Making it personal: Park’s lawyers should feel for towers’ critics and look past the law, judge on Pier 6 case says

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

It’s pier pressure.

Brooklyn Bridge Park honchos should forget about the law and show some compassion for those Brooklyn Heights residents who oppose the two towers being built at Pier 6, the new judge presiding over the case on the high-rises told meadow stewards at her first hearing on Thursday.

“Maybe at the end of the day you’re in the right legally, but what’s the right thing to do? The fair thing to do for the community, the people who live here?” said Justice Carmen Victoria St. George. “It seems to be perhaps worthy of a discussion where you can come in with the ability to deal fair-heartedly, leave your lawyering behind, and think of the people who actually live here.”

Lawyers for civic group the Brooklyn Heights Association, the park, and the developers planning to erect the 15 and 28-story towers at the foot of Atlantic Avenue made their arguments before St. George for the first time, following the departure of the former judge overseeing the case, who passed it off in August because she was assigned to other litigation.

The green space’s caretakers claim the towers will bring in funds needed to maintain the timber piles that support Pier 6, which is being devoured by wood-eating crustaceans. But the civic group’s members argue the park is flush with cash and that the shorter tower, which will contain below-market-rate housing, does not uphold the terms of Brooklyn Bridge Park’s General Project Plan, a 2006 agreement that mandates development parcels in the meadow generate revenue.

St. George suggested that green-space caretakers appease the community by building two 15-story towers instead, and scrap the affordable housing.

“That conforms to the idea of having a park there, and gives the opportunity to raise money for it. What’s the issue?” she asked.

But meadow attorneys said they would rather discuss legal matters than those of the heart, and contended that the Brooklyn Heights Association only speaks for a small portion of the neighborhood.

“It is not fair to say it represents the opinions of the entire community and city,” said lawyer Hayley Stein.

Following St. George’s attempt at striking a truce, the Heights Association’s attorney, Richard Ziegler, spoke for almost two hours. He reiterated previous arguments that park officials are violating the General Project Plan, ignored their own rules for selecting a developer, and did not receive the required permission to include below-market-rate units in the scheme.

But another meadow lawyer, David Paget, countered that his clients are not breaching the park’s operating agreement because its author said the document’s language wasn’t designed to forbid affordable housing, referring to Ziegler as “Merlin” at one point during his rebuke.

The park’s attorneys did not have time to finish their arguments, however, and will continue them at an appearance scheduled for Monday, which is expected to be the attorneys’ last before St. George rules.

And the judge is more than ready to issue a verdict, she said.

“I have no problem making a decision on this case,” St. George said.

In the meantime, construction on the towers proceeds. The foundation of the 15-story high-rise will be completed in two weeks, and that of the taller tower will be finished by the end of the year, according to a lawyer for developers RAL Companies and Affiliates and Oliver’s Realty Group.

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

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