State officials hastily closed Empire–Fulton Ferry State Park on the DUMBO waterfront last week after a Civil War–era warehouse was declared unsafe — the latest chapter in the state’s failure to develop the site.
The closure came after the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation received engineering reports showing “structural deficiencies and deteriorating conditions” at the Empire Stores, the abandoned coffee and tea warehouse.
“Other identified structural weaknesses at the building include a large crack that has developed in the northwest corner of the building and the deteriorating brick window arches,” the agency said in a statement.
The redevelopment of the warehouse building has been stalled for more than two decades as the state transferred the development rights from one developer to the next.
DUMBO titan David Walentas of Two Trees Management held the rights for years — dating back to the 1980s — before the Empire State Development Corporation handed the site over to his rival Shaya Boymelgreen in 2002.
Boymelgreen had planned to convert the warehouses into a shopping mall modeled after the Chelsea Market.
That development would have been a part of the so-called Brooklyn Bridge Park, an open space and commercial development controlled by the ESDC.
But last year, the state snatched the property back from Boymelgreen, claiming that he let it languish while he worked on other projects.
Shortly after giving Boymelgreen the boot, the ESDC announced plans to convert the warehouses to a performing arts venue. Now it looks like those plans will also be stalled.
State officials said the park would remain closed until scaffolding could be installed to prevent park-goers from being injured if bricks fall from the Empire Stores’ crumbling window arches.
“Empire Stores is a truly significant structure and is imbedded in the character of the DUMBO section of Brooklyn,” said State Parks Commissioner Carol Ash. “Right now, as we continue to seek more answers from engineers and other experts, we need to proceed with protecting the public and stabilizing the building. We are hopeful that once necessary bridging is installed along the building, the park will re-opened.”
The Empire–Fulton Ferry Park is a nine-acre waterfront park along Water Street on the East River between the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges.
It is slated to be subsumed by the larger state project, the so-called Brooklyn Bridge Park, which will stretch 1.3 miles from the Manhattan Bridge to Atlantic Avenue.