We’ve been saying it for more than half a decade, but this week, state planners once again admitted that their luxury residential, commercial and open space development along the DUMBO and Brooklyn Heights waterfront is not a park.
Sure, they’ll continue to use the name “Brooklyn Bridge Park” when publicly describing their 1.3-mile-long site, but in court — where they’re being sued by advocates of a real park on the grounds that putting housing in a park is illegal — planners have admitted it’s no park.
Where once the development’s lawyers called their scheme a “civic project” — a term that links it to such visionary open spaces as Central Park and Prospect Park — legal papers are now calling it a “civic and land-use project.”
This is not a simple little change of language.
The basis for the lawsuit against this project — which allows a handful of private developers to circumvent city regulations and taxes to create luxury apartments, a hotel and cafes — has been that it violates state law forbidding just such a thing.
So if the court takes the backers of “Brooklyn Bridge Park” at their word — i.e., that they’ve been lying for years about intending to build, first and foremost, an actual, accessible, usable public park — the opponents will have proven their point but lost their legal foundation.
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Before state economic development officials (not parks officials) got involved in planning this project, local civic leaders were designing a bona-fide park — a park that could be enjoyed by residents of Brownstone Brooklyn (which abuts the site) and northern Brooklyn (which, despite the existence of Prospect Park, is woefully “under-parked”).
If local leaders are to be faulted, it was that they believed in the sincerity and good intentions of state officials. Now, instead of a peoples’ park, we face the prospect of seeing our precious waterfront being developed — at taxpayer expense — into a walled-off sanctuary for the wealthy.
The courtroom name change allows real-park advocates to say, “We told you so,” but their battle was lost years earlier when control was ceded to economic development officials whose primary role in New York State is to hand over land to private developers with little oversight (Atlantic Yards, anyone?).
If the park component of “Brooklyn Bridge Park” must be “self-supporting,” that goal should be pursued under the direction and control of parks people, not luxury housing developers.