Pols to DeBlasio: Buy promised Bushwick Inlet Park land before it’s too late!

Stuck in park: Williamsburg, Greenpoint residents take waterfront fight to City Hall
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

The city should stonewall any efforts to develop a Williamsburg waterfront lot it has long promised to turn into parkland by refusing to rezone it for apartments or office buildings, say elected officials in a recent letter to Mayor DeBlasio.

As real estate companies move in to acquire the coveted CitiStorage warehouses between N. 10th and N. 11th streets, the pols are demanding Hizzoner finally honor a pledge the city made a decade ago to buy them and use the land to expand Bushwick Inlet Park, vowing they will never support rezoning it into anything but green space anyway.

“We want to be clear that we will not support any rezoning of any part of the promised Bushwick Inlet Park,” read the Oct. 22 letter signed by Borough President Adams, and councilmen Stephen Levin (D–Greenpoint) and Antonio Reynoso (D–Williamsburg), among others, backing up a similar resolution Community Board 1 passed earlier in the month. “After 10 years, it is time for the City of New York to live up to its promise to the citizens of Williamsburg and Greenpoint, who have been waiting for decades to have access to their waterfront.”

The 11-acre property is one of several parcels of land the city in 2005 pledged to buy and turn into a 28-acre, five-and-a-half-block park — compensation for rezoning much of the waterfront to allow developers to erect luxury high-rises along the shore.

The city has since acquired all the other promised plots — though only turned around a fraction of it into parkland so far — but has still not purchased the central CitiStorage lot from owner Norman Brodsky, who has in the meantime jacked up his asking price to upwards of $300 million.

Now park supporters are nervous it will soon be too late, after developers Midtown Equities and East End Capital signed an option to purchase the property in May.

But the land is currently zoned for manufacturing, and the developers would have to obtain the Council’s okay if they want to make their money back by building housing or offices there, so park activists hope the pols’ decree will make them reconsider the purchase.

“I would think Midtown Equities and Norman Brodsky are probably going back to the table and trying to reassess what this really means for the development,” said Katherine Thompson, co-chair of community group Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park, which last month delivered a coffin to Midtown Equities’ offices declaring any development at the site “dead on arrival.”

The rezoning would not require Levin or Reynoso’s support specifically — just a majority of the Council — but members often defer to the wishes of the local representatives,

Midtown Equities declined to comment on the status of the company’s bid, but a lawyer for the company said it is well aware of the opposition to it owning or developing the land.

“The owners received the copy of the correspondence and they’re reviewing it,” said attorney Ken Fisher.

A city rep would not say whether the city still has any plans to buy the property, but noted it has already poured $225 million into buying up the rest of the parkland.

The letter-writing pols want the city to use eminent domain to acquire the lot, though that doesn’t necessarily ensure a lower price — it ended up having to pay $90 million for the first seven acres of the park alone by employing that mechanism, according to a New York Times report.

State Sens. Daniel Squadron (D–Brooklyn Heights) and Martin Dilan (D–Bushwick), and Assemblyman Joe Lentol (D–Williamsburg) — who also signed the letter — introduced a bill in June that would allow the state to acquire the land through eminent domain, but it didn’t make it past committee before the end of the 2015 session.

East End Capital and CitiStorage did not respond to requests for comment by press time.

Reach reporter Allegra Hobbs at ahobbs@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–8312.
Concrete jungle: The CitiStorage building, which the city promised to buy and turn into a park.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini