Beware mayors bearing gifts!
The city is using the promise of so-called affordable housing as leverage to force Brooklynites into supporting more development in Brooklyn Bridge Park, said local residents at a town hall meeting on Wednesday night.
“It’s the park’s Trojan Horse and is an attempt to blackball the neighborhood as being opposed to affordable housing,” said Brooklyn heights resident Joan Goldberg, one of many citizens, pols, and activists who filled the pews at St. Ann’s Church arguing for more grass and less glass in the privately-run public park.
City and park honchos are seeking state development officials’ approval for two more luxury housing towers at Pier 6 — in addition to several condominium buildings, a hotel, and retail stores already under construction in the park — which they claim they need to bankroll the sprawling waterfront green-space.
The 339 apartments in the two complexes will also include 117 below-market-rate units, as part of the mayor’s goal to create 80,000 affordable units in the city by 2023.
But the Empire State Development Corporation — Albany’s quasi-governmental development arm — has stalled the plan due to the overwhelming opposition from local residents and leaders, who believe the park already has enough money-spinning development to pay for itself.
“It’s not necessary to achieve the financial means to support upkeep and maintenance,” said Councilman Steve Levin (D–Brooklyn Heights), who also sits on the park’s boards, to the crowd. “I think the revenues generated from other development sites are more than adequate to do that.”
A coalition of activist groups in February released its own reports from private appraisers that showed the park is already financially viable — though park honchos disputed the findings and disparaged the sources.
Locals say of course they aren’t opposed to below-market housing. But if the park really wants to create it, Goldberg said, it should put it in one of the existing residential buildings — such as the almost-complete Pierhouse condo complex, where several former park board members have purchased units.
City and park bigwigs originally promised to only build the bare minimum needed to keep the green space functioning, said residents, not to make it a dumping ground for all of the city’s needs.
“It’s about a park, let’s not make this something it isn’t,” said Judi Francis, president of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Defense Fund, a coalition of neighborhood groups opposed to development in the park. “It’s not about using the land to build a firehouse, or all the things we need for our city — including affordable housing — but we also need parkland.”