Sold! City buys CitiStorage for $160M, can finally finish Bushwick Inlet Park

citistorage building
Photo by Stefano Giovannini
File photo by Stefano Giovannini

Put it in park!

Mayor DeBlasio has reached a $160-million deal to buy the final stretch of Williamsburg waterfront land the city needs to finish Bushwick Inlet Park, finally ending locals’ years-long fight to force it to honor a decade-old promise to transform the lot into a sprawling green space.

“We’re stunned but ecstatic,” said Greenpoint resident Steve Chesler, of activist group Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park. “We’re very happy the properties are in safe hands with the city and the taxpayers and now we can move forward.”

Williamsburg developer Norm Brodsky rejected a $100-million offer from the city to buy his burnt-out CitiStorage warehouses at Kent Avenue and N. 11th Street in June, but the various parties quietly continued negotiating, Chesler says.

Brodsky had bragged that he could score upwards of $300 million for the industrial land — and claims he had two other, higher offers on the table — but says he was willing to sell it to DeBlasio for less so long as the city came a little closer to what he believed is the true value of the land.

As a longtime local, he too wanted to see the city make good on finishing the park that it first pledged to build in 2005 in exchange for rezoning the neighborhood for luxury high-rises, he says — just not without getting a cut.

“The city was always my first choice — I’ve been in the neighborhood for years,” said Brodsky. “But the city had to come a lot closer to the value than what it did initially.”

Still, the sale probably never would have happened if it weren’t for Assemblyman Joe Lentol (D–Greenpoint) and especially Councilman Steve Levin (D–Williamsburg), who just didn’t let it rest, both Chesler and Brodsky say.

The pols were the go-between for the two parties, keeping negotiations alive until the deal was done, according to Lentol.

“It wasn’t your classic negotiation of a deal — it was more like elected officials being runners from City Hall to Norm Brodsky and back again, trying to run interference,” Lentol said.

The city has already bought up 17 acres of the 28 acres needed for the entire park, but had long claimed it couldn’t afford Brodksy’s 11-acre site — right in the middle of the planned green space — as land values, ironically, have skyrocketed since the 2005 rezoning.

As recently as 2015, Mayor DeBlasio had no plans to purchase the final piece of the puzzle, but the activists and local pols fought a long and high-profile campaign to force Hizzoner to change his mind.

The local rabble-rousers came up with particularly creative ways to keep their cause in the news — holding a rally on a flotilla of kayaks, projecting messages onto the warehouses, creating a pop-up park on the land, and camping out in front of the site.

And Lentol was pursuing state legislation to seize the property via eminent domain, while Levin had vowed to withhold his crucial support for ever rezoning the CitiStorage lot for residential use, which greatly reduced its value.

It will still be a long time before Bushwick Inlet Park is actually done — the city needs to demolish the warehouses and old oil refineries currently occupying the space, then scrub the soil of toxic waste — but locals say they’re just happy to know the land is secure.

“This is not going to happen tomorrow — a lot of us will be old and gray, and I already am old and gray,” said Lentol, who is 73 and sports a snowy white head of hair.

Reach deputy editor Ruth Brown at rbrown@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–8309. Follow her at twitter.com/rbbrown.
It floats: Another time, they held a floating protest in Bushwick Inlet. That was great.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini