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More problem$ at Brooklyn Bridge ‘Park’ • Brooklyn Paper

More problem$ at Brooklyn Bridge ‘Park’

Now that the Empire Stores warehouse isn’t at risk of collapsing, state Sen. Daniel Squadron (D–Brooklyn Heights) convinced the state Parks Department to reopen a long-closed entrance to Empire-Fulton Ferry State Park at the corner of Dock and Water streets on Feb. 13.
The Brooklyn Paper / Ben Muessig

Yet another revenue-generating component of the beleaguered Brooklyn Bridge “Park” development is on hold because of the faltering economy, The Brooklyn Paper has learned.

Casting new doubts on the financial viability of the housing, retail and open space project along the Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO waterfront, the long-stated plan of converting the long-closed Empire Stores warehouse into a money-making retail center has been put off.

It’s the latest setback for the waterfront development and the crumbling, Civil War-era building.

Years of neglect — and an inability to agree on a developer — culminated in a partial collapse of the state-owned building in 2007 that required perimeter fencing and the closure of one entrance to Empire-Fulton Ferry State Park.

That entrance — at the corner of Dock and Water streets in DUMBO — finally reopened last week, but the larger problems remain.

The state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation told The Brooklyn Paper this week that the agency had indefinitely postponed delivering the building to the Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation — which says it doesn’t want to take possession in the current economic climate.

“At some point we will pass the title on to the Brooklyn Bridge Development Corporation — but quite frankly, what they’ve been saying to us is: ‘Not right now,’” said the state agency’s Regional Director Rachel Gordon, who visited the site on Friday with state Sen. Daniel Squadron (D–Brooklyn Heights), whose office called for the reopening of the entrance.

The indefinite postponement of the Empire Stores plan comes just weeks after The Brooklyn Paper reported that two other key parts of the development’s funding stream — a 225-bed hotel planned for Pier 1, and hundreds of luxury apartments — were shelved because of the financial crisis.

But those behind the 1.3-mile-long development — whose original $150-million price tag is now $347 million — claim that everything is going according to plan.

“None of the revenue generating sources are cancelled or off the table,” said spokeswoman Lisa Willner in an e-mail.

That said, she added, “We do not have a schedule to release RFPs for either of these development sites because of the current economic climate.”

Willner said that operating expenses for the portion of the park development that is expected to be finished by the end of next year — small recreation areas at Pier 1 and Pier 6 — are being covered by revenue from the One Brooklyn Bridge Park condo development, which is expected to net about $3 million per year.

“After that, we will phase in the hotel, residential buildings and the Empire Stores over time as the remainder of the park is built and additional commensurate operating funds are needed. However, we have a few years before that,” she said.

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