A politically connected developer of luxury condos within the state’s “Brooklyn Bridge Park” waterfront project will get a steep tax break, according to a lease agreement released last week.
“One Brooklyn Bridge Park” developer Robert Levine, a prominent contributor to former Gov. Pataki, will save approximately $5 million a year for 20 years, thanks to the city’s J-51 tax abatement, which is commonly available to developers.
The savings represent a 41-percent discount on the property’s predicted taxes, according to earlier documents obtained by The Brooklyn Paper.
Critics lambasted the deal as another sign that the state was not doing enough to limit the amount of commercial development needed to pay the self-sustaining park’s $15-million annual maintenance costs.
In addition to Levine’s 500 condos, there will be three new revenue-generating residential buildings, a 225-room hotel, shops and restaurants in the so-called park.
“Two new residential buildings could be eliminated if [Levine] paid his fair share,” said Kenn Lowy, president of the Friends of Brooklyn Bridge Park. “But because the Empire State Development Corporation wants development, not a park, he will not pay.”
But Levine defended the deal, saying he will also pay a separate maintenance fee beyond the tax deal. That annual payment will be calculated as a percentage of his earnings — so if he earns more, so does the park fund.
As a result, Levine said his condos would generate approximately $100 million over 20 years — twice the ESDC estimate.
The boast, however, seems to back up Lowy’s point that ESDC does not know how much residential construction is needed to ensure the park’s upkeep.
In total, the sale of the 500 units could reap Levine as much as $674 million, according to the lease agreement, which will be discussed at a public hearing next week.
City officials said this week that it would have been difficult to bar Levine from the J-51, a tax break routinely awarded to developers who renovate old buildings, such as the former Jehovah Witness bible shipping facility at 360 Furman St.
“But [the abatement] could have been used as leverage,” said Evan Thies, spokesman for Councilman David Yassky (D-Brooklyn Heights).
When he purchased the bunker-like structure for $200 million in 2004, it was zoned only for industrial uses. By agreeing to include it the state park-and-condo plan, Levine was able to skip a costly rezoning process — and market his development as a Battery Park City-like waterfront community using images of the state’s $130-million open space development in exchange for the “park” payments.
A public hearing on the lease for Robert Levine’s building will be held on Jan. 29 at 6 pm at 5 Metrotech (between Jay Street and Flatbush Avenue Extension). Call Community Board 2 at (718) 596-5410 for information.