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Squadron seeks tax money to get ‘Park’ built

Renderings like these look great, but state Sen. Daniel Squadron now says they'll only happen if property taxes are used to get the work done.
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State Sen. Daniel Squadron unveiled a radical new proposal for the underfunded Brooklyn Bridge Park development that would eliminate hundreds of planned condos from the park and, instead, use property taxes from nearby landowners to pay for the controversial park project’s upkeep — but several critics immediately punched holes in the plan.

Squadron’s initiative would siphon off some of the taxes on any rezoned property within .4 miles of the planned 85-acre park along the Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO waterfront — some of the very landowners who are expected to see their property values rise due to their proximity to the proposed 1.3 mile-long park.

He said his plan could rake in $20 million over five years, though it’s largely reliant on being in place before the city rezones DUMBO, a lengthy process that is underway.

Instead of entering the city’s general fund, those taxes would be restricted to paying for the park’s annual maintenance, which is estimated to be around $16 million.

The freshman senator said such a plan would eliminate hundreds of proposed luxury condos from inside the park’s footprint, though his plans still include a 225-bed hotel and shopping in the historic Empire Stores warehouse, features that are in the official state plans for the controversial park-and-condo project as well. Squadron (D–Brooklyn Heights) described these as “appropriate, though not ideal, uses.”

The park’s current annual maintenance budget would rise further under Squadron, who is also calling for design changes that would include an enclosed bubble for seasonal sports, a swimming pool moored in the East River, an arts facility and an ice-skating rink. He said these features are “eminently affordable.”

“We’re talking about minimal increases,” Squadron said.

The existing plans call for 1,210 units of housing, a hotel and retail inside the so-called park to pay fees for the annual maintenance of the open space, instead of paying normal property taxes.

The inclusion in 2004 of private development ignited a controversy that has raged ever since and, in fact, may have carried Squadron into office.

He campaigned as a critic of the park’s plans in the fall election against longtime incumbent Marty Connor, who had supported the inclusion of housing in the public park.

This is the second bold proposition for Brooklyn Bridge Park in just over a week. Mayor Bloomberg said earlier that he is negotiating with Gov. Paterson for a city takeover of the lagging $350-million project as part of a swap that would also give the mayor control of Governors Island while putting the Javits Center entirely in the state’s hands.

Some sections of the park, including rolling lawns, a playground and a dog run, are slated to open by the year’s end and other elements are due by 2012, but roughly 33 percent of the park is on hold until additional public money is drummed up to pay for construction.

Squadron presented his scheme last Friday evening in Borough Hall to a room filled with dozens of the most outspoken critics of Brooklyn Bridge Park’s unusual funding scheme.

“This is brilliant,” said Sandy Balboza, head of the Atlantic Avenue Betterment Association, one of several people to congratulate Squadron’s idea.

But some eagle-eyed observers detected an Achilles Heel in the plan. Dan Wiley, a staffer for Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D–Gowanus) said the reliance on taxing increased land values might create an urge in City Hall to allow taller new construction near the park, while many neighborhoods have been trying to reduce permissible building heights.

And the Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation opposes Squadron’s idea.

“With $4.3 million generated by the current residential properties for operations and maintenance and another $3 million to come on-line in 2010 and 2011, we are committed to the current development plan approved by the community, mayor and governor,” the development corporation said in a prepared statement.

The mayor’s office also had reservation about the tax plan.

“We would have concerns about a plan that relies on tax revenue from DUMBO to pay for the park, especially when you consider that new development will almost certainly include affordable housing the 421-a program,” said Andrew Brent, a mayoral spokesman, referring to a subsidy program that gives developers tax breaks if they include below market-rate housing in their buildings.

If DUMBO developers took advantage of the incentive, it would reduce the amount funneled towards the park’s upkeep.

But Councilman David Yassky (D–Brooklyn Heights) said in a statement that city officials should be more supportive of Squadron’s plan.

“[It’s an] innovative approach to funding the maintenance and operation of Brooklyn Bridge Park,” Yassky said in a statement. “The plan would provide a reliable and uncontroversial source of funding. The city should give the plan serious considerat­ion.”

Updated 4:35 pm, March 26, 2009: Story was updated to include additional analysis.
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sid from Boerum Hill says:
So the people near the park would pay for it and not expect it to be their back yard? Also with tax abatement the taxes may take years to actually kick in. When the park leases or sells its own land it also gets ground rent or the sale price in addition to the taxes(or pilots-payment in lieu of taxes). The land prices have already increased in anticipation of the park. What he is trying to get to is the additional FAR or residential development that will come as a result of the recent rezoning proposal which the neighborhood there is already fighting- none of which will be built for many years if not decades. Also if some not for profit moves into those buildings they will be tax exempt. So what he is really doing is trading the residential in the park for more residential and high rises in Dumbo. Brooklyn Heights won't be rezoned its landmarked at 5 stories period, so is the area bordering the park in Cobble Hill.
March 23, 2009, 10:35 am
sid from Boerum Hill says:
This of course doesn't meant the plan shouldn't be considered and thought through. I like the idea of adding more active activities to the park.
The pool was original done by the Conservancy over state objections. In fact the state DEC fined the park for it. It also means that the North side of the park DUMBO does much more to support the park than the rest of Brooklyn and the city. perhaps like a BID all these areas should pay a dedicated tax for the park but really if this is City wide project shouldn't every one pay for it. Battery Park City's development on new land which is similar to the Brooklyn Bridge Park area pays for the Hudson river park development. It in the provides dedicated park funding that has paid for all the park development on the West side of Manhattan along the east river and part of the Governors Island money as well....
March 23, 2009, 10:49 am
al pankin from downtown says:
at least this plan is original..it sounds like a BID for parks.,
March 23, 2009, 2:32 pm
Amazed from Brooklyn says:
This kid sure does know how to tax and spend.
March 24, 2009, 12:07 pm
Parker from Heights says:
This plan is nothing short of inspired, brilliant, amazing. Sid, you are a sour pus. It is a very appropriate means of funding the park - take a look at the Regional Plan Association's October report on the increase in home values surrounding other parks. This is not a tax increase, either, so you don't have any NIMBY interests at play. And DUMBO won't be paying for it either. It is smart and it might just get us the park we have so longed needed, that will elude us still if housing is still inside its borders, as it is now.

When will the Boerum Hill folks come on board with a real park and stop grousing about the obvious intelligence of this plan? Tell that to Joanne Simon while you are at it!
March 25, 2009, 10:03 am
sid from Boerum Hill says:
very appropriate? because you say so? First of all it isn't legal yet. It will require the vote of both the City Council and the State legislature. Given that the City wants the Park back it won't happen so quickly. When these buildings are built and the extra taxes go to the park....who will pay for the schools cops etc. The rezoning was going to happen anyway and the park was to be built. Using land inside the park which was never taxed or part of the tax rolls does make sense. Even the Senators plans doesn't change that-it leaves the hotel in the Park. I actually proposed giving another parcel outside the park to the park so that the buildings on the South side would be much smaller(I id the parcel and it was continuous to the park)....so much for being a sour pus. I always thought the buildings on the south side of the park were too tall...
March 25, 2009, 8 pm
sid from Boerum Hill says:
There are a number of things I don't understand.

I raised mostly policy issues. Also the fact of residential development in the Park is a boat that has sailed(if you hadn't noticed), there is residential development in the park its called 360 Furman Street/One Brooklyn Bridge Park. It hasn't been wildly successful. So that the additional residential development south of that might not happen anyway. I unfortunately have sat through meetings where Brooklyn heighters have objected to any active activities that would make noise. I have heard them complain that the noise from the carousel would impinge on the promenade. I have heard someone complain about the scantily dressed people who used the floating pool walking through Brooklyn heights. I thought a marina was a good idea until it was pointed out that the way they make most of their money is through repairs and maintenance and no one wants a marine maintenance facility in the park- just docking doesn't make much money. I have always wanted a real park but there have been honest people who can disagree reasonably without making it personal. I haven't done so and I wonder why your first response was a personal attack. I disagree with Joanne Simon many times. I though the fact that the Hoyt Schermhorn development doesn't have a public park was an affront and have said so(the reason given is that it would bring the wrong people to the area) but I don't attack her for her point of view it may have been valid at the time it was done. So if you want to tell Joanne Simon anything I suggest you do it yourself. But if you have policy concerns or support what was proposed please take the time to state the reasons for your support not merely say that it is inspired opr brilliant etc that just shows that you are a partisan without a reason to support it really.
March 25, 2009, 9:27 pm
Anon from Heights says:
Nope, the boat has not sailed. Think positive guys. All projects go through changes, the wonderful thing about the Squadron plan is that there is no change that would trigger an EIS. Yes, 360 Furman is a fact and that is being dealth with - no sales. But they are also courting big box stores, which would be horrible so maybe Squadron's idea of putting a middle school there is also right-on, too. The smartest people in the room advocate for recreation and non-privatization so jump on board with this new plan. Seems like it is a win win.

And Sid, I don't see anyone making it personal. Perhaps it is for you (?) but the rest of us just want to see a park with recreation, without privatizing it. If the people in my neighborhood are worried about noise and bikini clad visitors, just think what the people who will live INSIDE the park in the multiple condos will feel about things.

Supporting the Squadron plan seems like the best thing to get what everyone says they want - a park, huh?
March 27, 2009, 2:14 pm
sid from Boerum Hill says:
really box stores? did you just make that up? No one has ever realistically proposed box stores. No one wants that and it would never be allowed. The only box store being discussed is a supermarket in the Navy yard. I don't really understand what you have against residential. They can always make 360 homeless housing.......

You don't think that 360 is a boat that sailed? do you expect it to be knocked down?
March 27, 2009, 7:14 pm
Sue from Boerum Hill says:
Sid, What do you think Whole Foods is? What do you think Home Depot is? They are big box stores, Sid, and they were some of the retailers Levine was courting (and is, still). Read the Brooklyn Eagle from last summer. Even Judy Stanton in the Heights decried it! So, big box is on the table, indeed, for the 70,000 feet of retail in 360. As for 360 residential, I doubt the 100 people who have bought would go for your homeless shelter idea. The state should have captured the parking fees in that building. Parking seems to be doing pretty well right now but that was another misstep on the part of the ESDC. On residential, are you aware that the community park plan hadyear round recreation and sufficient funds to pay for itself without condos? Residential inside public parks drives out big-draw, public recreational features - that was the first thing to go from the community's plan when condos appeared. If you have any question about how bad it is for private condos to be inside our public parks, take a ride up to Roberto Clemente Park in the Bronx and talk to the park's executive director. There is a residential building on the border of that park and they are endlessly complaining about the kids, noise, etc. It is a mess. The State knew this and that is why they replaced active year round recreation in Brooklyn Bridge Park with wetlands and expensive lawns.
March 28, 2009, 10:48 am
sid from Boerum Hill says:
Hi Sue

Do you really think I was suggesting a homeless shelter? Only in NYC would 70,000 feet be considered a large box store. Outside NY the average local supermarket is more than that. Personally I dislike Whole foods because they are outregeously expensive(it can do well in Manhattan) I can't imagine a Home depot-wouldn't they need and additional special permit but as long as the State owns it they don't have to obey NY City zoning?The neighborhood has already complained mightily about big draw events and its never been the southern end that complained because all of the happenings are in the north side where the proposal would encourage high density right outside the entrance to the park....its the comings and goings that cause the problem. You don't think that with the ground leave and the pilots that 360 is not already paying it fair share even though its less than 30% full(included the sales taxes for the parking that are paid to the city-the city is making some money as well). Its paying its pilots in full. Brooklyn Heights and Willow Town wanted the Joralemon street entrance totally closed- never mind that it is the closest entrance to mass transit.

Residential at one end of the Park is not the entire park like it is in the Bronx.

I still have no problem with year around activities but the way suggested to pay for it is unrealistic with the North end bearing all of the problems and the cost as well. There will be no additional zoning in Brooklyn heights within .4 miles and nothing in the south as well....with the economy and 421 a exemptions almost no additional monies to the park will be realized. This just takes more away from NY City and leaves the State Scott free in making its additional 80 million dollars due which it has not yet even authorized. Almost the entire 110 million short fall would be made up by the state ponying up the money and you can be sure that the additional cost of the redesign and year around activity will not be funded by the state which has refused to even pay its Governors island share last year.

remember, finally, that when the park was authorized it was required to be self sufficient within its borders not have NY City pay some of its moneys for the upkeep....
Its also too bad its not been built already its take more time than the World Trade Center and that is hard to believe isn't it(the State is really incompetent about building anything in NYC)..

PS I do think the upkeep of the piers piles should be a capital expense not a maintenance one which would decrease the need for operating funds(and lower the size of the residential) but that too would require the state to open its check book.....there is a stimulus find ask for this to the tune of another $110-150 million dollars.

Its always nice when the state says sorry use your money not ours and then tells us how to spend it.
March 28, 2009, 9:56 pm
sid from Boerum Hill says:
BTW just for comparison
IKEA is 346,000 sq feet.
The average Home depot is 220,000 sq feet.

I tried to find the size of Costcoon fourth ave and couldn't but the Pathmark at Atlantic Terminal(not the whole building just Pathmark) is 62,500.

Although Levine is trying to get them I doubt they are biting given that Home Depot has money problems and Whole Foods semi-abandoned building at 3rd and 3rd(they saying they are looking for a developer to take it over)
March 28, 2009, 10:37 pm
sid from Boerum Hill says:
Errata Costco is on 3rd avenue and is 150,000 square feet

Fairway is Red Hook is 52,000 square feet in a 230,000 sq foot building.
March 28, 2009, 11:09 pm
Jim H. says:
I think you are wrong, Sid. There is plenty of real estate south of the "park" within the .4 mile zone that will be converted, so it is not going to be DUMBO that pays for the park. And remember, the south is already contributing right now about 1/3 of a realistic park budget with 360. And when any building significantly improves their property (yes, Sid, there is even a vacant brownstone on Columbia Heights), their assessment will normally increase and the Squadron plan calls for the park assuming 50% of that normal increase. Second, don't count out Levine to get a big retailer in there. And don't count on the BHA to be able to do a thing about it. Third, the south Heights does not want to close Joralemon Street off to MTA/ pedestrian traffic - you aren't correct in your statement. They want to cut off cars - which is reasonable because the cobble stone road bed is fragile as is the subway structure under it (and noisy, too). Bring on pedestrians - and they have said that thousands of times. The nay-sayers for a true park seem to want to ignore this fact in their quest to divide the community. Closing Joralemon to cars is fair and even the ESDC agreed to advocate to the DOT to close the road to car traffic. Finally, if the capital costs are taken out of the maintenance budget, which I think everyone believes is the right thing to do as this was never part of the self-sustaining deal (and it isn't just the $4 million for the piers, there is an additional $2 million for other capital costs) then you are getting closer to a realistic budget. And the Squadron plan looks even smarter and certainly attainable, without concerns for DUMBO where I live.
March 29, 2009, 11:03 am
sid from Boerum Hill says:
You should read Squadrons proposal. its only an increase when the lot and area is rezoned. An empty lot built under the current zoning requires no action and does not get any money for the Park under Squadrons plan. There is NO rezoning going on at the Southern end. Most of the area is in a land marked area and CANNOT be rezoned-which is surely true of all Brooklyn Heights and the area North of Atlantic Avenuie. Remember the Park ends at pier 6 so .4 a mile south is just other piers not part of the park. I am fairly sure that the Columbia Heights stuff is all further then .4 anyway and again it would only come into play in a rezoning NOT something that could be built within the current zoning FAR.
March 29, 2009, 9:31 pm
Sid from Boerum Hill says:
http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcp/home.html

lists current rezonings going on by area
March 29, 2009, 10:07 pm

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