Could the Jehovah’s Witnesses save the soul of Brooklyn Bridge Park?
A scaled-down proposal to avoid building luxury housing inside the waterfront park-development moved forward last night after city officials apparently dropped their longstanding objection to collecting some tax revenue from slome properties — including 30-odd tax-exempt buildings owned by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society — near the big green amenity.
The park’s Committee on Alternatives to Housing — which is seeking ways to generate the $16-million annual maintenance budget for the $350-million park — voted unanimously consider using tax revenue that would be generated after the Jehovah’s Witness-owned buildings are sold and rezoned for residential use.
“I’ve always said there must be alternatives to housing in Brooklyn Bridge Park, and today’s vote brings a non-housing funding plan one step closer to reality,” said state Sen. Daniel Squadron (D–Brooklyn Heights), who has been pushing the tax-revenue plan, which city officials had long rejected because it would siphon off some revenue from city coffers.
The vote is something of a game changer: if the Watchtower properties do go on the market in time, they could replenish the maintenance budget by greatly increasing the number of residents paying fees towards park maintenance. Currently, only residents of the One Brooklyn Bridge Park residential building are doing so.
Until the Witnesses sell, other alternatives are being considered, including:
• Refill the maintenance budget through some sort of advertising or sponsorship scheme.
• Create a business or park “improvement district” that would charge nearby businesses an annual maintenance fee, though those fees would likely be passed on to tenants or customers.
• Build and charge for one or more of the following: event and venue facilities, a recreational center or additional concessions, such as a restaurant.
• Build a parking structure. Park advocates have long complained about the lack of parking in or near Brooklyn Bridge Park, though it’s unclear how much revenue this facility would generate.
• General fundraising.
The committee has hired Bay Area Economics to draft a report by mid-February.