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Park activists, Beep: Use giant office complex to fund Bushwick Inlet Park

In labor: Developers want special permission to stick manufacturing facilities in this office building.
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The city should use property taxes from a controversial office complex planned for the Williamsburg waterfront to fund a long-promised park next door, says a local green-space advocate group.

The activists have been pushing for the city to make good on its 10-year-old pledge to create a 28-acre park on the neighborhood’s waterfront, and are now endorsing a recent suggestion from Borough President Adams that it sell bonds based on the proposed building’s projected tax windfall to finally make it happen.

“We support it,” said Greenpoint resident Steve Chesler, co-chair of Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park. “It’s a good, creative way to solve the larger problem.”

Local developer Toby Moskowitz is pitching an eight-story office building at Kent Street and West Avenue with a small amount of manufacturing space inside, but needs the city’s okay to go ahead with it because it would be in a so-called “industrial business zone” — an area the city set aside for blue-collar businesses.

The Beep gave his blessing on April 12, arguing the property will bring businesses and jobs back to the area — which is currently more popular with lucrative but low-employing hotels and nightclubs — while loosening the onerous building regulations that have kept new industrial businesses away.

But the development also happens to be adjacent to where the city promised to build Bushwick Inlet Park when rezoning much of the waterfront for huge luxury apartments in 2005, before claiming it could no longer afford the to buy all the land it needed. So Adams gave his approval on the condition that the city consider using one project to finance the other, and Chesler says his group is on board if it means the park will finally get finished.

“This developer will basically be a revenue enhancer,” he said.

Not everyone in the area is so enamoured with the proposed property, though — critics say the 17 percent of the building that will go to industrial space isn’t enough, and aren’t confident anyone will police whether it actually gets used for manufacturing.

Residents have also railed against an element of proposal that will automatically allow other developers to build similar office-industrial complexes within a 14-block radius of 25 Kent St., which they said was too much, too soon. The local community board ultimately voted against that part of the pitch last month, even though members generally supported the building on its own.

Adams’s recommendation addressed some of the opponents’ gripes — he asked for more oversight and monitoring on what kinds of businesses get to use the industrial space and how they get to use it. He also asked for more bike-parking spaces, and a Citi Bike dock.

But the Beep’s and community board’s votes and ideas really are just recommendations. The City Planning Commission, which held a hearing on the plan last Wednesday, still needs to approve the plan, followed by the Council, and there is no requirement that either panel include the Bushwick Inlet Park suggestion when makings their decisions.

Reach reporter Madeline Anthony by e-mail at manthony@cnglocal.com or by pnone at (718) 260–8321.

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