson

The Brooklyn Bridge Park development suffered yet another blow this week when a proposed bridge connecting it to Brooklyn Heights was axed in Mayor Bloomberg’s new budget, The Brooklyn Paper has learned.

The mayor’s $8-million trim in the city’s outlay for construction of Brooklyn Bridge Park would force the elimination of a long-planned footbridge linking long-closed Squibb Park on Columbia Heights to the vast open fields being built atop Pier 1, just south of the Brooklyn Bridge.

The Bloomberg Administration sought to minimize the impact of the budget cut, which slices the city’s contribution to the controversial $350-million park and condo project from $102 million to $94 million over the next two years.

“Some modifications that don’t undermine the overall design will be made, such as reducing the landscaping and not building the bridge to Squibb Park,” mayoral spokesman Jason Post wrote in an e-mail to The Brooklyn Paper.

The mayor’s budget, revealed last week, partially reneges on previous funding promises to the 85-acre project and evoked memories of threats Bloomberg issued in March to withhold city funds if Gov. Paterson did not cede full control to Brooklyn Bridge Park and Governors Island, both joint city-state ventures, according to the Daily News.

The mayor’s office said Bloomberg is not carrying out his ultimatum, even he’s prepared to pare down allocations to the project.

“The city will not walk away from historic investments in Brooklyn Bridge Park,” Post said.

The looming cutbacks will not disrupt the goal of opening the first sections of the park by the end of this year, said the state-run Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation.

“By the end of 2009, Pier 1 and Pier 6 are expected to be open to the public making the long awaited dream of Brooklyn Bridge Park a reality,” the agency’s said in a statement.

Besides the grand entrances at Atlantic Avenue and Old Fulton Street, the bridge to Squibb Park was seen as a vital access point to the long sliver of waterfront open space, and its loss is further erosion of the highly touted park designs.

Losing it means the park “might lose the only link from Brooklyn Heights,” said Judi Francis, a frequent critic of the project’s management.

The pedestrian bridge could join the fate of other features thrown to the wayside. Several recreation elements, including basketball courts, a kayaking cove and passive lawns are unfunded until the state or city supplies additional money. Meanwhile, the state Department of Environmental Conservation prohibited walkways above the East River and between the piers, citing possible harm to aquatic life from the shadows that would be cast by the causeways.

Brooklyn Bridge Park has an unusual funding scheme in which 1,210 luxury apartments, a hotel and shopping will be inside the “park,” and instead of paying normal property taxes, such businesses will pay fees to cover an estimated $16.1 million in annual upkeep. But many of these private pieces are on hold due to the sluggish real-estate market.

Councilman David Yassky (D–Brooklyn Heights) whose district includes Brooklyn Bridge Park, supported the mayor’s budget cut.

“While the situation is not ideal, given the severe economic downturn, we are fortunate that further cuts for Brooklyn Bridge Park were not recommended,” said Yassky in a statement. — with Ben Muessig